VMA 2016

  • Christopher M. Enis
  • I ain’t gonna lie, I’m hoping DNCE’s Cake By The Ocean is played at least twice during the VMAs.
  • The VMAs have a White Carpet (I don’t know what happened to the Red Carpet, maybe they ditched it because it tends to draw folks like Ryan Seacrest, John Legend and Crissy Teigen to it like buzzards to a Wildebeest carcass)vma
  • Oh sweet Jesus, DJ Khalid, who next quiet moment of reflection will be his first, is one of the pre-show hosts. I’m already second guessing watching this.
  • Alessia Cara? I wonder if she’s related to Irene Cara (no she isnt)?  I don’t know who this skinny white boi waif is she brought out to sing the hook (Troye Sivan), but he’s wearing platforms that my 5 foot 3 step dad would have shanked him for back in 1979.
  • Cara, a Italian-Canadian and hook boi Troye, a South African-Australian are singing a song called Wild, that, I’m told, is R&B. Show me the receipts! I demand a second opinion.
  • Chance The Rapper, I love that brother. I’m checking his gear and it looks like he should have been on Sesame Street with that big ass 3 on his cap and those Earthtone overalls on.
  • 2 Chainz looking like he a warrior in the Gucci Tribe sponsored by Timbaland Boots
  • Beyonce strangled a Emu and threw it on her neck. I ain’t mad, that Emu may be, but I aint.
  • Kent Jones wearing a big ass hot coat with a hoodie.
  • Kent Jones was nominated for Song Of The Summer. I can’t with these VMA category names, having said that, I know that Cake By The Ocean came out around MLK Day or something but it should be the Song Of The Summer.
  • Tinashe.  Say her name out loud. Then say it soft. vma 3
  • Ariana Grande brought out the My Little Pony Tail with the frosted tips out tonight. Swing it girl.
  • Gaby Wilson is a MTV News Correspondent, like MTV does actual news.
  • VMA Pre-Show co-host Charlemagne Tha God’s name always gives me 9th Grade World History flashbacks.
  • Nick Jonas discusses his hit song, Bacon. DJ Khalid asks for confirmation about the song title and the smile on his face probably makes the Silk Almond Milk (who he does commercials for) people very nervous
  • Halsey is wearing a jumpsuit that is almost so sheer that you can tell she didn’t have enough money in the budget for a Brazilian Wax.
  • I feel so old and like the dirtiest of Dirty Old Men whenever Fifth Harmony shows up. Oh, they looked good in matching black.
  • Jidenna aka Bird from The Midnight Falcons, Jr. (look up Five Heartbeats characters, kids) is singing.  I was hoping he would perform his track Chief Don’t Run (nice follow up to his Classic Man song) but instead he sings something called A Little Bit more, a song that sounds like Flo Rida and Pitbull had a baby.  Jidenna complete the image by dressing in a breezy knee short outfit that would see your cool old Uncle wearing at the cook out because his usual J. Anthony Brown is way too hot for this humidity.
  • Speaking of J. Anthony Brown suits, this dude named Desiigner (that’s not a typo, that’s how he spells his name) is wearing a salmon colored suit, with no shirt on underneath.  This would be distracting enough if it wasn’t for the jaw dropping sound of his voice.  He sounds like he bought a 2nd hand Auto Tune from T-Pain and accidentally dropped it in a bucket of Tartar Sauce and said “Fuck it”.  His hit song is called Panda. I’m sure he could scare a panda into impotency with that voice.vma 2
  • P Diddy is here, I don’t feel like the oldest person watching this anymore
  • Someone named Myke and Steak are talking.  Steak is the girl.
  • Turns out that Myke, Girl Steak and VMAs Pre Show Co-Host Lizzo (these damn names!) are all part of some new show on MTV called Wonderland, yeah, like I’m setting that up in the DVR to record. Don’t bother looking them up, all Google got is listings for Steak Houses and Lizzo’s video for her song Good As Hell (which isn’t bad! It’s on that #BlackGirlMagic tip so no one under 40 will get it).
  • DNCE is here! Please sing Cake By The Ocean! Cake By The Ocean! Cake By The Ocean!
  • They didn’t sing Cake By The Ocean. Bummer that.
  • The lead singer of DNCE is Joe Jonas. His brother is Bacon singing Nick. They have the songs about food on lock at the VMAs
  • Ty Dolla $ign (Why does he call himself that and have the dollar sign symbol in his name as well…and a Dolla Sign tattoo on his neck, Jesus? I have so many questions!)
  • Ty Dolla $ign’s redhaired dread look reminds me of former Essence Magazine editor Susan Taylor. Serious forehead action going on.
  •  Zara Larsson looks nice in a black elf gown. Zara (and Lizzo) is from Minneapolis (RIP Prince). I have no idea who Zara Larsson is.
  • The Chainsmokers have the number 1 song in the country with Closer. Charlemagne makes a Surgeon General joke. I laughed because I enjoy the occasional corny joke.
  • Jidenna is back wearing a menthol looking man Kimono (it looks better than my description…kinda.)
  • Lukas Graham is singing his nominated song “Mama Said”.  I bet Mama never said for him to wear a sweatsuit jacket zipped up to the neck.
  • Mama Said sounds like a James Blunt/Ska/Motown Light mashup. (it sounds better than my description…kinda)
  • Welp, that’s a wrap from the VMAs White Carpet. Y’all excuse me, all this talk about steak, bacon and ocean cake has made my blood sugar rise dangerously high.

He SAID: Give ’em Hell

Scott F. Evans

It has been a rather bleak summer for movies in 2016, filled with expendable remakes and banal sequels. As a matter of fact, most of the better films of the season have actually been smaller, original pieces. One of the best might just be Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie, with a script by Taylor Sheridan. It’s a terrific little crime film layered over a character study and social commentary. If that’s not enough, it’s also a modern day Western.hell or high water 2

In a nutshell, Hell or High Water is the story of two brothers who rob banks across West Texas, while on the run from a pair of Texas Rangers. On the surface it’s a fairly simple story, but once you begin to peel away the layers, the film becomes considerably more complex. It’s not some high-octane thriller, nor is it completely plot driven. The film succeeds at both, and presents some stunning character work by the entire cast. Mackenzie offers solid but unobtrusive direction. He and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens shoot beautiful vistas that pay homage to John Ford, while presenting the moral and literal bankruptcy of the New West.

Sheridan’s screenplay is what really drives Hell or High Water. The plot teeters right at the edge of convolution, but the characters are interesting enough to keep the audience engaged and willing to go along for the ride. Sheridan includes some witty wordplay that is unquestionably offensive, but perfectly suited to the the nature of the characters.

Hell or High Water is also an actor’s piece. The cast provides the final element that makes this film work so well. Chris Pine does some of the best work of his career as Toby Howard, the younger of the two brothers. He anchors the film with a somber, thoughtful performance. Ben Foster is the elder Tanner Howard. Foster exercises precise restraint to keep from coming completely unhinged and falling into shtick.

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Jeff Bridges nearly resurrects Rooster Cogburn  (True Grit) as the aging Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton. Although Hamilton is a collection of clichés, Bridges elevates the character to keep him from becoming just another trope. Rounding out the cast is Gil Birmingham as Hamilton’s long suffering partner Alberto Parker. He and Bridges get some of the best lines in the film.

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Hell or High Water is definitely worth a watch on the big screen. At just over 90 minutes, it delivers more story and character than films with twice the run-time and ten times the budget.

RATING: Theater

He SAID: The Stranger Things

Christopher M. Enis

In 1983, in the small town of Hawkins Indiana, 12-year old Will Byers disappeared. With no suspect, no evidence, and no answers… the only hope of finding him might lie with his rag-tag group of friends, and their unquestionable faith in the supernatural.

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So sets the stage for what might be one of the best binge-watching opportunities on Netflix. Stranger Things pays perfect homage to 80’s Pop Culture with references that transcend generations. For those of us older than the average Millennial, there are obvious parallels between iconic 80’s stories from Stephen King, Steven Speilberg and John Carpenter. The show even stars 80’s darlings Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, who – in this story – are all grown up and basically getting in the way of progress, much like their adult counterparts back in the day.

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There may be no pair better suited to bring us this nostalgic mashup than the twin Duffer brothers. 80’s babies  Matt and Ross said hello to the world in 1984, and have managed to create a time capsule with a story that transcends space and time. That may be even more appropriate, considering the multi-dimensional story-line in this series. There are Dungeons & Dragons (duh! 80’s), big bad government conspiracies, and frantic adults who do more harm than good in the search for a 12 year old boy who has  disappeared without nearly a trace.

The Duffer Brothers are not just good  at capturing the feel and the look of the era, they also take the best parts of the stories from that time and meld them into a cohesive plot that really works.  It’s not even a stretch to say that Stranger Things surpasses 2011’s Super 8, a similar homage sci-fi film produced by Steven Spielberg.

Now that should tell you something.

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The script is excellent and the story is compelling, but – much like 80’s movies – it’s the kids that really make this show work. The young actors are perfectly cast to bring this story to life, and stand out as the driving force. All of the children are excellent, but the real stars are Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven). Matarazzo’s character is missing his front teeth, because of a condition called Cranial Displasia. The actor himself actually has the condition, and he nailed the performance so well in auditions that the writers decided to include it in the script. And Brown is such a standout as Eleven, that I’d be surprised if she’s not considered for an Emmy for this performance. Equal parts mysterious and bursting with childlike innocence, Eleven is the key to solving the mystery of little Will Byers and exposing a world that only the kids and the shadiest adults know exist.

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This show is so good that it has already been greenlit for Season 2, and it will continue along the same story-line. There are some well-deserved criticisms about parts of the show that feel rushed or are neatly resolved, particularly towards the end of the season. But overall Stranger Things is well done and well deserving of cult status, and many more seasons to come.

RATING: Binge

We SAID: Skin & Sea Buckthorn

Staff Writer

Sea Buckthorn may be among the most un-celebrated skin care gems around. While many brands are touting the effects of some rare plant or weed that no one has ever heard of, Sea Buckthorn has been quietly soothing irritated skin, calming acne and healing dry and cracked skin for less than the cost of your average over-the-counter face cream.

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The leaves, flowers, and even the fruit can be used. Chock full of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, and a ton of antioxidants, some practitioners even use  it to treat arthritis, improve blood pressure, and control blood pressure diseases.

Some skin care manufacturers have wised up about this fairly inexpensive but highly effective plant; Fresh might be the most poplar with its Sea Berry Face Oil. Be prepared to pay for it though. Three fairly inexpensive oils make up the formula, but that didn’t stop Fresh from packing it into a dropper bosea buckthornttle containing less than 2oz of product an charging $52 for it.

The purest concentration may come courtesy of Russian brand Natura Siberica. Made of 100% Organic Sea Buckthorn, the multi-purpose oil can be used on scalp and skin from head to toe… at half the price to boot. Be warned: because of the concentrated nature, the oil is a dark orange and will tint anything it touches. It can easily be washed away with a mild cleanser and warm water, but if you’re not a fan of orange skin you might want to dilute it before use. The oil’s ‘dry’ nature means it can be mixed with a number of products, including foundations and serums. If you’re marginally schooled on color theory, you can even ‘warm’ an ashy product with a few drops.

If you’re impressed with Sea Buckthorn, you should be. The fruit can even be used to make jellies, juices, purees, and sauces. Ingesting it will reportedly help with digestive issues, internal inflammation and chronic joint pain. Talk about feeling good from the inside out… whether you take it in or slap it on, Sea Buckthorn is a valuable addition to just about any lifestyle.

He SAID: Stroking Seth’s Sausage

Scott F. Evans

If you are easily offended by, well, anything, Sausage Party probably isn’t the movie for you. The R- rated, 3D animated film is equal parts racist, sexist, violent and juvenile. It’s also thought provoking and keenly hilarious. The film’s main cast are all anthropomorphic food items so it also works as an adults-only spoof of Pixar movies.

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Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, Sausage Party looks and sounds almost exactly like a big budget Pixar or Dreamworks animated film, even down to the celebrity voice work. But that’s where the similarities end because from practically the opening frame, this cartoon is not for kids. The screenwriting team of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Ariel Shaffir and Kyle Hunter pen a script that’s both a nonstop smorgasbord of sex and drugs gags and a sharp critique of modern organized religion. It cynically skewers our various faiths and examines how these philosophies only serve to divide and limit us as a species.

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The cast boasts almost every A-List comic actor working today and every one of them turn in top notch, if typical, work. Rogen and Kristin Wiig voice the lead characters Frank, a hot dog (get it?) and Brenda, a bun. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera play Frank’s hot dog buddies Barry and Carl. James Franco cameos as a human junkie experimenting with bath salts. Ed Norton, does a spot on Woody Allen impersonation as a bagel named Sammy. Craig Robinson plays a box of grits named, you guessed it, Mr. Grits and Bill Hader voices a bottle of liquor called Firewater. And yes, he gives the bottle a stereotypical Indian speech pattern. Like I said, this thing is aggressively un-pc.

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I’ll keep this review short. While I recommend seeing it (even if you decide to wait for the home video release), this movie is definitely not for everyone. You have to be both thick-skinned and tolerant to really get into Sausage Party. And while the message it’s trying impart has merit, it can also be a tough sit for the sensitive.

RATING: Theater

He SAID: DC Commits Suicide

Scott F. Evans

David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is the second Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment release this year, following the March theatrical release of Batman V Superman. And just like that film, Suicide Squad is a mess.

Ayer wrote and directed Suicide Squad. He allegedly cranked this script out in six weeks. It shows. There are a few good ideas here and there, but this feels every bit like a first draft. Main characters get multiple introduction scenes while others just get carelessly thrown into the works. After the lengthy intros, the flimsy, derivative story finally kicks in.

Guess what? The threat is yet another ancient evil, bent on eradicating mankind.

Yawn.

None of it makes much sense and it’s so perfunctory that by the end of the film, you forget what all of the hubbub is about. The pacing is choppy, and I’m being kind. Right after said ‘Ancient Evil’ is unleashed, the film comes to a dead stop to reintroduce the team in another scene that’s too long and filled with awkward comic bits. Then, about three-quarters into it, just as things should really be getting frantic, the film slams on the brakes (again). Suddenly the characters find the need to explain their motivations.

In a bar.

Seriously.

Anxious over Batman v Superman’s lower than expected box office and poor critical reception, Warner Bros./DC spent millions on last minute re-shoots to try and lighten the original somber tone of Suicide Squad. As a result, the movie is downright schizophrenic, featuring wild tonal swings from serious to incoherently comic.

Ayer is known for gritty, lower-budgeted, violent films like End of Watch and Fury, not family-friendly romps like this. You can feel him being restrained by the studio-mandated PG-13 rating. With a rumored budget of at least $175 million dollars, you can’t exactly blame the suits. Besides, the studio interference is also a direct result of the already-lost race against their direct competition, Disney/Marvel. Humor and Heart are a Marvel staple, but to date have been lacking in all of the DC offerings. So someone got the bright idea to try and shoehorn both into Suicide Squad, and the effort falls flat.

I’m not even sure that $175 million was spent on. With more than twice the budget of Fury (which had excellent, visceral and propulsive action sequences), the action here is all bland and lazily staged. It’s just one repetitive, inconsistent shootout after another with a few equally unoriginal fight scenes thrown in for good measure. Even the CGI isn’t particularly impressive. Some shots look like they were created with decades old technology. I’ve seen better effects on television shows.

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On the up side, Suicide Squad has a mostly solid cast. The de facto leads, Will Smith (Deadshot) and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), work overtime to bring some heart and whimsy into this dour film. Jay Hernandez gives us some genuine pathos and almost steals the picture as Diablo. Viola Davis turns in a decent, if one-note performance as Amanda Waller. She seems a little bored and embarrassed to even be seen in such horrible writing, and I can’t exactly blame her. She isn’t given much more to do other than glower and deliver exposition. None of these performances are enough to save this film. Suicide Squad oversells Harley Quinn… Robbie accepts the challenge by chewing scenery at every turn. Smith is saccharine with charm. It’s like he refuses to be unlikable, even when playing a bad guy. As good as Hernandez is, Ayer sidelines him for far too much of the film.

And that’s not even the worst part.

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Jared Leto got crammed into this film as a new version of the classic Batman villain Joker. His interpretation is trite, boring, and completely unnecessary. Had Ayer given that screentime to Hernandez, the actor’s subtle choices may have been enough to counteract Robbie’s broad performance. Or not.

Warner Bros./DC just can’t seem to get it right. For a studio and comic company that have been making these films since the 1970’s, they miss far more than they hit.

Suicide Squad is a definite miss.

RATING: Television