Beverly Hills Cop (1984 - DVD)
While I'd seen bits and pieces of Eddie Murphy's mid-80s star vehicle that skyrocketed his movie career before, I'd never seen the whole movie until now, and the only thing I remembered was the "banana in the tailpipe" scene. Murphy plays a resourceful, though somewhat-insubordinate Detroit cop, Axel Foley, who experiences culture shock when he travels to Beverly Hills, California, to investigate the murder of a close friend. While I generally enjoyed it, it's sort of a weird movie that's stuck halfway between being a goofy comedy and a serious cop drama. It wasn't originally intended as a comedy (with Sylvester Stallone being originally cast for the leading role), but without Murphy's involvement, it would just be another standard cop flick.
If it wasn't passed off as a comedy, some scenes just wouldn't work. Several times (at least four if I remember correctly) the way Foley's "resourcefulness" is portrayed is by having him yelling and acting like a psycho while "in character" (though all of his characters act the same). When the villains throw him through a glass window, my thought was that pretty much anyone he pulls this routine on would more realistically react that way than believe him and do what he wants.
The story contains some energetic chase scenes set to lively 80s pop music, but tends to slow down in the middle. (So, am I right that the strip club scene had absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and was just a gratuitous strip club scene? Those bad guys they busted there weren't related to the main villain in any way? That's what it seemed like.)
One complaint of Roger Ebert's that I disagree with is his eternal "stupid cops ruin the whole film" mantra. #1. They aren't that dumb, and #2. This is a comedy and it wouldn't be as funny without them.
I am slightly alarmed by the film's "morality" - that it's okay for police to file false reports under the right circumstances or have a drink on the job. I know, it's a comedy, but... really?? And the other moral is, "You can't make money in art." Maybe that's a better one to take away from it.
The Hangover Part III (2013 - Theater)
First of all, I'd like to mention that I skipped The Hangover Part II because I heard it was too much of a rehash of the first one, only not as funny. So, we went to see Part III at a drive-in theater. As a comedy, Hangover III does have some incredibly funny moments and lines of dialogue. As a story, though, it is completely off the rails and makes literally no sense in parts. Spoiler: If that wasn't really Chow's house, then how did he know where the gold was hidden and how to beat the security system??
While it's good that they didn't just do another "hangover" rehash, what takes its place is essentially one big Bourne-wannabe chase plot. The first one had a mystery that was at least somewhat-intriguing and for the most part, was just a silly comedy. Now, you've actually got characters and animals being killed. (And yeah, Beverly Hills Cop had some violent deaths, too, but at least that movie established itself from the get-go that it was partially a gritty cop drama.) The firt one at least had something of a character arc for Stu. The epilogue of III rather undoes it - it can make one reconsider that maybe Stu's witchy girlfriend had a point.
There was a recent discussion on my forums about how people often use "Show, Don't Tell" as a criticism of wordy internet writing. Someone else said that "Show, Don't Tell" really shouldn't be considered a universal rule and that good writing is more about knowing when to show, and when to tell. That's something this movie's writer(s) should've taken to heart - the implication of what happens to the giraffe in the commercials is far funnier than actually seeing it play out on the screen.
Iron Man 3 (2013 - Theater)
Ever since I saw The Avengers, I'd been interested in seeing an Iron Man movie and I got my wish, at the same drive-in theater, no less (though I didn't have trouble seeing it this time because the movie wasn't as dark and the sky wasn't as light by the time it showed at the second half of a double-feature with Hangover III). I have to say that the humor and Robert Downey Jr.'s smarmy portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man is the only thing that really makes this movie work for me on any level. Though better as an action movie than what Hangover III tried to be, it's a textbook example of a plot whose "big reveals" cause everything before them to make no sense. Spoilers: If that was the real explanation for the Mandarin, then how come no one recognized him? Surely, either his family, friends, or someone who had seen him perform or worked with him before would know him? And if Stark had been keeping a stockpile of Iron Man suits all this time, why was he so intent on using one that didn't work right?
I also have to wonder why the onion-bloomin' heck does Marvel Comics seem to think the idea of an amputee wanting to regenerate a lost limb is evil? There's the Lizard from Spider-Man and now this movie. I wonder what disabled people in the audience think when they see things like this.
6 Feet on the Ground (2003 - Digital Album)
Artist: Where's Leo?
This band (Where's Leo?) wasn't terrible, but they sounded so much like Blink-182 that I thought one of the songs was a cover of "The Rock Show" at first. Seriously, if you told me this was a Blink-182 tribute band, I would've believed you.
Back From the Future (2011 - Digital Album)
Artist: Sound Sultan
Sound Sultan is a Nigerian rapper/singer-songwriter and actor/comedian who is apparently too obscure to even be listed at AllMusic. I thought "Back From the Future" started out strongly, but tapered off the farther it went on. While I can appreciate an album with a sense of humor, when someone starts singing in a Donald Duck voice, it gets too weird even for me.
Bully Original Soundtrack (2006 - Digital Album)
So, I decided, on a whim, to see if this digital borrowing service had any video game soundtracks. Rockstar Games's Bully was the one and only result. Regardless of what one may think of their games and the controversy that surrounds them, they do have a reputation for having good soundtracks, so I thought... Why not? Unfortunately, without having played the game, I cannot comment on whether or not this soundtrack is complete or if it contains the best tracks, but I will say that what is here ranges from not bad at all to pretty darn good. I liked "Defender of the Castle" so much that I re-listened to it several times before the album had to be returned, and I'm actually listening to it on YouTube as I type this.
There is a range of different styles on this album, with the first track, the main theme, sounding like the sort of creepy music box tune you hear in a horror movie, but most of it is upbeat rock in the style of Surf Rock or Rockabilly. On a side note, I find it amusing that the borrowing service has this warning about it being a soundtrack from a "Teen"-rated game plastered all over it, but it's completely instrumental. So, even if a little kid gets his/her hands on it, there's no need to fear any psychological damage.
Cars (2009 - Digital Album)
Artist: Now, Now Every Children
Of everything I've borrowed from this digital service, Now, Now Every Children's "Cars" is the album I despise the most. #1. The vocals sounded similar to that of Feist, but came across more wussy and annoying. As soon as the singing started on the first song, I felt like the whole time I was just waiting for it to end. (And is it coincidence that "One Two Three Four" is one of Feist's most popular songs, and the first song on "Cars" is called "Not One, But Two"?) #2. Something was wrong with the mastering on this album. It was much louder than everything else with noticeable clipping, forcing me to turn the volume way down low, lest it bust my eardrums - and I've listened to Swiss Metal on this thing!
The Complete Animals (1990 - CD)
Despite what the title says, this is actually only the complete sessions that 1960s English Blues-Rock band, The Animals, performed with producer Mickie Most between 1964-65. So, that explains why some songs I'm familiar with from them didn't appear on it (like "Sky Pilot"). But that's hardly a complaint as it does contain 2 discs worth of great material, including smash hits and personal favorites, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "The House of the Rising Sun". A lot of their songs are covers of Blues and Blues-Rock standards - the music of Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, and Bo Diddley, whom they perform an entire song about. Therefore, many of the songs will be familar to most listeners. Even if you haven't heard the songs by either the Animals or their original artists, chances are you're familiar with the riffs, chords, rhythms, and basslines from their use in various other songs and media. Fans of the SNES game, EarthBound will no doubt recognize the bass of "For Miss Caulker" as sounding almost exactly like the Chaos Theatre music.
Along with being a great selection of Animals songs, there's even some material here that was previously unreleased, which is like throwing a bone to those who normally avoid compilation and greatest hits albums like the plague.
Contra la Corriente (1997 - Digital Album)
Artist: Marc Anthony
As the digital borrowing service grows, more recognizable artists start appearing. However, so far they aren't typically the artists I listen to (see Jennifer Love Hewitt below), but I figured I'd "expand my horizons" a bit since it isn't costing me anything. Despite that Marc Anthony's third album is entirely in Spanish, I can see why he's been a big crossover hit with English-speaking audiences. The high production values make his Latin pop/dance numbers more easily accessible to people who want something catchy and exciting to listen or dance to that also contains an air of Latin exoticness. I am, however, a bit skeptical of some publications' perfect or near-perfect scores for this album and wonder how many Marc Anthony fans would even consider it his absolute best. It's not that it's bad, but after about the midpoint, I had a hard time telling when one song had ended and the next one began. Though it was a fun one-time listen, nothing really stood out to me like his big hit, "I Need to Know".
Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion (2009 - Digital Album)
Forget the stupidly cheesy album art, despite the rather lackluster selection of titles I've borrowed from this digital service, I actually enjoyed this! It was my first foray into folk metal, and while Eluveitie is a Swiss metal band, it sounded more in the style of Celtic music (but I guess I don't know what traditional Swiss music typically sounds like). Yes, the man does have "Cookie Monster" vocals, but most of the times, it's the female singers who are performing, and they're actually quite talented! The vocals are not English (according to AllMusic, they are Gaulish, which is a language older than Latin), which some people might find a deterrent, but for me it added to the exotic appeal. This is still Heavy Metal music, but with a melodious nature and some accompanying archaic instruments (flutes and fiddles, etc.), that might make it more appealing to those who like the power of Metal music, but perhaps not the complete lack of musicality that most Death Metal embraces. I won't give it my absolute strongest recommendation, but I wouldn't mind hearing it again sometime.
Jennifer Love Hewitt (1996 - Digital Album)
Jennifer Love Hewitt's self-titled debut album (though I have to wonder, with the way it's emphasized on the cover art and considering the theme of most of the songs, if it's really supposed to be just called "Love") was recorded before she became more well-known as an actress. As the first song began, I realized (though I had expected it) that it's the type of "bubblegum" R&B/pop singing that women in my age group eat up and I just want to slap them for it. Not only that, but almost every song on here is about love. This made me feel really guilty about picking on Marvin Gaye and Daryl Hall for singing about political topics - at least they gave you something else to think about. But, you know, she was a teenager when she made this album, so perhaps that's the most dominant thing on a teenager's mind. And I will say that, although her singing is not typically my cup of tea, she does have a good voice.
Also, I might have started enjoying it a little more when the tempo picked up, but then the album ended after only a couple of songs like that.
The Super Disco Band (1996 - Digital Album)
One thing about video game music is that it can get repetitive to listen to the same song looping over and over until you get to a new part of the game where it changes. Some songs that are seemingly intolerable heard that way can suddenly be a lot more palatable if shortened down to only a few loops. Now, imagine if I allowed a lot of the shorter songs on my Video Game Music Downloads section to loop for about 6 minutes straight and you have a good idea of what this album is like.
You might argue that the only purpose of Disco music is to provide a beat to dance to. But if that's your goal, then I'd say it's infinitely better to use some actual real Disco music from the era for your party or dancing needs, instead of this bizarre mid-90s revival attempt.
We Must Believe in Magic / When I Dream (1977 - CD)
Artist: Crystal Gayle
This 2-CD set contains two of Crystal Gayle's most popular albums, "We Must Believe in Magic" and "When I Dream". If you're a fan of her at all, it's hard to argue with the quality and value of this set. "River Road" has been one of my favorite songs of hers ever since I first heard it when she performed it on The Muppet Show many years ago. Other big hits include "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue", "We Must Believe in Magic" (duh! - and also was used on The Muppet Show), "Cry Me a River", and "I Still Miss Someone". So, yeah, not going to try to turn any non-Crystal Gayle fans into one, but this set makes someone like me who grew up listening to her albums in the back seat of her mom's car very happy!
(Perhaps I am being a bit hypocritical because most of her songs are about love, just like I complained about Jennifer Love Hewitt's album, but I like Crystal's voice and singing style more and she has more variety in her choice of songs.)
Your Spectacular Light (2003 - Digital Album)
Artist: Flying Virgins
This band, the Flying Virgins, sounded like they were trying to be The Cure. This is apparently the only album they ever released. You know, there is just an endless amount of bands, so looking for diamonds in the rough is tricky and difficult. By now I'm kind of glad this borrowing service is finally signing on bigger labels with more recognizable artists. It'll make my reviewing schtick a bit easier.