The Raid 2: Berandal

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As previously mentioned, I have been very excited for the release of the sequel to the action film masterpiece The Raid Redemption.  This weekend, I saw The Raid 2: Berandal  and went to great lengths to make sure I would be able to.  The movie came out as limited release this weekend and would  be released in more theaters the following week.  However, my friends and I were so anxious to see this movie that we drove an hour to go to a theater that had it and we bought our tickets online to guarantee our seats (which turned out to be a brilliant idea because it was actually sold out).  The excitement in the theater was palpable as everybody sat in their seats waiting for the lights to dim and for the previews to end, signaling awesomeness was going to be witnessed.  I walked into that theater with ridiculously high expectations due to all the hype that surrounded this sequel, including that it was the next Terminator 2 of sequels, and if anything this movie was under-hyped.  It was that good.

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This movie picks up directly from where the last one left off, but this time Rama (the protagonist) gets involved in an undercover cop scheme to exploit the crimes of the mob bosses running Jakarta, Indonesia.  This scheme involves him going to jail and becoming friends with one of the bosses’ sons and ultimately joining the mob while maintaining his undercover identity.  However, things go sour due to miscommunication and suspicious activity from the cop who hired him for this job and from activities going on between the different mobs.  The Raid 2: Berandal had much more story and plot in comparison to the movie that preceded it and it was a wonderful change.  The first movie was very simple: cops fight their way up the tower and fight the mob boss.  This one has much more complicated story compared to the first movie but at the same time it wasn’t too overwhelming.

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This movie being an action/martial arts film, it is known that walking in there is going to be some level of violence.  However, this movie does have a lot of violence and some gore, so just as a warning for those who don’t like those types of movies.  First off, I would like to say that the cinematography of this film is much better than that of the first movie and is absolutely breath taking.  The more cinematic, landscape-type shots were very placid and calm in contrast to the more fast paced parts of the film.  The camera work for the fight scenes is mind blowing in how I still don’t understand how they were able to film everything so perfectly.  One scene had a car chase and a fight happening in one of the cars, and the way the camera weaves through the different parts of the car was so smoothly done.  In addition, their ability to capture the different angles of the hand to hand combat was beautiful.  The fight choreography was done in such a manner that the moves went together and flowed almost like a ballet, but more violent.

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I truly believe that this movie is revolutionary when it comes into terms of action films and the approach to how it is filmed.  It is a testament to how such a quality film can be made without a large budget or fancy, expensive special effects.  However, one thing that is disheartening is that American filmmakers want to make The Raid franchise but with American actors.  I believe that a film like this shouldn’t be remade to fit a more mainstream audience, it should just be remembered by how it is and how it was originally intended to be seen.  This movie will inspire aspiring directors and filmmakers and one day they will remix The Raid franchise into something new and different for the future generations.  I highly recommend this film to any action movie fan and especially if you are into martial arts/hand to hand combat.  You can count me in to watching this movie again in theaters when it is released to all theaters.  the-raid-2 review

 

1984 and the Dystopian Film

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I am currently reading the classic, 1984, by George Orwell and it got me thinking about other dystopian works.  I recently recalled watching Total Recall (the original with Arnold), no pun intended, and couldn’t help but thinking just how recently a lot of dystopian works have been released, both literary and cinematic.  In addition, it got me thinking about my favorite dystopian films and it is important to set the parameter as to what is considered a dystopian film.  I consider a dystopian work as one that shows a society set in the future marked by a controlling, oppressive power that results in poverty, pollution, violence, or corruption.

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Demolition Man

Demolition Man , starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, was made in 1993 and centers around the Los Angeles area in the year 2032.  Apparently after a massive earthquake in 2010, the city of Los Angeles and San Diego merged together to form San Angeles.  San Angeles is a place where it seems as though all crime has been eliminated due to very strict laws outlawing basically anything that could be considered immoral or dangerous.  The plot centers around a police officer, John Spartan (Stallone), and criminal, Phoenix (Snipes), who fight during the 1990’s.  After an incident that kills several civilians, they both get cryogenically frozen and are later thawed in 2032 after their sentence ends.  These two then must cope with the “utopian” future where any sort of vice is outlawed and everybody lives lives that seem to be eerily happy and content.  However, it is later revealed that they are restricted of many things and this new future has created an underground society that lives much like life before all of the advancements.  Spartan helps the San Angeles Police Department to catch Phoenix as the police department alone do not know how to deal with a criminal from the past, a seemingly alien world in comparison to their present.  This movie beautifully shows the effects of what seems to be a utopia can actually be quite the opposite.  The restrictions and laws passed in order to try and make the world a safer place end up putting the civilians in a place of ignorance, where they only know one way of life.  I recommend this movie for fans of action movies.

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Minority Report

Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, is set in the Washington DC area in the year 2052 and is directed by Steven Spielberg.  The society is full of technological advancements and in fact the police department is able to detect crimes before they even happen, known as PreCrime.  Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, is the Captain of this unit and he then becomes the victim of this very system one day.  The Department of Justice tries to outlaw this PreCrime unit from going nationwide and then it is predicted that John will murder someone in 3 days.  John tries to hide the case and flees because he believes that it is a set up from the Department of Justice. The PreCrime system is fueled by three psychics and it is explained that they all see different versions of the future but the one that is published for PreCrime is the version that is agreed on by two of the three.  The “Minority Report” is the version of the future only seen by one of the psychics and these are usually ignored and thrown away.  John kidnaps Agatha, one psychic that is more prone to seeing the Minority Report, and tries to hid from the massive manhunt trying to arrest him for a murder he hasn’t even committed yet.  The rest of the movie follows this plot line and explores the idea of free will and determinism.  This movie shows the flaws of a society that is too controlling and tries to streamline everything through technological advancements while exploring existential concepts.  The idea of a future of being accused of something that is in the future is scary because then it implies that there is no free will in the world.  This is an excellent movie and is highly recommended for sci-fi thriller movie fans.

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Total Recall

Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger tells the story of a Douglas Quaid, a construction worker from Earth,  in the year 2084.  The movie starts off with him waking from a dream he has where he is exploring Mars with a mysterious women that keeps appearing in all of his dreams.  He tells his wife that he wants to go and visit Mars, because at this point in the future Mars has been colonized.  Due to riots from rebels and inhabitants, his wife says that going to Mars on a vacation would be too dangerous.  Discouraged, Quaid goes to work and on his way learns of a company that can implant memories into your mind and it would feel as though you actually did whatever they implanted.  He decides to sign up for a trip to Mars as a secret agent but before the procedure can be done he starts to violently react and storms out of the laboratory.  He goes home and is then attacked and almost killed by his “wife” who turns out to be working for the governor Cohaagen.  He is then suddenly confused as to why everybody is trying to arrest and kill him.  However, he finds a video of himself directed toward himself where he is called Hauser.  Hauser tells Quaid to go to Mars and find the rebel leader Kuato.  The rest of the movie continuess Quaid’s journey to Mars to find Kuato while he struggles realizing whether he is in a dream or not.  The dystopia in this film could be both Earth and the colonized parts of Mars.  On Earth, the politicians are corrupt and seem to control every aspect of the peoples’ lives through surveillance and connections.   On Mars, the groups that are wealthy or that have political connections live fabulously and don’t have to worry about the things that the lower classes do.  The lower classes live in areas that aren’t completely blocked from the radiation due to malfunctional shields and they resort to more illegal economic activities for income.  Out of this anger and frustration for their living situation, some people formed rebel groups to take down the higher class that s solely concerned with mining operations.

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Dystopia’s remind us about the corruption that could arise from the depths of humanity and the consequences of such actions.  They can also be used to compare our current society with that portrayed in the works and just how eerily close we can get to the dystopia through only a few small steps.  When I watched I, Robot for the first time, this image that Sonny the Robot drew is what stood out to me the most.  Now, whenever I hear dystopia this is the image that pops up immediately in my mind.  I think it is because it consists of a large quantity of humanoid figures looking to a singular figure in the distance below a bridge out of hope.  They hope for a better future and are desperate, but nobody knows where that figure or bridge will take them.  Unfortunately, this desperation and longing for hope is what drives people to societies that often oppress them or take advantage of them.

Only God Forgives

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I have recently watched the film Only God Forgives thanks to the wonders of being able to stream Netflix.  If you are a fan of this blog you would know that the fact that this film features Ryan Gosling is pretty important.  This film was released last year and takes place in Bangkok, Thailand.  It is directed by the same director as Drive which is actually one of my favorite movies.  I stumbled upon this movie while browsing through Netflix and decided to watch it since it looked interesting, having a more indie movie kind of vibe to it.  Plus, the title interested me and the synopsis mentioned how it dealt with a brother trying to get revenge for his brother’s death….which actually turned out to be much more complicated and profound than that.

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Just a warning, this movie does tend to be on the slower side and doesn’t have much action.  Only God Forgives is supposed to be a more contemplative and reflective cinematic work.  From the opening scene, it is apparent that the cinematography is something that is other worldly.  I had never seen camera work and lighting like it before!  The shots were perfectly thought out and weren’t so much as just a way to tell a story, but they conveyed emotion and enhanced it.  Right off the bat, you could tell that it is going to be a serious movie as the camera pans down the lighted corridors of Muy Thai club run by the main character Julian, played by Gosling.  The premise of the story is that Julian’s brother, Billy, gets killed after a cop, Chang,  allows the father of a prostitute that Billy killed to ultimately beat Billy to death.  The rest of the movie is Julian and his mother’s struggle to exact revenge and determining the morality of it.  Despite how Julian doesn’t want to exact revenge because he feels it would be inhuman, his mother goes behind his back to try and gain vengeance on the father of the victim and Chang.  This very plot scheme is what is so central to both the movie and its title, Only God Forgives.

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Only God Forgives has a plot that goes to another level as far as symbolism when one takes into consideration the religious meaning behind the figures and events of the movie.  Just as a warning, I will reveal some plot details and there may possibly be some spoilers.  First, it is clear that Chang in this movie represents God as he is the character in this movie that exacts justice and grants mercy to those who deserve it.  People who interact with Chang see him not as if he is a normal person, one scene of the movie where Chang hunts down a “sinner” it seems as if he teleports and is omniscient.  In addition, to those he does grant mercy to he leaves them a way to always remember their sins, by cutting off one of their arms.  For example, Chang allows the victim’s father to kill Billy but Chang then questions why he forced his own daughter into prostitution.  He then cuts off the father’s arm as a permanent reminder of his sins as long as he is alive.  Chang’s crew of police officers that admire and follow him are his angels helping him bring justice to the lawless and the sinners.  The way Bangkok is portrayed by its dark and neon lighting is almost hellish (mostly red, orange, and yellow tones) with smoggy fumes, while when Chang is in his home the lighting is brighter and heavenly, suggesting its his Heaven.

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Whenever Chang brings justice through his sword, it is as if it appears from no where because it isn’t seen in any shots before at all.  In another scene, where Julian challenges Chang to a fight, Julian doesn’t land a single punch on Chang and Chang proceeds to horribly defeat him.  This suggests that when one fights God that there is no winning.

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In this movie, Julian plays the role of the common man and this will be explained further on.  I believe that Julian’s mother plays the role of the Devil in this clash of good against evil.  She is obsessed with trying to get revenge for the death of her son, but as soon as she appears in the movie it is clear that she isn’t a normal mother.  Her attitude and manner of carrying herself comes across as cruel and sinister.  She tells Julian to find the father that killed Billy and kill him.  When Julian does find the man, he realizes that he shouldn’t do this and realizes that he will live with the consequences seeing that his arm got cut off from Chang.  He sets the man go and grants him mercy.  His mother is furious that he did that and continues to egg him on to find and kill the man.  She results to tempting him to do so and by insulting his manhood.  It is clear that she is a dominant and demanding mother and that it affected Julian growing up.

Throughout the movie, it seems Julian has trouble interacting and talking with women and perhaps it was a result of his horrible childhood with his mother.  One also learns that his mother demanded him and forced him to kill his father which will play an important part at the end of the movie.  In the end, Chang ends up killing Julian’s mother’s henchmen and herself in order to end the attempts at revenge by her.  Throughout the movie, Julian has a recurring vision of his arms being chopped off by Chang and the movie ends with the two of them in a field and Chang chops off Julian’s hands.  This symbolizes how despite Julian being a sinner, much like humanity in general, Julian is able to feel the guilt and repent for his sins, not letting them become a part of himself.  With this final vision or scene of Chang and Julian, the cutting of Julian’s hands could be a symbol for a new beginning and letting go of his horrible past.  I would definitely recommend this film and despite its slow pace is an excellent film.  I found it especially interesting since at the time I was reading Heart of Darkness and how it has allusions to the story of Faust and Mephistopheles.

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Tarzan and The Heart of Darkness

Africa1910sSmall Right now I am currently reading The Heart of Darkness, and upon reading it I immediately grew my own personal connection to it.   However, this connection might be an odd one and not the most scholarly, because it is the Disney film Tarzan.  Since I was a kid, Tarzan has been one of, if not my favorite Disney (non-Pixar) film.  Not only does it remind me of my days at my dad’s movie theater, as I attended a ShoWest premiere in Las Vegas of Tarzan along with a concert afterwards by Phil Collins, but its a genuinely excellent film with a legendary soundtrack. Tarzan-1 As a kid, I remember owning this film on VHS and it brings back memories of sitting in front of the TV and watching it, then taking it out the VHS and rewinding it so I could watch it once again.  The opening scene always left me in awe with the shipwreck scene and the montage of Tarzan’s parents building their tree house all to the magical voice of Phil Collins in the song “Two Worlds”.  This memory was triggered while I was reading Marlow sailing along the African coast as he tries to go into the Congo River.  Besides the African setting, the imperialistic theme that goes on in Tarzan is also in The Heart of Darkness.  Both of these works deal with European conquest and imperialism, as in Tarzan it is the English that try to exploit the native species and land; in Heart of Darkness it is about the conquest of Africa by Europe in general.    tarzan-walt-disneys-tarzan-20329730-853-480 These two works also explore the concept of savagery and the idea of perception.  In The Heart of Darkness, there is the idea that the Europeans believe that the natives are so primitive that they are referred to as animals.  This is very similar to how Clayton views Tarzan, as nothing more than basically a gorilla and not the man that he is underneath.  So far I have only read the first third of The Heart of Darkness, but one scene in particular sticks out.  The scene where Marlow gives one of the natives a biscuit and perhaps this act of kindness with continue throughout the novel.  Hopefully the effects of imperialism will be revealed to the masses and the errors of their ways will self correct.  One must also remember that the book the movie Tarzan was based off of was a book that was much more similar to The Heart of Darkness.  Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was written in 1914 and focused much more on Africa as an untouched land that is then disturbed by civilized man.  This can be seen in how Tarzan and the natives are able to live in harmony with the jungle until the Europeans come and spoil it.

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Two Worlds one family!

A Review of The Lego Movie

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Hello everybody!  I recently have watched The Lego Movie and right off the bat I will say that it can be summed up pretty much in one word…awesome.  I seriously feel this is the best animated movie in the past year as I honestly can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in a movie theater.  And yes, I am saying it is better than Frozen but do keep in mind they are different types of movies.  I was compelled to watch this movie as soon as I heard about it being made because as a kid my childhood was dominated by piecing together Legos endlessly.  My whole room was consumed by different Lego sets and the makers of this movie have a crystal clear understanding of their fan base.  Right off the bat I will start by saying the animation and visuals of this movie are stunning.  I was mindblown by how literally everysingle thing in the movie looks as if it was entirely created by Legos and its supposed to.  Heck, the explosions and other visual effects look as though they were made of Legos.  The filmmakers understand that this movie is for both younger and older audiences as they know that their product has entertained plenty of generations of people.  These two concepts are what made me extremely interested in this movie and then once I learned of the cast I instantly had to drop everything I was doing the day came out and go to the theaters.  The cast consists of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, and has a host of cameos from different celebrities like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.  I mean, you can’t ever go wrong by having Morgan Freeman say words in any given movie right?  I absolutely love and Charlie Day was in this movie though because I am a huge fan of his from the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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The idea of using a tool of imagination, the Lego brick, and using it as the building block  (no pun intended) for a film was genius.  Due to the vast number of sets and characters in the Lego Universe, it made it open to pretty much anything is in the realm of possibility.  The movie plot consists of Lord Business (Will Ferrell) obtaining a super weapon to rule the Lego Universe and Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman) must help the Chosen One in the prophecy to save the world.  The Chosen One just so happens to be Emmett (Chris Pratt) who is just an ordinary Lego man who follows the instructions.  The integration of all the different universes and characters is just masterful.  I found this movie to be ridiculously funny.  The packed theater was almost laughing throughout the entire movie.  Kids will enjoy this movie for purely the entertainment aspect of an animated film and they will also get the jokes aimed towards younger audiences.  However, I feel as though older audiences will find the movie funnier than the younger ones.  There are so many witty and funny references to other movies and things that I couldn’t help but laugh at them.  The jokes are all delivered at perfect times and the whole experience was just a hoot.  My favorite character was Spaceship Benny (Charlie Day) and if you go see the movie you will see why.  Spaceship!  My girlfriend didn’t want to go see this movie with my friends and I because she felt it was going to be a stupid movie.  She was a skeptic.  However, she walked out of that movie absolutely loving the movie and apologized she didn’t give it a chance at first.  She was laughing the entire time and thought the movie was really cute as her favorite character was Unikitty.

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Batman and Spaceship Benny

I really recommend going to go see this movie, drop everything you are doing and just go.  Go!  This movie is that good, seriously.  I know the hype is all about how Frozen is so good and all but this movie is something to get hyped about.  It is what a comedy movie experience should be like, full of laughter and good times.  Plus, the take away message from this film is one that is very important and meaningful.  It teaches people to not live by the “instructions” in life and to ultimately follow one’s own path and to create something entirely new.  I feel like individuality and freedom is something not entirely stressed in today’s society or school systems.  It is important to have people feel as though they have a voice, an opinion, and the ability to create for themselves.  This movie also brought me back to my childhood and has resparked my love for Legos.  In fact, after seeing this movie my girlfriend went to go buy me a Lego Architecture set of the Seattle Space Needle as a surprise.  If you have nothing to do or want to go see a movie, go see The Lego Movie.

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The Seattle Space Needle in Lego form build by Yours Truly

ABA Basketball Launches

The first game of ABA Basketball launched last weekend at Moiola Elementary and I would say it was quite a success.  This whole project stemmed from an idea I had regarding how many kids tried out for my high school basketball team and were turned away from the sport just because they didn’t make the team.  I though creating a place where these kids can continue playing basketball on a competitive level was important for not only themselves but for the sport of basketball.  This idea was also partially inspired by what Kevin Durant did during the time the NBA had a lockout about two years ago, his Basketball Never Stops Campaign, where he continued to play in neighborhoods and gyms around the nation to continue on the game of basketball despite that the NBA season was locked out partially.

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I, along with other friends of mine, decided to make a Facebook page to promote our event and to encourage people to sign up and this is the link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ABA-Recreational-Basketball-League/1425252317705182 .  We also have an Instagram @ABABasketball.  Our logo is inspired by that of the original ABA where, as previously mentioned, was a very influential in the naming process as the old ABA League was a place of fun and playing basketball for the sake of loving the sport.

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Our page includes the game schedules, updates on events, and it was a medium for us to contact the players and also to get people interested in playing to sign up.  The sign up form was basically a Google Form that team captains or people wanting to sign up could fill out and join the league.aba sign up

Honestly, getting teams to be assembled and getting players to join the league was our primary struggle as people felt as if playing in a fixed league might compromise other engagements they have or might impact with their normal schedule.  However, eventually we were able to get several teams to sign up and we actually had our first game last weekend.

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These are some pictures of the players getting warmed up, stretching, and shooting around prior to the game’s tipoff. Here are highlights from the game:

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In the future, we intend to carry out the games and maybe try to expand to other sports as well or continue on the basketball league.  However, if I was to do this project again, looking back I would have probably started earlier and done more with advertising the league so that it would have been easier to get more people to sign up.

The Evolution of Rap Part 2

 

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In the last post of this series we discussed the evolution of the rap from the 1980’s to the first part of the 1990’s.  This period was widely known for the subgenre of hip-hop/rap called gangsta rap, which talked about the struggles of the inner city and was much harder than previous styles.  We talked about the works and influence of artists like N.W.A., Dr. Dre, and the Wu-Tang Clan.  This post will be dedicated to two of the rap giants during the 1990’s, 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G, while exploring the West vs. East rivalry.  tupac-shakur-07

Tupac Amaru Shakur often heralded as one, if not the greatest rapper of all time, rose to fame during the early 1990’s .  His first album, 2Pacalylpse Now discussed the struggles of growing up, racism, police brutality, and urban life.  This set the precedent for much of 2Pac’s subject matter for his career as he would speak on the harsh reality of the inner city and how things must change.  The political voice associated with 2Pac’s works are reminiscent of those who came before him like Public Enemy.  His second album though would be his breakout album as it got him national atention within the rap industry with songs like I Get A Round and Keep Ya Head Up.  Keep Ya Head Up is definitely the more touching of the two as it speaks about how in recent years and in the rap game women have been pushed down.  He gives insight into his childhood and what he saw growing up.  More of his social commentary could be seen in the song dedicated to his mother on his third album, Me Against the World.  The song Dear Mama talks about and is a heartfelt homage to his mother who worked so hard to try and raise him in a world of turmoil.  This is considered one of his greatest songs and is even a work collected in the Library of Congress.

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2Pac’s fourth album was All Eyez On Me and is considered his greatest production due to the medley of rap hits it gave like How Do You Want It and the famous California Love.  This album was released in 1996 after he had joined Death Row Records with a bunch of other prominent West Coast rappers in 1995.  This album would be one of the most influential rap albums of all time as it would inspire the next generation of artists that would come up in the 2000’s.  His last album, The 7 Day Theory, was made in a relatively short time and would have massive success but unfortunately he didn’t live long enough to see it for himself.  On September 7, 1996, Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight as he was the victim of a shooting while he was in the passenger seat with his friend Suge Knight.  On September 13th, 1996, he had died in the intensive care unit of internal bleeding from the gunshot wounds.  Tupac Shakur is remembered as being one of the greatest artists of all time as he rapped about the struggles of life and the tragedies of the human condition.  He also helped to bring rap and hip-hop to the mainstream public which made it more of an acceptable art form for young artists to express themselves.

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The second rap giant that dominated the 1990’s was Christopher Wallace or better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls.  Biggie grew up in New York City and helped to bring back rap music from the East Coast as previously the rap game was dominated by West Coast artists.  He started rapping as a teenager on the streets of Brooklyn and one day he was heard by Sean Combs (now better known as P. Diddy) of Uptown Records.  However, Combs would be fired from his position at Uptown and decided to start his own label called Bad Boy Records.  He continued to get exposure from releasing remixes of popular songs until he was able to release his first studio album, Ready To Die, in 1994.  He broke out as an artist with the song Juicy which had pop-like vocals and the album also had the synth heavy Big Poppa.  Juicy told the story of him trying to make it as an artist and the struggle of growing up in Brooklyn as well as trying to adjust to his new lifestyle. It got strong, positive reviews and brought attention back to the East Coast.

Unfortunately, Biggie and 2Pac would be involved in a long lasting feud that started from a misunderstanding in 1994.  2Pac was shot and mugged while in Quad Studios.  He would accuse Sean Combs and Biggie of being involved in setting it up despite them claiming to not being involved.  This misunderstanding started the intense rivalry between the two artists and the two coasts of the nation.  It was all about the West versus the East.  Death Row Records was very vocal about how they felt about Bad Boy Records.  The rivalry between the two record labels pushed their respective artists to make better music and it also spurred their fan bases to support.  However with the shooting of Tupac 1996, it came to a realization that it had gone to far as Death Row was blaming the East for the incident.  Biggie was very open about how Tupac’s loss was a tragedy and remembered the times when they were friends before the 1994 incident.  However, Biggie while visiting California to support his new album Life After Death was murdered on March 9, 1997.  The murders of Tupac and Biggie are still unsolved and there is still controversy about what just might have happened.  Christopher Wallace is considered one of the greatest rappers ever and will forever be known as the King of New York as far as rap.

 

The Evolution of Rap Part 1.5

If you haven’t read The Evolution of Rap Part I, it basically describes the origins of rap up until the late 1980’s where rap became more politically charged with groups like Public Enemy.  Much of rap from where we left off in the last post is rap going into two directions, one a new subgenere of gangsta rap and two rap begins its journey to making it to the mainstream audiences.  The subject matter of rap also starts to shift over to the struggles of living in the inner city.  I have decided to split up this time period into two separate post due to how I realized just how much this period covers as far as rap.

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The first group that will be discussed that follows under the gangsta rap genre is N.W.A. consisting mainly of Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and for a while in the beginning Arabian Price.  However, the first five in that list are the most popular and synonymous known for being in N.W.A.  The music of N.W.A. was heavy on verses, as is typical with rap groups, as usually every member contributes to the song.  This group started and was based in the city of Compton, California helping to get the West Coast rap game started and strong.  Their debut album called Straight out of Compton released in 1988 featured some of their most popular songs like Straight out of Compton, **** tha Police, and Express Yourself.  In Straight out of Compton, they not only introduce themselves to their audience in a dynamic, rhyme spitting way but they talk about their own struggles growing up, which will become a popular subject in verses to come.  Their most controversial track, **** tha Police, they discuss police brutality, discrimination of minorities, and racial profiling by authorities.  This was in response to claims of police brutality by LAPD of minorities which would later come to national attention with the beating of Rodney King in 1991.  N.W.A.’s controversial status to mainstream America stemmed from their use of profanity and due to the fact that they talked about violent subjects based on what was going on in the inner city or from what was going on at the time.
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Arguably N.W.A.’s most successful member, Dr. Dre started his solo career in 1991 after leaving N.W.A. and helped to find Death Row Records which would be a major player of rap during the 90’s.  Death Row records was created by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, helping to find talents like Snoop Dogg and 2Pac.  Dr. Dre on his first debut The Chronic featured Snoop Dogg on the track Nothing but a G Thang and Dre later helped to produce his first album.  Death Row records was a major player in gangsta rap and the whole West Coast versus East Coast dispute that will later be discussed.  However, now we will shift over to the birth place of rap, the East Coast.
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One of the most prominent rap groups on the East Coast was the famous Wu-Tang Clan founded in 1992.  It was composed of RZA, GZA, U-God, Method Man, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and unofficially Cappadonna.  They were from New York and were heavily influenced by martial arts movies on their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), influenced by the movie Return to the 36 Chambers.  Wu-Tang Clan’s first album featured hit songs like C.R.E.A.M., Bring Da Ruckus, and Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin ta **** Wit.  Their masterful blend of instrumentals, martial art sound samples, and thier hard hitting verses captivated the rap scene.  Up until this point, rap was dominated by the West with artists like Ice Cube, N.W.A., and Snoop Dogg.  This landmark album helped to shift the attention from the West to the East for a while as they continued to dominate.  They would later on create Wu-Tang Forever which was their second albm in 1997.

“You had me at hello”

Hello everyone!  It is February now which means that one thing in particular is approaching quickly, Valentine’s Day.  Yes, the day where people are either elated with the fact that they are spending it with their special someone, or people are jealous/sick of the happy people.  I recently read a poem called A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy, and it is about how some men take down and constrain women through the norms of society.  It also suggests that some men do nice things expecting nice things in return, but I am here to say that love isn’t really about that.  Love isn’t about receiving, it’s about giving for the sake of that special person.

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Now with it being Valentine’s Day pretty darn soon, I have decided to compile my favorite movies about romantic love, whether it be a romantic or romantic comedy.  I am the type of guy that lives and breathes action films, especially those from the 80’s.  I mean, I have my autographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford up in my room, and I don’t know how many times I have seen Rambo: First Blood.  However, I do have a soft spot for romantic comedies and romantic films.  Here is my compilation of my favorite romantic/romantic comedies that I have seen so far:

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The Notebook

I have decided to start off with my favorite “chick flick” of all time.  No joke, I have probably seen this movie more than my girlfriend.  In fact, she gave me the DVD  to me as a part of my Christmas present because she was surprised I didn’t have it.  I love this movie.  I love this movie for a combination of things: Ryan Gosling, the story, the setting, and the dialogue from the movie.  Ryan Gosling is one of my favorite actors for movies like Drive, Gangster Squad, and this movie.  I first saw this movie because my girlfriend wanted to watch it when we first started dating around two and a half years ago.  Ever since, I have seen this film quite often because not only is it frequently on TV but because it is a top notch film.  The chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling is so phenomenal and believable.  The romantic mood and tone of this movie is only supported by the landscape and scenery of North Carolina’s marshes.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, it is one of those movies where there is one outer storyline and within that storyline another story is being told, in this case through a notebook.  The movie is about an elderly man, Noah, who is at a retirement home and wakes up everyday to tell his wife with dementia, Allie, a story.  He tells her the story of their love but everyday she forgets who he is or who the story pertains too.  While reading the story, Noah doesn’t tell her they are the people in it and he hopes one day she will remember on her own.  Now, the story of their love begins in their teenage years where young Noah, played by Gosling, tries to ask out a young Allie, played by McAdams.  From there, the story continues on to cover their teenage love until problems arrive between the two with parents and their personal lives.  To not ruin the story, I will just say that they get reunited and the movie continues on from there.  And yes, there is the scene where they argue about writing to each other and its raining.

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Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire is the movie with the famous quote, “You had me at hello.” This movie is great and one of Tom Cruise’s best performances.  This movie has an A list of actors including Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr, and everyone’s favorite child actor Jonathan Lipnicki (the kid from Little Vampire and Stuart Little).  One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the humor in the movie provided by Lipnicki as the cute little kid and Cuba Gooding Jr.  The plotline follows a young, ambitious sports agent named Jerry Maguire, played by Cruise, obsessed with his job who eventually realizes that his firm is doing it wrong by being obsessed with the money and not the personal care of their clients.  Thus, he sends a memo to everyone with his own mission statement for the firm and basically gets fired for trying to change things for the better.  One of his coworkers also decides to leave, and she does it because she loves the message he is trying to promote.  She is a single mother, played by Zellweger, with a child, Lipnicki, who struggles on whether she should be involved with Jerry.   Jerry on the other hand, also doesn’t know whether he should be involved intimately and work with this women as he hates being alone but realizes she is special.  The movie tracks his struggles to balance work with his lone client (Gooding Jr.), his love for her, and his own personal emotions.  The ending of this movie is quite emotional and climactic that is perfectly wraps up the whole movie.

 

 

 

The Evolution of Rap Part 1

I have previously written about how I feel rap is the perfect example of the concept of remixing, taking existing material and using it to create something else.  With the upsets that happened in the Rap categories in the Grammy’s, I have decided to dedicate a series of posts to the evolution of rap and its current state.  This series will consist of three blog posts going from the origins/early days of rap, the introduction of rap to the mainstream, and where rap is today.  Like every form of art, rap’s role in society and its subject matter has changed over the years and gone through different stages along with its contemporary society.

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The origins of rap come from hip-hop which began its inception during the 1970’s in New York as people experimented with both technology and new styles.  The basis of hip-hop came from samples from soul, funk, and disco music as DJ’s began to use the percussive beats from songs and looping them with new sound systems, like turntables.  MC’s, or emcees, would incorporate rhythmic vocals much like spoken poetry  along with the beats and eventually rhymes were added in an effort to differentiate from other people.  Different styles and delivery methods developed as people would gather around in blocks and rap aloud to each other.  The first hip-hop recording would come in 1979 from The Sugar Hill Gang using the beat from Chic.’s Good Times in the hip-hop classic Rapper’s Delight.  The 1980’s wouldn’t just bring a new wave of music across America, but it would also introduce new elements to hip-hop/rap and bringing it more to the public eye.

 

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The early 1980’s brought a new wave of elements like electronic sounds and more effects to recordings of hip-hop/rap.  Lyrics were full of boasting about how great one was at spitting rhymes and it also became a new medium for expression for many artists.  Artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow early on started to use these new sounds and styles to enhance their records.  New recording and sampling technology would help artists create their records and add piece together everything more efficiently than before.  With these devices becoming more accessible, many groups emerged to try and make it big and in reality few did, this can be seen in the success of the group Run-DMC.  This group formed in Queens, New York in 1981, becoming of the most influential groups in history as they would influence all other acts to come.  They also demonstrated the importance of a healthy relationship between MC’s and DJ’s, helping each other to create the best work possible.  One of the group’s greatest records was the perfect blend between rock and rap as they sampled Aerosmith’s Walk This Way to create their own version of the song.  This song really represented what rap was about at the time, it was mainly seen as music for African Americans, and creating a song with Aerosmith, mainly popular with White America, would bring rap more to public eye as more than just music popular in the African American community.

The success of Run-DMC would give them the first Grammy nomination every by a rap group and would influence other artists like LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys.  Before becoming an actor in detective shows, LL Cool J used to be the quintessential suave ladies man of hip-hop during the 1980’s, in fact his name stands for Ladies Love Cool James.  When most people think of LL Cool J they think of muscles and a boom box, and LL Cool J got his start in the mid 80’s and would later make one of his most iconic songs in the 1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out.  On the other hand, The Beastie Boys formed in the early 80’s as a punk rock group but later influenced by rappers at the time decided to rap while using rock beats and samples.  They found success in across the demographics of those who enjoy rock and those who enjoyed rap with their debut album Licensed to Ill.  This album would give them some of their greatest singles like No Sleep Til BrooklynFight for your Right, and Brass Monkey.

 This kind of rap would eventually give rise to a new stage or genre of rap, a kind that was more politically active, with groups like Public Enemy.  Public Enemy is most famous for, aside from their hype man Flava Flav, their politically charged and influenced music which was a response for their feeling of oppression and misrepresentation of minorities in urban areas.  Songs like Fight the Power and Can’t Truss It were songs against the Man and to bring the struggles of minorities to the forefront.  These songs would have a huge influence over rap for decades to come as it would inspire rappers to talk about the struggles of the streets and inner city life.  It would have direct influence over groups like N.W.A. and other groups which would define the next era of rap that would go through the 1990’s, Gangsta Rap.  

Yeaaa Boyyyy!

Yeaaa Boyyyy!

-Carlos