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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Indie Music: Lucinda Belle "Think Big Like Me"

by Germar Derron
For years, I believed that THIS died with Amy in 2011. Since that time, I've mourned her life, and that sound. I was wrong. That sound, or feeling, didn't die. I can only compare Think Big Like Me to Amy Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. And please, understand the gravity of that statement: those albums rank third and fourth on my all-time list. Here, all of the adjectives are appropriate--retro, unparalleled, polished, pristine . . . perfect.

"Think" tells a familiar story, but in a better form, and for at least one distinct reason: it's guilt-free listening. Much of the best music comes from the darkest places. You hear the artist's pain. Subsequently, you feel immense guilt while deriving so must joy from an individual's most severe sorrow. "Think" may capture Lucinda Belle's heartache and sorrow, but it's comfortably relatable. The audience is allowed to commiserate, with a smile, and without heeding a call to action. 

Maybe a better current musical comp is Meghan Trainor, but with grit, nuance, and a "classically"-based musicianship that's more tightly tethered to the many genres from which Belle borrows.

Typically, here, in most reviews, I spend time critiquing the mix, the arrangement, the vocal treatment, etc. But I only know one way to spell p-e-r-f-e-c-t-i-o-n. If this typifies today's independent music, what are the majors doing? 

The project is perfectly paced, with songs perfectly placed. Like all of the best albums, all of the pieces fit snugly and easily. It tells a story--with a beginning, middle, and end--without the contrivance of actually telling a story.

I won't mention all of her many awards, honors, or groundbreaking performance, and recording, techniques. 

This is the best album of 2019 and, no, it doesn't matter that it's only July. If I still did star ratings, Think Big Like Me would receive 7 out of 5. But I don't do that anymore. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Strange Spider Things Man

In Episode 438, Germar provides the best opinions on Spider-Man: Far From Home and Stranger Things 3. But first, it's more of the same anti-adulting whining. And it's a D.S.E. Follow Germar everywhere @GermarDerron. Today's episode is sponsored by

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rankings: The Spidey Movies that Matter [Updated 7/6/19]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the SEVEN live-action Spidey movies released after the world ended in 2000. You're in the matrix dude.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 4.5/10 I had high hopes. I was wrong. I've never felt so little for characters, superheroes, villains. The weird Russian? robot rhinoceros was weird. The crowds watching bullets fly from the sideline was dumb. And Jamie Foxx made one of Marvel's most powerful B-list super-villains into a powerful punchline. Ouch.

6. The Amazing Spider-Man 6.4/10 The film never quite got over the tall hurdle set up by Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire. It wasn't bad. It was just more of the same. Tobey, Franco, et al were still fresh. The origin story and villain arc in Amazing matched the story and arc from the 00s version. The movie didn't deliver on what the trailers promised (deep story about the spy parents). Garfield may be a better Spider-Man, but he doesn't work at all as Peter.

5.  Spider-Man: Homecoming 6.5/10 Maybe I just hit that age where cutesy teen movies lose their charm. If I have, this is a sad sad time for me. Michael Keaton can do no wrong. And Marvel's actually inspired inspiring casting excites me--sexually (so many shades of brown). This version of Spidey is the most realistic, which often means boring. Tobey > Tom > Andrew

4. Spider-Man 3 6.7/10 I know why no one liked it . . . because people are wrong about things. Superhero movies are very formulaic. Spider-mans 1, 2, and Amazing are essentially the same film. Raimi and the cast couldn't make the same film for a third time. They colored a little outside of the lines and you all went bat-sh!7. No, I don't know why Peter went emo or learned to play jazz piano or dance poorly. But otherwise this has some amazing moments, and is far superior to the Amazing series, while remaining true to the worlds setup in one and two. 

 3. Spider-Man 7.5/10 It no longer holds up. But this movie, more so than X-men or Blade (Superman or Batman), put superheroes on the movie map. The mask was dumb, but ultimately inconsequential. This was the first time anyone accurately depicted the struggle, sacrifice, and constant danger of life as Peter Parker and Spider-man--outside of a printed page.

2. Spider-Man: Far From Home 7.6/10 All of that Spidey building in Captain America, The Avengers, and that awful first movie finally really paid off. This is fun and MCU connective and logical and different from the other twenty something films. If you know Mysterio, then you knew the story. Still, the spectacle, the possibilities, and the performances made it all worthwhile anyway,

1. Spider-Man 2 8/10 At the time, critics called it the best superhero film of all time. I didn't get it. On repeated viewings, I did. They did all the things, and with all the best performances. The train scene, support from civilians, the Christ-like sacrifice and posing--it's everything a superhero film should be. "He's just a kid."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The 2019 Basketball Edition

Gregory Shamus - Getty Images
In Episode 437, THE Jessica Slate is BACK!!! Jessica and Germar discuss all things NBA--the finals, the Lakers, the Celtics, the Pelicans, ZION, the draft, Kawhi, AND the world-beater-Phoenix Suns! Follow them both, everywhere, @GermarDerron and @thejslate.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The 20 Dem Debate

Unfortunately, Episode 438 is a legit D.S.E. And maybe that DSEness carried over into the typing of this synopsis? summary? note? Hmph. Here, Germar explains why the debates were wack and so are you. And (but) first, hear all about his brief time in local politics. PLEASE follow ya boi everywhere @GermarDerron, tell a friend, buy some merch - two fingers.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Indie Music: Young Goats "Goat Life Vol. 1"

by Germar Derron

Hip-hop hypocrites will hate this album. Right now there's a legit battle for the soul of hip-hop. Your uncle, and his friends, spin Pac and Biggie like it's 1994. When they occasionally Roger-Rabbit down from Mt. Real Hip-Hop, they might press play on Cole or Kendrick. But times are changing. At the next barbecue, tell them they sound like their parents, and their parents' parents. Call them hip-hopocrites. Tell them to embrace this new era. On Goat Life Vol. 1, Young Goats fully embrace all of the best genre-bending and blending of today's music.

Personally, my favorite genre is California Rock. So, I know west coast when I hear it. I'd coin Goat Life Vol. 1, "Cali-hop." Every track feels easy-breezy and carefree. Similar to an experience with the Beach Boys, or Rooney, when you're listening, you smell that salted water from the ocean, and feel the sand in your shoes. Young Goats sound like if Rae Sremmurd grew up in Los Angeles. But they're also much more than that.

The album doesn't hide its shades of pop, EDM, and dancehall. And it parades a contrast between old school lyricism and new school melodic frenzy. Often, verses are delivered jagged and off-kilter like Blueface or Silkk. But then, that same song might feature lines and verses that are traditional, historical, hip-hop and R&B. The obvious audible nods to DJs and producers (including Pharrell Williams and other huge EDM hits) are obvious, but not criminal.

Picking nits? It needs polish. I bet this whole collection KNOCKS at a show. But as an MP3, on some laptop speakers . . . .  The next pieces to add to the team should be a remixer, and a mastering engineer. That addition should push "Goats" from SoundCloud to terrestrial radio.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Meeeeeee annnnnd Ms. Jessica Jones

In Episode 436, Germar returns with a good one. Here, he covers the fabulous series finale of "Two Js." But first, learn all about his job withdrawal and online heroics. Follow Germar everywhere @GermarDerron.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Power Rankings: Superhero TV [Updated 6/25/19]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the 23 modern comic-based super-powered television series (Marvel and DC), as determined by the entire LTC staff, which is currently just Germar. The list is updated as seasons conclude and series premiere.
23. (22) Inhumans 5/10 Years of optimism, anxiety, and backtracking resulted in this, universally agreed upon, worst part of the MCU. Scott Buck may be MCU's kryptonite. Please, Marvel, don't let him ruin another series (e.g., Iron Fist). 

22. (21) Agent Carter 6/10 Yes, I hosted the show about the show, but it always felt like a lukewarm Marvel offering. The pieces fit snugly, and Hayley Atwell shined, but did anyone even watch the second season?

21. (20) Iron Fist 6/10 No one likes this show. And no one fears the surfer dude-voiced, Ramen noodle-haired, prince of privilege no matter how many times he says he beat a dragon or calls himself "immortal." Colleen Wing and Bakuto almost saved this atrocity. And I almost worked at Fox Sports. Cue that Brandy song. And then he improved slightly in Defenders and season two of "Cage." And the second season of Iron Fist was almost fire because they decided to focus on all of the amazing women while diminishing the lead. Ultimately, it got the ax anyway.  

20. (19) Gotham 6.1/10 Gotham will probably be really good once it's all on Netflix, and we all finally decide to watch it. The first season got everything wrong--especially allowing Jada Pinkett to perform like an amateur starring in a Spelman College production of Wicked

19. (18) Legion 6.5/10 Is this a period piece? Style over substance? Maybe, but beautiful still, plus ambitious. It's not a great show yet, but it's better than almost all of the X-men movies.

18. Swamp Thing 6.6/10 Alec Holland > Swamp Thing. So far it's shaping up to be baddie of the week; that format sucks like when there's no flavor left in the blue Icee. The swamp-Cajun feel is cool. That beautiful doctor drives the show.

17. (16) The Gifted 6.7/10 This is the best way to realistically represent, on television, the best team of heroes in the history of comics. No, they're not the X-men. But if the X-men X-isted they'd be a lot more like The Gifted than that awesome Saturday morning cartoon. It's inconsistent at best, but there's definitely something there.  And now it's better, but, still somehow, exactly the same.

16. (15) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 6.7/10 Its debut was a meandering mess. But for the fans that stuck around, Agents of Hydra/Agents of Nothing got good fast. And more recently, we've been gifted the best live action Ghostrider, top notch action, intelligent political commentary, and the best possible "what if"-styled virtual world story. 

15. (14) Arrow 6.7/10 Arrow has quickly become the can miss DCTV CW show of the week. But we keep watching. I look forward to its ending, followed by frequent character cameos on the other shows. It started too fast and left little room to grow. Team Arrow was Justice League lite before we got the Legends, Team Flash, or Supergirl. Pacing. And now they may be taking the street justice a little too far OR maybe just far enough.

14. (13) Legends of Tomorrow 6.8/10 If you don't like this show, you don't like smiles, fun, or good times. Remember when The Avengers was the best thing to happen to the '10s? DC decided to do that with 200th of the budget, but weekly. And now, maybe it's a little too much fun. I'll still ride the wave, but this could fizzle fast. 

13. (11) Black Lightning 7/10 It's only the most important show in the history of television in the United States. They deal with everything, better than most shows deal with anything--race, violence, cops, sex, LGBT matters, relationships, schools . . . and superpowers. "This one's for the streets." So far season two has not matched season one, but they remain "the people's champ." And season two continues to disappoint, but the "racist hicks" story-line was somewhat refreshing.

12. (10) Krypton 6.9/10 So far, so good. They did it. They borrowed from the beautiful Man of Steel opening, and made their own Krypton. The black Zods are awesome and their story has stolen the show. Plus, it sets up Zods better than any previous source. Seg-El is that dude. -.1 for that wack-ass Lobo

11. (9) Supergirl 7/1Every week entertains. Each episode plays out like an updated, less whiny, less soap opera-y version of Smallville. The weird episode where she was "kid" Supergirl was weird. Pro tip: Superman is your problem, not your solution. Last season went deep on race, LGBT matters, relationships, and it remained a top comic book-based show. Kudos. I still watch, but the politics may be so on the nose that it's become a distraction.

10. (8) Runaways 7.1/10 At the episode three mark, this show is far better than anything on this list. Performances, cinematography, drama, use of powers, relationships, representation--perfection. The problem with being on top . . . is that long tumble down. How will they handle powers or the discovery of the teens' discovery? How will they handle the budding and realistic romances? And is this really the MCU? Did it need to be? (3 months later . . . show was dope) And in the second season so much happened . . . on the way down. Season one was  too good. The worst thing about being at the top? There's only one way to go. The sexy non-aging Spanish-speaking dude was super cool though.
9. (7) The Defenders 7.1/10 The first four episodes were the highlight of my year. The Defenders are to the Avengers what the X-men are to the Justice League. They are the heroes we might be, not the gods that save us. They blended four distinct tales better than I imagined possible--style and mythos. To enjoy: 1) ignore the villains' plot; 2) remember that we witnessed an even more annoying Iron Fist earlier.

8. (6) The Flash 7.1/10 So maybe skip the second season. And maybe they do the same arc each season. But this is the most pleasant series on the list. It's like a '90s Saturday morning cartoon for grown-ups. This is the team that every Millennial would join if given the opportunity. And I'm in love with little Flash-et junior - sue me.

7. (5) Doom Patrol 7.2/10 They're not heroes, like at all. It's hard to call their unique qualities "abilities" or "powers." And whatever they are, they aren't super. But as wacky as this series is, it feels real. It's unique and not for uniqueness's sake. Titans isn't a fluke; DC Universe is coming for Marvel's head.  

6. (17) Jessica Jones 7.5/10 Two Js is da realest! She single-handedly saved The Defenders (literally and also from us critics). In her debut, she overcame the #1 true villain in the MCU (twice). She also laid out Luke Cage. And maybe she can fly. And then the second season sucked hard. The former #1 has dropped like the best beat. And the the third season redeemed in a way most shows never can. #podcastcomingsoon

5. (4) Luke Cage 7.5/10 Cage, one of the strongest characters on the list, started weakly and ended weakly. But that midsection does work. Ummmm. Cottonmouth is the King. And if you're black, this should feel like a moment . . . for us . . . because it is. And in the second season, a strong show got stronger. It's a shame this moment is partially wasted on Mike Colter. Bushmaster saved the series and washed the diamond-backed taste from our mouths. Annnnnnnd it's canceled. A record-breaking black-ass show that did impossible numbers for Netflix is gone.

4. (12) Cloak & Dagger  7.9/10 I want to love the show, in the way I love its young stars. And I might, if I could stay awake. I think they realize they have superpowers in episode five . . . I think. Who's this show for?--moody-artsy-poetic-horny-virgin 13-year-olds? I'm guessing. They get bonus points for flipping the most common racial stereotypes. And like all of the best things, once it ended, I begged for more. Cloak & Dagger may have something just yet. The second season began like the first, and then something happened--something good. Ish got real, real cultural, real racial, real domestic . . . real. Now, this show matters.

3. (3) The Punisher 8/10 It's nothing like other shows on this list. They chose to ignore the superhero world setting. It works, but may have worked better as a standalone. Ultimately, it was more predictable than most comic book-based shows because it was a lot like every gritty revenge, PTSD flick we've ever seen. And then in season two they created one of the most beautiful pieces of art in the history of time. It was not like anything anyone has every seen. There were TWO antagonists, and they both had unconventional, unpredictable, realistic endings.

2. (2) Daredevil 8/10 Hallway scenes started here. It's a shame they didn't end here. Foggy is as whack as Charlie Cox's accent (both improved by season 3). If you are anti-shadowy fight scenes, then Kingpin kept your interest. This series was redeemed by the Punisher's arrival. Ssssooo many ninjas. And then season three was maybe the best thing I've seen "on TV." Yes, Daredevil season three is "Wire," "Sopranos," "Lost," Breaking Bad"-good.

1. (1) Titans 8.5/10 We saw that corny-ass trailer and scoffed. The first episode wasn't much better. But Titans has become my #1 must-see-TV each week. If this dropped Netflix style, I wouldn't have the left the seat. It would've been my first "diaper show." Starting with the Hawk and Dove episode, this is the grittiest, most realistic, non-fantastical fantasy show (read: best) of all time. This is not our Teen Titans (coming soon). It's not like the Titans as seen anywhere before. That black Starfire that you hate is one of the best characters on TV this year. DC should stop making movies. They really get television. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Rankings: X-men Movies [UPDATED 6-7-19]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. So here are the rankings and reasons for the 12 X-films. 

 12. The Wolverine 6/10 Is this the same Wolverine from Origins or DOFP or any other X-men film? Yes! But no, not really. Of course, this film completely falls apart in the end. And Wolvie is played. He's dominated superhero cinema since 2000. His story, no matter how we twist it, is always the same: 1) he doesn't remember stuff; 2) he heals; and 3) adamantium. And this wasn't really a film that belongs in this genre, or in that universe, and totally made the Wolverine trilogy not a trilogy at all. It's a mediocre martial arts flick masquerading poorly as an X-film and I wasn't very impressed. 

11. X-Men 6.5/10 Mad props for being the movie that made this list possible. More props for bringing back Toad and making him kinda awesome. Even then, this film felt smaller than my X-men. Smaller core team, smaller stakes, smaller. It's the first one and it's the firstiest movie of any trilogy ever.

10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine 6.5/10 Yes, you hate this movie. You're wrong. Ask Jon Schnepp about it. The beginning of this movie is about as good as these movies get. Young Wolverine. Logan and Creed dominating every war. And even the comme ci, comme ca assault on that compound. Gambit's appearance is one of the best things about the X-men films. And Taylor Kitsch is a better Gambit--with more Magic, better abs and glutes--than Channing Tatum. You hate this movie because of what they did to Deadpool. That sucked. But this wasn't a Deadpool film. The ending may be the worst in comic book movie history, but the first two acts are mostly solid. 

9. X-Men: Apocalypse 6.5/10 The most disappointing X-men film ever. Yes, in part because expectations were high . . . initially. But Bryan Singer made a mediocre film--the fourth big franchise superhero film of 2016--and he can't stop patting himself on the back. The third one IS always the worst one. And for me, this is the worstiest of them all to date.

8. Logan 6.5/10 It is the best Wolverine film, but that doesn't mean much. Like the best superhero films, they made a film first, and a comic book movie second. But in many ways it meanders, doesn't pull the pieces together tightly, and has spineless useless "villains." So, yeah, Marvel needs to get the rights back. The next X-film will include a character literally jumping a shark.

7. Deadpool 2 6.7/10 I don't remember this film at all. Chuckled. Juggernaut. Dude had no powers. Girls were hot.

6. Deadpool 6.9/10 Initially, I hated this film. I hated it because all of the best bits are in the trailer. Why??? And why did everyone still love it so? I get it; I got it. But it's the movie they promised, and SHOWED, in the trailers. I just wasn't surprised. People made comments like "he broke the fourth wall!?!?!?" NO F#$^* SH!^ OF COURSE HE DID! IT'S DEADPOOL!!! On my second viewing, I appreciated everything a bit more. The ending is better than I realized. All of the characters are amazing. The weakest piece of this film to me is Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (in costume with the goofy voice). I'd rather see a film of Reynolds as Deadpool the mercenary that gets paid to beat up girls' bfs. Basically, I felt like this:   

5. X2: X-Men United 7/10 Here's where I do that thing that you cannot. I don't like this movie. I rank it higher than I feel because it's not a bad movie, it's just not a movie for me. It started with the strongest sequence in the entire history of comic book movies, but then rolled downhill for two hours straight. I'm beyond tired of Wolverine and Weapon-X. And I'm REALLY not a fan of the Phoenix, and this ends with that big tease. It's a good film. I own it. I've seen it many many times. But could someone tell Fox that X-Men is more than Wolverine running around a facility shirtless? K-thx.

4. X-Men: The Last Stand 7/10 I stand alone. This film is more like the X-Men of the 90s cartoon, and 80s and 90s stories than any other. It's the only one where they really feel like a team (until DOFP future). It's the X-Men's MCU-Avengers' film years before there was an MCU or Avengers' film. Six mutants that feel like members of my family stand against an army of super-powered beings to protect one life--choice, and a group of people that want them dead--because it's the right thing to do. They may die, and they know it. I used to choke up.

3X-Men: Days of Future Past 7.7/10 Solid. It's the best bits of the second trilogy. It's the best Magneto. It's the best McAvoy. Quicksilver. Dinklage. And the action presented in the future scenes perfectly portrays the X-Men we imagine in a post-apocalyptic world. 

2. X-Men: First Class 8.5/10 Comic book movies are often good . . . for comic book movies. But they should be more than that. Comic book fans deserve to see their stories win Oscars and receive praise from even the most square critics. Other than the "new mutants'" mistake, this is that X-film. This is an actual effing movie--not just another superhero button masher. Here, there are serious levels of character and story, plus good performances. Bryan Singer is not the God of X-Men movies; Fox should take a page from the MCU and diversify.

1. Dark Phoenix 8.6/10 Y'all stupid stupid. Everyone complained about the The Last Stand (Fox's first attempt at this story), which I loved. They redid it for you, and they did it better. You still complained. I did not expect to like this. I didn't even want to like this. After 20 minutes of eye-rolls and sighs, I realized I was being a brat about a damn good film. Again, it's everything I want from the X-men--teamwork, badassery, aliens, and emo superpowers.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Thoughts: Brightburn

Another vlog review from Germar and Look to the Cookie. There are NO SPOILERS here, until I say that there are spoilers. So pay attention.

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