Essentially the extended club sequence missing from Tron: Legacy, Yeezus combines the window-rattling throb of that film with the brazen, breathless, and ultimately unapologetic approach of pop music’s touchiest paladin. The results are, as you might expect, gripping and cinematic. At forty minutes the album also retains a focus absent from Kanye’s last meandering effort, 2010′s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That fairy tale was longer by half an hour, but let’s be frank—it felt like days.
As with many Kanye West projects, the degree of reality within Yeezus is unclear. Is this authentic upper class braggadocio we’re witnessing in “I Am A God” or the deftest of parodies? The line of demarcation is barely visible through the electro-dissonance West has sublet from producers Daft Punk. The rapper’s jaunty/bratty attitude doesn’t help, but when the dust settles ultimately I find myself not caring. When you create music as present and engaging as “Black Skinhead” or “On Sight” I afford you the right to have an asthma attack over tardy croissants (a picture Kanye paints in “God” that joke or not will now surely follow him to the grave).
Even when Yeezus slips into autopilot for a few tracks it’s startlingly good. “I’m In It” and “Hold My Liquor” both hit far harder than your average late night bangers about getting laid and having addiction issues (respectively). The latter is particularly affecting, moving from a jarring structure of West’s chanting between air horn blasts to a back end laden with slippery almost reversed-sounding guitar work. I assume this is one of Bon Iver founder Justin Vernon’s contributions, but I’m not ruling out a ghost appearance from Kanye’s purple pop predecessor (and equal fussbudget) Prince.
Yeezus eventually lowers the stakes on its final track, “Bound 2,” in which Kanye once again contemplates his lousy romantic skills, this time over a reboot of the 1971 Massey/Dukes soul classic “Bound.” The song strolls along with a breeze and comfort, exhaling a sigh of relief for an otherwise tense album. The change is as pleasant and touching as it is unexpectedly cathartic and provides no better comedown for what history will probably peg as one of Kanye’s top three ventures. Is it too soon to ask when his next one is coming out?
FINAL SCORE: Four Tron: Legacy light cycles (out of four).
A: Whether I’m banging out a nineteen page treatise on Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, a five hundred word review of the latest Love Gods in Leisure Suits EP, a sentence and a half of dialogue for my screenplay about a cyberpunk groundhog, or just a list of keywords related to a book I one day hope to author about Tim Kazurinsky, I’m chained to my laptop as if my very staring at it will somehow add zeros to my checking account.
Granted, since I work from home and make my own schedule and hardly ever have to answer to anyone, I occasionally throw an average Tuesday away on pinball and chicken wings. Generally I try to keep on a normal schedule, though, so that I may see friends outside of weddings, funerals, and small claims court.
“Pa never used language like that back on the farm…”
Man of Steel
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe
Directed by Zack Snyder
On paper Man of Steel has lots working against it. Director Zack Snyder, if we’re being polite, has had something of an uneven career (if the gloves are off, the guy’s pushed us through one too many ham-fisted slogs and some of us want our Maalox tab comped). Producer Chris Nolan gave us unexpected pause last year with his messy Batman conclusion Dark Knight Rises. Russell Crowe can sometimes be a walking punchline. Amy Adams has red hair. The icing on the cake? Our titular character, perhaps the most resoundingly American icon of the last century, is played by a Brit. Maybe none of this is as heretical as flames on Optimus Prime, but eyebrows have surely been raised.
The skeptics should let go, however, because Man of Steel delivers as a taught, exciting, and stylish retelling of Superman’s well-known origin. We all know the drill: the alien planet of Krypton is doomed, so a scientist named Jor-El (Crowe) rockets his only son across the galaxy to Earth’s pedestrian confines. Unfortunately, a pocket of Kryptonian crooks bypass their home world’s fate and discover Baby Kal, the last hope for rebooting Krypton’s people, chillin’ in our galaxy. Lead by the testy General Zod (Michael Shannon), these nogoodniks arrive on Earth around the time Kal-El/Clark (Henry Cavill) is discovering his true heritage and they decide to make themselves at home regardless of how many lives or continents it inconveniences.
Other reviews are dogging Henry Cavill for his allegedly wooden portrayal of Kal-El. I saw an actor expressing rather well the complicated emotions that probably come with being a lifelong outcast who has secret messianic powers and is suddenly thrust into his Jesus Christ moment approximately five minutes after meeting his biological father’s intergalactic ectoplasm. Cavill’s Superman is as noble and as strong as he can be in the face of what could be his most abysmal failure. You see fear, you see frustration—this Supes is doing his best. He’s only been on the job for a day. Did you master the deep fryer your first shift at Taco Pete’s? Surely the fate of the world did not rest in your ability to properly brown tostada shells.
Man of Steel plays with the established Superman mythos a tad, yielding some refreshing results. To wit: Lois Lane (Adams) figures out Clark Kent isn’t just another Kansas hick before he throws on the blue and red togs, leading to a pretty great section mid-movie where she hunts him down and he sets up some key flashbacks. Also, Clark literally has the DNA of every future Kryptonian sewn into his rippling body, so General Zod can’t just rocket the guy into the furthest reaches of space if he’s really intent on turning our planet into Krypton 2. There’s no tweak here that’s outright disrespectful to the source material, unless you’re seriously married to Superman’s red y-fronts or that obnoxious geek Jimmy Olson.
Effects-wise, Man of Steel could have been less video gamey, but it nails all the iconic moments (Superman’s first flight, our introduction to Krypton, Lois Lane’s one instance of true peril, etc). Call me crazy but it also feels like Michael Shannon is underplaying Zod at some points, as if he’s unsure of the character’s convictions. Luckily, Mike ramps it up at the end, touching off one of the film’s rawer emotional notes that works wonderfully amidst all the visual action movie candy. It looks great, there are beats of earned humanity, every major character gets in at least one good punchline—what more could you want from a Superman movie?
If you say Krypto the Super Dog, guess what? The Kents have a pooch and while they never say his name the mutt does manage to escape a major calamity with almost too much ease. Don’t be surprised if he turns up in the inevitable sequel.
FINAL SCORE: Four Kryptonian super children (out of four).
Never gave Lil’ Kim’s actual height much thought until I saw this photo (on Buzzfeed, of course, because the ’90s!). Amazed, I hit the Google Box and wouldn’t you know it: Lil’ Kimberly Denise Jones is only 4’11″. She passes most Disney World height requirements by a matter of inches. No wonder she’s so feisty. Throw her in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese and you may never see her again.
If I were Brandy, I’d be mad at whoever set up this picture. “Oh, I’ve got it! We’ll make you look like an enormous lumbering freak! Where’s Lil’ Kim?”
Here’s the most interesting thing I saw on my recent drive from New York to Florida. It’s a wall of rear truck lights tucked into the back of a highway rest stop in Kenly, North Carolina. This wasn’t immediately discernible upon entering said rest stop—I was convinced all this glowing red stuff meant a little chicken broasting was going on back there. Hey, this place had showers and a gym, so why not a chicken broaster?
As I walked to the spot where I snapped this photo I most definitely felt like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, finally understanding what had been so confusing to me for what felt like a super long time (“Of course! If you’re a trucker and your rear lights go out!”). I’m sure I looked like every other automotively-challenged New Yorker who passes through. I hope no one saw me limp back to the Prius I was driving. I also spent way too much time gawking at a t-shirt that had a huge rendering of a ferret’s face on the front. The ferret was smiling. It was creepy.
Second most interesting thing spotted on my trip: the tight-ass “Simpsons” shirt seen below, just four fitty at a Georgia gas station near Savannah. I bought that shit faster than you can say “Brad Goodman.”
A: I like both bands a lot but if you’re putting a gun to my head I’m going with RFTC because they’re just a tad more dynamic. That’s what it’s called when a rock group has trumpets, right? Dynamic? I’m sorry, I’ve misplaced my rock n’ roll thesaurus.