Monday, January 28, 2013

The Review: Django Unchained

I guess this is kind of a departure from the stuff I normally post, but let's work with it anyway.  Over the weekend I went to see Django Unchained at our fine theatrical establishment.

Actually, it's the only movie theater we have.  Thanks to my friends at St. Thomas Blog for the image that they have no idea I swiped. :)
Digressing.  Digressing.  Anyway, the film has gotten a lot of attention and I was kinda anticipating it since I saw the trailer so I caught the early show.  My first impression: I liked it a lot.  It's no Pulp Fiction (frankly I don't see Tarantino topping that one ever...Kill Bill was pretty close), but I still liked it.

First I want to touch on the language.  Yes, there was gratuitous use of the "n" word.  Frankly you can't do a pre-Civil War period movie without it.  Remember Glory?  That's why that film got an R rating (this one did too by the way).  Some will argue that this film isn't historical.  They'd be right.  But that's still the way black people were talked to and about back then.  It's an ugly word that broils a lot of anger in the African American community.  It's supposed to be ugly.  This was "reality" back then.  I put that in quotes because this is a fictional story but it takes place during a period of history that actually occurred.  Given the script the actors were handed I think they did a good job of not overemphasizing the use of the word and made it seem like natural speech for that point of time.  A special note though on the bad language: I pretty sure some of the curse words that were bandied about weren't popular in that time.  Oh, and you may (or may not) be glad to hear that Quentin's cameo character doesn't use the n-word...but his Australian accent is A-TRO-CIOUS.

Next, the violence.  This movie, as should be expected of every movie Tarantino makes, is incredibly violent.  The violence here though is somewhat comical because the blood work soooo over the top.  In one of the early scenes a slaver gets shot point blank with a shotgun while pinned under a horse and the blood spatter that hits the air look like someone tossed up a bucket of red paint.  Personally I've never seen a guy shot with a shotgun at point blank range (and I hope I never will) but somehow that's not what I imagine.  Still you'll be glad to know that violence towards slaves in general is downplayed quite a bit.  If you've studied American history you'd know that the reality for the slaves was actually much more brutal.  There's really only a few standout scenes of cruelty.  Except for gunshot wounds though, a lot of the true gore happens off camera (thankfully).  It'll still make you cringe though.

That's all the serious stuff.  Now on to the fluffy stuff.  The main cast did a spectacular job.  Jamie Foxx surprised me in this role.  I didn't expect him to be this good.  What I liked most about his character was that even though he was the one who had the most to lose he was the most level headed.  When Dr. Schultz though his acting was over the top, Django was able to ease his fears and assure him the role he was playing was necessary.  Even in the face of that cruelty I mentioned earlier he was able to stay stone faced even though you could tell his heart was breaking inside.  Christoph Waltz gave a standout performance as Dr. Schultz.  It's easy to see why he managed to wrangle (Old West joke) an Oscar nomination out of this.  I've heard it argued that he played an archetypical white knight, but I didn't see that.  While he did rescue Django from the clutches of slavers in the beginning of the film he wasn't particularly doing it to be righteous.  He needed to collect a bounty and Django was the only person to see the people he needed the find.  Dr. Schultz made it abundantly clear early in the movie that it was business.  He did mentor Django, but you can see they quickly became partners and friends.  Dare I say in a rather short time, Django's skill appeared to rival Dr. Schultz's (he referred to him as a natural; I'm inclined to agree).  I'm kinda surprised to see the Academy snubbed Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie.  It's unusual to see an actor typically portrayed in heroic roles playing a bad guy.  And boy was he bad (as in he played a bad guy well).  I've seen the Southern Gentleman schtick done quite a few times but DiCaprio was pretty convincing.  If there's a Colonel Sanders biopic in the near future, DiCaprio's you're guy.  Looking forward to checking him out in The Great Gatsby.  Samuel Jackson was great too even though his role was kinda small.  None the less his part was pivotal near the end.  I can't say I think much of  Kerry Washington.  I don't think she got a whole lot to work with in the script.  Just typical damsel-in-distress stuff with a lot of screaming and crying.  There was only about two scenes where she really got to act and I was left underwhelmed.  I kinda wish she had a bigger role in the ending.

Storywise, I think the pacing worked.  I was glad Tarantino didn't go for telling the story out of order like he's so fond of doing in his other movies.  I didn't feel like there was unnecessary footage.  It's definitely a contender in the Best Cinematography category.  I especially liked the ending although I think it ended a bit too easily.  I think Django in his Little Boy Blue outfit might have cost this movie the best costume nomination though. 

I'm mixed on the soundtrack.  The movie jumped around genres like crazy; that's not very typical of a Western.  You have to get it in your head early that this isn't a typical Western, even though it starts with a rather typical Western theme (typical, but catchy).  There was Spanish inspired music, R&B, even Rap and a hint of Classical.  The Rap took me by surprise even though I did catch myself nodding to the beat.  James Brown is in there too!  I think the mix of genres is why I'm mixed on the soundtrack.  On a scale of 1-10 it's a solid 8 in my opinion.

On the same 10 point scale, the movie overall gets an 8.5.  If you're not weak of stomach and can tolerate the bad language, it's an engaging ride.  I'd like to hear what you thought of it.  When it comes to movie reviews I grade easy. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Karaoke Chronicles: Why Don't You Have...

I don't think I need to go through the obligatory "If you didn't already know" spiel.  I'm a Karaoke Jockey.  Following this blog you should already know that (I think I just did the spiel anyway...dammit).  Well, last Sunday I once again heard the question I think I hear at at least 75% of my shows:  Why don't you have...(insert artist here)?  Sometimes it's more like why don't I have MORE of (insert artist here)?

Most of the time it involves this guy right here...more on that later.
There's a string of reasons why.  Let's delve.


So here's how it works.  Companies that produce karaoke music secure the rights to recreate songs.  These songs are recreated by bands and individuals hired by the companies but no lead vocals (because that's YOUR job).  That said these companies shell out cold hard cash for these rights and they expect a return on their investment by being able to sell their CDs.  That means they have to be careful about which songs they put out there.  That brings me to...


Have you seen Rihanna's new CD?  It's got 14 tracks.  Right now only one has made it to karaoke.  If more of her songs break into the Top 40, there's a good chance they may become karaoke songs too.  But just because you're a die hard Rihanna fan doesn't mean they're going to translate ever single song on her new album to karaoke.  Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, The can find almost their entire music catalog on karaoke because pretty much all their songs have been hits AND they have dedicated fan bases who will gladly snap up an entire karaoke CD that features only songs from their favorite artist.  I know you love some indie band that nobody outside of Kentucky has heard of but unless they have a big fan who's willing to pour time and energy into creating a karaoke version of their music or they pay to produce their own karaoke songs you're just not going to see it in the mainstream.  Speaking of popularity...


You know who has the most mainstream karaoke calypso songs?  That would be Harry Belafonte.  Reggae?  Bob Marley.  Soca?  LOL!  That's a tough call.  Kevin Lyttle maybe? Gangsta Rap?  Ugh, don't come to my show looking for Eazy E, Kool Moe Dee or even Big Daddy Kane.  I'm not saying these genres are bad.  They're just incredibly underrepresented because they lack mainstream success.  These genres are all victims of the regions they were actually popular in, the culture they were popular with and being popular at a time when karaoke wasn't.

Oh yeah, did promise I'd get to Biggie.  The whole East Coast/West Coast feud thing with 2pac didn't help.  It split the fan base in two and kept them local (namely LA and NYC).  Karaoke wasn't a thing back in their day either.  Good news though, Juicy is out there somewhere and I'm trying hard to get a copy of it.

The Bottom Line

The karaoke business' bottom line is making money.  They realize they have to spend it to make it, but they can't afford to cater to everyone's whim. Their only real gauge for determining what they can and can't sell is to look at the music charts from now until when it all started and work from there.  If an artist is good at generating hits, they'll get leeway and more of their stuff will be licensed.

What You Can Do

You're not totally helpless in all this.  You actually have options.  They're not as great as actually having the karaoke version of the song by your favorite artists but they're passable.
  • Provide your own music and lyrics:  Using Winamp and Vocal Remover, you can karaoke-ize a song.  There results aren't great but you can bring the volume of the lead singer down enough that you can sing over them.  If you were so inclined you can also purchase software that will let you make your own karaoke tracks.
  • Start a campaign:  If you can generate enough buzz with some of the major manufacturers there's a chance they'll release the tracks you want.  Letter writing, Facebook fan pages, online petitions.  People pay attention if you can get enough people behind it.
  • Contact the artist:  Yep, it's totally possible for the artist to arrange to have his/her/their own work translated to karaoke.  Of course it's up to you, the fan, to convince them that their legwork will turn into profit for them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, DC Universe Online!

DC Universe Online was released 2 years ago today.  I wasn't around for the launch.  I jumped in when it went Free-To-Play way back in late 2011.  I have however been an avid player and currently I'm a subscribing member.  So here's to hoping that DCUO has the kind of longevity that World of Warcraft enjoys.  If you don't know much about the game, the good folks at IGN put together a nice little tribute article to mark the 2 year anniversary.

Always found it amusing how they keep leaving out Circe.
Oh, and guys feel free to find me in the game.  I'm a hero and I have two active "toons" (that's what we call them).  My main toon is Hectorious.  He's a Sorcery Healer.  My newer toon is Puddin Pops.  She's an Earth Tank.  I run with the DC Dragonz league.  If you want to jump on, hook up with me and we can run stuff together.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Best of The VI 2013 - Kinda Different This Year

Just got wind that the Virgin Islands Daily News Best of the VI site is up an active.  It's kinda different this year though.  I figured after last year with they're new foray into Facebook territory that they'd probably end up switching it up since there seemed to be a lot of problems with write-ins.  The solution: no write-ins.  At least not online (I haven't seen the paper publication yet).  Well, if you're keen on voting I've provided the links.  I'm kinda despondent about it though.  Why you ask?

Yep, Karaoke.  Once again Fatty's gets no love.  Heck, Club Jaguars hasn't even been open in a year.  If a write-in option opens online I'll let you guys know. 

**************Update January 10, 2013****************

It's in today's Virgin Islands Daily News and based on the print document I can confirm that there are no write-ins this year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Sideloader's Best Friend

Remember my tablet?

Yeah, that one.

If you do, you'll remember that I had to root it so I could run Google products on it.  Well there was one slight downfall to doing that.  It's a minor one but still pretty annoying.  It turns out that there are several apps that are flagged as not being compatible with my device in the Play Store.  Of course this is hogwash because I'm running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.  The latest release, Jellybean, only came out about 2 months ago so right now everything should be compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich.

Now, there is a way to fix this provided you have root access (which I do) and are willing to mess with the build.prop file (which I'm not; maybe some other time).  So I'm stuck with the next best option: sideloading.  Sideloading is the process of procuring the Android APK installation file and installing it manually.  It's actually pretty easy.  The trick is finding the APKs.

Today I found a nifty tool that lets me back up APKs from "approved" devices so I can transfer them wherever I want.  It's called File Expert.  I used to be able to do this on a different tool I had installed but in the latest version that option is gone; more likely moved to a separate paid app.  Well File Expert is free and it works.  Just list your apps on the interface, put checkmark next to it and use the Backup button.  I've been happily transferring apps that I use on my cell phone to my tablet and so far none of the programs have given me any issues.

I may however finally decided to mess with the build.prop.  Reason being that "incompatible" apps are invisible to Play so it likely won't update them when newer versions come out.

And on that note...I just edited the build.prop (LOL!  That didn't take long right.)  Let's turn it on and see what's new. :)

Hmm, didn't work.  Trying a different tact.

Nope, still nothing.  Guess I'm stuck with sideloading.