Rocky Balboa (2006)

Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Rocky Balboa really does feel like meeting up with an old friend. The character himself is just as honest and done to Earth as ever, showing Stallone understands his own creation better than anyone else. So how do we make a Rocky film emotionally engaging right off the bat 16 years after the last movie? Have it revealed that Adrian died at some unspecified point (before 1995 at least) and that he is emotionally distant from his son along with a sprinkle of nostalgia in showing that he still has pet turtles (so are they the same turtles from the first movie?). Rocky Balboa doesn’t draw too heavily on little nods to the previous movies but a few are there. Rocky revisiting his old haunts really puts his journey in retrospect as he looks back on the ghosts of the past. More drastically, however, Rocky Balboa breaks the series tradition and has no recap of the final fight from the previous movie, setting itself up as its own separate beast.

In Rocky Balboa, the titular character is doing well for himself at least in terms of his standing in the community and even operates a restaurant named after his late wife. The real difficulty Rocky currently has in his life is the strained relationship with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia). Robert is ultimately a bit of a snob who is more intellectual than his father and works in a modern, geometric building (the Cira Centre); a world where the street weary Rocky doesn’t belong. Robert is clearly bothered by his father and doesn’t want to live in his shadow and only get ahead because of his last name. There is even a reference to the father-son relationship in Rocky V when Rocky uses the phrase “Home Team” to his son. See Stallone, even you can’t deny it exists (he actually gave the film a rating of “0” on a British talk show)

Like previous films in the series, Rocky Balboa draws comparisons to Stallone’s own life. The scene in which Rocky tries to convince the boxing commission to grant him a license feels just like Stallone trying to pitch the movie itself to a group of Hollywood executives; it’s true that Stallone didn’t have an easy time making Rocky VI. Even the reactions within the movie to the fight’s announcement echo the reaction to the movie’s announcement (“Rocky the President has labeled you a Balboasaurus”). I appreciate films about old age as they are few and far between (excluding Lifetime movies). – You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Nonsense!

One of the weakest aspects of Rocky Balboa in my book is the largely forgettable opponent Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon. He is not over the top like Rocky’s previous foes and has no definable personality, memorable lines and has an RBF throughout the entire film. A more subdue villain could be interesting if done right but the script makes no attempt to do so. Honestly, his managers are far more interesting as a group of cynical, greedy boxing promoters. Although my biggest gripe with Rocky Balboa is the film’s visual appearance. The cinematography is way too overexposed and there is way too much blue in the colour scheme; I had to adjust my eyes in order to get used to it. – I will say Creed is far more visually asserting movie.

Burt Young makes Paulie grouchy and grumpy as ever and gives his best performance as the character, well in a deleted scene that is in which Paulie breaks down after losing his job after 31 years and speaks of how much he misses his sister. This has me screaming, “why wasn’t this left in the film?!” I get scenes have to be sacrificed for pacing but could they have not squeezed this scene in there? Oh well, that’s all part of filmmaking. Bringing back the character of Marie on the other hand, a one scene character from the first film is one of the best aspects of Rocky Balboa. I actually was fortunate enough to not know this going into the film and her reveal was a huge gasp moment. Likewise, the relationship between Rocky and Marie’s stepson named, well Steps presents an endearing generational difference. Rocky Balboa carries on what simply makes the Rocky films superb – great characters. Plus as with the rest of the series, there are many inspirational lines which I can add to my Rocky lexicon (“It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit”). Even Duke’s “hurting bombs” monologue may be his greatest line ever, and that’s saying a lot.

The final fight in Rocky Balboa (which itself was inspired by a 1994 bout between a 45-year-old George Forman and a 26-year-old Michael Moorer) comes about because of a computer fight on ESPN. A “what if” scenario in which a computer determines who would win a fight between two contenders from different time periods; the premise sounds ridiculous on paper but surprisingly it actually works. The fight is by far the most realistic in the series up until that point. Thankfully the strive for realism doesn’t make the fight any less exciting than previous Rocky bouts. The fight is presented like it’s the real thing; it’s live on HBO, stats appear on the screen, its shot in HD and Michael Buffer is the presenter. The fight does transition from the live broadcast to a traditional movie presentation with some effective use of colouring in the black & white shots

Rocky Balboa is not my favourite film the series but how many franchises can say the 6th installment was this good. Where it certainly does succeed is in leaving the viewer with that uplifting Rocky feeling. In the final shot, Rocky visits Adrian’s grave and walks into the background disappearing into thin air, implying he’s passed on, or so we thought…

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Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)

Why are infants an unrepresented majority within the film world? It’s not hard to see that there is an extreme lack of motion pictures which take you to the point of view of the baby. Even with the successes of the hugely popular animated series Rugrats, prejudices against babies still continue and experienced and accomplished filmmaker Bob Clark was aware of this when he made his groundbreaking masterpiece, Baby Geniuses in 1999.

Bob Clark’s contribution to cinema is certainly not difficult to see. Best known for his 1983 classic, A Christmas Story, his resume also includes such critically acclaimed features such as Porky’s, Porky’s II, Rhinestone, Loose Cannons and Turk 182. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 proved to be Clark’s final film, which I feel can rank alongside other great final works of famous directors, such as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America but do I have sufficient reasoning for comparing Baby Geniuses 2 to such ambitious cinematic works of art, a simple look at the phenomenal talent behind Baby Geniuses 2 and it all comes clear.

Producer and screenplay writer of BG2, is none other than Steven Paul, who is even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s youngest film producer in 1979 and it comes as no surprise that such a young prodigy went on have more success as the producer of 2007’s Ghost Rider. The groundbreaking original plot of BG2 was written by Gregory Poppen, with previous credits including The Prince and the Surfer and Arthur’s Quest. With these expert writers along with the direction of Bob Clark, firmly places BG2 in the hands of master filmmakers; Toppling the original Baby Geniuses to rank alongside the likes of The Godfather: Part II or The Empire Strikes Back as one of the greatest movie sequels of all time is no easy task but they did it.

In the lead adult role of BG2, is Hollywood legend Jon Voight, in arguably his most challenging role to date, as the villainous Bill Biscane. Biscane is truly one of the greatest movie villains of all time, his character is so deep and complex, comparing him to Captain Ahab of Moby Dick would be an insult.

The special effects employed into BG2 is just the icing on the cake and a prime example of CGI used to its full potential, it only helps immerse you into the experience more. I haven’t seen GCI affects this groundbreaking since I first lay eyes on the T-1000 in Terminator 2. The babies’ mouth movements also give the film a surrealist atmosphere.

To continue talking about this film, I fear I would to it a great injustice by spoiling it. To put it simply, this is the best movie I have ever seen. The ending alone had me in tears and melted my heart. This movie changed my life; it motivated me to achieve my dreams and ambitions. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 is a symbol of the great things mankind can achieve. Your time on this planet won’t be complete unless you view its sheer perfection.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Bored and Confused

For my money Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End represents everything wrong in contemporary blockbuster cinema and anyone who paid money to go and see is contributing to the decline of western civilization; unfortunately that also includes me resulting in the single most boring, confusing and frustrating movie I ever had the misfortune of viewing and in a movie theatre no less! For beginners, the movie’s opening scene which shows people including children being hanged should act as a metaphor for the next 168 minutes of terror.

A $300 million dollar budget, and for what? Huge CGI battle sequences with characters I couldn’t give a monkeys about fighting each other, well actually I take that back because I don’t even know what they’re fighting about. This movie is like the First World War, nobody knows what it’s all about. I enjoyed the first installment of this franchise was disappointed with the sequel due to its incomprehensible plot but At World’s End goes beyond that. I literally don’t have a clue what is going on. Whose side anyone is on? Who’s that guy? Why are they going to this place? What’s that thing? Even reading the movie’s plot on Wikipedia I can’t get my read around it but then again they did start shooting the film before a script was completed.

While I enjoyed Johnny Depp’s performance in the first two movies here he is, no apologies, annoying; very, very annoying. When we are first introduced to Jack Sparrow in this film it isn’t just one Jack Sparrow, there are dozens of Jack Sparrows and they won’t shut up. Too much a good thing, way too much! One scene which particular aggravated me is when a bunch of characters are sitting around a table debating who knows what and it goes on for an eternity. It’s like 12 Angry Men, except it’s not and there’s only one angry man, me, watching the dam thing. I tend to avoid using the word hate unless I really mean it but few other movies have enraged me as much as this “movie”. I know every movie on the IMDB boards has a topic in which some proclaims it as the worst film they’ve ever seen but Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End really is one of the absolute worst films I’ve ever seen.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Champion Filmmaking

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Million Dollar Baby is a movie I find works on different levels. On my first viewing, I found the majority of the film great right up until the plot’s heartbreaking turn of events, it easily ranked as one of my new favourite films of all time. On second viewing, however, I found substantially even better as I was waiting in dread for the proceeding events; I mean almost literally quivering in fear knowing that dreadful scene in which Maggie falls to the ground and her neck lands on the side on a stool. Thanks to this movie I now fear the very sight of a stool. Million Dollar Baby is one of the most emotionally draining films I’ve ever witnessed. It’s such a powerful experience I can’t just immediately watch another film right away and I’ll still be thinking about it for days afterward; a film so absorbing you don’t want it to end. Yet the last forty minutes after Maggie Fitzgerald’s life-threatening injury are so difficult to watch. Morgan’s Freeman’s monologue in which he tries to justify a reason to pull the plug on Maggie as she got her shot and can leave the world thinking “I think I did alright” really made me appreciate being alive.

I don’t know if it was the filmmaker’s intent but I certainly get the impression Million Dollar Baby has a pro-assisted suicide message which will rub many people the wrong way. I will point out though I’m not against movies containing a message which supports a point of view, regardless of my views on the issue at hand as this (on top of making more people aware of an issue) can create a vocal point of discussion as well as being thought-provoking.

Eastwood has only become better over time, delivering an amazing streak of directorial efforts during throughout the 2000’s, with stories of unpretentious human emotion. His direction on Million Dollar Baby (as well as many of his other films) is astounding in how he makes the art of filmmaking look easy. It amazes me the effectiveness of his films despite their simplistic (at least on the surface level) and humble nature. Never has the presence of a fighter training in a darkly lit gym ever looked so immaculate. Likewise, Eastwood can combine serious drama and subtle humor perfectly. I love his smart-alecky sense of humor such as the scenes in which he annoys a priest for his own amusement or my personal favourite moment, Eastwood and Freeman’s conversation about socks. Not to mention Morgan Freeman’s narration is pure heaven to listen too, never as exposition been pleasurable. If only Morgan Freeman could narrate my life. I know its easy to throw around the “M” word, but in this instance, I will use it. Million Dollar Baby is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Proper Action and Sh*t

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Hot Fuzz is my favourite comedy of the new millennium as well as in my top 5 favourite films of said era. I already thought Shaun of the Dead itself was a perfect film yet Hot Fuzz is even better. There are so many film and pop culture references, inside jokes and foreshadowing ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. Just how long does it take to write a movie this layered? It’s like Bad Boys meets The Vicar of Dibley meets The Wicker Man. British comedy has long been about quality over quantity, just look at the small episode count of British sitcoms or films by Aardman Animations which employee a similar style of humour to Hot Fuzz; there is more comedy in this one film than several Hollywood comedies combined. The pacing and consistency of the jokes in Hot Fuzz are perfect, never is there more than 10 seconds that I’m not laughing. For me, the best laugh was saved until the end when the swan attacks the police officer in the car.

Those moments when Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) about films he has seen; just how many times have I been in this situation in real life when someone names films one by one (usually junk food films) and when you say you haven’t seen one they keep going onto you about it. Angel himself manages to be a likable character despite his overt political correctness but for me, Timothy Dalton steals the show. He really is one of the last of his kind as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types of debonair villains; here he just has the smuggest look on his face.

It’s easy for a film to mock bureaucracy but this seems to be one film which speaks in its favour, then again how many films can make the act of filling out paperwork look exciting. The film’s use of fascism and the concept of “The Greater Good” (the greater good!) as a theme surprisingly is highly thought-provoking.

Hot Fuzz satirizes action movies by being grounded in reality and with Danny’s misconceptions between fantasy and reality yet at the same time also celebrates them. Having an action movie with British police officers, set in a small English town and full of Hollywood action movie tropes; the concept works on so many levels – likely because there doesn’t exist a tradition of cop movies in the UK. Plus having the bad guy’s hideout being an outlet for an actual British supermarket chain is another stroke of brilliance. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying watching these Hollywood clichés spoofed in a British manner. Action movies have never been a favourite genre of mine, especially this brand of shaky cam, fast cut action, but the action scenes here are legitimately edge of your seat thrilling. The film’s use of CGI blood is my only complaint but when a film is this amazing I can look past this one flaw. Thank you, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for improving the greater good of British cinema (the greater good!).

Avatar (2009)

Pandora’s Box of Vacuosity

I went into Avatar with hopes of it being an intelligent science fiction movie, James Cameron has directed two of my favourite movies of all time, Terminator 2 and Titanic, but I remain convinced all he was interested in this movie was the special effects, and not giving second thought to story or characters despite the film being in production for a decade.

One aspect of Avatar which bothers me which I’ve never heard other reviewers comment upon is the fact that Sam Worthington’s character of Jake Sully is paralyzed, being confined to a wheelchair at the beginning of the movie. However when he becomes an avatar and is not only is he able to walk in this new form, he’s running and jumping through the forests of Pandora, so why is there no sense of liberation? Why is this character confined to a wheelchair if the movie never takes advantage of this as a definable characteristic? Am I only person who looked beyond the movie’s special effects and actually noticed this guy is in a wheelchair, even in the movie’s trailer we can see he’s in a wheelchair, and I thought to myself, “Wow, a protagonist in an action movie who is in a wheelchair , that’s something you don’t see every day”, but no, the wheelchair is there for no reason, if he wasn’t paralyzed it would have made no difference to his character, or should I say “character”, since no one in this movie has a personality.

Even more bothersome for me however is Colonel Milies Quaritch (and yes I had to go to Wikipedia to find out his name as the characters in this movie suck), or as I like to call him, Generic Army General Guy. This is one of the absolute worst, most uninspired villains I have ever seen. This villain alone proves that James Cameron spent a decade working on the technology for this movie’s special effects and didn’t give a monkey’s about the story or characters. I was that shocked at how cliché this villain is that I can’t even enjoy him in an ironic sense, instead, I just sat there in bemusement at a villain who belongs in a spoof movie, heck even 80’s action movies have better villains.

Of course, I’m not going to beat the dead horses’ skeleton regarding the movie’s white guilt plot. I know humanity will always have its flaws and perhaps it just the optimist in me would like to imagine that in the year 2154 we would have learned something by then and won’t be colonizing other inhabited planets because of greed, but if the movie at least made some acknowledgement of the actions in the film being a case of history repeating itself and even act as a cautionary tale, I would have been more forgiving.

I don’t like CGI to begin with, it’s one of biggest complaints about modern filmmaking, but I do acknowledge the technology can be put to good use when put in the right hands. The effects in Avatar are impressive, but to quote George Lucas (I’ll presume he said this before he himself completely lost it), “a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”

The Angry Video Game Nerd (2004-Present)

This Game Sucks…

The reviewing of poor media products on the internet has become a whole genre of comedy in itself. Movies, video games, anime, comic books, music, etc, all have dedicated reviewers who will pick them apart and criticize all in the good name of entertainment. One of the most famous perpetrators and originators of this genre within the cyberspace of the internet is none other than The Angry Video Game Nerd. The Nerd (James D. Rolfe), is a foul-mouthed, short-tempered retro gamer, destined to review as he would call them, “sh***y f**king games”.

The Nerd’s trademark humor is comprised mostly of strong profanity and over the top comparisons to describe how awful a game is, i.e. “This game is so hard it would actually be easier to outside in a thunderstorm and dodge rain”. It’s an acquired taste but trust me when I say there are few times in my life in which I laughed as hard when I first discovered this guy and watched his Ghostbusters review back in 2007.

This is partially due to many of the games he reviews being so horrific they almost review themselves but also because of James’ charisma as a performer. Let’s face it, almost everyone who goes on the internet and makes videos in which they try to entertain or inform (including top subscribed You Tubers, although I won’t name names) are either dull or are trying to force a personality onto themselves. James, on the other hand, is just a complete natural. He’s always an absolute joy to listen to and makes the art of appearing on camera and reviewing media (whether comically or straight) seem easy. However, James is first and foremost a filmmaker and thanks to this The Angry Video Game Nerd had considerably greater production values than most other internet content. Frankly, the guy is one of my personal heroes.

I still continue to enjoy new episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd. I’m glad James now only makes several episodes per year, whereas at the height of the series productivity we had two every month. Some of the more recent episodes are among some of the funniest he’s ever done, not bad for something which debuted on YouTube 9 years ago. I just hope he will keep the character in this state of semi-retirement. With The Angry Video Game Nerd, James Rolfe managed to create something totally original. Countless imitators will come and go but the original will never be topped.

The Nostalgia Critic (2007-Present)

“What Happened To You Man? You used to have strong plentiful balls”: Ma-ti – Battlefield Earth Review

Back in 2007, an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd involved the titular character reviewing the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. This was a change of pace to his regular videos as he would normally only review video games, however, I particularly loved this one video and wish he could have done more like this, or that someone would come around and be The Angry Video Game Nerd of movies. In a number of respects, this was The Nostalgia Critic (portrayed by Doug Walker). This is what first attracted me to the series when I first discovered it in 2009, and after watching a few episodes I was hooked. The series debuted on YouTube in 2007 before moving to Doug Walker’s own site That Guy With the Glasses.com (later re-titled Channel Awesome), a website which showcased of people involved in the increasingly popular genre of satirical reviews.

That Guy With the Glasses wasn’t entertainment being churned out by a corporation or by Hollywood executives, it was entertainment for the people by the people with no concern for financial gain but creating content purely out of passion which could be shared with a mass audience thanks to this thing known as the internet. I had my own aspirations to be on TGWTG, of course, nothing ever materialized, but to even be a follower of the site it felt like being part of something truly special and unique. All the great personalities the site had to offer; Spoony, Angry Joe, Todd in the Shadows, Linkara, Paw, Film Brain – the list goes on. Online videos like these have more heart, soul, and personality than contemporary Hollywood blockbusters or anything currently on TV.

But let’s talk about The Nostalgia Critic. Doug Walker was a natural comedian, he made the art of reviewing while cracking jokes, pop culture references and comedic over reactions look easy. Surf Ninjas is my favourite NC review, I have watched a good 30 times; a masterpiece of sarcasm. I remember I used to stay up on Tuesday nights to see each new video as soon as it was uploaded and I considered Doug Walker to be one of my comedic influences.

Various ex-fans of The Nostalgia Critic have different dates as to when he went downhill, so I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally, 2011 was the beginning of the end. Right from the start of 2011, the cracks were showing. Sequel month was a lazy idea, just rehashing previous review source material, but I presumed this would just be a minor blip. Despite a few good videos over the following year, the quality had declined. Also while I absolutely adored the two year anniversary special Kickassia, the following anniversary special in 2011 Suburban Knights simply wasn’t funny, not to mention it felt like a very anti-climatic follow up to Kickassia in which they made the special in cooperation with an actual micro-nation. Going from something as large-scale and ambitious as that to a special filmed is suburban neighborhood felt like a bummer. When Star Trek month rolled around in January 2012 I gave up. Now at this point, The Nostalgia Critic’s video wasn’t awful, but more so just really boring.

I was glad when Doug brought the series to an end in August 2012 and began a new project called Demo Reel. Perhaps Demo Reel had potential but what I have watched of it is seriously dull; although at least it was something different and showed Doug didn’t want to be The Critic all his life. However, due to the failure of Demo Reel Doug revived The Nostalgia Critic. I haven’t seen everything he has done since the series revival but what I have is unbelievably awful. For this review, I had to try and watch more recent videos of his which I hadn’t seen, and doing so was the biggest chore, such a contrast to his older work which had such a natural progression and the best of which were consistently funny from beginning to end.

A rundown of the problems with The Nostalgia Critic beginning in 2011 and spiraling out of control in 2012:

Firstly he started going to way of MTV, he’s become The Nostalgia Critic in name only. This problem began in October 2011 when he reviewed Exorcist II: The Heretic and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2; two films totally outside of his territory as there’s nothing nostalgic about them to the Critic’s target audience. He once had cut off date of 2000 (aside from the odd exception), however now it’s clear he’s run out of nostalgic movies and TV shows from his time frame and now reviews whatever he wants. He was at his best reviewing stupid and nonsensical Movies and TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s; that was the kind of material that worked best with his brand of humor.

His jokes are now forced beyond belief, an example? In his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3, he makes a joke about how people get the titles of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith mixed up. Not only is this joke shoehorned in out of nowhere, it’s creating a situation that doesn’t even exist. However it’s bad enough when a joke is unfunny and forced, it’s even worse if it goes on for ages. I don’t mind long jokes if they’re done well as Doug himself has done so in the past such as the dream sequence in the Junior review. For an example of a joke which goes on for an eternity; the “Allen” gag in his Jurassic Park III review. I was in a state of disbelief and non-existent laughter at just how long it lasts. I could make a huge list of the individual jokes in his new videos and why each one doesn’t work.

Other reviews are simply unpleasant, hateful and mean-spirited. In his review of Eight Crazy Nights, he had recurring gag throughout the video making fun of Happy Madison fans as lowest common denominator yokels. Regardless of how terrible Happy Madison films are, I did not start watching this guy’s videos in the first place to see such mean-spirited gags such as this.

The other major source of increasing annoyance is the lack of research he does for his videos. In his Patch Adams review he clearly has no knowledge of film’s subject matter, or in his Jurassic Park review, he criticizes the science present in the film and even has a sketch about it despite having no apparent knowledge of it. This brings me to what annoys me most of what the critic has now become. He’s become a self-righteous know-it-all jerk, and not in an intentional self-aware funny way. His review of Patch Adams is just one huge snob fest, while in his reviews of generally well-liked films (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Matrix), he parades like his opinion is fact even though his criticisms on these films are just stupid nitpicking. There was once a time when watching a Nostalgia Critic review was simply fun, now it’s about having Doug Walker’s self-righteous, poorly researched, incorrect or simply illogical statements shoved down your throat. The dividing line between Doug and his fictional creation is becoming increasingly blurred; in his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3 he makes a list entry related to videos he made speaking as himself and not the Critic.

Since Demo Reel failed the people Doug has hired to appear in that show are now regulars on the revived series of The Nostalgia Citric, and none of them of any charisma; it makes me miss the days of Ma-ti. His new videos also look too sterile and washed out; what happened to that warm inviting yellow background?

He’s also stopped using creative title cards and instead now uses lazy photoshopped title cards; ironic considering in his Drew Struzan tribute he criticized movie studios for using lazy, uninspired photoshopped movie posters. Also, all these new title cards have an exaggerated facial expression from Doug which is increasingly obnoxious. I’m sure there are many other problems I could mention, but trying to watch his more recent videos for the sake of this review is excruciating with how bad they are.

Then there’s his NC: Editorials. These annoy me for two reasons. Firstly it’s the constant retreading of this mentality that you’re simply blinded by nostalgia if you dislike some aspect of contemporary popular culture. Secondly, they’re pretentious, giving an over important emphasis to questions no one was asking the answers to (Is It Right to Nitpick? Why Do We Love Stupid?), or questions which have obvious answers (Have we gone too deep into CGI?, Why Is Tom & Jerry Genius?).

I can’t comment on the current state of other TGWTG contributors as I gave up on the site as a whole long ago (expect Todd In the Shadows who is the only one I still watch), but I know some of the longtime members such as The Nostalgia Chick, Oancitizen, Phealous, and Obscurus Lupa are no longer there.

When writing this review I was wondering if it was a mistake to undertake as I much prefer to write reviews of stuff I love instead of contributing to an internet full of negativity, but this show used to mean so much to me and bring me such joy, now it does the complete opposite. I have witnessed two things in my life degrade from being something I loved so dearly to becoming one of the worst pieces of so-called “entertainment” I have ever seen – The Simpsons and The Nostalgia Critic. It’s hard to watch his old videos now without thinking about what a joke he is now. Congratulations Doug on destroying your own creation.

Todd’s Pop Song Reviews (2009 – Present)

Review Brilliance

Of the internet reviewers spawned from the satirical reviewing site That Guy With The Glasses, I consider Todd In The Shadows to be one of the very greatest productions the site offers. While other reviewers on TGWTG mostly focused on movies, video games and anime etc, Todd brought the much-needed sector of reviewing popular music to the site.

Todd Nathanson began producing videos on YouTube and eventually was accepted onto TGWTG.com and found new spread popularity on the site and I don’t think this could have happened at a better time, due to this being the period when the likes of Lady Gaga, Keh$a and The Black Eyed Peas where beginning or already had been dominating the top 40 pop charts. Pop music needed criticism and analyses more than ever, and that’s where Todd comes in.

A standard episode of Todd’s Pop Song Reviews involves an analyses of a recent U.S Billboard Top 40 pop song, a bad one of course. Each episode begins with a piano cover of the song which about to be reviewed, followed by an introduction to the song and the artist behind it. The songs themselves are pulled apart, with deep analyses of the lyrics (often pointing out how they don’t make sense) and often comments on the music video itself, followed by a final conclusion of the song. Each episode is filled with jokes, gags, and one-liners mixed in with the review itself but is all perfected flawlessly making Todd’s Pop Song Reviews both a hilarious and insightful look into the world of pop music. The guy is one hell of a comedy machine and you can get quite the music education from his show.

However, I still have yet to mention possibly the most important aspect of the series. Like many other internet reviewers, Todd has a gimmick. The simple genius that we don’t know that he looks like due to wearing a hoodie and being unlit within the shadows he inhabits. I love the mystery of not knowing what his physical appearance is and it’s also quite a romantic idea in itself. Todd has to communicate primarily through his voice and he certainly has a voice which does just that; clear and audible, pleasant to listen too, and strong enough to get his points across. Todd’s Pop Song Reviews is one the finest review shows the internet has to offer. Todd Nathanson isn’t a household name but I can call the guy one of my heroes.

Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

Do Believe the Truth!

Alas! A great Oasis album! The best Oasis album since Be Here Now (yes I am a “best since Be Here Now” person, not a “best since Morning Glory” person) one which is great from start to finish, unlike the patchy efforts of Heathen Chemistry and Don’t Believe the Truth.  Dig Out Your Soul is the most ambitious Oasis album since Be Here Now. Their previous three albums missed the large-scale orchestras and choirs present in their 90’s output and instead relied more on the acoustic side of things. Dig Out Your Soul brought it all back, creating the most richly textured Oasis album – one soaked in a trippy, psychedelic, moody, 60’s inspired atmosphere.

The first good sign with Dig Out Your Soul is the album cover – it rocks! I haven’t seen an Oasis album cover that good since The Masterplan but onto the actual songs, the first two tracks are excellent and they’re not singles. The structure of Bag It Up reminds me of Rock ‘n’Roll Star in how the final portion of the song has no vocals with epic over the top instrumentation. This along with The Turning and The Shock of Lightning are the most balls to wall rockers Oasis have done since the 90’s. Waiting For the Rapture is a good mid-tempo rocker, although I do feel the demo version is more atmospheric.  I consider I’m Outta Time to be the best song Liam ever wrote. Oasis aren’t the first band to come to mind when I think of love songs; with several of their songs such as Wonderwall I’m unsure whether they would be classified as love songs but this is one song which can undeniably be classified as such and such a beauty at that. Falling Down is one of Noel’s finest accomplishments, showcasing Oasis vision of the apocalypse. It’s strangely prophetic this dark and brooding song would be Oasis’ final single, as well as with the album as a whole; signaling the final days of a band whose popularity was shrinking. The album still isn’t without its weak songs, coming in the form of Ain’t Got Nothin’ and The Nature of Reality. With the later, I can tell you a lot of Oasis fans hate this song with a passion: Me? I think it’s more mediocre than terrible.

The other important aspect of Dig Out Your Soul which I’ve not heard anyone else mention is this may be a concept album, or at least that’s the impression I get. The songs tell a story of an impending apocalypse as we are told to “Bag It Up” because we are “Waiting for The Rapture” which occurs with “The Shock of the Lightning”. The use of a John Lennon quote sampled in I’m Outta Time reinforces the apocalyptic theme (“It’s every Englishman’s inalienable right to live where the hell he likes. What’s it going to do, vanish? It’s not going to be there when I get back.”) even more so as Lennon said this shortly before his own untimely death in 1980. The remaining songs dealing with the aftermath of the apocalypse such as the alien sounding (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady and To Be Where There’s Life (I believe the title of that one explains itself). This all culminates in the album’s final song Soldier On, that we will soldier on until the very end.

Dig Out Your Soul can proudly sit beside Oasis’ first three albums and partially makes up for the band’s lackluster run during the 2000’s but hey, we don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.

 

Oasis:  1991 – 2009

 

Dig Out Your Soul Era B-Sides and Rarities

In 2005 CD singles were on their last legs, by 2008/9 they had all but gone, becoming designated to collector’s items. With the three singles to come of Dig Out Your Soul, only one B-side was produced. Those Swollen Hand Blues from the Falling Down single – a good trippy, psychedelic number. The box set of Dig Out Your Soul contained a CD of bonus material comprised of alternative versions of songs, remixes and two alum outtakes, Boy With The Blues and I Believe In All. The rarities produced for Dig Out Your Soul won’t give the likes of Live Forever a run for its money but they are with unearthing.