George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows: The third Song Of Ice And Fire book, A Storm Of Swords, was probably the best of the five, due to having all the big highlights from the third and fourth seasons of the show in it. For these last two books (and I'm 75 pages away from being finished with the fifth), the books and show largely part ways, with this book and A Dance With Dragons basically being one book split into two, with GRRM ceding ADWD to Jon, Danaerys, Tyrion and the more prominent characters, with AFFC belonging mostly to Jamie, Cersei, and....uh, Brienne of Tarth, along with other characters who did not even appear on the show, such as Arianne Martell and Victarion Greyjoy. The result is that this book is easily the worst of the five for sure--a thousand pages of miserably long-winded wheel spinning that doesn't seem to get this gigantic story going anywhere interesting, and even weaker plotting than the fifth and sixth seasons of the show, which is pretty bad considering those were the low point of the show. It's this wheel-spinning which becomes the weakest aspect of GRRM's writing, not the predictably unpredictable violence, rape, endless downer-killings of his better characters, endless repetitions of the one bone he's thrown each character (Tyrion is a dwarf! Jon is a bastard! Jamie is the kingslayer! Brienne is ugly!) or his tendency to introduce about seven hundred new supporting characters per chapter. Brienne's part of the story in particular goes *nowhere*--she just keeps looking for Sansa and we already know where Sansa is. Cersei's chapters are painfully one-note. There's a passage involving Cersei dabbling in lesbianism with one of her handmaids that would single-handedly qualify GRRM for several of the Lifetime Achievement Awards for Bad Sex In Fiction that they gave John Updike some years ago, and it's almost immediately followed up with a stomach churning depiction of Theon Greyjoy eating a live rat, and I normally have a strong stomach for that sort of thing. Conclusion: don't read GRRM unless you're an absolute die-hard, and if you do, stop after the third book.
Leon/The Professional: I'm watching the boring old 1994 theatrical cut of this alleged 90s classic, but based on what I've read, I wouldn't even like what made it into the director's cut, so I won't be hunting that down. I also read that it's hugely popular with pedophiles, no surprise there, although I wouldn't really call for its cancellation. That said, the time for me to fall in love with a movie like this for being so "cool" is long, long since past, leaving behind a movie that I can now see all too clearly as a silly fantasy, one possibly rooted in Besson's possibly unsavory possible love of possibly young girls. I can't really name any scenes in it that I "love," and I'm not moved to tears by the Portman/Reno relationship, nor am I fascinated by the psychology of the Reno character, though at least I know now where Gary Oldman's "overactor" reputation comes from--it's single-handedly because of this film. You know what's most entertaining in this movie? How quickly Portman's family is killed off, with the movie quickly establishing them as a bunch of crappy people so that we won't miss them. Chilly stuff, bro.
Battlefield Earth: A zero, obviously, but not even a fun one. I honestly wouldn't even tell the Manos/Troll 2/The Room crowd to bother with this one. If you can get on Youtube and look up a montage of all of Travolta's bad dialogue readings in the movie, you've got all the "OMG, unintentionally hilarious!" stuff you'd ever need to see in it. Other than that, all that's really LOL-inducing about the film are the inexplicably constant Dutch camera angles. The rest? Miserably low-budget, super-generic Planet Of The Apes/Star Wars rebellion-vs.-empire slop, but you could already guess that. It looks like a low-budget USA-Network 90s sci-fi B-show and doesn't even bother trying to be "scientific" about anything, let alone $cientologist. Most of the movie went to actor salaries.
Roma: I'm not really an expert on Alfonso Cuaron, so all the stuff I liked in this movie was in the second half. I wasn't terribly fascinated with the main character (I tend not to be fascinated with any character that can be played by a non-actor) but I will grant that the riot scene, the pregnancy scene, and the final confession at the beach are pretty powerful even if you've never been anywhere near Mexico. The first half of the film....uhm....I hate to be a dumbass, but I watched the film twice and already can't remember that stuff much. The social subtext here is somewhat more interesting (or deeper) than Y Tu Mama Tambien's, I s'pose, and I'm sure that it's a better film than Green Book, but I can think of sadly nostalgic reveries from other filmmakers that I liked more than this, so it's not like I'm being all Mod Lang, "opera is cheese bros!" (Remember that?)
Detroit: A well-filmed beatdown of a movie, but not much more than that--despite how easy it is to draw parallels between race riots and police violence in Detroit in 1967 and now, this is the least acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow/Mark Boal collaboration for a reason, disappearing from theaters pretty fast and not getting anywhere near as much attention as Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty. You can guess what's going to happen once someone accidentally fires a toy gun out a window, and it does. This is a horrible thing to say, but most of the black characters are a bit hard to keep track of, and sadly enough it's Will Poulter who ends up as the most memorable character, overcoming his turn as the crybaby in The Revenant well enough to justify having the most screen time in the film as the violent leader of the cops. I'm not sure if I'm recommending this--did anyone here even see it?
Out Of The Blue: Dennis Hopper stepped in and directed this 1980 (81? 82?)_troubled-youth film, which follows Linda Manz from Days Of Heaven (talking in a cornball "tough" voice that sounds like Matt Dillon's amateurish tone in Over The Edge) around through a bunch of dreary, go-nowhere adventures that would barely qualify for the plot of an afterschool special. Dennis Hopper aficionados may not even need to bother--he plays the girl's dad, who ended up in prison after drunk driving his truck through a bus full of kids (depicted in sickening detail!) and later it turns out he molested the girl or something, so we get a really bizarre, nihilistic ending where she shoves her crotch in his face, yells at him for being a crappy dad, kills him (I think?) then takes her annoying mom out into a truck and blows the truck up, killing them both. This nihilistic ending seems to be the source of the movie's title--it jars HIDEOUSLY with the rest of the film, which is aimless and dreary, and as such makes for the only reason to look up the film that I know of. So I'm not sorry I spoiled it for you. Geez, did I like any dreary (non-exploitation) troubled-youth movies from the 80s? River's Edge? Class Of 1984?
Rubin & Ed: Remember Crispin Glover's loco 1987 Letterman appearance, where he showed up in a crazy 70s costume and acted weird and kicked at Letterman's head? That "character" was Rubin Farr and here he gets his own movie, from 1991, where he and some poor beaten-down salesman loser somehow have to go out into the desert to bury Rubin's cat, and....hilarious hijinks ensue? Not really--there's only enough humorous gas to sustain this movie for about a half hour, at which point it's done about everything it could. It's not very edgy humor at that, and the movie is almost totally meaningless, so I'd call it the precursor to godawful 90s-and-beyond Indie Quirk crap, if I were under the impression that any indie filmmakers actually saw this movie, which they probably mostly didn't; Glover's Letterman appearance is easily far more infamous and looked-up these days. I guess if you're a Crispin Glover fan, which I sort of was (but in a rather posturing way, I'll confess), this is sort of a ne plus ultra of Glover performances, as Rubin is even more awkward, unpleasant, weird, autistic, OCD-ridden and rude than he was in the Letterman performance.
Savage Streets: Crappy old 1984 teen punk rape and revenge exploitation movie starring 25 year old Linda Blair as the youngest-looking "high schooler" in a movie full of kids who all appear to be at least 30. Unless you have an absolutely huge boner for the worst of 80s fashions (poofy hair, punks wearing headbands and neck scarves, aerobics stuff worn in gym class) there's nothing here but typical drive-in explotation slop, heartless and weakly acted, even from John Vernon, who calls one 30 year old punk kid a "f*ggot" and tells him to "go f*** an iceberg." The songs in the movie aren't cool either. I watched this on a whim--no one recommended it to me.
The Cars, The Cars: Did I need to hear this? I guess--it's still perfectly good, though those hits were all slightly cooler when I was 16 (and I wasn't 16 in 1978, y'know.) I'm glad I heard "I'm In Touch With Your World," with its dinky synths and ping-pong rhythm; it doesn't sound like the hits, a cute little new wave artifact. "All Mixed Up" was a reasonable discovery too. I don't like "Don't Cha Stop" much, though, and "Moving In Stereo" sounded a little fuller in Ridgemont High. The best album I'll hear this year? I hope not, but that's because I already knew 2/3 of it 20 years ago! It is good, though!
The Rolling Stones, Goat's Head Soup: Starting the rest of their discography with this (I'm only familiar with Some Girls post-1972.) Honestly at first I damn near loved this--my enthusiasm cooled a tad by the eighth listen, but all I can really tell is that the Stones' glory years were wearing slightly thin by 1973 and they put out an album of very skilled rewrites? Did they? "Coming Down Again," "100 Years" and "Winter" are my favorite songs here, but I guess I'd take an album of glory-era Stones "skilled rewrites" over most bands' "second-rate" material...and what is everyone so grossed out by "Dancing With Mr D" for? I read maybe twenty reviews of this album and I still don't get what people are so put off by. I like "Star Star," too. So the Stones didn't break any more ground for awhile, big whoop, shut up and enjoy IMO.
Slowdive, Slowdive: I've defended a few reunion albums as being underrated (Blur, Faith No More) but this 2017 self-titled album is the only one I can think of that might be the band's very best work, since I haven't revisited Souvlaki much (even though it was a very good disc.) Come to think of it, in spite of liking all three classic Slowdive albums I don't know the band members' names very well and while I remember Pygmalion straddling shoegazer and post-rock in 1995 (and doing pretty well at that) I somehow didn't remember the band's career was totally ruined by it and they got lots of bad press and were dumped by their record label for being experimental. I also didn't hear Mojave 3, but this new album sounds perfectly energized, well-written and wonderfully produced. "Slomo," "Star Roving" and "No Longer Making Time" are all beautiful and sound crisp and alive and the only weak spot is the repetitive, long-winded, National-ish piano mumbler "Falling Ashes" that closes things out. Four stars out of five, which is what I gave Souvlaki; gimme some time to relisten to that one, and maybe even purchase it, and we'll see if this is really their best album.
Van Der Graaf Generator, Present: Oh god. Double album? Really old guys? Haven't updated their sound since 1976? One full disc devoted to improvs? F***ING VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR IMPROVS? OH GOD GET ME EVERY MUSIC BABBLER'S DRUG STASH RIGHT NOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW I'M GONNA NEED IT. Yeah, there's a song here called "On The Beach," with pretty electric pianos and a pleasant adult contemporary vibe here that I liked. Were it not for that, this'd probably be one of the four or five most excruciating sit-throughs I'd ever heard. Die.
The Beach Boys, The Beach Boys: Their 1985 horse pile. Prindle hilariously said that it sounded like one guy playing all the instruments on one gigantic Casio keyboard, which is what it DOES sound like--then why does Wikipedia show me that every track had like seven people on it?!? Culture Club members, Stevie Wonder, and Gary Moore playing a SYNTHAXE (guitar-shaped MIDI controller of which only 100 were ever made!) are on this album but you'd never know. I actually kinda liked "Getcha Back" and "It's Gettin' Late," but "Crack At My Love" or whatever it's called is easily the low point--little kid Walmart keyboards!! I could make better music than that on my PHONE nowadays! Horrible stuff of course, but I think M. I. U. was probably still worse.
The Kinks, Misfits: At first this sounded like an improvement over most of their early 70s albums, but that was because of "Misfits" itself, still a really good song. Elsewhere, I liked, in moderation, about half of this album--"Live Life," "Hay Fever," "Rock & Roll Fantasy" and the un-PC "Black Messiah," whose lyrics are sadly relevant in a cancel culture era. I couldn't tell you why the passable, harmless, treading-water 1975-78 Kinks albums are better than the dregs of the 1972-75 albums--they just are, and would make a great case for why we're all better off living in an era where bands don't make two new albums every year. Thank God for CDs, huh?!?
Kansas, Kansas: This is no great shakes, but it's certainly nowhere near as bad as I was expecting--I relistened to the 1976 album Leftoverture, the one with "Carry On Wayward Son" on it, which I still like, but I sold that CD a long time ago because I thought it was terrible once I got around to hearing better prog bands, and it was even worse than I remember--not one of the seven songs that isn't C.O.W.S. was any good at ALL! So I've always intended to try the others out of stinky curiosity and honestly, the short, bar-band-ish songs here are perfectly listenable and catchy and the violin guy's showing off doesn't bother me too much either. "Can I Tell You," "Bringing It Back" (a JJ Cale cover, about smuggling weed) and "The Pilgrimage" are all actually good songs! Then...there's the prog. It's, yeah, not very good. Nowhere near as atrocious as the worst songs on Leftoverture ("Questions Of My Childhood" and "Cheyenne Anthem") mind you, but still, none of the longer-form songs here--sporting weird names like "Apercu" and "Belexes" really strike, made all the sadder by the fact that the band had decent chops and don't seem to be slacking off; they just don't write anything terribly interesting for those instrumental passages, reminding me a bit of the instrumental-passage skills of, oh, say, early Genesis tunes like "Looking For Someone." "Journey From Mariabronn" collapses into this laughable coda with the vocalist going "ohh ahhh OHHH" over dramatic Moog arpeggios and "Death Of Mother Nature Suite" has as its hook "and now she's gonna DIE!!! Yeaahhh yeaahhh yeahhh!" So yeah, the prog with this band's going to be a problem. On we soldier, and if this band doesn't make a better album than this, they actually will score lower than VDGG or ELP, let alone Jethro Tull. Ooooooof.....