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Hoodie Allen: Pep Rally Review

Hoodie Allen isn’t your typical rapper and his image is far from gang life. From his vintage Adidas shoes to his thick rimmed glasses, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hunched behind his Mac at a Starbucks, diligently working on a screenplay. This 21 year old is a member of the new “hipster-hop” wave. Along with Chiddy Bang, and arguably Kanye West, these people have invaded the scene with a new style of rap with evidence of influence from the New York scene, although with less aggressiveness in their delivery. Hoodie brings the heat on all 11 tracks of Pep Rally, a freshman mixtape that feels like he’s been a part of the scene for years.
Being someone so young, but with evidence of an upper-middle class upbringing, Hoodie doesn’t have anything to complain about and has no words of wisdom to offer in his songs. Instead, he focuses on having fun and creativity. He slyly sneaks in a pop culture reference in every other line that fits so well that it’s hard to catch unless one listens very closely. Lines like “a free app, but nothing is free really/
There’s a shark in the water, I’m ready to free Willy,” puts even the Beastie Boys to shame. This type of wordplay occurs so frequently on the mixtape that it’s impossible not to smile in awe at how Hoodie does it. He’s so clever that not even name dropping Colts kicker Matt Stover feels out of place. His flow is tailor made for delivering these punch lines and jokes, and it works without making Hoodie feel like a one trick pony.
One of the definitive qualities of Pep Rally is the guest appearances. More specifically, none of them are by other rappers. Hoodie is assisted by choruses from the likes of Marina Diamandis, a spark of light on the wonderful “You Are Not a Robot,” and Chris Wallace, who delivers the chorus of “January Jones,” an ode to the Mad Men actress. The guest stars complement Hoodie very well and never take the spotlight off of the verses. Furthering the impact of the verse is producer RJF’s fantastic beats and samples. The Death Cab for Cutie sampling “So Much Closer,” is a triumph and is also one of Hoodie’s best songs lyrically. The beats are smooth and fast enough to allow for the words to come out without feeling cluttered. While the guests shine brightly, they still don’t outshine the main attraction, which is the way it should be.
Overall, Hoodie Allen has put together a very fun, albeit sometimes juvenile, mixtape. He exhibits a very unique and polished flow and his wordplay is always an experience, sometimes taking five listens to understand his jokes. He weaves verbal tapestries and lets the pop vibe permeate in the choruses and in RJF’s samples. Pep Rally is the perfect summer album that still vibes well in the winter.

Recommended Tracks: Swimming With Sharks, January Jones, You Are Not a Robot, Words of Wisdom

Halo: Reach Vs. Call of Duty: Black Ops

It’s been nearly a month since Black Ops was considered a “new game,” which means that the final opinions are being formed about the game. One of the biggest questions that should be asked is “Is this game better than Reach,” especially if you are considering getting one or the other.

Style of Game: The Halo franchise has always been more about running in and getting as many kills as you can before dying while Call of Duty rewards more patient players and, as a result, is one dominated by campers and not many firefights that don’t involve cover. Ultimately, it comes down to which one you prefer. Black Ops is a more serious game as it always has been but Reach has its appeal in the straight up blow the other person away approach. Advantage: Tie

Campaign: There’s a reason that people have been complaining about how hard Reach’s campaign is- it’s ridiculously tough. The levels are still hard to negotiate but still easier than the ones in previous titles. Call of Duty, on the other hand, has always had some of the best FPS campaigns complete with the craziest moments in gaming. While there aren’t any EMPs being detonated over the White House, Black Ops’ campaign still brings the heat in a big way, the torture sequence in particular. Though some will say it went over the top with the torture scene, I had a bigger issue with No Russian- the level where you shoot up a Russian airport- in Modern Warfare 2. Advantage: Call of Duty

Online: Online play is, and if it isn’t should be, the main reason that one buys a shooter game. Call of Duty finally has guesting available online although it would be better still if it supported 3 guests instead of just 1. For the most part, the maps lack sightlines to the entirety of the map that once made camping extremely easy. This, as well as Killstreaks no longer adding to you old killstreaks, have added an increased element of mobility but there are between 3-7 points per map that can be, and are actively, camped because of flow of foot traffic, good cover etc. Conversely, Reach has no such problems. Each map has a unique aesthetic look and feel which keeps the game fresh even though there is a smaller map pool than Black Ops’. Combat is, for the first time in a while, not limited to one on one assault fire battles. With the new inclusion of armor abilities Reach players are able to use a jetpack, invisibility or sprint among other things. While the assault rifle is still the default gun the DMR and other weapons are scattered liberally around the map. Overall, Reach is the best online Halo experience ever, the same cannot be said for Black Ops. Advantage: Reach

Other elements: Both Reach and Black Ops include other game modes that one can play with friends. They’re both rather gimmicky games, but decent fun nonetheless. Black Ops brings the second incarnation of the Zombies game while Reach offers an updated Firefight experience. Firefight, true to the Halo feel, offers more mobility and the ability to upgrade guns easily by picking them up. Zombies once again confines the player to a house (or the Pentagon, if you beat the campaign). It uses the credit system in order to buy other guns and is harder than it was in World at War, but loses some of the novelty fun that was seen previously. Advantage: Reach

Which to Buy:
Get Reach. It has been fun consistently since it came out in September and Black Ops has become boring. Even the Wager Matches that Treyarch, Black Ops’ maker, promised would be groundbreaking fun underperformed. Reach is a stronger all around game and allows you to play with more friends at the same time. But, if you plan to not use the online feature, get Black Ops, as it offers a stronger, more detailed campaign experience. Grades: Reach: A- Black Ops: B

Classic Album: Your Favorite Weapon

Pop punk is a genre that has recently been written off as a genre for tweenage girls and eight-year-old males that don’t know any other kind of music. Recent pop punk records, such as Paramore’s Brand New Eyes, seem to prove the stereotype but there are always exceptions to the rule. One of these exceptions is Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon. Released in 2001 after a feud with vocalist Jesse Lacey’s former band Taking Back Sunday, Your Favorite Weapon is heavy and moody but is also light and fun. Quite simply, it is the perfect pop punk record.

People are quick to point out that pop punk is a genre where all the songs sound the same and allows very little room to sound different. Brand New break this rule too. Some songs- opener “The Shower Scene” and revenge fantasy “Seventy Times Seven”- come out with a very aggressive sound with drummer Bryan Lane backing it with best drumming of his career. These songs are heavy on snare rolls and complement Vin Accardi’s guitars very well. Even though none of the musicians are in the upper echelon of talent, even for the genre, the raw emotion that they give off is impressive. Accardi is even able to mix up guitar riffs from song to song, a feat that few pop punk guitarists are able to do. Lacey’s lyrics in these songs are very good, a highlight being ‘Seventy Times Seven’s bridge where he wails:
I’ve seen more spine on jellyfish/seen more guts in 11 year old kids/have another drink and drive yourself home/I hope there’s ice on all the roads

Lacey doesn’t have a chance to really showcase his lyrical talent until the slow songs though. These songs play in stark contrast to the upbeat environment of the other songs but they fit into the album so well and are so well written that it’s impossible to fault their being included. “Soco Amaretto Lime” is one of the best album closers as well as one of the best acoustic songs ever. The shouted refrain of “You’re just jealous ‘cause we’re young and in love” is haunting and also harkens back to other songs on the album. For every bit that the rest of the band shined in the rest of the songs, the slow songs were made to showcase Lacey. He is the only instrumentalist on 2 of the 3 songs and performs them so well that one wonders why he’s in a pop punk band at all, as he seems more suited for the indie genre.

This album is a creation of imperfect people and imperfect musicians creating a perfect album. It is because they acknowledge their imperfection and work around it that the album is so good. Because of their dedication- they don’t believe in filler- all of the songs stand on their own but also work together to form a very cohesive album. Clocking in at 41 minutes, it’s a relatively short album but the time is a result of the lack of filler tracks. It’s an album that has mainstream appeal but will also satisfy those that aren’t a fan of radio rock. Essentially, it is the best pop punk album ever and one of the best albums of the century. A

Tron: Legacy- Flashy Looks, Not Much Else

Tron: Legacy is a movie made for the sole purpose of making money off of people willing to pay the 3D price tag, which is about $4 more than one would normally pay. It’s a sequel to a movie that few people saw upon its release in 1982 and appeals to a completely different demographic, both of which are highly illogical marketing moves. The problem is compounded by the lifeless acting and ridiculous plot, which involves being trapped inside a computer.

Set in the impossibly technologically advanced 2009, Tron: Legacy is the story of Sam Flynn, son of Tron protagonist Kevin Flynn. Flynn the elder disappeared in 1989 and hasn’t been heard of since. One night, Sam is led back to his father’s office at the arcade, where he discovers a secret door that leads into a secret office his dad kept secret from him. Somehow, Sam gets transported into the computer and into the world of Tron. He is eventually reacquainted with his father and is tasked with getting him out of the computer in under 8 hours. Fans of the original Tron will be pleased by the disc battles and light cycle sequences, which are the best the film has to offer. Sadly, these scenes constitute roughly 5% of the film, leaving the rest of the time for plot resolution and an attempted romantic subplot that fails to gain traction.

As poor as the story is, the actors are even worse. Star Garrett Hedlund actually had me wondering if he was, in fact, Jake Lloyd, the much maligned star of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. His stale delivery and expressionless face convey less emotion than a SportsCenter anchor and he occasionally looks uncomfortable onscreen. Jeff Bridges does what he can to save the film but when pigeonholed into lines like, “CLU sent you that page! It was his plan the whole time!” and “You’re really throwing off my zen,” the latter being said during a crucial dramatic moment, there isn’t much he can do. Michael Sheen, as double crossing informant Zuse, is the only actor that isn’t robotic and looks like he’s having fun. Sadly he, like the light cycles, constitutes about 5% of the movie, a minor plot point in the convoluted jumble of Tron: Legacy.

Aside from the visuals, the only redeeming quality of Tron: Legacy is the soundtrack. Scored by French robots Daft Punk, who also make a cameo, it’s a highly entertaining romp that includes an 85 piece orchestra as well as classic Daft Punk electronica tracks. By all means, skip the film and get the music that accompanies it. It’ll cost less and it will give you far more entertainment than the movie itself. There is absolutely no reason to watch Tron: Legacy, not even 3D can cover up the fact that it’s a tough to follow, for those under the age of 9, complete mess of a movie. C-

‘24′ Could Not Have Been Any Better. Jack Bauer Plugs Dana In Cold Blood (05/03/2010)

Have I said before how bitter I am that ‘24′ is done at the end of this season?

Each week, I keep screaming about how much I love ‘24′ for how it isn’t afraid to kill,  and when you least expect it.

The final scene tonight was fantastic.  Dana, completely unarmed, asking Jack how she can help.  Jack says ‘You can’t', and he just shoots her, twice.  Jack is a man on a mission and with nothing to lose.  You could even say he is unhinged.  And I love every minute of it.

In the end, I think Chloe will save Jack.  I think that Chloe may have realized Jack was right all along once that Logan Lackey came in and starting bossing her around.

Can’t wait for next week!!!

Another Great Episode of ‘24′. Jack Bauer has Now Gone Rogue! (04/19/2010)

I really enjoyed tonight’s episode (April 19th, Season 8).  Tonight’s show focused much more on the psychological as opposed to non-stop shooting and action.  Wasn’t it great to see Logan back?  I thought he was dead from when his crazy wife stabbed him a few seasons back.  Maybe my memory was wrong, or he just recovered really well.  Either way, I welcome him and his intensity back.

Watching Jack knock Dana Walsh around was fantastic.  I am sure Cole would have liked to jump in the room and have his turn at smacking her around.  She is quite the important mole, and knows everything about everything.  I loved the scene where Logan got to President Taylor and eventually convinced her to go ahead with the peace treaty.  You would think that his political career is actually hanging in the balance over the treaty being signed.  Any ideas on who his source is?

What I really wanted to see, and knew I wouldn’t, was Jack giving President Taylor the smackdown when she demanded that Jack stand down from questioning Dana Walsh.  (As an added bonus, Taylor also demanded Jack be hauled off to Fort Whatever to be debriefed.)   He was standing and she was sitting, I would have just loved to see that hand of his go across her face.  Is the Peace Treaty really about her own ego?  It appears that way, especially given her conversation with Logan.  Can you also imagine how furious all the agents must be at CTU?   Their lives were all threatened by the car bomb, some agents were killed, and President Taylor would prefer if everyone just held hands and sing while she signs a Peace Treaty, instead of nabbing the people responsible for the attacks.

I really like that the show has now made me hate the President.  I just never know what to expect each week.  Again, still bitter Fox canceled the show.

7000 Copies of Australian Cookbook Destroyed and Reprinted Because Recipe Calls for ‘Freshly Ground Black People’

What a misprint!   Publisher Penguin Group Australia had to trash and reprint around 7000 copies of the cookbook titled ‘Pasta Bible’ after one of the recipes stated that  “salt and freshly ground black people” be added to the dish.   (We will assume that the recipe really needed freshly ground black pepper…)

I cannot imagine anything more monotonous than proofreading a cookbook.  Maybe somebody needs to invent some smarter software to catch errors like that, because spell check obviously didn’t.  Whoever did proofread that cookbook must feel like a complete idiot.

When I read that headline, I instantly thought of that Twilight Zone episode where the aliens have a book titled ‘To Serve Man’.  For those that do not remember the episode, a race of Aliens called Kanamits land on earth with promises to be good to humanity.   The Aliens do all kinds of great things for human kind – eliminate hunger, disease and more.  However, skeptical codebreakers get involved to translate one of the Alien’s books called ‘To Serve Man’, which seems like an innocent enough title.  However, after more translation, it is realized that the Alien book  is actually a cookbook, with humans as the main ingredient.

If you want to read the full story, click the following link: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/04/17/aussie-cookbook-recalled-recipe-includes-freshly-ground-black-people/?test=latestnews

Lunch Ladies Get Revenge and Only Serve Cheese Sandwiches! No Food Fight For You!

Ok, so this has nothing to do with entertainment.  But, I consider odd stories as entertainment, so I like to share those once in awhile.

I love this story.  So, in Atlantic City, NJ, the kids in the cafeteria had gotten in a food fight early in the week, somehow coordinated by cell phones.  The punishment?  Nope, not suspension or detention, but bad food!  Yes, the school’s policy is to adhere to only the very basic food requirements when there has been any throwing of food.  The result:  a menu of cheese sandwiches for two days that week.  Personally, I like a cheese sandwich, but one of the parents was whining about it calling the offering ‘Prison Food’  and was arguing with school officials.   The parent also ran into the cafeteria to grab one of those cheese sandwiches as evidence.  (I guess the hundreds of kids eating the sandwiches wasn’t enough proof.)

I would like to know how and when this ‘basic food’ policy was created.  Was there a big board meeting with an Agenda item of ‘Food Fights, how to Handle Flying Food’?  Was there a lot of debating and brainstorming?   You would think it might be more effective to make the offenders clean up the mess and also have to do some other kind of school service.  But, the  District’s Superintendent says this ‘bad food’ punishment has been very effective over the years.  Not to mention, I am sure the Lunch Ladies may enjoy the power they have on those days they are just slapping those cheese sammiches on a tray and laughing under their breath.

If you would like to read the full story, follow this link: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/article_a27fc050-48f3-11df-a883-001cc4c002e0.html

Larry King Getting Divorced For 8th Time – Classic!

Larry King baffles me in several ways.  Let me create a list:

  1. How is he still on the air?  He makes so many mistakes in his interviews.    Most people would be let go if they made all the on-air blunders that King has.  I always think back to when he interviewed Jerry Seinfeld and just made absolutely inane comments.  My favorite was when he alluded to Seinfeld that his show was canceled.  Seinfeld then responded ‘Do you even know who I am?’.    In my opinion, King should have been fired right then and there.  He is just completely out of touch anymore.  As a matter of fact, King’s lack of preparation is frequently made fun of on a radio station I listen to.   I love when they play snippets of King’s interviews from the night before, and King is just rambling about God knows what.
  2. How did King find 8 women to marry him?  Oh wait, I forgot, he is rich!
  3. TMZ is reporting that King is actually being accused of cheating on his wife, Shawn Southwick, and that is the reason for the divorce.  WHAT????  His wife is very young and attractive, and he has the energy to go have an affair?   He doesn’t seem to even have the energy or attention span to read IMDB before he interviews celebrities.  What makes it even better is that Southwick is accusing King of having the affair with HER sister.  Nice.

I guess cheating is the ‘in’ thing these days.  I wonder how long until King will be running to sex rehab??

Request for DNA by Prince Michael Malachi Jet Jackson Has Been Denied by Michael Jackson’s Estate. No Surprise There

Poor Prince Michael Malachi Jet Jackson.  The 25 year old man that claims to be yet another love child of Michael Jackson will not be getting his sampling of Jackson DNA to compare to his own, as the Michael Jackson estate has denied the DNA request.  (This according to TMZ.)  However, I have no idea if there is a ‘higher court’ that PMMJJ can appeal to.

I wonder if Jackson really believes he is Michael’s son?  If so, it would be very frustrating to never be able to actually prove it one way or the other.  He is not asking for any money from the estate, just a few cells.  However, if the estate actually went along with providing the DNA, it would open a giant can of worms.  Even more people would be crawling out of the woodwork requesting similar testing.  If he wants to be part of the family, he should just pack his bags and show up on Catherine’s doorstep.  It seems to be a free-for-all at her compound, maybe he can pal up with Omer Bhatti and just run all over town with Michael’s kids.  He could get some karate lessons, go to movies, have all kinds of fun.  As a matter of fact, maybe I will pack some bags myself…