A new acquaintance of mine asked me whether I dig french rap and as per usual, my reaction was one of mockery and dismissal but remaining open-minded, I played the recommendation and was immediately floored; the beat is banging, the bars are sharp & articulate and the visuals, while simple, are effective and nicely composed. All in all, I guess that I now appreciate (certain) french rap? Listen for yourself:
T•[REC] & THE WORLD
A collection of dopeness…
Nucky Thompson, Walter White, Dexter Morgan, Don Draper, Omar Little, Jack Bauer, Jamie Lannister, Jax Teller, Claire and Frank Underwood, Rick Grimes, Nancy Botwin, Jimmy McNulty, Ryan O'Reilly: ladies and gentlemen, we’ll get to you in time but with all due respect, sit your ass down because this week, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the premier of the greatest TV (and arguably original cinema) antihero to ever grace the screen, time immemorial.
James Gandolfini (Rest In Power). Tony Soprano. The Sopranos. I mean, where do I begin? Honestly, I believe that I first dived into the incomparable series on a whim. I was young enough during the show's last leg to acknowledge its existence and I remember paying attention to the hype which surrounded it and particularly, the lasting impact that its controversial finale had throughout the years that followed. Yet, nothing, and I do emphasize that NOTHING could’ve prepared me for the ride that I embarked on. I’m not going to sit here and start narrating plot points and describing characters for the purpose of selling anything because I do believe that its legacy has done an excellent job in proving my and countless others’ inarguable point.
This is the show. This has always been the show. And quite confidently, this will ALWAYS be the show, bar none. I can tell you one thing: since my first watchthrough, I have been adamant enough about its excellence to rewatch it more than seven times over . I say “more than” because I lost count at that point. Once you make the virtuous choice to immerse yourself and cross on to the other side, watching The Sopranos is pure and utter joy, time after time. All these other shows don’t hold a candle to David Cross’ masterpiece. In life, there isn’t much that deserves to be considered a “be all, end all”. The Sopranos is one of them. It's my unwavering answer to those “desert island” questions. C’est un “must”, point finale.
Pity that James Gandolfini, El Rey, passed away before his time and couldn’t join in on the reunion of the phenomenal cast featured in the video above but at least, we can live and bask vicariously through their retellings and undying praise for the most prodigious leading man in moving pictures history.
Last evening, I watched Creed II on the night of its premiere with my brother Ronny; what a visceral experience for two longtime, hardcord fans of Sly Stallone's unrivaled, emblematic role. Over two decades, we've both enjoyed those boxing movies countless of times. We even drove to Philadelphia back in 2013, ran up the legendary steps, posed with the iconic statue, visited the actual rowhouse where The Italian Stallion makes his move on the timid Adrian and stood in awe in front of where once stood Mighty Mick’s Gym.
Just when we thought that Rocky Balboa (the sixth iteration, 2006) closed off the saga with such gusto, then came along Ryan Coogler's Creed (2015) starring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky's one-time rival and best friend, effectively breathing unexpected life into the series and its beloved lore. Any fan of the overarching narrative felt right at home due in part to the exceptional synergy between the old and the new, with a particular nod to Mr Stallone’s usually & unfortunately panned, underrated performance. And I must stress just how poignant his acting becomes over time. Sylvester Stallone is Rocky Balboa and vice versa; battle scars, mourning heart & all. Nonetheless, cast, crew and fans alike stuck it out and as a result, Creed II was immediately green-lit. Three years later almost to the day, the sequel is released and boy oh boy, what a thrilling, emotional rollercoaster it is.
This time around, they revisit the Mother Russia storyline which directly relates to our new protagonist, as Adonis’ father got beaten to literal death in Rocky IV (1985), passing away in Rocky’s arms after the former squared off against Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), the towering pride of the Soviet Union. You see, as the latest movie’s storyline explains, Drago’s legacy was flushed down the toilet by the Russian oligarchs and people alike following his defeat on their own soil at the hands of Balboa who was on a quest for revenge for the death of his sparring partner in crime. Over three decades later, Creed II opens in Ukraine where the shunned Russian fighter has been living in the slumps as a bitter and vindictive single parent to walking and talking human fridge Viktor (played by newcomer Florian Munteanu). We come to understand that the father has been on a singular mission: callously treat and train the fruit of his loins, turning him into arguably the most realistically dangerous boxer to ever grace the screen. And holy cow did casting nail it on the head with this one. I mean, 28-year-old Munteanu is a sight to behold. And to quote a certain short, stocky, slow witted bald man, “I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality”.
Now I could go on and on in detail about Creed II’s narrative and the many aspects and nods that burst out of the screen for diehard fans such as myself. Yet, this is here is not a review but an ode, a tribute, a thank you note to this unbelievably emotional sporting movie franchise with particularly unequivocal love and admiration for the man who made it all possible. The term “God” has been cheapened, used and abused over the past few years by lesser me. Fuck that noise. Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone is a God. He is the real-life Master of Disaster. Every time he has taken on the mantle of the universe’s favorite southpaw fighter, Rocky V included, the emotional strings which are pulled and the physical stings which are felt simply cannot be compared to anything else in the history of cinema. The Rocky series is brimming with inspiration and greatness; from the dialogue to the training montages, from the emotional bonds to the soundtracks (humongous shout out to composer Bill Conti for his lasting legacy), it all cascades like a symphony. And Creed II concludes a saga 42 years in the making, at least when it comes to the story of one of, if not the most beloved cinematic character of all time. Rocky Balboa will forever be synonymous with “going the distance”, the story of us men and women who are desperately trying to get a meaningful shot at something that matters.
If you haven’t experienced the Rocky franchise, do yourself a favour and when you do, savour every second, every moment, every line, every note. You will likely come out believing in a better version of self.
Thank you Mr Stallone.
TL;DR Wanna become immediately smarter? Stop whatever you are doing right now, grab your cellphone, get up, walk into another room (the further away the better), drop your device and come back to your task at hand; voilà.
So I followed my gut while navigating Netflix a few weeks back and clicked on a new magic show called Magic For Humans, headlined by a magician by the name of Justin Willman. Now I’m going to graze through my watching experience but that shouldn’t deter you from checking it out for yourself because it’s quite endearing. Right off the bat, I thoroughly enjoyed the humanity behind the tricks and its responsible trickster. It’s a mélange of wonder, awareness and introspection as he approaches every episode with a central thematic that is relatable to all.
Now to the topic at hand: during a shorter “side” trick that Willman performs on passersby in a park, through which he commandeers the unsuspecting volunteer’s cell phone, ties it up to a handful of helium balloons, lets it float up into the atmosphere, pauses a few ticks as they freak out before blurting out that he “backed it up to the cloud” and turning his back to them to reveal their ACTUAL phone under his shirt taped to his skin. Pretty amaze-balls right? No camera trickery or nothing, I honestly cannot wrap my head around most of his tricks.
ON TO MY POINT! During one of the executions of the above-described performance, the informative magicien inquires of his victim if they had heard that having their phone on their person or even in the same room automatically makes them stupider. I immediately took note of that comment, on the one hand because even though I hadn’t heard that before, it kinda made a whole lotta sense to me, but on the other hand and more importantly, I seriously doubted that such a thought-provoking statement would be shared on such a big-scale production without it being backed by facts.
It doesn’t require much effort to Google and read for yourself that “just having your phone within reach makes you dumber”. And as I stated earlier, it kinda-sorta makes sense does it not? I felt compelled to type this down particularly because recently, I also somewhat came to terms with how distracting our shiny devices can become the further you give in to the digital motions, this weird barter mutation that we concocted out of thin air by trading unsubstantiated ones and zeroes. It’s been stated, researched and proven before but these notifications from Facebook, Instagram and the like really are comparable to figurative crack. Accordingly, as I further pushed the pedal in regard to my output, it didn’t take long for me to develop a habit to check regularly (at times excessively so) for any type of update. Subsequently, it didn’t take me long to realize the adversity of the process as a whole.
It’s important to take a step back and reflect on the purpose of our trade and communication. I have felt for many years that there should be a higher standard held for what should be commonly acceptable and respectable to post and share. I believe that we should always ask ourselves whether or not whatever form of media we’re about to offer up for consumption is either informative, helpful or otherwise uplifting and inspiring in one way or another. If it isn’t, then dump it and move on to the next one. The floodgates have been open and unsupervised for far too long and as a result, we’ve ended up with too many cooks, not enough chefs. Something to think about next time that you’re compelled to hit “Post”…
Sidenote: I also find it interesting that such science-based evidence conflicts with statements made by someone like Elon Musk on Joe Rogan’s podcast just recently, in which he advocates for a blatant intellectual advantage as a result of appropriation of cellphone technology and access to wireless, digital information. Admittedly, it’s hard to come to terms with such conflicting notions but that’s a story for another day!
Honestly, I’ve been turned off by Mr West ever since he decided to go against La Familia by putting Hov & Queen Bey on blast by airing dirty laundry. Nobody messes with the Carters, that’s a thing that’s been tried, tested and true. But now, and for the past few months, I mean damn! Ebro says it best when he explains that Kanye West has basically been bundling up a bunch of different subjects of conversations involving all walks of life into one weird, senseless and discomforting package and a majority of individuals have been following him like a ball at a tennis match as he bounces around from one side to another other, for the sole reason that (generally) decent music might be dropped.
This past weekend, Saturday Night Live’s latest season (44th!) premiered with Kanye West as the musical guest. He actually got to perform three songs, including one after the closing thank you’s by Adam Driver (the guest host), which never happens and he did so while while wearing the MAGA hat. The story goes that after the show went off air, he brought back the whole cast on stage and went on a dreadful pro-Trump rant in front of the live audience and the rest of the crew. Which he then chased with tweets and further comments to TMZ in the days that followed. And for such blatant display of lunacy, he even received outright support by his commander-in-chief and Lord Of The Idiots. As Cenk Uygur, host of TYT, describes: “him and Trump, two peas in a pod”.
Wake up Mr West, everybody knows you never go full retard.
Mr. Alicia Keys, the one and only Swizz Beatz decided to take it upon himself to lead the charge to wipe out the foul stench that Kanye West is carrying around with his red herring hat.
Similarly to a fastidious drumline, the Avril Magazine team doesn’t skip a beat as they continuously churn out monthly editions of their digital gazette in which they promote talented individuals across our beautiful city of Montreal through a critically artistic lens. September 2018 features Lou-Pascal Tremblay, a young actor who has also recently discovered a newfound passion for directing. As with every edition for the past year or so, I’ve been present and ever so enthusiastically capturing the whole production. This time around, “retro” was the name of the game, with a big shoutout to Justine Gagnon as always for a meticulous artistic direction.
Interesting side-note: our shoot location was found through Airbnb and it was only after we completed our work that I found out that we were actually located at The Club, self-described as a hub for “Queer Erotica, Activism and Sex Ed. From the creator of Girl’s Club and Votes4nudes”.
If you haven’t heard, I’m not gonna break it down for you but suffice it to say that DC Comics’ Extended (Cinematic) Universe has been in mayhem. As with most things though, there is always some good that comes with the bad.
Writer/director Todd Philips’ origin story take on Batman’s arch-nemesis’ is likely to fall in the former category of actual decent productions. Starring none other than the formidable Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a standup comedian who eventually turns into the Clowned Prince of Crime, the standalone movie’s premise is supposedly inspired by The King Of Comedy from Martin Scorsese, who is also signed on as a producer for Philips’ movie. None other than Robert De Niro is set to appear as a talk show host who is apparently essential to Arthur Fleck’s transformation from standup to Bat-villain. Other cast members include Zazie Beetz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2) and Marc Maron (WTF, Glow).
This kid is the absolute truth, displayed flawlessly both within his input and output. If you still haven’t discovered, make sure to peep his SoundCloud and music on all major streaming services. My first two Russ tracks that I discovered are down below. 🔥