Blogs > Tuned in to Pop Culture

They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taking Back Sunday release new song “El Paso”

“You fools all look the same”

On Sept. 10, 2009, I posted the below in a blog:

“Taking Back Sunday and Brand New have been my two favorite bands throughout the past decade. They’ve both released albums this year (in 2009), both of them — again, upon first listen — I found disappointing. However, the difference between the two bands is, Taking Back Sunday went towards a more mainstream and traditional approach during their song writing, so the album came off as what it is, bland. They took the easy route. Brand New took a huge risk with this album and once again tried to not duplicate anything they’ve ever done before, which is what music should be about.”

Good God, I stand corrected.

As I’ve said multiple times, it’s impossible not to relate Taking Back Sunday with Brand New. They’re from the same city, came out around the same time and for most of the members, they're ex-friends. But over the years their styles have drifted apart immensely, with Brand New becoming more experimental throughout their four releases and TBS going, as I mentioned in the 2009 blog, the easy route, where pretty much all of their albums sound very similar.

Last April, TBS announced they were going back to their original line-up which multiplied any anticipation for a new album by the dozens. Fan were hoping for a return to their debut 2002 record, Tell All Your Friends.

Yesterday, the band released the first song off their upcoming album which is slated to be released sometime this summer and not only does it sound nothing like anything from Tell All Your Friends, it sounds like nothing the band has ever done before.

It’s by far the heaviest song they’ve ever written and it's not even close. I had the same reaction hearing this song as when I heard the opening track to Brand New’s “Vices” off Daisy, which is the heaviest song Brand New ever wrote. I got the “where did this come from?” feeling and my ears felt somewhat assaulted.

It seems as if “El Paso” is a warning to anyone who thinks TBS is going to re-create the same songs they did back in 2002, or any other year for that matter. There is a reason why they released this song first.

I’m not saying I love the song, because honestly, I still don’t know what to think as I’m still kind of shocked by it, but I admire their attempt to bring something new to the table and to be a little bit different.

By Nick Carrabine

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yellowcard: When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes

Although their break-up was brief, it was probably much needed.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been eight years since Yellowcard’s smash album, Ocean Avenue, was released. The album sparked a number of hits including “Ocean Avenue,” “Only One,” and “Way Away,” the latter of which found its way onto Madden NFL 2004, the most popular video game on the planet.

They returned in 2006 with Lights and Sound, which to me is their best and most underrated album. Lights and Sound was a strong departure from Ocean Avenue rearing into a more dark, mature and political record.

In 2007, they released Paper Walls, which is my least favorite Yellowcard record. It just didn’t do it for me.

Following Paper Walls, the band officially went on hiatus only to announce their return in August of 2010 leading up to Tuesday’s release of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes.

The reason I mention the break-up being much needed is because after Ocean Avenue was released, I feel the band didn’t know which direction to go toward because Lights and Sound and Paper Walls couldn’t really sound different from each other and neither one of them touched the success or the mainstream likability of Ocean Avenue.

The one thing Yellowcard has that makes them so unique is a violinist which puts some extra flare into their music. Yes, it’s weird seeing a violinist in a rock band but at the same time, it’s cool and doesn’t make me feel as big of a nerd when I tell people that I once played the violin in the fourth grade.

So here we are in early 2011 with Yellowcard’s first release in four years and the album is short, only containing 10 songs and I really can’t complain about any of them.

The first track “The Sound of You and Me” starts off a bit slow but really picks up near the two-minute mark where the last two-minutes are more reminiscent of an album closer, rather than an opener. “Bring walls down/ Hear all my sound/ Let me back in/ Love me again,” lead singer Ryan Key repeats over and over again throughout the past two minutes.

It’s not until the second track, which is first single, “For You and Your Denial,” do we hear the noticeable violin, which springs out during the introduction and throughout the entire number. The best track on the album comes in at track four, “Hang You Up,” which is probably the album’s slowest song.

Other standout tracks are the last three songs on the disc, “Sing For Me,” See Me Smiling,” and “Be The Young.”

While the album doesn’t break any new ground whatsoever, it does return to more of a signature Yellowcard sound, which is fast, raw, punk-pop rock that they mastered on Ocean Avenue. If nothing else, it will serve as a decent summer soundtrack to the lives of many.

By Nick Carrabine

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Wimpy' rules

Family-friendly movies often find their way to the top of the box office, so it's no surprise that the movie based on Jeff Kinney's books has done just that. And I won't lie, I kind of want to read the books and see the movie. Am I too old for that?

From The Associated Press:
1. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” $24.4 million.
2. “Sucker Punch,” $19 million. (Review by The AP's Jake Coyle)
3. “Limitless,” $15.2 million. (Review by The AP's Tim Long)
4. “The Lincoln Lawyer,” $11 million. (Review by The AP's Lisa Kennedy)
5. “Rango,” $9.8 million. (Review by Coyle)
6. “Battle: Los Angeles,” $7.6 million. (Review by Coyle)
7. “Paul,” $7.5 million. (Review by Kennedy)
8. “Red Riding Hood,” $4.3 million. (Review by The AP's Christy Lemire)
9. “The Adjustment Bureau,” $4.2 million. (Review Lemire)
10. “Mars Needs Moms!”, $2.2 million.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Panic! at the Disco: Vices & Virtues

“You’ll dance to anything. You’ll dance to anything.” -Hurricane

Well, Panic! At The Disco fans got what they wanted with Vices & Virtues, which was released Tuesday.

The band’s third album — their first without Ryan Ross and Jon Walker — is more of a return to the sound of their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which is all fine and dandy but to me, it’s a shame Panic! ditched the sound of their sophomore record Pretty. Odd., which has commonly become known as “The Ryan Ross Record.”

Pretty. Odd. was such a step in the right direction and a breath of fresh air. A clear transition from the band’s first album into a more mature, complex and throwback album to the 1950s and 1960s that went completely over most fans’ heads. It was one of my favorite records of the 2000s, easily.

Vices & Virtues is good, no doubt, but having seen what this band is capable of when they think outside of the box, it comes off as a bit of a disappointment, especially after waiting for more than three years for it.

Following the departure of Ross and Walker, the band was at a standstill as lead singer Brendon Urie was never much of a song writer and you can definitely tell on Vices. While the songs remain as catchy and poppy as ever, the lyrics clearly suffer which leads me to believe that Panic! believes they can create any ole song and fans will “dance to anything,” which very well may be true, especially now with the shape the music industry is in. Create a nice beat, a hooky chorus and it doesn’t really matter if the lyrics have any substance.

With that said, there are some real standout tracks on Vices. “Nearly Witches” is a song I saw the band play live on You Tube nearly five months ago and I remember saying right then and there that it’d be the best song on the album. Not only do I still think that, but it ranks up there with one of the best songs the band has ever done. I could however do without the 40 second intro of children singing, no offense.

First single “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” is another top notch song but sounds like “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” Part II. Even the video is eerily similar to the band’s first single ever back in 2005.

“Let’s Kill Tonight,” sounds like Urie’s response to Ross and Walker leaving the band.

“If I retreat
Words, wars, and symphonies
Make room we’re taking over here
And you’re the galantine
Cold and alone, it suits you well
Won’t find me perching here again
May your feet serve you well
And the rest be sent to Hell
Where they always have belonged
Cold hearts brew colder songs
Fate will play us out”

...and then again on “Memories”

“When July became December
Their affection fought the cold,
But they couldn’t quite remember
What inspired them to go.
And it was beautifully depressing
Like A Streetcar named Desire
They were fighting for their love
That started growing tired
...Money lost momentum
And the bills were piling high
Then the smile, it finally faded
From the apple of their eye
And they were young and independent,
And they thought they had it planned
Should’ve known right from the start
You can’t predict the end.”

As always with Panic!, the most interesting thing about this album is the instruments which include Strings, keys, violins, accordions, cellos, etc and they really play these instruments, it’s not some made up recorded track done by a computer. I’ve seen them do it live (and they really know how to put on a live show, to be perfectly Frank with you).

At the end of the day, I can’t help but miss Ross, who was the band’s main songwriter throughout the first two records and the brainchild of Pretty.Odd. No doubt Pretty.Odd. divided much of the band's fan base so those who didn't like it will find relief in Vices.

By Nick Carrabine

Review: HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon

If you've been intrigued by the cellphone commercial with the lightning blots, you might be curious about how well the phone performs. Matt Myftiu (news editor, NASCAR blogger and technology writer for The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Mich.) reviewed the HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon. You can read his full review by clicking here, or watch the videos below to see some of the phone's features.

Haven't seen the commercial? Watch it below:

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Captain America trailer

The first full-length trailer for "Captain America: The First Avenger" was recently released.

The movie stars Chris Evans at Captain America, and opens July 22. I can't wait. The trailer looks awesome. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yeah, Buffy. What are we gonna do now?

A few weeks ago I finished a TV series that had been occupying a good portion of my free time for the past year or so.

I put "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in my Netflix queue at the suggestion of several friends, though I was doubtful that I was going to enjoy the series. I'm not big on sci-fi, and I wasn't sure how a movie from the early '90s could be turned into seven years of television. But as I got to the last few discs, I started dreading the end to the series that I had become totally engrossed in.

"Buffy" follows the life of Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a vampire slayer, and her eclectic group of friends -- including a watcher (Anthony Head), a couple of witches (Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson), a werewolf (Seth Green), a vengeance demon (Emma Caulfield), a slayer (Eliza Dushku), a few vampires (David Boreanaz and James Marsters) and some other demons, as well as a couple of regular human beings (Nicholas Brendan, Charisma Carpenter, Michelle Trachtenberg and Kristine Sutherland), and not-so-regular human beings (Marc Blucas and D.B. Woodside). Buffy fights evil and saves the world, but she's also a regular high schooler and college co-ed who yearns to have a normal life. For seven years, Buffy plays normal by day and kills evil by night. She (mostly) hides her double-life from all but her inner circle, which helps her research, trick and slay demons, gods and whatever else comes out of the Hellmouth to torture and kill us regular folk.

It sounds cheesy, right? The first season or two are fairly campy, but the show picks up steam and improves quickly. Plotlines span several episodes; the series moves away from eliminating one evil per show as "the Scooby gang" begins concentrating on bigger, tougher villains.

The end of the show was almost like the end of a good book: I didn't want it to end because I didn't want the characters to be gone. I became so invested in what was happening that I wanted to see life continue in Sunnydale, Calif., long after Buffy saved the world one more time.

The title of this post is the final line of the series, uttered by Willow (Buffy's best witch friend). I felt the same way when the credits appeared on screen, and I restarted the series finale to watch it one more time. Then, I moved "Angel" to the top of my Netflix queue. The title character was Buffy's first vampire friend (and a love interest). "Angel" is a spin-off of "Buffy" that I thought might fill the new void in my TV watching.

I'm 11 episodes in to "Angel" and not entirely sold on the series. It's not as good as "Buffy" (but I suppose the spin-offs are never as good as the original). I'm still giving the series a shot, though; after all, I wasn't totally sure about "Buffy" until the second or third season. My favorite episode of "Angel" so far included an appearance by the slayer, and fellow copy editor Danielle Capriato has told me there are several crossovers in the two series. I'm planning to start my second viewing of "Buffy" this summer (the boyfriend has never seen it). Maybe we'll have to throw in a second viewing of "Angel" when that series chronologically comes up in the "Buffy"-verse.

So what is it I'm gonna do now, Buffy? Take advantage of the instant viewing option with my Netflix to re-enter the world of Sunnydale.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

'Limitless' tops weekend box office

"The King's Speech" finally fell out of the top 10. "Mars Needs Moms!" took a big drop. My cousin's daughter called it the "boringest movie ever," so I guess there's a reason why.

What is your favorite movie currently in theaters?

From The Associated Press:
1. “Limitless,” $19 million. (Review by The AP's Tim Long)
2. “Rango,” $15.3 million. (Review by The AP's Jake Coyle)
3. “Battle: Los Angeles,” $14.6 million. (Review by Coyle)
4. “The Lincoln Lawyer,” $13.4 million. (Review by The AP's Lisa Kennedy)
5. “Paul,” $13.2 million. (Review by Kennedy)
6. “Red Riding Hood,” $7.3 million. (Review by The AP's Christy Lemire)
7. “The Adjustment Bureau,” $5.9 million. (Review Lemire)
8. “Mars Needs Moms!” $5.3 million.
9. “Beastly,” $3.3 million. (Review by Lemire)
10. “Hall Pass,” $2.6 million. (Review by Lemire)

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kill the Irishman

I blogged on The Book Club on reading about the Cleveland underworld in advance of seeing "Kill the Irishman" over the weekend. I knew that reading "Kill the Irishman," the book on which the movie is based, would sort of ruin the movie for me because it's not a true account of the story of Cleveland mobster Danny Greene's rise and demise. The movie is based on the true story that Rick Porrello wrote in his book, but the film definitely took some liberties in retelling the story of the fall of the Cleveland mafia.

The rest of this blog post will certainly contain spoilers, so don't read on if you don't want to be spoiled before seeing the movie (or reading the book).

I liked the movie, but (of course) I liked the book better. What confused me most about the book was the sheer amount of people involved because I had trouble keeping everyone straight. The movie simplifies that for you, by combining several characters into one, on more than one occasion.

The movie also skips a lot of the details, like the woman who leaked the list of FBI informants, exposing Greene's double life. Several of the slayings were left out as well, but the sort of montage of deaths as the contention between Greene and the mafia heated up really illustrated the amount of blood that was spilled and how much killing both sides were willing to do.

My biggest issue with the movie was the final scene with Greene. He died in Lyndhurst, but the scene looks like it was shot downtown. Before the bomb goes off, a group of kids rides up on bicycles, asking if he really is Danny Greene, telling him they want to be like him when they get older. He gives his Celtic necklace to one of the boys. I found the whole interaction to be incredibly awkward, and I couldn't figure out why the scene played out as it did. Was the director trying to show the human side of Greene before he was killed? Maybe it didn't bother the people in the audience who didn't read the book, but I was annoyed because it was delaying the inevitable. And it didn't happen. (And, we saw Greene's humanity earlier, 

One aspect of the movie that I loved was real news footage that was included throughout. After Greene's Collinwood home was bombed, the movie used part of a newscast to show the real destruction that occurred. The movie set of the bombed home did not look like the news footage, but that didn't bother me too much because it was just neat to get a few glimpses of what really happened.

I wasn't around in the 1970s to witness the chaos of the bombings in Cleveland, so it was interesting to get a real feel for what it was like (sometimes, the movies paint better pictures than the books). The characters and setting gave the movie a really gritty feel, and I loved the shots of the Cleveland skyline pre-Key Tower and other notable landmarks.

Correspondent Mark Koestner interviewed author Porrello, so check back to to read what he had to say about the Cleveland mafia, Greene, his book and the movie.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Entertainment Weekly Round-up

* I woke up and came into work today hearing the news of Nate Dogg’s passing, which sort of shocked me. I knew he had been going through some serious health issues over the past few years as his two strokes, one in 2007 and another in 2008, were well documented, and one of my generation’s biggest and most popular hook-singer had been out of the limelight for years. But still, you hate to see someone pass so young as Nate Dogg was only 41-years-old.

For those that don’t know, Nate Dogg went to high school with Snoop Dogg and in 1991, the two, along with Warren G, formed the group 213. Nate Dogg wasn’t a rapper, he was a near baritone singer who provided some of the catchiest hooks for some of the most popular songs in the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. He worked closely with Snoop Dogg, 2-pac, Warren G and Dr. Dre early in his career and as his career developed, he went on to work with Eminem, Fabolous, Ludacris, 50 Cent among many other of the biggest rap names in the past 20 years.

Who could ever forget hearing Dr. Dre’s monster hit “The Next Episode,” fade to silence and when everyone thought the song was over Nate Dogg enters the picture singing the line “Hold up, heyyyyyy.”

For those who have been to a Cavs game this year, the Cavs opening montage video before the starters are introduced featured the song “Till I Collapse” by Eminem ft. Nate Dogg and the video focused on Nate Dogg’s chorus:

“Till the roof comes off, till the lights go out
Till my legs give out, I can’t shut my mouth.
Till the smoke clears out and my high burn out
I’m gonna rip this (expletive) till my bone collapse.”

(However, the Cavs have since changed the opening montage video which now features the awful Three 6 Mafia “It’s a Fight” song.)

Anyway, the passing of Nate Dogg is sad news and below I’ll post a video to no doubt his most popular song. It was the first song most of us ever heard him on and it’s 1994s “Regulate” by Warren G feat. Nate Dogg released both on Warren G’s debut album as well as the soundtrack for Above The Rim (a very underrated movie, by the way)

* After three years of record label drama, it was announced Wednesday morning Lupe Fiasco's new album LASERS debuted at No. 1 on the billboard charts selling about 205,000 copies, which in today's day and age, is a large number of sales. Despite LASERS being by far Lupe's worst album, this is far and away his best charting and best selling first week figures. Good job Atlantic Records, you got your "mainstream" wish while letting Lupe take a career hit for releasing sub-par material for everyone's standards.

* The new Foo Fighters video, "Rope" can be seen below. It was shot using a VHS camera. Remember those?

* It was announced Tuesday night that Charlie Sheen is coming to Cleveland. Anyone care?

* On Monday, I purchased two tickets to the Manchester Orchestra concert which will be held at the very underrated venue, Beachland Ballroom which is literally in the heart of the ghetto. It's right around the corner from where I grew up for the first five years of my life near Collinwood (and where my grandmother still lives.) Anyway, I'm normally against seeing bands right before a new album comes out (the show is on May 6 and their new album doesn't come out until May 10) because I hate when bands play new material that I can't recognize, however an exception has been made for Manchester Orchestra who are such a phenomenal live band. This will be my fourth time seeing the band since October of 2009.

* It's a short week for me, which is why I'm posting the weekly round-up today, as I'll be heading to Charlotte tonight with some friends to visit some friends for St. Patrick's Day, the NCAA tournament on Friday and some Jose Canseco baseball charity event on Saturday. I'll be taking a video camera with me and if I don't come back with a video of me striking out Canseco, or at the very least, re-creating the scene in which a ball bounces off his head and over the fence, I'll consider the trip an epic failure 

K. Bye

By Nick Carrabine

Sunday, March 13, 2011

'Battle: LA' rakes in $36M

The weekend's new releases took three of the top five spots at the box office. And "The King's Speech" is still holding on in the top 10. Wonder how long the best picture title can keep it there.

From The Associated Press:
1. “Battle: Los Angeles,” $36 million. (Review by The AP's Jake Coyle)
2. “Rango,” $23.1 million. (Review by Coyle)
3. “Red Riding Hood,” $14.1 million. (Review by The AP's Christy Lemire)
4. “The Adjustment Bureau,” $11.5 million. (Review Lemire)
5. “Mars Needs Moms!” $6.8 million.
6. “Hall Pass,” $5.1 million. (Review by Lemire)
7. “Beastly,” $5.1 million. (Review by Lemire)
8. “Just Go With It,” $4 million. (Review by The AP's David Germain)
9. “The King’s Speech,” $3.6 million. (Review by Lemire; "Colin Firth stammers eloquently as King George" by Germain)
10. “Gnomeo & Juliet,” $3.5 million. (Review by Lemire)

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Entertainment Weekly Round-up

* Charlie Sheen was officially fired from his job Monday. How it took this long, who knows? After watching his live internet video streams, I just can’t understand why anyone would fire such a delightful, charismatic and charming teddy bear. In all honesty, and this may sound bad, I can’t get enough of all the Charlie Sheen news. Part of me is convinced this is one huge publicity stunt on Sheen’s part. He’s never been more popular and America is digging it, because Americans have sick minds, apparently, myself included. None of us have seen such a meltdown, celebrity or non-celebrity, documented so heavily. The reason I think it’s a publicity stunt is because, when the TV or Web cameras are on, he’s clearly psychotic, but I’ve heard some radio interviews he did on Wednesday for radio shows not that nationally known and he was polite, sounded grounded and somewhat normal. He mentioned he was going to Haiti with Sean Penn to “put smiles on peoples’ faces” and would do “whatever is asked” of him to help out. He also said Rob Lowe should replace him in Two and a Half Men and wishes his “buddy” the best. I don’t know, it’s weird to me that the cast of Two and a Half Men have been so quiet (obviously, not his bosses however), as has his family been. I think if this were 100 percent real, you’d think they’d all be publicly trying to help him or at the very least, asking the media for privacy, none of which has been done.

Or, maybe he really is off his rocker. What do I know?

* I mentioned last week I was going to Niagara Falls for the weekend and let me tell you, I’ve been to Las Vegas, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, among many other popular big cities but Niagara Falls is by far the most expensive tourist attraction I’ve been to. First off, as a former college student at Bowling Green State University, which wasn’t that long ago, I used to go to Windsor quite often (only a two hour trip from BG) and the exchange rate was fairly good as the US dollar was worth more than the Canadian dollar. Now, the US dollar is worth just a bummy .94 cents in Canada. I went to Outback (I know, I know, who goes to Canada to go eat at Outback? But in my defense, it was 9 p.m., we had just checked into the hotel and Outback was the closest restaurant to the hotel. And it’s not like anyone ever says “Hey, I’m in the mood for Canadian tonight.”) and a steak was $40. A draft beer was $10. Want two eggs, bacon and toast from IHOP? That’ll be $15.99. If it weren’t for the border patrol officers who scare the living bejesus out of me, I would have gotten right back in my car and drove back to the United States.

Speaking of the border patrol officers, what’s with those people, eh? “What brings you to Canada?” “What are you bringing?” “How do you know the people in your car?” “Who was the 14th President of the United States?” “Is Charlie Sheen in your trunk?” Calm down and stop staring at me like my father used to right before he was about to beat me with his belt (just kidding.)

(If you’re wondering what my answers were to the above questions, here they are in order: “Smuggling drugs,” “guns and illegal aliens,” “I don’t,” “I failed history class” and “yes, with a machete and a glass bottle of tiger blood.”)

Anyway, Niagara Falls is cool for the first five minutes until you realize no matter how long you look at the waterfall, nothing is going to happen or change and it’s been the same for literally hundreds of years. Save yourself $4,000 and just buy a picture of it, unless of course, they some day make it into an outdoor water park. But that would cost thousands of dollars to get into.

* Kill the Irishman, a movie about former Cleveland Mobster Danny Greene, opens up at Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights today. I’m pretty skeptical about any movie that comes out in the first four months of any calendar year, which is generally reserved for movies that studio’s know aren’t going to achieve much success critically or financially. Also, Kill the Irishman has been delayed numerous times over the past year, making me think that the studio probably thought it wasn’t good enough to release during the Oscar season. But again, what do I know? Because of my slight obsession with Cedar Lee Theatre and because the movie is about Cleveland (even though it was filmed in Detroit) I’ll most likely see it.

* Lupe Fiaso’s new album LASERS came out on Tuesday, go buy it. I posted the review here on Tuesday.

K. Bye.

By Nick Carrabine

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chuck Norris: Too tough to grow old

Action movie/TV hero and ultimate tough guy Chuck Norris turned 71 on Thursday.

This should not happen. The toughest man ever should not be approaching old age.

Why? He's too tough.

Looking for reasons why? The Website,, has several. A sampling:

- Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he never cried.

- Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.

- Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

- When the boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

- Chuck Norris has already been to Mars; that's why there are no signs of life there.

Stay tough my friend, no matter how old you are.

- Mark Podolski

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lupe Fiasco: LASERS

“Love Always Shines Everytime Remember 2 Smile”

Lupe Fiasco’s much anticipated third album is a hard album to review.

I’ve already told you the history of the album countless times in this blog so there is no need to repeat myself.

Long story short, the album has been on the shelf at Atlantic Records for nearly two years due to what the record label termed a lack of mainstream material but was finally given a release date following a strong fan protest and internet petition.

In the past few weeks, Lupe has come out and said he both loves and hates LASERS. He said there was so many demands he had to give into to finally get the release date including putting songs on the album that he didn’t want to even create in the first place.

So it’s hard to tell what Lupe really wanted on the album and what he didnt because it extremely ironic that LASERS, released today, is Lupe’s most mainstream release yet.

Which begs the question, how many demands did Lupe have to give into to finally get LASERS released?

Lupe has already came out and said that the songs “Words I Never Said” and “All Black Everything” were his ideas and what most of the album should have sounded like, which is a shame, because those two songs are the most rewarding listens on LASERS where on “All Black Everything,” Lupe creates an alternate universe where slavery never existed and racism has no context and on “Words I Never Said,” he takes a look into politics, society and the failing school systems.

“There’s a bunch of other cover ups
Your child’s future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts, then wait here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place that’s on the up and up
Keep you at the bottom but tease you with the upper crush
You get it then they move it so you never keepin up enough
If you turn on TV, all you see’s a bunch of what the (expletive)
Dude is dating so and so, blabbering about such and such
And that ain’t Jersey Shore, homie that’s the news
and these the same people supposedly telling us the truth
Limbaugh was a racist, Glen Beck is a racist, Ghaza strip
was gettin bombed but Obama didn’t say (expletive)
That’s why I didn’t vote for him, next one either
I’m a part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful
And I believe in the people” - Words I Never Said

It’s a bit of a head scratcher when I hear songs like “Out Of My Head” and “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now,” the latter of which is just a straight up dance track that could be played at a techno club (do techno clubs exist?)

“Never Forget You,” featuring John Legend, a song in which Lupe admitted he really had nothing to do with, aside from writing the lyrics, is the album’s closer and isn’t that memorable. “The Show Goes On,” the albums first single which samples Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” is a solid single and one of the album’s finest songs, but again, Lupe said he’s numb to that song because he was asked to put the song on the album 10 times before finally agreeing to do it.

Then there is songs like "State Run Radio," that mocks radio stations for playing hits that just sound the same while the public eats it up.

"think inside the box, and follow all procedures,
never ever believe that, you will never need this,
hit up all your friends and tell them to repeat this,
hi, your on the air, now what you want to hear?
well we ain't got the truth, but how about a remix?
different is never good, good is only what we pick,
you ain't got a hit, unless it sounds like these did,
not too smart you will be a superstar,
and if you dumb or something maybe you could be number one"

It’s almost as if LASERS is bipolar (too early to tell if it’s bi-winning) where we see Lupe as the conscious rapper that he is on about half the tracks and then the other half you could tell there was a major push for him to create songs just get to get spins on the radio, which is kind of a shame.

Food and Liquor and The Cool, Lupe’s first two releases, are so much more in depth and complex than LASERS and far and away more underground and less mainstream than this release.

Now, is LASERS a bad album? Not by any means but for Lupe’s standards, it’s slightly, slightly disappointing especially considering the fact it’s been nearly four years since his last release.

As Lupe said, this album is the record label's album, not entirely his and I give the rapper the benefit of the doubt in this case.

By Nick Carrabine

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New movies take top three spots

Shocked to see Justin Bieber is still in the top 10 at the weekend box office. Not surprised that "The King's Speech" is. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? You are aware that it is the Academy Award winner for best picture, right? Don't tell me you're going to see Justin "I didn't win Grammy for best new artist" Bieber.

According to The Associated Press:
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Final figures will be released today.
1. “Rango,” $38 million. (Review by The AP's Jake Coyle)
2. “The Adjustment Bureau,” $20.9 million. (Review by The AP's Christy Lemire)
3. “Beastly,” $10.1 million (Review by Lemire)
4. “Hall Pass,” $9 million. (Review by Lemire)
5. “Gnomeo and Juliet,” $6.9 million. (Review by Lemire)
6. “Unknown,” $6.6 million. (Review by Lemire)
7. “The King’s Speech,” $6.5 million. (Review by Lemire; "Colin Firth stammers eloquently as King George" by Germain)
8. “Just Go With It,” $6.5 million. (Review by The AP's David Germain)
9. “I Am Number Four,” $5.7 million. (Review by Scripps Howard's Barbara Vancheri)
10. “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” $4.3 million. (Review by Lemire)

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Entertainment Weekly Round-up

* The Oscars were Sunday night and it pretty much went exactly how everyone thought it’d go: Boring, predictable and painfully long. The only thing I predicted wrong was Best Director, who I admitted I had no idea would win, but if I had a gun to my head, I would have said David Fincher (The Social Network.) The other five major awards (Picture, Actor, Actress and the two supporting roles), I — along with the rest of the country — predicted right. Sorry I wasn’t on the edge of my seat when they were televising the Best Achievement in Sound award or stood up and clapped along when Randy Newman was doing whatever it was he was doing on stage.

Hosts James Franco couldn’t have looked more disinterested (or more stoned) and Anne Hathaway was like a giddy 7-year-old girl hopped up on Kool-Aid about to go on her first roller coaster ride. Say what you will about Dane Cook, but his tweet Sunday night during the Oscars summed up Franco perfectly, “Franco hosting looks like a security guard who doesn’t care if you’re stealing.” Speaking of stealing, the Oscars stole three and a half hours out of all of our lives that we’ll never be able to get back.

* Speaking of stoned, it’s Thursday and Charlie Sheen is still out of his mind. So much so, that his publicist (he had a publicist???) Stan Rosenfield “respectfully resigned” on Monday. Has anyone ever disrespectfully resigned? Perhaps Sheen can now go after LeBron James public relations team and Sheen can film a “decision” segment every Friday night to tell the world what his plans are for the night. I’d definitely watch that. Speaking of watching that, how there isn’t a Charlie Sheen reality television show on TV by now is mind-boggling. As Sheen would say, that would be “epic.” Sheen also opened up a Twitter account and within two days, he had over one million followers. I’m not a Twitter expert, but that has to be a record. Only in America could a cracked-out, alcoholic, out of his mind, alleged abusive ex-husband be the most popular and beloved person in the country. Now that's "winning."

* Christina Aguilera, who is quickly becoming the female version of Charlie Sheen, was arrested Tuesday morning for public intoxication. This arrest comes about three weeks too late as she should have been escorted out of Cowboys Stadium in cuffs following her butchered attempt at singing the National Anthem prior to the Super Bowl. Later in the week, it was announced she was going to be a “a judge and mentor” on The Voice, which is NBC’s upcoming deliberate rip-off show of American Idol. Only in America can a washed-up pop star who has hit rock bottom score a “mentoring role” on what is sure to come the next mindless and annoying top watched television show tuned in by millions of buffoons.

* By tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have a physical copy of Lupe Fiasco’s LASERS in my hand, which officially hits stores on Tuesday. As I’ve wrote about for literally years on this blog, I’ve been waiting for this release for three years. The album was completed nearly two years ago but Universal Records originally refused to release it due to what they considered an album lacking of mainstream singles. The record company finally decided to release it following a pretty big internet petition as well as a protest by Lupe Fiasco’s fans outside the record label’s building. To say I’m excited about this purchase would be a monumental understatement as I believe Lupe Fiasco is one of the top three rappers out there today, and has been for the past five years. This will be Lupe Fiasco’s first release since The Cool, which came out in 2007.

I do have some reservations however as Lupe admitted on Monday to Complex Magazine that he both loves and hates his latest album. He said in order to get the album released, he had to make compromises with the label - ones that he didn’t want to make and felt forced to. The whole entire interview with Complex is a great read whether you’re a fan of Lupe, rap or music in general because Lupe discusses what artists/bands have to go through with major labels and how much they have to give in or sacrifice to make labels happy and in turn, how unhappy it makes artists who strive to create something from within.

Later in the week, he told the Chicago Tribune this: “I was literally told (by the record label) for (the album’s first single) ‘The Show Goes On’ that I shouldn’t rap too deep and I shouldn’t be too lyrical. (They said) It just needs to be something easy on the eyes. It was like a record company telling Picasso that we don’t need these abstract interpretations of life, where people have to sit down and look at it and break it down. It was better to paint the Upper West Side lady and her poodle so everyone could look at it right away and understand what was going on. I felt like I was painting poodles.” In Short, there’s nothing like looking forward to an album for three years, then a week before its release, the artist who created it says he hates it.

* Manchester Orchestra released “Simple Math” on Monday. It’s the first single off their upcoming record of the same name. First reaction: Starts off pretty nice but is too long to be a single coming in at over five minutes long. I really like the verses and the bridge but don’t care much for the chorus. Upon first listen, wasn’t blown away by it and I’ve come to expect to be blown away by Manchester Orchestra. So, I guess I’m a bit disappointed but I’m sure it’ll grow on me. You can hear it below.

* Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, will be released on DVD May 10. Still trying to figure out how many copies I’ll purchase.

* I’m posting this blog today because I’m off on Friday. This weekend, I’ll be in Canada flushing my money down the drain in casinos and hosting hotel parties with Charlie Sheen. Wish me luck!

K. Bye.

By Nick Carrabine

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sawyer going to Greendale?

Two of my favorite things will be coming together in May: Josh Holloway and NBC's "Community".

Entertainment Weekly reported Monday that Holloway -- who played the dreamy rebel Sawyer on "Lost" -- is making a deal for a cameo in the season finale. What's more exciting for those of us "Lost" and "Community" lovers is that his cameo will be part of a paintball game. The previous paintball episode, "Modern Warfare," is probably my favorite in the series, and the participation of gun-toting badboy Sawyer this time around will surely make this a season finale to remember. Set aside space on your DVRs for this one.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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