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    Upright Man – Debut Album Review

    New York City-based rock band Upright Man have released their debut, self-titled album today. The band features Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals,) Nick Katz (bass/vocals,) and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/background vocals.)

    The album boasts some wonderful technical credits, too, featuring the production talents of Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin) and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh.) Is it any surprise that such a team came together to make a rock album that shines by showing its esteem for rock’s finest?

    Upright Man are quite literally rock scholars — they met while studying classical music composition at New York University. Their careful and meticulous study of the genre has given them an edge, and the ability to masterfully meld genres into one surreal experience.

    “Can we learn to love enough?” the band asks on ‘Agoragnostic,’ a retro psychedelic track, featuring a mellow instrumental that sounds like 90’s No Doubt. Throught the entire album, Upright Man have a talent for making music that sounds like it’s from another era of music — one that features a lot less autotune and thumping synths.

    It’s a more organic approach, with the track ‘Say What You Mean’ feeling like a well polished, one-take live recording. The bridge on this track is particularly lively, and (for lack of a better pun,) it rocks. There’s a careful level of attention to detail throughout Upright Man that shows the band’s dedication to their craft.

    The eponymous album’s title track is another stomper, with the band managing once again to sound like great rock bands before them. The band’s influences, namely Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin are apparent. Fans of those bands will be particularly entranced with Upright Man’s music, appreciating the band’s similar sound that still feels authentic and unique. Their subtle homages are a well done tribute to their idols.

    The band’s slower songs, like ‘Esctasy’ and ‘Three Easy Pieces’ don’t quite have the same energy that other songs on Upright Man enjoy, teetering between gloomy and wistful. ‘Alaska,’ on the other hand, also features a slowed pace, but the song’s production and lyrics manage to keep it a still light-hearted and upbeat affair.

    “Got myself a tattoo, says Alaska, but I’ve never been,” is a remarkable lyric for its ability to be both unrelatable and entirely relatable. You may not have a tattoo of a place you’ve never been, but there’s surely something imprinted on your soul of a place you want to go, or a goal you want to accomplish. ‘Alaska’ both celebrates and laughs at our plans in life.

    Upright Man continues with ‘Animals,’ a wild track that lives up to its name. The band’s indie influences come into play here, making for a track that sounds delightfully underground but also at home with the mainstream. The album comes to a close with ‘Checked Out’ hailing the band’s more traditional rock influences once more for a last hurrah, and the track is entrancing and toe-tapping.

    When it comes to Upright Man, the band have released an album worthy of their name. Fans of classic rock will be ecstatic to hear the way the best of the best have influenced Upright Man, as the band manages to show respect to their legends and put their own stamp on the rock genre.

    Upright Man is available now on iTunes and Amazon.

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    Music Video: Justina Valentine – ‘Sunlight’

    A good music video adds something extra that takes the song to a new level. A great music video does all that and earns the artist new fans in the process. That’s just what Justina Valentine has done with her music video for ‘Sunlight.’

    In the clip, Valentine parties, has fun on the beach, and puts on one hell of a show on tour. It truly looks like being at a Justina Valentine concert is one of the most high energy and fun places to be in the world. Even better? Valentine’s camaraderie with her fans. She poses for pictures, does silly poses, stage dives and beyond. She looks like one wild and badass chick that knows how to have fun and make her fans feel appreciated for supporting her.

    This meshes perfectly with the vibe of the track, an upbeat number about living life to the fullest. Valentine varies her flow, from fast paced rapped verses to a more mellow, sung chorus.

    Watch the music video below.

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    Music Video: Alexa Friedman – ‘Enraptured’

    Alexa Friedman debuted a music video for her track ‘Enraptured’ recently, and the young pop star has delivered a apocalyptic steampunk dream. It’s really more than just a music video — more like a short film encompassed by the song. After an introductory scene, Friedman finds herself in the desert, and having a dance off that interestingly looks like it would be right at home in the world of Mad Max.

    As for the song, Friedman sounds strong and confident on the chorus throughout and more soothing and timid on the verses. A highlight of the track comes towards the end, when Friedman is joined by rapper Hector Munoz. He adds a wild flair to the track, managing to sound like both Snoop Dogg and Sean Paul as the song reaches peak pace.

    Watch the music video below.

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    Recap: American Dad – ‘The Long Bomb’

    How many times has a Seth Macfarlane show parodied Die Hard? That number goes up by one with American Dad‘s latest episode, ‘The Long Bomb,’ wherein Stan and Hayley have to stop a terrorist plot and learn how to communicate more effectively.

    As far as this season goes, ‘The Long Bomb’ is a step up from past parody episodes (but can you really get much worse than ‘The Bitchin’ Race?’) That said, this is still a middle of the road episode added as some filler for the season. American Dad goes through the paces with this episode, landing some laughs but otherwise being forgettable.

    Stan and Hayley are attending opening day of the Bazooka Sharks football season, which viewers may remember from the episode ‘Bazooka Steve’ earlier this season (another rather lackluster episode; American Dad should scrap the Bazooka Sharks/Johnny Concussion nonsense entirely.) Stan and Hayley avoid awkard small talk, neither one wanting to admit they’d rather not be communicating with each other. Stan goes to get a keychain in an effort to avoid talking, and while this is going down the arena gets taken under control by terrorists who are planting bombs. In the luxury box, they’ve already killed the owner of the team and taken the rest of the people hostage (including Roger as Tawny, the owner’s hooker.)

    Stan’s attempts at avoiding Hayley draw him to following the team’s mascot, where Stan realizes the mascot is a terrorist planting bombs. He overtakes and kills the terrorist, climbing into the vents Die Hard style and setting off to save the day. Meanwhile, Hayley knows something is up when her dad doesn’t return for the start of the game, so she sets off to find him, putting herself right in the path of the terrorists who were trying to apprehend Stan. She finds herself kidnapped, in the luxury box with Roger and the others.

    American Dad does manage to deal with a more serious topic this episode, having Stan and Hayley’s lack of communication be at the forefront. With Hayley right next to the terrorists, she’s able to see their plans, and she works with the arena staff to relay messages to Stan in the vents. Stan goes around to defuse the bombs, but other than that, there’s very little plot significance. For much of the episode’s runtime from here on out, it’s just Stan getting himself into ridiculous situations to defuse the bomb, being confronted by one of the terrorist goons, and narrowly winning. Then repeat with the next bomb location.

    The last bomb is on the goal post, so Stan decides there’s no better way than to infiltrate the Bazooka Sharks team as their quarterback. Back at home, Steve and Francine somewhat pay attention to the game as their dad leads the team in disguise, not even realizing it’s him. (Although to be fair, they’re both dressed up in their finest spa-wear, with cucumbers over their eyes. Klaus is also present watching the game, but Francine kicks him by accident, and he falls out of his bowl…and hopefully to his death.)

    With the last bomb defused, the terrorists contact Stan via a walkie-talkie he took off the man he killed and make it clear to him that they’re going to kill Hayley as punishment for him foiling their plot. Stan surrenders and arrives at the luxury box but has a trick up his sleeve: he’s wrapped the once disarmed bombs to his chest. The terrorists reveal that they’re actually not bombs but rather wrapped cream cheese. (What a middle finger to the audience, right? And it just furthers the point that for the majority of the episode, Stan went around doing absolutely nothing to push things forward.)

    The terrorists then finally manage to crack the safe that’s kept them in the luxury box so long, and inside is Johnny Concussion’s jersey, something that everyone remarks is worth a lot of money since Mr. Concussion is dead. In a somewhat shocking twist, the terrorist puts on the jersey and reveals Johnny is not dead but standing right in front of them. I get that American Dad is trying to make fun of movies like Die Hard and their pretentious plot twists, but they just need to let Johnny Concussion die and move on to something that’s actually funny rather than repeating past episodes and doing another terrible parody.

    A chase then ensues that seems to result in Johnny’s death once more (he falls off the arena, into a car.) On the football field, fans begin to have a moment of silence, not realizing Johnny isn’t dead. His ‘ashes’ are brought out onto the field, but Stan and Hayley realize that this is the real bomb. The bomb is hooked up to a decibel meter, and Stan and Hayley must talk to each other without stopping for the duration of the moment of silence, or the bomb will go off. Convenient, eh? The two quickly bond over personal things, like their ‘love of black actresses.’ and Hayley saying ‘elemeno’ rather than L-M-N-O when reciting the alphabet. American Dad went in for a sweet moment here, but it ultimately fizzled because rather than focusing on how Hayley’s mispronunciation brought up good memories, the dialogue is cluttered with all the actor’s names being recited, throwing things off and not really adding any humor either.

    Stan and Hayley end up being able to save the arena from being blown up, but are quickly beaten up by fans for not observing the moment of silence. That sounds about right. The episode then ends with Johnny Concussion waking up. Please, American Dad, put Johnny and your viewers out of their misery and kill this awful character once and for all.

    This season of American Dad is having its ups and downs, although the past few episodes seem to find the series hitting more of a slump than a peak (with last week’s ‘Family Plan‘ being the exception.) With only four episodes left this season, there’s slim hope that American Dad will end on a high note, but here’s hoping.

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    Recap: Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 4 – ‘Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender’

    Rick and Morty departs from its strong storyline centering on the divorce of Rick’s daughter, Beth, and her husband, Jerry, for a one shot episode paying homage (and poking fun at) flicks like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Rick and Morty team up with the ‘Vindicators’ to save the world, but ultimately the show ends up losing itself in the process.

    The show is no stranger to good action scenes — last week’s hilarious and preposterous episode ‘Pickle Rick‘ shows just that. What’s different about this week’s episode is the fact that it seems to take itself too seriously. An episode like ‘Pickle Rick’ is farcical at face value, but ‘Vindicators 3’ seems more like a parody of a parody.

    The Vindicators as a team work like the typical archetypes from action movies, which Rick and Morty does the most to play up. Perhaps this would work better on a humorous level if the movies it was poking fun at were bad to begin with, but the show sets its sights too high trying to take Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers down a peg. There’s not a whole lot of laugh out loud moments in these action flicks, nor is there many in tonight’s episode (which is quite a change of pace, considering the first three episodes have been some of the series’ best.)

    Rick gets drunk (because, Rick) and manages to overtake the Vindicators’ biggest villain in a single night. After defeating him, Rick sets a trap, capturing the Vindicators and putting them through a Saw-like series of tests. One would think that Rick and Morty would be able to camp it up and have fun with the Saw parody, but that, too, is rather ‘meh.’

    Rick accidentally left his portal gun back at home, and so he and Morty must see this through to the end. What’s at the end? A party that drunk Rick planned, featuring a ton of guests and Logic (because this episode of Rick and Morty needed some kind of logic, I suppose.) In the end, the episode’s hero turned villain manages to escape at the last second, which surely means there’s more of the Vindicators coming in the future.

    This episode was a rare miss, but it’s not unusual for the series to take a dip after three of its best episodes. Once the show pays attention to the real issues this season, it’ll likely return to its previous levels of greatness. ‘Vindicators 3’ is no ‘Pickle Rick.’ And why not? It’s missing heart underneath it all. Despite the laughs Rick and Morty gets, episodes like last week’s show that the series is capable of handling more sincere topics with poise and precision. This episode sadly doesn’t even give it a try.

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    Recap: Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 5 – ‘Eastwatch’

    Warning: The night is dark and full of spoilers!

    Despite her losses so far this season, Daenerys showed her enemies just how powerful she and her allies can be on this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. The Dothraki have completely overtaken the Lannister army, leaving very few survivors.

    In a not so shocking turn of events, Jaime Lannister and Bronn find their way out of the body of water they dove into last week to avoid getting burned alive by Daenerys’ dragon. They must have traveled in that water despite their heavy armor because they resurface on a comfortable strip of land, not amidst charred bodies and a war-torn landscape. Now, Jaime is free to run back and tell Cersei how terrifyingly awesome Daenerys’ army and dragons can be. Lovely.

    Back at the battlefield, Daenerys has rounded up all of the survivors of the fight. When she offers their lives in exchange for their loyalty, very few manage to actually bend the knee until Drogon lets out a horrifying roar. Still, Randall and Dickon Tarley refuse to bow to her, so she sentences them to death.

    This seems to trouble Tyrion, who even tries to get her to send them to the wall. The Tarleys also refuse to go to the wall, because Daenerys isn’t their queen, and only the Queen can send them north. Their pride and honor doesn’t work well in this situation, and in front of the entire Lannister army, Randall and Dickon Tarley are burned alive in a quick fashion, making every other Lannister kneel to their new queen out of fear. Probably not the best way to get trustworthy allies, but it’s not like Daenerys can trust any Lannister completely to begin with.

    Jaime runs back to Cersei as quickly as possible to spread the word, though she already knows. He tries to warn her of the threat, but Cersei refuses to back down, despite her significantly smaller numbers and lack of fire-breathing dragons. It seems Westeros has a Mad Queen, and it isn’t Daenerys! Cersei brings up Tyrion, and the big reveal finally happens.

    Jaime reveals it was Olenna who killed Joffrey, and not Tyrion. It certainly took long enough, and it took a while for Cersei to accept it, too. It makes sense when Jaime explains it; Joffrey was an uncontrollable monster after all.

    When Daenerys flies back to Dragonstone atop Drogon, she lands near Jon Snow. Drogon takes an interest in Jon and goes as far as to let Jon pet his snout. It’s something we haven’t really seen Drogon do with anyone apart from Daenerys, which she notices as well. Maybe it made her like Jon just a little bit more seeing that even her dragon trusted him. Jon asks Daenerys how the battle went, and she replies in a witty fashion:

    I have less enemies today than I had yesterday.

    The Dothraki bring in a guest who says he knows Daenerys just as Jon avoids talking about his resurrection. Jorah Mormont makes his return to the Queen after being cured by Samwell Tarley in the last episode. Despite his past and nearly betraying her, Jorah has proven his love for Daenerys on many occasions, so it’s nice to see her gain such a good ally again after losing so many in the past few episodes.

    Back in Winterfell, Bran uses ravens to track the army of the dead. They’re approaching quickly, and when his ravens catch sight of the Night King, they are dispelled with a wave of the King’s hand. Bran calls for more ravens to send word of the approaching army to his allies.

    Those in the Citadel don’t think much of it, despite Sam’s pleas to legitimize the warning. The maesters simply say they’ll search for the truth in it, and send Sam on his way to do more. Sam eventually gets tired of waiting, and despite his dreams of being a maester, Sam sneaks into the vault and steals enough scrolls to learn more and leaves the Citadel. He claims he’s tired of reading about men doing great things. He wants to do great things.

    When Jon gets word of the approaching army, he immediately wants to leave Dragonstone and return north. Daenerys doesn’t seem happy about it, but Jon delivers a compelling speech without bending the knee. Daenerys seems to respect him and allows him to do so, and Jorah offers to head north with him. Their goal is to capture a White Walker and make it so that everyone in the south knows that the army of the dead are real.

    The North might see an upcoming power struggle, and Little Finger might also be behind it. The Northern Lords are taking more to Sansa than they were to Jon, even going as far to insult him in front of Sansa at a council meeting. Arya doesn’t take too kindly to this and calls her sister out, claiming that, despite not saying it, Sansa is thinking that she wants to rule in place of Jon. Family drama, right? Little Finger is manipulating his way to Sansa’s good side, and while she may not know it, it’s pretty safe to assume he’s the one turning everyone against Jon and toward Sansa.

    Tyrion and Ser Davos sneak into King’s Landing. Tyrion stages a meeting with his brother Jaime to warn him about the army of the dead, while Ser Davos finds and recruits Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry. The trio get stopped by a couple of goldcloaks on their way out of King’s Landing, but they are no match for Gendry’s powerful hammer. After making quick work of the soldiers, they leave to return to Dragonstone.

    Jaime – once again – goes to speak to his sister/lover/queen/…whatever, to tell her about his meeting with Tyrion. She already knows, of course. She is upset, and urges Jaime to feel betrayed by Bronn for setting up the meeting without informing Jaime exactly where he was going. Cersei mentions attempting an alliance with Daenerys, though is quick to mention it’s merely a clever plan to beat her. She seems confident that she’ll win, no matter her inferior numbers. Good luck.

    In Dragonstone, Gendry and Jon bond over stories of their father’s friendship. Gendry is quick to volunteer himself to head north with Jon to apprehend a White Walker. Ser Davos reluctantly vouches for Gendry’s ability to defend himself, and it’s settled. Gendry, Jon and Jorah head north to gain support from the Free Folk and the northerners to assemble a squad to go past the wall and complete their task.

    Tormund isn’t that happy about going back to his homeland, but he points Jon in the direction of a few that are. The Hound and men from the Brotherhood of the Red God sit in the cells at Winterfell. After a scene of arguing amongst people who inevitably are going to work together, the Hound and the men are released, and the party heads north.

    That’s the last thing we see. Who knows how it’ll end? People are probably going to die, but that’s Game of Thrones for ya. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how the expedition goes.

    Tune in next week, and I’ll let you know how things go in my recap of this season’s sixth episode! Missed an episode? Catch up on recaps of the entire Game of Thrones Season 7 here.

     

     

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    Music Video: Matt LeGrand – ‘All Good’

    Chicago’s Matt LeGrand brings a sense of chill and synths to his music on ‘All Good.’ The new track now has a music video, featuring a sunny beach environment that matches perfectly with LeGrand’s saccharine sweet voice.

    Both the track and video feel right at home with much of the Top 40 this summer. Watch the music video below, and keep checking POParazzi for the latest and greatest in pop music.

    Keep up with Matt LeGrand on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

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    Recap: Raven’s Home – Season One, Episode Four ‘The Bearer of Dad News’

    On this week’s episode of Raven’s Home, Raven’s ex-husband, Devon (guest star Jonathan McDaniel,) moves away to Texas, leaving the kids missing his presence. Raven decides to go overboard to make her kids feel like nothing will change without their dad. Before Devon leaves, he gives Booker and Nia an oversized Teddy Bear he won them at an amusement park, and Chelsea unknowingly throws it away, thinking the box it was in was full of trash.

    The main plot of this week’s episode has a strong focus on family, which is the driving force behind Raven’s Home. Unlike other episodes, ‘The Bearer of Dad News’ focuses primarily on Raven, and the episode benefits from this. Raven and Chelsea are the biggest strengths the series has when it comes to characters because fans old and new either have, or will grow to, love them.

    Raven is true to her character from the days of That’s So Raven in the sense that she is witty, hysterical, and over the top in her attempts to get the kids to feel like nothing’s changed even though their dad is now out of the picture. She does her best to keep things the same, which equates to turmoil for her: Devon enjoys making spicy food and watching scary movies with the kids, both of which Raven can barely tolerate.

    Nonetheless, Raven puts her children first and endures a hilarious meal of spicy chili the kids concocted. As she cries and moans, suffering from ‘chili blindness,’ the show employs some pretty basic slapstick comedy, but it harkens back to the stuff that was commonplace on That’s So Raven, which is a nice touch.

    Chelsea finds herself getting some much needed screen time in this episode, too. She gets to bond with her son as the two must team up and try to get the stuffed bear she accidentally threw away. Chelsea eventually finds herself dumpster diving and locates the bear, only to have its head fall off. She and Levi decide they’ll head to the amusement park where Devon got the bear in the first place.

    Coincidentally (because Raven’s Home loves a good coincidence to tie its story together in the end) Raven and the kids are also there, as Raven confronts her fear of heights and gets on an outlandish ride that takes them ‘airplane high’ before dropping them at 60mph. (Wait…how did they even survive?) Raven’s not going to let them drop though, keeping the family stuck at the very top.

    They end up there for forty five minutes, discussing their family problems. Raven tells the kids why she’s been trying so desperately to go outside her comfort zone for them, and they open up and confess that things truly won’t be the same without Devon. It’s a heartfelt moment and very real as far as dialogue goes, which helps balance the episode out. Pretty funny to think that the most realistic conversation in Raven’s Home would take place stuck at the top of an amusement ride with some terribly cheesy green screen effects.

    While the amusement park was a good setting for Raven and her kids to work out their problems, it only leads to more problems for Chelsea and Levi, both in the plot and as characters. Chelsea is determined to win the bear from a booth, but Levi notices that the game is rigged and impossible to win. In the end, Levi throws a hard ball at the booth’s operator, and Chelsea steals the bear, and they run away. I’m in no way, shape, or form a politically correct person — and most of the entertainment I love is non-PC, but it’s easy to see that Raven’s Home took it a bit too far here with Levi inciting violence while his mother condones it and furthermore steals before they run away. One of my main concerns with Raven’s Home has been how the show has treated Chelsea, a fan favorite from That’s So Raven, and with this episode the series further does her an injustice.

    Problems aside, ‘The Bearer of Dad News’ is a fairly average episode for Raven’s Home. The series may just be getting started, but this episode already finds itself falling in the middle of the line. Its strengths are its good dialogue and focus on family, but the poorly done visual effects, paired with its desire to keep Chelsea as just a punchline, keep it from truly shining.

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    Recap: Raven’s Home – Season One, Episode Three ‘The Baxters Get Bounced’

    Raven’s Home is finally giving its older viewers what they crave from this show: more of Raven, Chelsea, and their lives. The show still takes its time to focus on the children, but in ‘The Baxters Get Bounced,’ we learn more about Raven’s life after high school and can see that she’s still in the fashion industry — albeit not in the way she hoped.

    The episode starts with klutzy Chelsea making pancakes for breakfast, to the rest of the family’s chagrin. (Not to worry though – Raven comes through and replaces everyone’s pancakes with edible ones she made herself.) It’s a shame that Chelsea continues to be a one-note and vapid character on the show, because the times when the script gives us a glimpse of what’s underneath her exterior, it’s plain to see that Chelsea is not just the same ‘dumb mom’ joke on repeat.

    When the apartment’s dishwasher breaks, Raven pleads with the kids and Chelsea to not call the landlord until she has time to let him know that Chelsea and Levi have moved in unexpectedly. Naturally, this spurs Booker and Nia into sneaking the landlord into the apartment, only to have him find out that Raven’s had people living in the house illegally. He raises the rent by $1,000, and says that if they don’t pay it, they must be out by the end of the month. That’s not to say Raven didn’t see this coming. Unlike last week’s episode, Raven had a vision this time (as did Booker.) Raven’s Home plays down the supernatural aspect that tended to be more front and center in That’s So Raven, but it’s nice to see that it hasn’t abandoned it completely.

    While Nia and Booker snuck the landlord in, they sent Levi to be lookout to make sure that Raven didn’t come home and find out (which she still did, anyway.) While he’s waiting outside and playing with his drone toy, Tess comes out and destroys his drone with a bat. (Ugh.) Tess continues to be an even less developed character than Chelsea, with a bad attitude that’s supposed to be somewhat lovable. Sorry, Disney, but having a knockoff version of Cash Me Outside Girl in anything but a villainous role just doesn’t work.

    Despite being totally malicious in hitting Levi’s drone, Tess vows to help him find it. Maybe she was just spooked by a drone outside her apartment, and thankfully had a weapon in hand? Unlikely. Anywho, the two find themselves outside the apartment of the building’s intimidating ‘witch.’ A piece of the drone lays outside her door, and the two are nearly too frightened to go in and retrieve it.

    Meanwhile, at the apartment, everything is about to hit the fan. Raven returns home from her job as a fashion designer for dogs to find that Chelsea has invited the landlord over to try and make peace with him and to get him to be more agreeable. Her terribly made coffee convinces him that she’s trying to poison him, which leads Chelsea to tying and gagging him up until she can get help. It’s a bit unbelievable, but whatever. Raven’s bedazzling dog butts, so it’s safe to say the characters from That’s So Raven are somewhat afterthoughts in Raven’s Home‘s writing.

    Booker and Nia hastily throw together a sale, trying to raise the rent money after rightfully feeling guilty for betraying their mom’s trust and calling the landlord behind her back. Tess and Levi meet the witch lady and bring her up to the apartment where everything comes to a resolution. The frightened landlord is actually her son, and she does what all mothers do best — putting him in his place and telling him that she sees Chelsea and Raven as one family, and therefore they’re not moving out or paying higher rent.

    It’s a clever twist to have the two plots come together via the intimidating ‘witchy’ mother, but the ending resolution still feels a bit rushed and sloppy. Raven’s Home manages to save itself though with its ending scene, where the proud mothers all share baby pictures, much to the distaste of Booker, Nia, Levi and the landlord. Raven’s Home is all about a sense of family, and it ends up hitting that mark. A bit more love and attention being shown to the characters in that family would knock the series out of the park.

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    Album Review: Kesha – Rainbow

    Kesha’s long awaited return to music has arrived, and Rainbow is an effort long in the making. Despite a tiring public battle with her record label, Kesha has returned, and her album isn’t entirely comprised of sad ballads or songs about the unfortunate situation she endured. With this album, she experiments with her sound, ensuring that she’ll keep old fans happy and earn herself plenty of new ones with her vocal talents that are now, finally, being showcased.

    The album opens with an acoustic jam session, ‘Bastard,’ as Kesha professes to not let the bastards get her down. It’s an underdog anthem, with its guitar-driven production letting Kesha’s lyrics take center stage. It’s not quite as perfectly polished as the later track, ‘Praying,’ but it makes Rainbow‘s purpose clear: this is Kesha’s return to the spotlight, and she wants to confront everything that’s kept her down in the past.

    Eagles of Death Metal join Kesha on ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and later track ‘Boogie Feet’, each being one hell of a rock number. This is the epitome of Kesha, masterfully mixing classic rock production with catchy pop hooks. ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ keeps the theme of ‘Bastards’ but gives it an uproarious and fun beat that shows that even with what Kesha’s been through, she’s not bound to make a downtrodden album. Kesha’s letting her haters talk, but she’s going to be dancing the night away without a care. Amazing.

    “The wild fun energy that first inspired me to perform has not, and will never, go away.” Kesha said before Rainbow’s release. And ‘Woman’ makes that crystal clear. What a fun and utterly joyful track that’s full of Animal level craziness. Kesha’s voice is still able to shine, not stylized with autotune. The song’s feminist lyrics are empowering, proving that Kesha can still have fun and make her point. Rainbow need not be full of moving, anthemic ballads to instill its message.

    The momentum slows down on ‘Hymn,’ with its deep synths and, according to Kesha, message of equality. While it matches Kesha’s previous releases with its message to those who don’t feel like they fit in, the track itself feels misplaced on Rainbow. Perhaps its because the lyrics just don’t have enough meaning to them, or maybe it’s because the chorus is bloated and heavy, but either way, this is one that could’ve been left off Rainbow without much loss.

    Kesha’s first release from the Rainbow era was the beautifully moving ballad ‘Praying’ that assured fans she had the same bright visuals, but a brand new sound — featuring much less autotune and more stunning vocalizations. On the very surface, ‘Praying’ is an emotionally charged track. When you stop and ponder about the experiences Kesha endured before writing this song, there’s another layer to this track that cuts like a knife.

    Lyrically, Kesha sings about a higher calling, rising above negativity, and wishing the best upon her enemies (namely, Dr. Luke.) She knows the power and the might that she wields, and she hopes her detractors are praying for themselves. “You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself,” she sings. She adds: “When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name.” Ouch.

    Following ‘Praying’ on Rainbow is ‘Learn To Let Go,’ another highlight of the album. It’s an uplifting track, and it’s easy to see that the message of the song is aimed to herself just as much as it is for others. “Been a prisoner of the past, Had a bitterness when I looked back,” Kesha sings of her past outlook on life as the song opens. She’s made a drastic change by the song’s bridge with “I’m done reliving my bad decisions, I see now maybe there’s a reason […] Holding on to wasted time, Gotta learn to let go in life.” The most infectious part of ‘Learn To Let Go’ is the chorus, which remains upbeat and has a real rocker vibe that one would expect from Kesha these days.

    ‘Finding You’ mixes Kesha’s newfound penchant for acoustic tracks with a rock beat as she sings about finding love. The mix of acoustic-driven verses and a more rockworthy chorus somehow manages to work against all odds, making for a surprising gem thanks to its heartfelt lyrics and delivery.

    The album’s titular track is Kesha’s promise to fans that she’s back and more invigorated than ever. “Got kaleidoscopes in my hairdo, Got back the stars in my eyes, too, Yeah, now I see the magic inside of me” she sings. It’s not surprising that Rainbow‘s titular track would be a slower number, full of uplifting moments — even though it would be very surprising to those who had only heard Kesha’s debut album. Thankfully, ‘Rainbow’ shows a stunning growth and beauty in Kesha’s musical style, sound, and voice.

    A country-twang and Tarantino-soundtrack production comes on ‘Hunt You Down,’ as Kesha promises the guy she has her eye on that she’s got her eyes on him — and she’ll track him down if he messes up the special relationship they have. Kesha’s proclamations on the chorus are hilariously innocent as she tells the man she may have never killed anyone or buried a body — but she’s not afraid to hunt him down. A wonderful romp that’s sure to bring a chuckle.

    Kesha gets seductive on ‘Boots,’ a steamy number as she sings on the chorus ‘I know you love me wearing nothing but your boots.’ It’s clear that she’s in love, singing about the ‘wifey life.’ The fast-talking on the verses gives the song something special and lets Kesha’s warbling on the chorus be even more memorable. As always on a Kesha song, the bridge is a highlight.

    An unusual pairing finds Dolly Parton joining Kesha for ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You.)’ Surprisingly, it’s good. This track rightfully takes its style cues from the seasoned Parton, with both artists able to shine on their respective verses. It’s funny to think how this duet came to be, and even more interesting to ponder how Kesha’s sound came to be so close to Parton’s. Nonetheless, this is the album’s surprising gem. More Dolly!

    Rainbow begins to wind down with ‘Godzilla,’ seeing Kesha channeling her inner Zooey Deschanel for a track that is meant to be quirky and cute, although it ultimately isn’t as strong as the rest of Rainbow‘s tracks. Kesha sings about meeting Godzilla, comparing it to falling it in love, and how it can be wonderfully unpredictable.

    A plucky banjo leads the bluegrass sounding closer, ‘Spaceship.’ Kesha talks about her beliefs about death and going back ‘home’ to outer space. It’s better than ‘Godzilla,’ but Rainbow would’ve done better to end on a high note with the Dolly Parton collaboration. The over five minute runtime of ‘Spaceship’ further complicates it.

    Overall, Rainbow is a strong return from Kesha that shows her at her best. She’s no longer afraid to break the mold, and she’s triumphant in shaping a new musical landscape for herself with unfettered possibilities. The album’s more rock-driven numbers are its strongest, but the acoustic and ballad tracks are also highlights. Kesha only loses her way towards the end of the album, but after twelve tracks of pure magic, it’s easy to learn to let it go.

    Kesha’s Rainbow is available now.

     

     

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    Annabelle: Creation has good thrills, even if they’re outrageous.

    Light Spoilers for Annabelle: Creation, and other Conjuring films below!

    Annabelle: Creation gets right what most horror films get wrong: it follows through on every set up that it puts in place during its somewhat insidious beginning. Every little creepy thing about the house where the film spends its runtime isn’t there without reason. As the film heightens its pace, it delivers — forcing its characters into the very unsettling environment for which it diligently laid the groundwork. Nonetheless, the film still falls victim to its own absurdities, in the sense that even if you believe in demons and the paranormal, the movie throws so much of them at you that it becomes a bit exhausting.

    Dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) lose their daughter, Annabelle “Bee” Mullins (Samara Lee), in a car crash. Twelve years later, the two open their home to a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), and several orphaned girls who are in her care. Of the girls, the film focuses on Janice, played by Talitha Bateman, a young girl with polio, and her best friend Linda, played by Lulu Wilson.

    The film takes ample time letting the orphaned girls explore their new home. The Mullins’ estate is large, which makes for ample room for the film to set up its frights. While still in a fairly scare-free period, Annabelle: Creation places eerie, if not somewhat obvious, clues of what’s to come. Sister Charlotte’s room contains a dumbwaiter that eerily refuses to stay shut. An ominous scarecrow rests outside and gives the girls a good laugh — guaranteeing they won’t be laughing later.

    The most obvious of these ominous clues lies naturally in Annabelle’s old room which is said to remain locked. The demonic spirit that possesses the terrifying doll is awakened by the presence of the young girls, and it pleads for Janice to ‘find’ it. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she proceeds to jimmy her way into the room. Annabelle’s room is rightfully creepy, but Janice unlocks something even more terrifying with a key she finds in a dollhouse. In an adjoining room sits the Annabelle doll, and (little does Janice know) she’s just freed it from its prison.

    As the rest of the film plays out, the demon inside the doll terrorizes the young girls and the Mullins family. The film quickly and almost methodically runs back to the clues it left in place, having the girls face the scarecrow, get trapped in the dumbwaiter, etc. There are plenty of scares to be had in these moments, but some of them leave more to be desired. This is especially true of the scarecrow scene that seems added as pure filler rather than adding anything substantial to the plot.

    Things also begin to get a bit too extraordinary, with the Annabelle doll seemingly teleporting around the property to wherever is convenient to get a scare. Unless there are multiple dolls, it seems unlikely that the doll would be able to get out of the bottom of a well, teleport around storeys of the house and beyond. In this regard, Annabelle: Creation isn’t quite as scary as it is preposterous.

    The film also relies heavily on its soundtrack to induce its chills, although the score by Benjamin Wallfisch does its job effectively. As the film goes through the motions, its predictability becomes almost paint-by-numbers, with the telltale swell of discomforting music ensuring that something spooky is about to happen right before a discordant and cacophonous tone drowns all other sounds and gets hearts racing. It works, but the film would be better if it didn’t have such a crutch.

    The cast’s acting is mostly superb, especially for the horror genre which tends to set the bar rather low for acting chops. Bateman is equally pitiable and terrifying as Janice, being a character that audiences will initially root for before regretting such a decision. Wilson is endearing as young Linda, who soon finds herself without her best friend and sister and must fight for her own survival. Linda is tougher than she looks, and one of the film’s only characters to actually fight back at the demon, as she smacks at it as it pursues her. You go, girl.

    Sigman is wonderful in her role as Sister Charlotte, perfectly portraying her job as the girls’ caretaker and role model. The film does not focus on her (which it very well might have, given her overt religious beliefs,) but the scenes in which she is in are well done. Lee is another supporting character, despite being the titular original Annabelle. She’s nowhere near as terrifying as the doll (but how could she be?) Lee’s Annabelle is mischievous and grim, adding a mortifying sense of reality behind the entity that possesses the doll.

    Surprisingly, LaPaglia is the only actor on the film’s somewhat intimate roster that is lackluster. His character carries an ominous presence throughout the film, which doesn’t appear to be intended. LaPaglia makes Mr. Mullins into a grief-stricken madman, although the film later reveals he just wanted contact with his dead daughter. Up until that’s revealed, LaPaglia’s character is undoubtedly sinister for no good reason. His confrontation with the demon shows that he didn’t have any allegiance to it, nor does the plot lead the viewer to believe so…just LaPaglia’s acting.

    Overall, Annabelle: Creation is a film that manages to rouse up ample frights, and it’s a somewhat solid addition to the creepy doll’s film legacy. Its subtle nods to the previous films in its history are carefully placed and add further layers to the prior films. Can Annabelle: Creation touch The Conjuring or its sequel? Not a chance. Can it be an enjoyable film that’ll show you that even an evil doll can scare you beyond your wildest dreams? Easily.

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    Recap: American Dad – ‘Family Plan’

    American Dad has restored faith in its ability to get a laugh with its latest episode, ‘Family Plan.’ It’s an especially encouraging episode, after the last two – ‘The Life and Times of Stan Smith‘ and ‘The Bitchin’ Race‘ failed to garner many chuckles. Considering this episode’s director, Chris Bennett, has directed some of the series’ best (‘My Morning Straitjacket,’ ‘Hot Water,’ among others) it shows that American Dad is at its best when it sticks to the formula that has worked for over ten seasons.

    The Smith’s attend the wedding of their Evil Doctor Kalgary, and the endearing misfit Billy makes an appearance as well as the ring-bearer. This episode features other throwbacks to previous episodes, and fans of the series will enjoy the sense of nostalgia. The wedding makes Francine want more family time, and so Hayley encourages her to go to the adoption center and find her parents.

    Archetypal dumb blonde Francine instead adopts an Angelina Jolie amount of children, each with hilarious names, including He Who Shall Not Be Named, Baby-oncé, and, simply, Amy Schumer. Francine returns to the adoption agency and gets the phone number of her birth parents, who fans may remember from an early season when Stan visited them.

    Francine is invited to a family reunion, where she finds out that her mother has committed suicide. The rest of the family are rich and snobby, and so the rest of the Smiths want to leave. Francine refuses, and so Steve, Hayley and Stan decide to go home. What about Roger, though? In one of the most hilarious characters Roger has been in a while, it’s revealed that he’s been Francine’s fathers cat, Marmalade, for years. Roger is committed to his duties as the family cat, and it honestly elevates this episode from being funny to outright hysterical.

    With the entire family present, Francine’s father takes the time to enact revenge on everyone for using too much mobile data. (Why else?) How does he opt to solve this problem? A fight to the death, of course. The entire family begins murdering each other, and Francine has to run for her life. She later works with Roger as Marmalade and her cousin Janet, an Avon representative, to stay alive.

    This episode has its strengths, and it’s hard not to notice that this is an episode where my problems with the past few episodes have been addressed. Groanworthy Klaus makes a very brief appearance, where he makes a terrible joke (so terrible that Roger throws a banana at him.) That’s just the right amount of Klaus for one episode. The episode also doesn’t rely on jock humor, even though it does flirt with it — there’s lots of violence and murder made humorous, and Roger quite often gets a laugh via cat excrement jokes. These things are fine, in small doses, but the last few episodes depended on them.

    It’s refreshing and reassuring to know that American Dad hasn’t completely lost its way, and ‘Family Plan’ will hopefully be the first of a true return to form for the rest of this season. What were your thoughts on the episode? Leave a comment below!

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    EP Review: Megan Davies – ‘Bad Poetry’

    Megan Davies is a Youtube sensation with over a million subscribers and over 157 million views. She’s posted covers and mashups, but she’s decided to release original music as well, and her debut EP, Bad Poetry, features five whimsical tracks that introduce her in the recording industry. YouTube has always had a lot of talented uploaders, but there’s been few and far between that truly had the talent to go beyond covering the work of others and breakthrough into the mainstream. Luckily, Megan Davies has enough talent in her pinky finger to make some of today’s chart toppers looking lackluster.

    On Bad Poetry‘s opening track, ‘Only Us,’ Davies sings about being enough for her lover, and the feeling of satisfaction of having a fulfilling relationship. It’s a peppy and upbeat track with a hook that drags you in, and both the production and Davie’s voice give off a wonderfully Taylor Swift-ish vibe, but with a more laid back approach than Swift’s recent releases.

    ‘Black and White’ confronts Davie’s fears of dealing with adulthood, and it’s certainly a relatable track, with a swelling chorus that hits right in the feels. “I’m never gonna be one thing, and I’m not making no apologies. Yeah, I’ll keep painting outside those lines, doesn’t have to be black and white.” Overall, it’s a phenomenal song, but the best part comes at the bridge, as the song truly reaches its climax and goes smashing into the chorus.

    Davies gets more sultry and rhythmic on ‘Walk Away,’ letting anyone who has hurt her know she’s truly a boss. “I’m thinking for myself, you can take your clothes back, I’ll have the last when you turn around and walk away.” Burn! Like the songs before it, ‘Walk Away’ is catchy, toe tapping, and a pop masterpiece.

    ‘Black and White’ had a killer, uplifting bridge, and ‘Walk Away’ has an equally epic outro — as Davies goes in for the song’s final chorus, the production swiftly changes into an even livelier, almost Spanish sounding extravaganza. Simply put, amazing.

    Davie’s penchant for unbelievably catchy choruses continues on ‘Blind Fools,’ and the track tackles her frustrations with life, from being judged by others, to having to pay college tuition, and the struggles she faces as a woman in the music industry. It’s a rousing anthem, calling all listeners into action, pushing them to be the best versions of themselves and avoiding all the lies society feeds to them.

    The EP closes with its titular track, and ‘Bad Poetry’ finds Davie’s on a bad day, dealing with getting pulled over and her rent being late. She’s still optimistic, because she’s got love in her life.  Lyrics are reflective of a social media loving generation, “You back me up, when my Facebook feed makes me feel like I’m not enough.” The chorus is once again rousing, with Davies coming across as a positive and lovable person.

    Overall, Bad Poetry is anything but bad poetry, with Davie’s debut EP featuring insanely catchy lyrics and beautiful production that leaves its mark. The only complaint with this EP? There’s not more than five songs! When Davies manages to find time in the studio for a full album, it’s sure to be a contender with the best of the best because her debut already manages to outclass some of the Top 40’s finest.

    Listen to Bad Poetry here, and catch Megan on tour with Boyce Avenue this fall at the Fillmore in Silver Spring on Septemer 18th. Full tour dates are here.

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    Recap: American Horror Story: Roanoke – Chapter One

    The sixth season of American Horror Story‘s anthology, Roanoke, comes to us in the format of a paranormal documentary show, following a married couple’s encounters with the paranormal. Reenactments, played by other actors, is where much of the on screen action takes place, with the ‘real’ characters appearing in testimonials.

    With Chapter One, the series gets off to a slow and somewhat clunky start. The show within a show, aptly called My Roanoke Nightmare, is just as excruciating to watch on American Horror Story as it is in the plethora of similarly terribly reenacted History Channel shows. What’s more, there’s very little suspense or frights added from this format; it doesn’t seem more realistic, despite how intent the narrative is on reminding us of this.

    Characters Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) give testimonials about their ‘nightmare,’ with fictionalized cutscenes featuring actors playing actors…Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. star in My Roanoke Nightmare as the actors who portray Shelby and Matt respectively.

    Shelby suffers a miscarriage and Matt becomes injured, prompting them to relocate to North Carolina. They find themselves a colonial property at a bargain price, outbidding hostile locals who want the property for unknown reasons. Once the couple moves in, things begin to take a predictable turn for the worse.

    Matt is a traveling salesman, and his sister Lee (Adina Porter in testimonials, Angela Bassett in reenactments) moves in to the house to keep Shelby company. The two are always at odds; Lee is a former cop and recovering addict who doesn’t hide her distaste for the hippy, zen, wine-loving Shelby whose ‘job’ is doing yoga. (Sidenote: Shelby, until yoga is making you money, you are unemployed.)

    While away from the house, Matt’s mobile phone notifies him that the house’s security system is going off. He watches the horror unfold via a phone app, and rushes home, knowing that the local police will be less than helpful. (The entire town seems rather unwelcoming.) Back at the house, Shelby and Lee find themselves pushed into the basement, where a disturbing video is playing on an old VCR. On it, a man is hunting a creature with a pig head and human body. The power then goes out, and the town mob invades the house, erecting some crazy witchlike totems and dolls up in the foyer.

    Matt returns home and is shown the video but has his doubts about its authenticity. Instead, he chooses to believe that it’s just the hostile locals, determined to scare them off the property to ‘snatch’ it up at an even more reduced price. Considering the fictional show is called My Roanoke Nightmare, it’s likely he’s just an idiot. Shelby even appears to think so, and makes the rational decision to flee.

    She speeds off in her car, before deciding to take a call from Matt. American Horror Story is reaching Glee levels with its ‘Don’t Talk On Your Phone And Drive’ message, because Shelby obviously gets into an accident. She collides into a woman that appears to have supernatural strength, managing to get up and hobble off into the woods.

    Once the voice of reason, Shelby stupidly follows her into the woods, pleading that the woman needs to go to the hospital. Really? After the entire town seems to want your family dead, you still care about a the well-being of a woman that is completely unfazed after getting hit by a car? I’d consider that another warning sign to get the hell out of town.

    In the middle of the woods, Shelby is greeted by a torch-wielding mob as a scalped man falls to her feet, his full brain on display, and the episode ends. Yikes.

    American Horror Story: Roanoke doesn’t manage to leave a lasting impression with its first episode. Despite having a loyal fanbase, first impressions do matter. (As a note, I loyally watched the show on its released date for the first five seasons, but failed to find any interest in continuing Roanoke. It was not until hype for Season 7, Cult, began that I figured I’d watch the rest of Season Six for good measure.) There’s little thrills or chills in the first episode, and if the rest of the season follows the ridiculous My Roanoke Nightmare format, the series will continue to decline.

    When it comes to the visuals, American Horror Story paints with the brooding style fans have come to expect. Production value is high, even if there’s little (yet) that’s truly frightening. The casting is very well done — the reenactments are authentic to their genre, with Paulson and Gooding Jr. looking scarily like Rabe and Holland, but with enough differences to distinguish themselves.

    Thankfully, reenactments are done tastefully rather than for shock value, and the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, is able to wring as much suspense as possible, even if there’s little going on so far. The voice over testimonials and narratives are where the show begins to dip in its usually unmatched quality, with the action unfolding onscreen feeling as though the ‘real’ people describing it are a bit superfluous. Unless you love these types of shows, it’ll likely be a turn off.

    Check back to POParazzi in the weeks leading up to American Horror Story: Cult for more recaps from Roanoke.

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    Recap: Rick & Morty Season 3, Episode 3 – ‘Pickle Rick’

    Internet sensation Pickle Rick has finally arrived, with his own episode of Rick and Morty. Tonight’s episode saw Rick reach new levels of inventiveness, turning himself into a pickle to avoid attending therapy with the rest of the family. The entire episode is absurdly hilarious, tying together this season’s overarching theme (how the family deals with divorce) with the insane and murderous rise of Pickle Rick.

    Rick finds himself in a dire situation when Morty points out there is a syringe of what the family suspects is anti-pickle serum dangling above Pickle Rick in the garage. Obviously, Rick had the serum on a timer, ready to turn himself back into a human after the family departed to their therapy session. He didn’t plan on Beth taking the syringe with her to therapy, leaving Rick to deal with the consequences of life as a pickle.

    And of course, the consequences are enormous. Pickle Rick couldn’t just chill in the garage and wait for the family’s return. He ends up in the sewers, where he beheads a cockroach, taking control of its body before battling a horde of sewer rats. In glorious Pickle Rick fashion, the rats succumb to Rick’s genius in an elaborate and excessively violent contraption that rids them of their body parts and gives Pickle Rick limbs and mobility.

    Meanwhile, guest star Susan Sarandon is the family therapist, a long-winded talker who doesn’t doubt for a second the family’s reason for Rick not being present. Their session begins to revolve around Pickle Rick, much to the chagrin of Beth. It’s worth noting that as annoying as the therapist may be, she tended to make good points when it came to the bonds the family has. Beth may find it hard to tolerate Rick at times, but she admires him nonetheless.

    Newly mobile Pickle Rick makes his way back up through the sewers via a toilet pipeline, but he’s found himself in an even more far-fetched and outrageous situation. It leads him to a high security prison where a pursuit takes place. Pickle Rick kills two of the 34 armed guards, and blows up even more before the presumed warden sends prisoner ‘Jaguar’ to kill Pickle Rick on the promise that his beloved will be freed.

    In a surprise twist, Pickle Rick and Jaguar team up, fleeing the prison in a helicopter and lighting the building on fire. Finally, old Pickle Rick makes it back to his family, strolling into the therapy session as if nothing has happened. The therapist doesn’t even bat an eye, proceeding into a monologue about Rick’s avoidance of the therapy session stemming from his love of adventure, pointing out that he’d rather die than participate in something so mundane. Once again, she makes quite a point.

    On the drive home, Rick and Beth bond over the session, taking a quick second to poke fun at the real reason they were supposed to go therapy: Morty peed his pants and Summer huffed enamel.

    Beth and Jerry’s divorce took a backseat in tonight’s episode, but the family’s problems that have stemmed from it have continued to drive the series forward with its third season’s main plot. Rick & Morty continues to reach new highs, especially with its character development. The entire family is getting fleshed out marvelously, showing new sides to their personality and the motives behind their actions. The show continues to strike the perfect balance between the hilariously outrageous and the more significant themes, with ‘Pickle Rick’ being a prime example. Episodes like this are what’s making Rick & Morty keep its momentum as both an internet sensation and one of TV’s most entertaining animated shows.

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    Recap: Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 4 – ‘The Spoils of War’

    Warning: The night is dark and full of spoilers!

    So far, the Mother of Dragons has lost the Dornish, the Ironborn and, as of last week’s episode, Lady Olenna and House Tyrell. As you can imagine, she isn’t too thrilled about that, and this week’s episode touches on the consequences for the Lannisters’ actions.

    The Lannister army is apparently leaving Highgarden, transporting an enormous amount of gold back to Cersei to pay her family’s debts with the Iron Bank. Jaime Lannister leads while Bronn follows close behind, hoping to get more compensation than he’s already been given for his participation against Highgarden. After dismissing Bronn’s request, Jaime sends Bronn to assist the Tarleys in ‘convincing farmers to hand over their crops.’

    And back in the Red Keep, Cersei seems to have pleased the Iron Bank, who have never had such a large amount of money paid back in a single day. Of course, the gold is still being transported by Jaime, so the Iron Bank assures her that she has their support and loyalty when the gold does arrive. What could go wrong with transporting the entire shipment of gold the Lannisters owe across the country?

    In Winterfell, Petyr Baelish speaks with Bran privately and offers him a gift: the dagger used by the mercenary who was sent to kill Bran all those years ago. Bran takes the gift, but Lord Baelish leaves when Meera interrupts them by entering the room. She has come to say her goodbyes, and as fond of her as I’ve grown, I’m glad she’s leaving, so that we won’t get to see her inevitable death if she had indeed stayed.

    Meera wants to be with her family if, and when, the White Walkers breach the wall. Bran doesn’t seem to care much, and if he does, he doesn’t show it. Meera is obviously hurt, stating that her brother Hodor and others already died for Bran, and that she almost died for Bran, too. Before she leaves, Bran informs her that he isn’t the same Bran she first met. He’s different now.

    And finally, after years of being away, Arya Stark returns to Winterfell! Though she has some trouble with the guards not believing who she was, she manages to get past the walls fairly easily. Sansa finds her standing before a statue of their father. Both of them mention how the statue doesn’t resemble him at all, but Sansa says that everyone who truly knew his face is dead. Arya replies simply: We’re not. They speak of the troubles they had on their journey to Winterfell, but Arya offers a piece of wisdom:

    Our stories aren’t over yet.

    Their reunion is a happy one, and the two embrace after not seeing one another for so long. After speaking for a bit, Sansa takes Arya to see Bran at the Heart Tree. He mentions watching Arya before Sansa explains about his visions. He asks about Arya’s list, which she had just mentioned to Sansa moments before. It seemed to be enough to convince Arya his visions were real and to make Sansa believe it just a bit more. Arya admires the dagger Bran was given, and he is quick to give it to her, stating that a cripple has no use for it anyway. Poor Bran.

    At Dragonstone, Queen Daenerys and Missandei gossip like teenage girls about Missandei’s relationship with Grey Worm before Jon Snow interrupts with something he’d like to show the Queen. He takes her into a cavern in the mountains of Dragonstone, showing her the surplus of dragonglass he intends to mine.

    When the two enter another part of the cave, Daenerys examines cave paintings drawn long ago. In the drawings, the children and the First Men banded together to defeat a common enemy: skeletal creatures that resemble the stories of the White Walkers that Jon told Daenerys about. He desperately needs her help, and she says he’ll have all the help he needs on one condition:

    Bend the knee.

    After leaving the cave, Daenerys is greeted with good news and bad news. The good: the Unsullied have taken Casterly Rock. The bad: Lady Olenna and her army are dead. The Queen is furious and very interested in storming off to the Red Keep with her dragons and burning it all to the ground. Tyrion advises against it, but she doesn’t seem to take that advice seriously until Jon pleads with her. He says the people are looking for something new, and that if she slaughters hundreds with her dragons and melts their cities, they’ll view her as just the same as the previous monarchs.

    Back in Winterfell, Podrick deals with getting his ass handed to him yet again by the knight he serves, Brienne of Tarth. Arya sees them training and approaches, interested in sparring with the giantess herself. At first Brienne is hesitant until Arya mentions the promise that was made to her mother.

    When the sparring begins, Arya shows off the skills she’s been learning since the beginning, and how far she’s come in her training. With her agility, Arya makes it a game of masterfully dodging Brienne’s brute strikes and landing quick pokes with her sword, named Needle. Once it seems like Arya has the upper hand on Brienne, she gets disarmed by a strong kick that Brienne lands and is pushed to the ground.

    The young Stark girl quickly pushes herself up and regains her footing, rushing right back into the fight. Brienne’s slow but powerful strikes are once again more easily countered by Arya’s quick movements…until Arya’s sword is knocked out of her hand. She still manages to dodge Brienne’s strikes and quickly draws her dagger, pointing it at Brienne’s neck to end the fight. Brienne is very impressed, as are Petyr Baelish and Sansa. She’s curious who taught Arya to fight like that, to which Arya replies: no one. An obvious nod to the Many Faced God’s followers.

    Theon comes to Dragonstone hoping to get the Queen’s help with saving his sister who, if you remember correctly, he abandoned to escape from his uncle two episodes ago. He reunites with Jon Snow, who explains that the only reason he hasn’t killed him on sight is because of what Theon did for Sansa. Jon also explains that the Queen isn’t there at the moment. Where is she, you might ask? The scene quickly shifts back to the Lannister army, so you might be able to guess.

    Jaimie and Bronn talk to Dickon Tarley about his first battle, which was at Highgarden. As the trio socialize, they hear what they believe to be a large group approaching from the distance. As their soldiers form a line, a massive army of Dothraki storm forward ready to crush their defenses. Jaime is confident they can hold them off, until the unexpected happens.

    Daenerys flies downward on her dragon, spitting fire and exterminating an entire line of defense that had been erected. The Dothraki charge through the flames, and the battle ensues. It’s clear that the Lannister army is outnumbered and outclassed, as the dragon barbecues a majority of their forces. Bronn manages to get to the secret dragon killing weapon that Cersei recently had made, and when the beast gets close enough, Bronn tries to shoot it down.

    Unfortunately for him, he only slightly injured it. Daenerys and her dragon land for a moment while she pulls the spear from it’s breastbone, and it quickly destroys the weapon responsible for its injury. Jaime thinks he’s going to take advantage of the Queen and her dragon being on the ground. Rather than running, he grabs a spear and charges forward to kill her.

    Her dragon doesn’t take very lightly to that, though. The dragon points it’s mouth at Jaime and spits flames. Jaime is saved, but barely, by Bronn who plunges the both of them into the lake just before the flames hit. The last thing we see is Jaime sinking to the bottom of the lake, weighed down by his armor before the episode ends.

    Daenerys is furious, and it seems her vengeance for her allies is working out in her favor. Of course, what happened to the gold Jaime needed to transport? It’s probably scattered or even melted if the dragon’s flames burnt hot enough!

    Tune in next week for a recap of Season 7, Episode 5!

     

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    Ally Ryan talks success of ‘Wasted,’ Musical.ly’s #NextWaveJuly

    It’s no surprise that Ally Ryan bagged the #5 spot on Billboard’s Hot Singles with her track ‘Wasted.’ Her debut track is quite the summer bop. She talks with POParazzi about the success of the single, her musical influences, and about the song being #3 in Musical.ly’s finalists for #NextWaveJuly.

    What inspired you to write ‘Wasted?’

    The inspiration behind ‘Wasted’ was a toxic relationship that I was in not long before the song was born. The record is essentially about two people people who are in love but toxic for one another.

    The song’s music video does a great job of showing how, when you’re in love, just being with your partner can be more fun and wild than any party. Was it as fun to shoot as it looks on screen?

    Shooting the video was an absolute blast! Phil Lubin, who played my love interest in the video, was such a great time on set and made me feel extremely comfortable, which I think showed through in the final product!

    What was it like when ‘Wasted’ debuted at #8 on the Billboard’s Hot Singles Chart?

    It was incredible! Felt like I was being punked or something… [I] couldn’t believe it was real!

    ‘Wasted’ has enjoyed a lot of success on Musical.ly, too. Do you watch your fans’ videos? If so, is there a particular one that stood out for its originality to you?

    I watch fan musicallys literally all the time! It’s the best feeling in the world watching someone sing along to your music. I actually watched one yesterday of someone who danced to the record and it was insanely good!

    The song was even named #3 out of the Top 15 Finalists for Musical.ly’s #NextWaveJuly Competition. What would winning the competition mean to you?

    Winning Next Wave would be incredible! Just the fact that I’m sitting at #3 is already insane! It’s up to the fans though, so I just hope they enjoy the record enough to keep making musicallys! Fingers crossed!

    Who are your biggest musical influences?

    Chris Martin all day every day. Bon Iver, Prince, Sia… the list could go on.

    ‘Wasted’ is going to be on your upcoming EP, due out later this year. What can fans of ‘Wasted’ expect to hear when it comes to your other songs?

    Fans can expect to hear more fun pop records as well as some slower more personal songs. I am excited to see how fans react to the new music!

    What dreams do you have for your career in music?

    I think my main dream is to be able to keep doing what I love! Making music has always been the dream, so as long as I’m doing it, I’m happy!

    When you’re not working on your music career, what do you like to do for fun?

    If I’m not working on music I’m usually with my friends hanging out or going on some type of crazy adventure!

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    Music Video: Shania Twain – ‘Life’s About To Get Good’

    Shania Twain is back, and her music video for ‘Life’s About To Get Good’ finds her in a good place in life. Those who grew up listening to Shania’s music will be glad to hear her voice has grown better with time, sounding just as pristine as she did on songs like ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’ — a track that this video even pays subtle homage to.

    The only critique to be had for ‘Life’s About To Get Good’ comes directed at the song’s production, which is heavy throughout and at times sounds more like a cacophony than a symphony. Although with Twain’s track record, it wouldn’t surprise me if the song, and her forthcoming album Now were to be released with multiple versions. (Past albums have had various reworks, ranging from country, pop, to even Bollywood productions!)

    Watch the music video below and pre-order Now here.

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    Music Video: Brit Daniels – ‘Shadows’

    What a tune! Nashville singer-songwriter Brit Daniels has released the music video for her newest single, ‘Shadows.’ The song was inspired by the idea of missing someone and the dark feeling that takes over when old memories arise. The song’s video follows this idea, with a dark and smoky setting complementing the track. It’s a rather simple video, beautifully edited with a wonderful flow that lets the track shine.

    Daniels’ voice is sweet as honey, and her pain can be felt on the song’s chorus. The song draws inspiration from the painful breakup a friend of Daniels’ experienced, as well as Daniels’ emotions losing her father during her freshman year in college.

    Speaking of the song and its inspiration, Daniels says, “‘Shadows’ talks about the feelings you experience when you’re missing someone. Wherever you go and whatever you do, the memories of that person come flooding back almost as if it’s haunting you in a way. I feel like this is something everyone goes through when they experience loss in any form, which is what led me to start writing ‘Shadows.'”

    The song takes a mellow turn at the bridge, with the beat slowing down before the pumping and pulsing chorus returns for one last hurrah. Watch the video for ‘Shadows’ below, and add it to your collection on iTunes, and Spotify.

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    Interview: Carl Gershon on his new single ‘Like Paradise’

    NYC Native Carl Gershon is an electro/pop artist with an indie edge. His new song, ‘Like Paradise’ recently premiered with a sound that brings about nostalgia for the ’80s. Listen to it below, and stream/download it here. Carl took time to talk with us about his new music, what it’s like working solo, and what goes into capturing his signature sound.

    Your new song, ‘Like Paradise,’ has a distinct ‘80s vibe. How has the music from that decade inspired and influenced you?

    Playing guitar most of my life, I have always had major synth envy. In my opinion, the best synth and bass synth sounds are found in ’80s recordings. Also the ’80s were a huge time for guitar. Even dance songs had guitar solos. There were a lot of great players who really pushed the limits of what you could do on the instrument. The best ’80s recordings, I think, are really when the previous 50 or so years of analog recording hit its peak before digital technology started taking over. All of the studio technology and techniques hit their peak then and are now, for the most part, a lost art.

    How has living in New York affected your sound? Do you think it’s been easier to pursue music in such a large city, or has it had its challenges, too?

    It has definitely influenced my sound. Every live act comes here, every DJ comes here. It’s something I took for granted growing up here until I realized in other parts of the world people will drive hours and hours or even fly to see a concert because that is the only way they can see it. I only had to get in a cab. The only challenge I would say is just there is so much going on here that it can be harder to get people’s attention, but sooner or later you are going to have to get it anyway.

    You’ve scored internationally distributed films. How have other forms of art and entertainment, like film, had an influence on your solo work? Does your work on films flow well with your solo music, or do they require separate mindsets and work ethics?

    Yes, definitely. I actually have a degree in film. Scores by Jan Hammer, Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltermeyer have been a huge influence on me. When I am watching a film, I am always listening for how the composer uses timing, volume and arrangements to create different moods, and I try to learn from that for when I am producing my solo stuff. The scoring work I have done myself is very different than my solo work and definitely requires a different mindset. You have a visual you have to relate to. You also have to answer to an editor or a director and are often told what kind of music they want you to make. I learned a lot from doing, and it was always a great creative challenge, but my solo work is more of a full artistic expression for me.

    You wrote and co-produced all your new music. What goes into writing your songs, and where do you find yourself getting lyrical inspiration?

    The songwriting process can start many different ways for me. Sometimes I am just walking around and come up with a melody and record it into my phone so I don’t forget it, sometimes when I am practicing guitar I come up with stuff, or sometimes I have a Pro Tools session open, and I just start messing with different synths until I come up with something I like. I tend to take inspiration for lyrics from things that are going on in my life or things I see people I know going through. I find I write better lyrics when I am writing about something that happened in the past. This gives me time to reflect and really digest things and also gives it some space to be less literal and more poetic.

    In addition to writing and co-producing all your new songs, you performed all the vocals and instruments as well. What’s it like performing all these instruments and getting them to come together for a single song?

    It can definitely be exhausting sometimes because I only get to take a break when we are editing. I usually have the whole arrangement in my head, so getting it to come together is pretty natural, although it does take some planning, as it makes sense to lock in certain instruments first. I have a great engineer/co-producer, Steve “The Mix King” Sola, who definitely knows how to keep me from getting overwhelmed when things don’t work out exactly as I had planned them.

    You’ve been the lead guitarist in a few bands before deciding to go solo. How has it been having more control over your music?

    It’s great when no one in the “band” shows up to a session drunk or high. The singer never loses his voice cause he was up all night partying. Don’t get me wrong, I love collaborating and really miss just playing guitar in a band, but this way is much more rewarding for me right now.

    Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

    Yes I do. I was 4 years old and was in some kind of kids’ music program, and I had to perform it at the recital. I think it was called “The Happy Song”. No, you can’t hear it.

    If you could sit down and have a one-on-one talk with any musician, living or dead, who would you pick? What would you talk with them about, and what questions would you ask them to help you with your career?

    That is so tough to answer. Anyone I would pick I would be more interested in their stories from the studio or the road rather than career advice, just to hear the great stories.. Some I would pick just to nerd out talking about guitars and gear. Maybe I would pick Nile Rogers just because he has worked with so many of my favorite artists, and he is also a guitar player.

     

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    Recap: American Dad – ‘The Bitchin’ Race’

    American Dad has hit a rough patch yet again with ‘The Bitchin’ Race.’ Last week’s episode, ‘The Life and Times of Stan Smith,’ lacked the right amount of laughs, giving Klaus and Steve too much screen time. This week’s episode delegates Klaus to cutscene duty, as he’s sitting on the couch watching The Bitchin’ Race, an Amazing Race parody that the rest of the family is currently on.

    At face value, this episode had potential to be a standout, but American Dad plays it safe and reliable. The way TBS has been staggering episodes of this season throughout the year and the decline in quality would lead one to believe the network was phasing the show out, but it’s already been renewed for a 2018 season. Maybe by next year the show will get better? It seems unlikely, and the show that once bested an aging Family Guy is now beginning to show its age as well.

    Episodes like ‘The Bitchin’ Race’ are a tiny step in the right direction for the series that would benefit from getting back to its roots. Today more than ever, American Dad would do well to play up the political humor that once made it so hilarious. Nowadays, the show is reduced to parodying other awful TV shows…and not even doing it with humor.

    The episode begins in Tunisia, with the ‘finale’ of The Bitchin’ Race impending. The teams are reintroduced, with Stan and Francine competing against Hayley and Steve. Another team is made up of a ‘fame whore’ named Johnny Bananas with Roger as Yeager Chillax. A mother-son team is also competing, with mother Meredith trying to reign in her cocky son Justin, who went to heaven and came back, and an ‘expert’ team made up of Rick and Bear, two typical Amazing Race contestants.

    Unsurprisingly, as the final race begins, the Smith family is at odds with their partners as well as the teams they’re competing against. Stan and Hayley both feel they have carried their teams, while Francine and Steve are more content just going along for the ride. At home, Klaus watches the events unfold, eventually even putting a revolver to his head and playing Russian Roulette. I can’t stand Klaus, but I can agree with him wanting this all to end.

    The race gets heated, managing to play by the numbers and never leave a lasting impression. If it was the intention of the writers to prove how insufferable Amazing Race can be, they could’ve done it without making the episode insufferable as well.

    Scenes with Roger as Yeager Chillax are minimal, and they aren’t missed, either. Roger is at his best when he’s dressed up as a woman and getting into trouble. Yeager Chillax is the reality show’s typical douchebag character, and like last week’s episode showed, American Dad suffers when it relies on that kind of frat boy humor. Especially when it reduces its breakout character to such nonsense.

    Stan eventually plays a wild card common on these reality shows, allowing him to ditch Francine and team up with Hayley. No one on the two teams minds. Steve and Francine are now able to relax and enjoy a much needed vacation from their old partners. Being able to get away and truly relax does them both a world of good. The ultra-competitive Stan and Hayley have a fire ignited in them and become even more determined to win the race.

    Meanwhile, the race’s superfluous characters go through the paces. Rick and Bear are so forgettable that it’s hard to remember much of them past their trip to the airport. Roger and his partner go partying and essentially leave the race. Meredith and Justin get some more screen time as American Dad plays up the archetypal pity contestants, with Justin being a one-note joke about how he died and came back.

    Stan and Hayley are their own downfall as their greediness to cross the finish line takes over, causing them to get trapped in a dictatorial prison camp when they misread one of the final clues. They have to adjust to being ‘tortured’ before Francine and Steve come to their rescue in the end.

    With everyone in the race disqualified, American Dad declares Klaus the winner, and he floats off in a hot air balloon. It’s safe to say ‘The Bitchin Race’ should be cancelled, and if Klaus never returns, it won’t be the worst thing, either. If American Dad doesn’t want to follow the same path as its parody show, it’ll act quickly to do some course correction and get back to making us laugh.

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    Album Review: Kady OBrien – Silver Lines & Paper Cuts

    Kady OBrien has released her EP, Silver Lines & Paper Cuts today after a tour throughout the mid-west in the spring. The EP features four songs and shows that there is potential when OBrien plays to her acoustic strengths.

    The EP opens with ‘Vapor,’ a track that bends genres and struggles to find its footing. On ‘Vapor,’ OBrien mixes her acoustic sound with brief electro-pop on the chorus with mixed results.’Vapor’ sounds at times like two songs intertwined. The rest of the EP is much more acoustic than pop, and OBrien’s voice is more suited to this style of music, anyway.

    A jazzed up production on ‘In A Pickle’ has OBrien giving off subtle Adele vibes. The song’s got a catchy chorus with an interesting analogy comparing love’s grip to that of a jar of pickles. It’s this type of music that suits OBrien best, featuring a more traditional approach to its production and letting her clever lyrics shine.

    ‘Under the Influence’ is equally inventive as ‘In A Pickle’ as OBrien tells her lover they won’t run her over and take advantage of her. It’s a wonderfully relatable track, thanks in part to its simplicity. It’s more formulaic than OBrien’s other songs, but hey — there’s a formula for a reason.

    Silver Lines & Papercuts draws to a close with ‘Maya’s Song.’ There’s little substance in the EP’s closer, with the line “I hear you crying,” repeated to a point that it brings the song down. It’s a shame, because when there is more thought given to the lyrics in  ‘Maya’s Song,’ there is creativity. For example: “Reading your mind, I’d need a Master’s Degree.”

    With Silver Lines & Papercuts, Kady OBrien introduces herself as an artist with potential. The tone  of her voice can instantly set the mood for a beautifully inviting acoustic number. While ‘Vapor’ and ‘Maya’s Song’ are both missing a thing or two to make them stand out, there’s promise in tracks like ‘In A Pickle’ and ‘Under The Influence’ because they show that when OBrien gets all the parts of a song in the right order, she’s got gems on her hands.

    For more on Kady OBrien, visit her on Facebook and Instagram.

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    Charlize Theron is a killer queen in Atomic Blonde

    Man, Atomic Blonde is a film that leaves a lasting impression. It’s the epitome of a spy flick, with enough action and thrills to go around. Based on Antony Johnson and Sam Hart’s graphic novel The Coldest City, the film features Charlize Theron as a spy who is sent to find a list of double agents on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

    Atomic Blonde draws inspiration from the spy films of the past and other graphic novels that got the silver screen treatment. The result is a cinematic masterpiece that needs to be experienced on the big screen to truly capture the film at its raw, unfettered essence. This is thanks to a phenomenal score, with Tyler Bates leading the film’s music. Atomic Blonde uses music to enhance scenes and propel them forward.

    The music elevates the already superb action scenes and brings unity to the story’s frequent shifts from Theron’s character Lorraine’s interrogation to the flashbacks of what she’s describing. As far as film scores go, this is honestly one of the year’s best, with the score being an integral part of the film that’s phenomenally well done and perfectly placed as far as the film’s pace is concerned.

    Once the story gets going and begins to build toward its climax, Atomic Blonde does go through some minor pacing issues where there’s much twisting and turning going on but little matters. Pacing issues are at a minimum though, and the majority of the film flows with ease. Transitions from Lorraine’s interrogation to action scenes are well thought out and executed, and the subtle transition effects that are used are to good effect.

    As a character, Theron’s portrayal of Lorraine is well fleshed out and realized. This is thanks both to Theron’s acting and the film’s script. In interrogation scenes, Lorraine is calm and collected, a queen that’s manipulating the pawns around her. In the flashback scenes, there’s a more human side to Lorraine. Her job as a spy puts her in many precarious situations, and Atomic Blonde doesn’t shy away from the action, but it also takes time to allow its main character to breathe. Lorraine is human, and her reflections on what she goes through make her more likable (as if she needed to be more likable — it’s Charlize Theron smoking a lot and kicking ass. What more could you want?)

    James McAvoy stars opposite Theron as David Percival, Lorraine’s main contact on her mission. Perhaps McAvoy’s recent role in Split has me biased, but he’s become very convincing in his roles as a wild madman. Atomic Blonde lets McAvoy shine as a seasoned, gritty spy, somewhat in the vein of Wanted. As the story plays out, McAvoy’s character is meant to be questioned repeatedly, teetering between trustworthy and traitorous. In this regard, McAvoy plays his role effortlessly, making Percival someone that never feels entirely good, because he isn’t. He’s a wildcard, and one with quite a bit of power as Atomic Blonde heightens its pace.

    Sofia Boutella is stunning as Delphine, a somewhat green French spy that Lorraine tries to use for information. Boutella gives Theron a run for her money, with her character being arguably the film’s most endearing. Delphine is gullible — to a fault. Lorraine is a seasoned agent who can and will manipulate those around her to serve her needs. While Delphine is similar to Percival in that her trustworthiness is always in question, by the end of the film she’s the only character you’ll feel something for, other than Lorraine. Hell, even Lorraine feels for Delphine. And the film does a damn good job at making it known that Lorraine is stone cold and afraid to feel too much because it might get her killed.

    When it comes down to Atomic Blonde‘s story, the film fills its near two hour runtime with as much action and thrills as possible. Spy flicks have to have many twists and turns, with allegiances always in question, and Atomic Blonde lives up to its genre’s requirements. Those who love a good suspense will find the film meets their needs.

    Those there for the action will not be disappointed either. Atomic Blonde is absolutely brutal, earning its R rating. Fight scenes are a common occurrence, with Theron punching, kicking and shooting her enemies into submission. Action scenes are reminiscent of Kill Bill in their ability to be necessary, violent and artistically done.

    Overall, Atomic Blonde boasts a phenomenal score and action scenes, with stellar performances from Theron and Bouetella. There’s a deadly game at play during the film’s narrative, and it takes its time to make sure every step is precise and calculated. This leaves the film feeling drawn out as it begins to build to its climax, but thankfully it quickly rights itself, never allowing itself to get too bogged down. Atomic Blonde shines, making it a rare film truly grand enough to be worthy of seeing in the cinema for the full experience.

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    Recap: Rick & Morty Season 3, Episode 2 – ‘Rickmancing The Stone’

    Rick and Morty picks up from its April premiere with ‘Rickmancing The Stone,’ an episode that sees Rick, Morty and Summer traveling to a post apocalyptic world and joining a band of ruffians. The episode deals primarily with Beth and Jerry’s divorce that was announced in ‘The Rickshank Redemption,’ focusing on how the main characters in the series are coping with the news.

    Who would’ve thought her parents getting a divorce would turn Summer into a bonafide badass? In hindsight, it makes perfect sense. The trio arrive in the post apocalyptic world where Rick is determined to get his hands on a fleck of the powerful Isotope-322. Upon their arrival in the dimension, a pursuit ensues with the ‘Death Stalkers’ chasing Rick, Morty and Summer and attempting to kill them. Rick eventually gets his hands on the isotope and is ready to leave, but Summer has ventured off, craving blood.

    Usually it’s Rick who is doing much of the devious and nefarious killing in Rick and Morty, but her parent’s divorce has driven Summer to act out. She kills the leader of the Death Stalkers with little regret. The rest of the troupe that was following the trio relents, thanking Summer for killing the weak and offering to allow them to join their gang. Summer’s bloodlust invigorates her, and she tries to convince Rick and Morty to stay in this dimension. (But not before she hilariously calls out the Death Stalkers as pussies because of the fact that they will stop trying to kill her because she killed one of theirs.)

    Summer would’ve been going home to deal with her angst if the Death Stalkers didn’t possess a twenty pound rock of Isotope-322. When Rick lays eyes on it, all bets are off, and he’s more than happy to stay in the dimension and join the Death Stalkers with Summer. Poor, weak Morty is thrust yet again into a world where he’d never survive without Rick and Summer to save him. Or can he actually handle himself? ‘Rickmancing the Stone’ gives Morty some unexpected strength.

    Rick is determined to steal the rest of the Isotope-322 before going back home, and so he injects Morty with the muscle memory of a nearby severed arm, giving him a crazy amount of strength and the ability to fight off the Death Stalkers. Rick plans to use this as a distraction, enabling him to steal the Isotope-322 without anyone seeing. Little does he know, the severed arm’s muscle memory doesn’t just contain strength, but the person’s actual memories. Poor Morty sees himself getting dragged around this dimension at the whim of his arm, seeking vengeance on those who caused the death of his original body. It starts off against his will, but Morty eventually uses the arm as a way to vent his pent up frustration against his father for not being strong enough to fight for his mother’s love.

    The Death Stalkers quickly realize Rick has stolen their god (the Isotope-322,) and he is forced to leave the dimension after being pursued by both Morty and Summer. Summer is content staying in this dimension, and she tries to get Rick to give up and receive mercy. Morty isn’t keen to go home either, knowing his arm has unfinished business that’s keeping him here. He also is less than ready to deal with the reality of his parent’s divorce in the ‘real’ world.  And besides, what would his mom say if she saw him with one arm that looked like he’d been on steroids since birth?

    Rick flees the dimension and has to keep up a charade with Beth that Morty and Summer are actually doing fine. He does so by creating robot versions of them, which makes for some hilarious scenes as Beth has dinner with the robots, and they ponder the meaning of life and what their existence means, how it feels to be human, etc. Rick and Morty has a lot of in your face, hilariously asinine humor, but it also shines when it takes a thought-provoking approach to the absurd.

    While Rick tries to keep up appearances, Morty and Summer are back in the Death Stalker dimension causing trouble. Summer finds herself in a romance with the gang’s leader, a man with a bucket on his head named Hemorrhage. Was anyone else expecting him to look just like Jerry when he took his bucket off? Summer has a lot of issues created by her father in this episode, and if she would’ve fallen in love with someone just like him, it would’ve been funny. Nonetheless, Summer’s relationship with Hemorrhage begins to mimic that of her parents in the sense that by the end of the episode, the newlyweds are separated.

    Morty goes on a revenge quest for his arm (named Armorthy…because why not?) that takes him to a castle where he eventually kills the Game of Thrones Joffrey-esque character that originally ordered Armorthy to be killed. Rick reappears to help Morty finish him off (it makes sense that Morty would have trouble killing someone to completion.) Now that Armorthy finished his business, he disappears, leaving Morty’s arm back to normal. He and Rick return to town, with Rick returning the Isotope-322 and helping the Death Stalkers put it to use to power their town.

    Three weeks later, Rick has given the town many technological advances. Summer’s now married to Hemorrhage, who is enjoying the luxuries Rick has brought to the town, refusing to get off his couch and murder anyone anymore. He’d rather watch TV, leaving Summer to do all the killing for the household. Her bloodlust is something that remains through the episode, and it will be interesting to see how Rick and Morty handles her aggression and feelings of betrayal by her parents and their divorce.

    With Hemorrhage leaving her unsatisfied, Summer is ready to return home. They jump through the portal (but not before Rick steals the town’s entire supply of Isotope-322 that he brought back. Typical Rick!)

    Back home, Morty comes to terms with the fact that his dad is not a fighter. He embraces Beth, letting her know that if Jerry really wanted to stay, he would’ve put up more of a fight to make it happen. Summer takes Jerry’s side, visiting him at the crappy motel he’s been staying at. She gives him the skull of her first victim and tells him to never look back. With both children on different sides of the divorce, Rick and Morty will be able to play with this tension and use it to further explore more serious topics with its typical zany humor this season.

    ‘Rickmancing the Stone’ sees Rick and Morty‘s third season kicking off with great success. Like ‘The Rickshank Redemption‘ showed, the show is now unafraid to tackle more serious issues, namely divorce. Thankfully, Rick and Morty‘s signature whacky humor permeates the episodes, allowing the show to develop its characters with great depth.

    This season, the show is doing well to give each character in Rick’s family time to grow and show who they are at their core. Granted, Rick, Morty, and Summer get most of the screen time, but the limited scenes with Beth and Jerry serve well to show who both of these characters are, their motives for the divorce, and what their goals are with their family. Luckily for their kids, despite their differences, both of them seem to just want everyone to be happy. The rest of the season may change their character’s intentions, but Rick and Morty‘s viewers sure will be pleased with how the new season is starting off.

     

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    Recap: Rick and Morty – Season 3, Episode 1 ‘The Rickshank Redemption’

    Rick and Morty starts off its third season on a series high with ‘The Rickshank Redemption.’ As the episode starts, Rick is recently released from space prison and enjoying dinner with the family at Shoney’s. Rick, being Rick, can tell that this is too good to be true, and realizes that he’s really in a simulation of his own brain’s memories.

    A Galactic Federation agent, Cornvelious Daniel, introduces himself in the memory, letting Rick know his brain is about to be liquified, and he has a limited amount of time left to enjoy his memories.

    Back on earth, Morty’s family is adjusting to life under the Galatic Federation’s takeover. Jerry now has an unspecified job and is paid in pills, while Beth has become unemployed thanks to the Federation’s ability to keep horses alive forever. It sounds like Jerry’s doing a good job providing for the family though — the Federation pays in pills.

    Show your father some respect. He’s pulling down a six-chewable figure income.

    Of course, Summer doesn’t give a damn and decides she’s going to rescue Rick. She digs up the portal gun that’s buried with Rick’s alternate-dimensional corpse in their backyard like a dog. Oh, Rick and Morty.  Unsurprisingly, Morty, being Morty, tries to convince Summer not to use it. The family’s robot butler Conroy tries to apprehend the device, so Morty relents and transports himself and Summer to the universe from Rick Potion #9.

    Morty uses their travel to make his point to Summer that Rick just doesn’t care about the worlds he visits and leaves in tatters. The ‘Cronenburg-world’ family isn’t doing so well. Summer even remarks that the version of herself in this world looks like she’s from The Hunger Games.

    Dinner with this family leads Summer to her funniest line in this episode:

    Mom…you’re looking…feral.

    Cronenburg-world Jerry refuses to let Morty and Summer leave, and he destroys the portal gun in the process. SEAL Team Rick shows up to investigate, and Summer and Morty are captured.

    The infamous Szechuan sauce scene sees Rick going down memory lane and deciding to stop first at McDonalds circa their Mulan promotion with the special sauce. At the episode’s end, Rick proclaims to Morty that this is his story arc — he’s determined to be reunited with this rarity of a dipping sauce. Even if it takes nine seasons, he’s committed to this bit. Knowing Rick and Morty, this will be a running gag.

    Back in memory land, Rick and Agent Daniel go back to Rick’s memory of creating the portal gun — which is valuable knowledge the Federation seeks to acquire. Rick goes along with Agent Daniel’s demands, taking him to the memory and showing him the code that inspired the portal gun. However, is it surprising that Rick has actually been in control the whole time? Nah. Being the master of his own mind, Rick’s created a fabricated version of events, deceived the Federation, and transferred his consciousness into Agent Daniel’s Body. Because Rick, that’s how.

    With his newfound body, Rick manages to hop around, eventually gaining control of a SEAL Team Rick member inside the Federation citadel where Summer and Morty are being held captive and put on trial. Is this all a little convenient? Sure, but Rick and Morty breaks the rules of animated comedies so frequently, that when it makes all the pieces fall into place, it feels perfectly executed rather than patronizing to the viewer.

    Rick engages in a standout to save Summer’s life and rescue her and Morty. In the process, he manages to ruin the Galactic Federation, sending its economy toppling and making it cave in on itself. He eventually brings the kids home (later revealing he only kept them alive so that Beth would choose him over Jerry, allowing Rick to get revenge on Jerry for betraying him and turning him into the Federation.) Beth and Jerry decide to get a divorce, and Rick goes on a tirade to Morty about how their adventures are only beginning this season.

    Rick and Morty loves playing by its own rules and throwing all sense of logic out the window, and season three starts off following previous season’s patterns. We may not know where Rick and Morty is taking us each episode, but we know it’ll be a fun ride. As long as there’s plenty of humor to go around, the show gets a pass for not playing by the rules. In fact, that’s likely the reason the show has become such a pop culture phenomenon in the first place.

     

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    Recap: Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3 – ‘The Queen’s Justice’

    Warning: This recap contains spoilers

    This week’s episode starts off with the King in the North, Jon Snow, arriving at Dragonstone to meet Queen Daenerys to discuss an allegiance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go as well as you’d think. Jon doesn’t seem to have any interest in bending his knee to the self-proclaimed Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, despite her mentioning a centuries old pact made between House Stark and House Targaryen.

    Jon reveals that his reasoning for meeting is that they both needed each other, and while he explains the very real threat of the Army of the Dead, Daenerys and her allies are hesitant to believe him. After all, Daenerys has never met Jon, and relied solely on the review of character Tyrion provided for the Stark bastard. As tensions rise, Jon and Ser Davos are escorted elsewhere while Lord Varys discusses with the Queen a matter of grave importance: Euron Greyjoy has captured Dornish and Ironborn allies.

    Meanwhile, Euron parades his captives through King’s Landing, leaving them to the mercy of the crowds before the group enters the Red Keep. Cersei is pleased, and despite bickering between Jaime Lannister and Euron, she announces that Euron will get what he desires (her hand in marriage) after the war has been won. Though with Cersei’s track record, it wouldn’t be surprising for Euron to find himself in the ground before the war is truly over.

    Ellaria Sand and her daughter find themselves chained and gagged in a cell with Cersei and The Mountain standing over them. Cersei provides a taunting monologue about how The Mountain murdered Ellaria’s husband and of Cersei’s fury for her daughter’s murder at the hands of Ellaria.

    Of course, Cersei tells Ellaria she would never truly understand until her children were taken from her, and in a sort of poetic justice, Cersei kisses Ellaria’s daughter Tyene, poisoning her in the same way Ellaria poisoned Cersei’s daughter Myrcella with a toxin named The Long Farewell. Before leaving, Cersei tells Ellaria that she will spend forever in that cell, watching her daughter die and rot before her eyes.

    Cersei and her brother Jaime engage in some nasty activities, and in the morning, Cersei proclaims that she is the Queen, and she doesn’t have to hide anything, letting her servants see her brother lying naked in her bed. Then, a visitor from the Iron Banks of Braavos pays Cersei a visit, discussing the debt that her family owes. Of course, Cersei responds with the obvious answer:

    A Lannister always pays their debts.

    Back at Dragonstone, Tyrion tries to smooth over the tension between Queen Daenerys and Jon Snow. Jon states his desire for the dragonglass, and Tyrion advises Daenerys to let him have it, considering it means very little to them. Tyrion believes that this will hopefully be a kind enough gesture to keep Jon as a potential ally, and that eventually, he would bend the knee to Daenerys. The two talk things out and both remain adamant on their words. Daenerys won’t let Cersei stay on the Iron Throne, and she still believes that the North is a part of the kingdoms she will eventually rule. The two agree to disagree as Daenerys allows Jon Snow to mine the dragonglass, offering men to provide resources and assistance if needed. She still doesn’t seem to believe him about the Army of the Dead though.

    And back in the North, Sansa Stark seems to be running things smoothly. She’s taking care of supplying food and shelter to those in the North, and even ensuring that her army’s breastplates are coated with leather to keep them warm in the coming winter. She’s greeted with a familiar face after far too long when she sees her brother, Bran Stark, being transported on a cart into Winterfell. The two share a heartfelt reunion and spend some time together at the Heart Tree. Bran states that he needs to talk with Jon, and shares his status as the Three Eyed Raven with his sister, who doesn’t seem to understand it at all and Bran doesn’t seem to explain it well enough to her.

    In the Citadel, Sam seems to have cured Ser Jorah’s affliction, much to the Grandmaester’s confusion. After deeming Jorah cured, Sam and the Grandmaester have a word in private. While Sam’s actions could have endangered himself and others, the Grandmaester is impressed. Sam is rewarded by not being immediately expelled from the Citadel for his actions, and resumes his tiresome work for the maesters.

    With the destruction of the Iron Fleet on Daenerys’ side, the Mother of Dragons is interested in using her dragons to destroy Euron Greyjoy and his portion of the Iron Fleet. Her council deems it too dangerous for her to go along, because if something were to happen to her, the entirety of her army and allies would fall apart. She is simply too valuable to be doing such dangerous things. As they discuss what to do with Euron, the Unsullied storm Casterly Rock and quickly dominate their forces. When the battle is won, they notice that a large chunk of the Lannister’s army is missing.

    That portion of the Lannister Army storms Highgarden, taking out their army and sacrificing Casterly Rock in the process. Lady Olenna isn’t surprised, considering her army didn’t consist of the best fighters. Highgarden has been known for its beauty and prosperity, but the Golden Rose lacked powerful thorns. Jaime Lannister has a final sit-down with Lady Olenna. Olenna criticizes his relationship with his sister, despite Jaime bringing Olenna’s demise in the form of poison rather than torture like Cersei wanted.

    After taking the poison peacefully, Lady Olenna mocks Jaime on the loss of his son, Joffrey. She speaks in great detail his demise, and states that such a violent poison was never her intention. In saying this, she reveals that she was behind King Joffrey’s murder, and states that she wants him to tell Cersei. She wants Cersei to know that she was the one who killed her son. Of course, can you blame her? Joffrey was a monster.

    The episode ends on that note, but already the drama in Westeros is spicing this season up. Game of Thrones airs every sunday at 9pm EST. If you miss it or you’re just interested in a recap, tune in next week for a recap of season seven’s fourth episode! And check out recaps of episode one and episode two.

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    Review: Schumer’s ‘Snatched’ can’t get a laugh to save its life

    A ‘MomCom’ film has the potential to be hilarious. It’s largely in part due to how easy it is to relate to being put into a whacky situation with your mother. The two characters have different approaches on life and the situations it brings, but once they learn to work together, everything is alright in the end. When it comes to Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, it’s easy to tell this is the closest this mother-daughter duo has ever been. There’s little chemistry, and even less humor.

    Schumer plays the self-absorbed Emily Middleton, who gets dumped as the film begins. It’s a painful scene to watch — not because you feel sorry for Schumer’s character, but just because there’s absolutely nothing to laugh at, despite the best efforts of the film. It’s a shame that Fresh Off The Boat‘s Randall Park’s role as Emily’s now ex-boyfriend, Michael, is diminished to a few minutes of screen time, all of which center around pussy jokes. It only gets worse from here.

    Emily finds herself less emotionally torn over the breakup than concerned that she now can’t find anyone to go with her on her nonrefundable trip to Ecuador. Her mother Linda (Hawn) learns of Emily’s breakup over social media and convinces her daughter to come home after 18 years of being apart. It wouldn’t be surprising if Emily was put up for adoption at birth, because Schumer and Hawn have no chemistry. Whenever Snatched‘s writing tries to set them up for a joke, the pair never work together to deliver. (Granted, some of the film’s humor can transcend the terrible delivery, but most of Snatched‘s laughs come from veteran comedian Wanda Sykes as Ruth, and Joan Cusack as Barb.)

    Schumer’s character eventually convinces her mother to leave their agoraphobic brother behind and come to Ecuador with her. Once the trip begins, Emily is eager to get away from her mother and quickly finds James (Tom Bateman,) and the pair begin a relationship. James, Emily and Linda go for a ride the next day and are involved in an accident, where Emily and Linda get abducted. Snatched is as humorous as it is believable.

    The rest of the film revolves around Schumer and Hawn being at odds and learning to work together to escape captivity and find their way back to safety in the Ecuadorian jungle. As the film progresses, there’s very little plot progression and an inordinate amount of awkward, unfunny moments.

    Schumer acts as if each scene is an Inside Amy Schumer skit, but it doesn’t work. This isn’t a two minute sketch, and Schumer’s exaggerated delivery and expressions just make her character even more unlikable. She’s hilarious in her TV show, but needs a bit more polish to her acting skills to have this work for longer than twenty minutes.

    The scenes with Sykes and Cusack are limited, but prove that Schumer can’t hold her own when it comes to the grander scale of cinema. Sykes delivers true, laugh out loud moments as the butch Ruth, there in Ecuador with Cusack, who’s her ‘friend‘ Barb.

    Schumer and Hawn had the potential to unite for a comedy film that gave vitality to both their careers. Snatched failed the viewers and the actors in that regard. The film’s short, hour and a half runtime feels twice as long thanks to a plot that goes nowhere and jokes that are few and far between. One of the year’s worst.

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