The Best Teases of 2013 – My favorite Movie Trailers for Films Released this past Year

As a movie lover/obsessor/collector, if there’s one thing that I love it’s those ten minutes before watching a movie in theaters where you’re tantalizingly teased about films that you’re highly anticipating to see. When I was a teenager, I remember that throughout 2008 I had most of the previews memorized and in what order they came in, with Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, and Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen being the highlights. Studios spend millions of dollars on trailers to give viewers sneak peeks, and to entice those that aren’t ready to throw our money and firstborn to the producers. A well put together trailer can do wonders for a film, as you can either sit there and laugh/troll the trailer, or look to your friends and say “that looks good, let’s go see that”. For obvious reasons, the latter is the desired effect. So, I’ve decided to compile some of what I thought were the best trailers of the year with short descriptions based on my thoughts about the movie and trailer.

#5. Iron Man 3

If there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceiving trailers. I understand that Marvel and idiot director Shane Black didn’t want to spoil the plot twists in the movie, but boy did this trailer make the movie look awesome. The great line “I offer you a choice. Do you want an empty life, or a meaningful death?” wasn’t even uttered in the film because the “Mandarin” wasn’t even the “Mandarin”. I really just want to live in this trailer.

#4 The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

This is another deceiving trailer. Jackson teased everybody beautifully with this, the fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans of An Unexpected Journey, and fans of the novel series. Then, he created his own egotistical tale and ran away laughing with everybody’s money. Jerk.

#3 The Wolf of Wall Street

I confess, I have not yet seen this movie. But, from what people have told me and from what I’ve read, this trailer is spot on. All the excess, partying, and ridiculousness that comes along with the Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey led movie is portrayed in a great fashion in this trailer. Also, as Thurston pointed out in his top 10 tracks of 2013, who doesn’t love Kanye West’s epic romp, Black Skinhead?

#2 Man of Steel Teaser Trailer

This trailer really divided people, because they felt like it was too short and didn’t really offer much insight into the film. But, Zack Snyder and his production team knew exactly what they were doing when they borrowed the music in the trailer. There are very few soundtrack pieces that are better than the latter part of The Fellowship of the Ring‘s track “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”. The Gandalf the Grey death music is simply perfect.

#1 The Great Gatsby

I was a bit disappointed with this movie, as I thought it couldn’t make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. I still enjoyed it enough in theaters and later added it to my collection, but it wasn’t all that this trailer summed it up to be. Featuring Beyonce, Florence + The Machine, and revealing Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”, this tease is a work of art, and beyond a doubt the best trailer for any movie that was released in the year past.

Top 10 Tracks of 2013

2013 was a crazy year for music, as many musical artists defied typical convention within their music and the marketing of their music. Jay-Z released an album onto a cell phone, Beyonce released an album without any promotion, and countless artists leaked their own album as an attack at the label they were signed to.  There was a lot of quality music to choose from in 2013, but I managed to find 10 of my favorites, listed here in no particular order.

1)  Phoenix – “Bourgeois”

This is my favorite “arena-rock” style song of the year. The kind of song that sounds best while being blasted loudly in front of a large crowd on a summer night.

2) Local Natives -“Colombia

I had heard a lot of Local Natives songs I liked before, but none of them quite clicked like this one did. It’s haunting, but also distinctly powerful and beautiful.

3) Ellery James Roberts – “Kerou’s Lament

This song immediately sucked me in from the first time I heard it. Its the kind of song that’s either loved or hated, but the songs ambition and passion cannot be argued.

4) Lana Del Rey – “Young and Beautiful

Pretty sure this song will go down as a classic.

5) Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young”

Vampire Weekend’s album, Modern Vampires of the City, was my favorite album of the year. Picking a favorite song was difficult, but “Diane Young”  never fails to get me to sing along to it.

6) Pusha-T – Numbers on the Boards”  (Explicit)

This song was my favorite hip-hop song of the year. Its dark and aggressive, but also funky and smooth. The main character is simultaneously arrogant, paranoid, insecure, and confident, if that’s even possible.

7) Disclosure – “When a Fire Starts to Burn

One of my favorite sample-based songs of the year. Fans of the Avalanches will feel quite at home here.

8) Daft Punk – “Touch

It bobs and weaves, ebbs and flows, gets loud, then gets quiet, and simply goes where no Daft Punk song has ever gone before.

9) FKA Twigs – “Water Me

This song gets pretty full-on weird, but also full-on awesome.

10) Kanye West – “Black Skinhead” (Explicit)

Sits somewhere between rock and hip-hop, and was on the of the most bombastic, loud, and crazy songs of 2013.

 

My Five Favorite Famous Songs

Unlike my cowriter Thurston Howell, I do not pride myself in being a hipster enough music geek to know and be a fan of the wide range of underground rap, funk, and indie music that he is so often prone to listen to. Although there are some under the radar songs that I will listen to from time to time, for the most part you will find my iPod or music library filled with albums and artists that the a-little-more-than-casual music listener will recognize. As such, I have decided to post five of my favorite songs that you definitely should know about.

5. Flashing Lights – Kanye West Feat. Dwele

(Caution, mild lyrics)

A lot of people do not like Kanye West because of his media persona of being an entitled jerk (or at least that’s the role he plays). That being said, those people probably do not listen to his music for that reason, and are blinded by their own false opinions. If you have a respect for good production, good beats, and smart lyrics, provided you like rap/hip-hop, you should like Kanye. Flashing Lights is his best song overall, although if you like this he has many, many more to offer.

4. Shoot to Thrill – AC/DC

I have always loved this song, coming off AC/DC’s best Brian Johnson album, Back in Black. But when Marvel (in one of their few good calls) decided to use it as Tony Stark’s hand-picked Iron Man theme, it started working its way into many of my playlists. It is a perfect song for a summer drive, a game of Halo, or jumping out of an airplane in your high-tech prosthesis.

3. Summertime Sadness – Lana del Rey

I will readily admit that I am in love with Lana del Rey. Despite all her obvious shortcomings and eccentricities, and the fact that she writes from a female perspective, I just love her lyrics. The hipster inside me hates that this song receives so much attention, as I thought that maybe “Blue Jeans” or “Young and Beautiful” would be her best known songs, but according to the 88 million views on youtube I might be wrong. In line with hipster methodology, I discovered this song way before it hit radio play, so my love affair with it is definitely longer than yours. The main thing I love about this track is the vividity of her lyrics. If you simply close your eyes and listen, you cannot help but picture in bright color exactly what is going on in this song. It just makes it seem so real.

2. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

From Call of Duty : Black Ops, to Scorsese films The Departed, Goodfellas, and, Casino, chances are you know this song perhaps not by title but by tune. Written in 1969, this song is written by Mick Jagger in a apocalyptic type feeling, with the Vietnam war weighing prominently on his mind. Just like Shoot to Thrill, this song is even more perfect (if such a thing exists) for a sordidly hot and sticky summer day with the top down and aviators on. Although Jagger may have written requesting shelter from the violence at the time, today we can create a twofold meeting out of it. Just pick the newest war that our country has decided to take place in, and play it on a Pennsylvanian day in July and you are well on your way to being a complex individual.

1. Wonderwall – Oasis

If you know me at all, this song should come as no surprise to you. In fact, you are probably rolled your eyes just as you saw what song number one was. Although this is not my favorite version of this song (songwriter Noel Gallagher does a killer solo version), it is nonetheless the one that I have deemed my favorite song for at least the better part of my music listening life. Do I know why this song is my favorite? To be honest, not really. I cannot pinpoint an exact reason, because I simply love everything about it. It is simply my favorite song by my favorite band.

Grand Theft Auto V : A Review So Far

One of the most anticipated games of the year by gamers and conservative critics alike (to criticize for its absence of morality, not its gameplay), Grand Theft Auto V was finally released after nearly four years of development, yesterday. Personally, I stood in line for about half an hour to receive my pre-ordered copy at midnight on Tuesday at my local game store with a group of friends who had done the same thing. I even took all of Tuesday off work so that I could stay up and play with my friend, who we’ll refer to as Happy. We invested about six and a half hours into the game (until it was light out), and then caught some Z’s before I resumed to play for a little bit during the day. Through about 12 hours of gameplay, I’ve managed to complete about 21% of the story, but haven’t yet managed to even scratch the surface of this deep and hugely expansive game.

The first thing I will say, is that if you’re a parent reading this and your kid is playing this game and is under the age of 18, you may want to re-evaluate your parenting techniques rather quickly. Although there is so much you can peacefully do in this game (hunting, racing, flying airplanes, playing tennis, golfing, yoga, deep-sea diving, buying property, investing in the stock market), the game is obviously entitled Grand Theft Auto. Which means, it’s going to have many criminal components that you can’t really get around. This title specifically is centered around bank heists, coming in the wake of the current recession, and how three characters revert to their criminal ways to provide for their lives. Although the multiplayer content of the game isn’t going to be launched until October 1st, below I’m going to review the pros and cons of the game so far in my opinion.

Pros

1. Three Main Characters. After experimenting with new characters in the expansions for Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games decided to incorporate three main characters into GTA V, following the positive reception of the expansions and the intertwined storylines of the characters. While there are available missions for each character, you as the player have the ability to change between characters at your own discretion. If you’re getting bored with one, then just switch to another. This helps pace the game a lot faster, as you aren’t grinding through the game with one character and endless missions seen through their eyes as it seemed at times in GTA IV.

2. Largest, Most Detailed Map Yet. Rockstar has said that the playable area for this game is so large, that it could envelop the arenas from the past three games combined (Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV, GTA San Andreas). There are mountains, rivers, deserts, army bases, ports oceans, bridges, and the city of Los Santos (modeled after Hollywood/Los Angeles) all in one setting. It’s utterly massive, and thanks to the return of the ability to fly planes, the airspace has to be huge to allow such an arena.

3. Vehicles! The thing that irked me about GTA IV was that following (in my opinion) the best installment in the franchise in San Andreas, the vehicles took a step backwards. I couldn’t fly Harrier jets in IV, and that’s all I really wanted. The best part about V is that now you can do all that and more. After only being able to drive cabs of tractor trailers in IV, you can now drive full on semi trucks. Or logging trucks. Or 18 wheelers. You can also drive dune buggies, dirt bikes, ATVs, buses, firetrucks, ambulances, tanks, jeeps, halftracks, Humvees, or pretty much any type of car you can think of. You can also fly planes, blimps, fighter jets, C-130s, news helicopters, police helicopters, Apaches and Chinooks. Finally, you have the ability to pilot watercraft such as sailboats, yachts, speedboats, jet skis, and even possibly submarines.

4. It’s the Little Things. You know how in Call of Duty, you can add attachments to guns and change their skins? Well in GTA V, you can do all of that, and it’s only one small aspect of the overall scheme of customization. You can customize cars so specifically it’ll remind you of Forza, and you can customize your character in a way reminiscent of The Sims. You’re also handed a real smart phone that you can find side missions on the internet with, as you receive emails and texts and can surf the web, even being able to take selfie pictures with it. And this is all without mentioning the skills meters that were added for each character, in which you can choose to take place in different activities to advance your skills, giving your character better RPG-like abilities in-game. These include driving, flying, shooting and running, among others. You can hone all these skills by going to a shooting range, participating in races or triathlons, and by playing tennis, golf, or swimming.

5. It’s Rockstar. Which means, there’s going to be easter eggs all over the place, and even more little things than I listed above that you’re going to be able to waste hours and hours on. The spaceship and spaceship parts, along with some possible alien presence is already being discovered, but I can pretty well assume that won’t be all. And that’s not even touching the multiplayer aspect, which when that launches I’m sure will be absolutely stellar, especially if you have a good amount of friends to play with.

Cons

1. The Reticule. The shooting reticule is really rather annoying. The reticule for GTA IV was decent, although not perfect. For Red Dead Redemption however, it was perfect, just being a solitary white dot that you aim on the screen. It’s basically the same exact reticule for GTA V as Red Dead, but it doesn’t play the same for some reason. Perhaps it’s the brightness on my screen, and I should adjust it, but there are times where it seems really hard to see and difficult to aim, especially when blending in with lighter colors. This is a royal pain when aiming for the bullseye at the target range with a pistol, as it’s a bright yellow color.

2. The Graphics. Scenery is great graphically, and so is the entire atmosphere and universe (thunderstorms are particularly awesome). However, unless they’re trying to stick with a retro-esque GTA style, the styling and detail on people and characters in the game seems like only a slight upgrade from GTA IV which was launched six years ago. I’ll always say that the graphical realism of Red Faction : Armageddon should be the industry standard, no matter how lame that final product turned out to be.

3. The Radio Stations. So far, I have found the radio stations to be rather sub-par. Although there is a good mix of west coast rap and hip-hop (NWA, Snoop, Dre, 2Pac, Kendrick Lamar), there doesn’t seem to be that great of an assortment on the other stations. I don’t terribly care for country (although there was a Johnny Cash song) or hispanic music, dance, electronica, funk, or even their talk radio. My favorite station in GTA IV was Liberty Rock Radio, which had Smashing Pumpkins, ZZ Top, The Who, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motley Crue and ELO all featured. GTA V’s counterpart, Los Santos Rock Radio is rather lacking, and doesn’t have a ton of real classic rock. I don’t count Phil Collins or Elton John as classic rock, and would rather have the harder assortment that IV had than the pansy array of V. There’s still the Steve Miller Band, Queen, and Foreigner, but nothing stands out as terribly fascinating. And I’m really going to miss Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” from IV. Plus, I can’t make my own radio station yet, and the interface for changing stations is really annoying.

4. It’s Rockstar. Which means, you’re going to have to wait to get online and play in gangs with your friends. Those two weeks in between game launch and online launch are painful, although it makes sense for them to do it as a company so that you familiarize yourself with the game and play the main product. It also means that you aren’t going to be rewarded for playing any of their other games. One thing I love is when studios give you bonuses in their new games as a thank you for playing (or finishing) their older games. It could be as simple as a cash bonus, or a car, or some type of gun. Who wouldn’t love to be able to use the Buffalo Rifle from Red Dead as a thank you for beating that game?

As you might be able to tell, the Pros are rather substantial and large portions of the game, and the Cons are nitpicky reasons that don’t really detract from the overall product. What does that mean? It means that overall, Grand Theft Auto V is an addicting masterpiece, a game that where it lacks in morality, it more than makes up in intelligent design and cohesive quality. And with still 79% of the game remaining for me to play, and the entire multiplayer experience as well, this title is going to see some major time in a lot of people’s consoles for some time to come. 9.7/10

10 Songs I Love

A summary of my musical taste in 10 songs:

If I’m going to be writing about music, I think it’s best to give readers a background for my musical tastes. I figure that showing my taste’s will help you understand why I might not like something you like or vice versa. I’ll try to cover the whole spectrum of music I enjoy through 10 different songs, each covering a unique category of music I. Just to note, these aren’t exactly my 10 favorite songs, but more an overview of 10 songs I love. As always, thanks for reading.

1) Classic Rock

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody

I was pretty close to picking “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, but I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” just edges it out. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but sing along to the line  “I don’t wanna die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!” .

2) 80’s Era “Cheesy” Song I Love Anyway

Toto – “Africa

Any of my friends from senior year of high school can attest to my love of this song. My favorite part is the falsetto harmony “I bless the rain”. Look for that part at 3:32 on the video.

3) R&B Song

Frank Ocean –“Wiseman

This is a much newer song than the first two songs, as it was only released in late 2012. This song was intended to be in the 2012 film Django Unchained, but the director, Quentin Tarantino, couldn’t find a place for the song in the movie, and he didn’t want to dishonor it by throwing it in haphazardly. After listening, you can see why Tarantino cared for it so much.

4) Dance Song

Daft Punk – “One More Time

It’s simple, it’s a bit repetitive, but play this over huge speakers and see how long you can make it without dancing.

5) Hip-Hop Song

Kanye West – “Hey Mama” Grammy Version

Show this to anyone who hates Kanye West. They might still hate him, but they’ll now like one of his songs.

6)Alternative Rock

The Strokes- “Last Nite

The Strokes first album was so good, they spent the rest of their career trying to get close to it in quality, and have not yet succeeded. But man, was that first album great. This song, “Last Nite” takes its opening from Tom Petty’s “American Girl”.

7) Pop Song

Usher – “Climax

Usher is in top form in this 2012 hit song, produced by Diplo. Unlike current pop music, the beat is constantly rising and falling, without ever breaking out into a dubstep frenzy.

8) Old School 50’s Song

Bobby Darin – “Beyond the Sea

Yes, the original was technically written in 1946, but Bobby Darin’s 1959 version is my favorite.

9) A Little Off The Beaten Path Song

Animal Collective – “My Girls

Something about this song is just perfect to me.

10) Favorite live performance song/video

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends

Though the quality of the video isn’t the best, the song is.

Please excuse the one s-word at the beginning of the video. The rest is clean.