Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: Carol V. Seeds, J.C. Hotchkiss, Brien Allen, Sean Mekinda, and Caemeron Crain.
Carol: Standardized metalcore haphazardly gave birth to Parkway Drive in the early 2000s, beginning with their first studio album release Killing With A Smile (2005), which was everything one would expect from a freshman metalcore album. It was under produced due to a low budget. The band’s sophomoric vision, Horizons (2007) set the tone for what would end up being one of two things. Either this was just a group of some Aussie boys who would live out their days on second and third stages; or they would be men—a force to be reckoned with, filling arenas worldwide. Follow up albums Deep Blue (2010) and Atlas (2012) gave more of the same. But then in 2015, we were given the gift of Ire, which forced the metal community to do a double-take. You either loved it or you hated it, but you gave it respect nonetheless. Not everyone could handle Winston McCall’s vocals, or what some would call “a lack thereof”. So why in late 2018 into early 2019 are they selling out arenas in Europe and America? One word…Reverence.
Reverence, released in May of 2018, is Parkway Drive’s highly anticipated answer to Ire (2015). By answer, I mean punch in the face. The opening track “Wishing Wells” starts the album off with a somber effect. Winston does not sing and he does not growl. He talks. He talks to you about a supposed vow he has made to “ask if God would come and play. I’ve dug a shallow hole for him to sleep.” So we are pushing some religious buttons in the first couple of breaths and I’m game. Then he launches into a verbal onslaught to rip the face off this God with which he is so very pissed.
This anger continues to manifest and blooms into a beautifully blackened creature of a metal album. No one is safe from Parkway’s assault and they will victimize the church, celebrities, any and all matter of hater, and every God from every religion that ever dared to take a friend from us in an untimely way. Underneath this unforgiving prose lay drop chord warheads that sit deep in the pit of your stomach, such as in “Absolute Power”. If you dig a little hip-hop in your rock, “Shadow Boxing” promotes the crisp licks of vocal prowess that McCall can spit and then he will haunt your blood cold in “Cemetery Bloom”. “In Blood” and “I Hope You Rot” will boil the blood, so listen with care. “Prey” and “The Void” will make you smile and realize all is well in this beautiful world where good rock n’ roll still exists. “The Colour of Leaving” will make you cry; if you have ever known loss, that is.
Then “Chronos” will change your life. “Chronos” takes you on a journey through the mind of Death, the one who will take, no matter the convenience of time, place, status, color or creed and you will not win the fight. The end game has already been predetermined and this fantastic song will make you accept it. Jeff Ling, lead guitar, proves how grossly underrated he has always been, and it thrills me to think of what he will do next.
Reverence is, in my humble opinion, the best metal album of 2018. It is as progressive and existential as Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage and has raised the bar for metal acts that will be hard to reach. It is without a doubt an album to be revered (pun fully intended) and I can only hope, within my heart of hearts, that Parkway Drive have more to give in the years to come.
JC: As a Managing News Editor and Writer I always try to be up on the newest and most popular television, film, and news stories out there. I am also a Mom, and occasionally those two things cross beautifully. I have fallen in love with a dragon. His name is Toothless. He stole my heart years ago, back when he was a much younger dragon, but he has now come back and stolen it all over again. How To Train Your Dragon was a movie I watched back when it premiered in 2010, one day when I was home sick. It was based upon a book by the same name written by English author Cressida Cowell. I loved the story, the voices and the animation. It was not Disney, but Dreamworks, and boy have they definitely been giving Disney a run for their money in the animation department.
You were rooting for the underdog, but learned to love the whole lot of Berkians and all the crazy dragons. There was a sequel that was just as good as the first, released in 2014—of course aptly named How To Train Your Dragon 2—a live action show, two series: Dragons: Riders of Berk, and Dragons: Race to the Edge (which you can now see on Universal Kids), a graphic novel series, and video game. There was always a thought for a third installment to finish the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy, and my friends that third film was released last Friday February 22nd did not disappoint.
We get to witness the conclusion and ending to one of the best friendships to grace our screens. Just as we have grown during the run of the film, Hiccup and his trusty dragon, Toothless, have grown up as well. Both in charge of their respective tribes, they must make difficult decisions to make sure the success of their own thrive into the future. Deep for an animated feature, but so heartwarming and feel good, you feel as though you are a part of the tribe along with them. The animation, my god, the animation is so beautiful and breathtaking. It is a beautiful ending to a lovingly cared for trilogy. Bravo, Dreamworks, for taking the time to make How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World; the movie we waited five years for. I can promise you that this story will be one that stays with you. I can also promise that you may want your own dragon too.
Here’s a little sneak peek at one of voice actors auditioning and the trailer to How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World.
Brien: This week I finally saw Alita: Battle Angel in IMAX 3D. Now, I’m not much of a fan of 3-D films—mostly, I find them gimmicky and distracting—but there were no other options if I wanted to see this on an IMAX screen, and I very definitely did want that. After all, we’re talking James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez here.
My introduction to Alita was with the OAV (original video animation, i.e. direct to video anime) Battle Angel Alita released in 1993. I do have one volume of the manga on my shelf, but I never got around to pursuing the whole set. A lot of hardcore Alita fans actually frown upon the anime version, but I loved it. It has cyberpunk elements, which I was into at the time, and an interesting sci-fi theme of androids discovering what it means to be human. (Yes, I know, she’s actually a cyborg, since she still has a human brain.) Alita is just somehow a compelling character. She’s not, as one YouTube reviewer put it, a “born sexy yesterday” trope anime bimbo. She is both rediscovering herself and also reinventing herself throughout the story. There’s also just something fun about watching a little girl take down all these hulking behemoths.
So was the 3-D distracting? Well, maybe a little, but only because you’d have to catch your breath marveling at the magnificent landscapes they created. Mostly, it was pretty seamless and not gimmicky. I don’t see many movies in theaters these days (kids), so it was worth it for me to pay up for the experience, and clearly this was the experience Cameron and Rodriguez had in mind when making the film. This movie actually only covers the first four of the nine volumes to the manga story, so there’s definitely room here for a sequel. The people who are going to see it are loving it (94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes), but the box office take still has a ways to go to recoup the $170 million it cost to make Alita. So do us all a favor and go see it!
Sean: Battle Angel Alita: The Original 1990 Manga
Alita: Battle Angel opened in theaters recently and while I haven’t seen it, it looks like my exact brand of movie. Over-the-top action, science-fiction sensibilities, and an impressive sense of scale. I haven’t seen it yet at time of writing, however, due to one thing: the eyes. The eyes in the trailers are so off-putting I’ve spent the months leading up to the film’s release wrestling with how I felt about them. So, in the interest of research, I read the original manga, hoping to push my decision one way or the other.
Battle Angel Alita is a bizarre story to read fresh in 2019. Other than the trailers for the film, I had no real knowledge of what it was; no expectations. I found myself steamrolling through it, finishing all nine volumes in the span of one busy weekend. I would sneak in a chapter here, spread through on there. I even found myself returning to it while out at a bar with friends. It’s a vastly compelling read.
But I found myself constantly wondering if I would recommend it. For as compelled as I was, I frequently felt that it boiled down to “I must punch enough brains out (literally) to discover who I am”—a fairly common trope in this variety of manga. The narrative is driving, with a constant push to the next chapter, the next volume, though it doesn’t offer much in novel ideas or themes. It wasn’t until the final few chapters that I really pieced together why I was enjoying it so much.
For all of Battle Angel Alita’s simplicity, it is the culmination of a colossal range of science fiction. From Blade Runner to Rollerball, the Sci-Fi films of the ’70s and ’80s seep through at every turn. It doesn’t just copy these tropes and ideas, however. It unifies them into its own world, building on the blood and destruction; creating a world compiled of the best of science fiction that feels surprisingly natural. The influences are clear and bring a smile to my face, but never detract from the story; never feel like they are there just to be there.
The story didn’t just take from science fiction, however. Alita gave a wide number of ideas and tropes to the world of science fiction. One of the final volumes contains an aesthetic so reminiscent of Nier: Automata that the game’s music practically flows through. The recycling of bodies and their disposability is mirrored in a multitude of ways in Altered Carbon. The influence of Yukito Kishiro’s work is extraordinary.
Ultimately, though, is Battle Angel Alita worth reading? As a fan of the science fiction, and of seeing the themes and ideas grow and mutate, absolutely. If you’re looking for something darkly enjoyable, absolutely. If you want something deep, complex, and new, maybe give it a pass.
Caemeron: The third season of True Detective ended this past week, and it was brilliant. I know a lot of people who thought that season 1 was great and were turned off by season 2. This seems to have led some to not give season 3 a chance, which is a shame as it is truly excellent TV.
I’m not interested in comparing it to season 1; asking whether it reached those heights and so on. Neither am I interested in getting down on season 2 by saying this is “a return to form” or something like that. Season 2 wasn’t bad, but it is the case that season 3 feels more like True Detective than it did in terms of its aesthetic (whereas the link between seasons 1 and 2 was more conceptual; relating to nihilism).
Like season 1, season 3 plays with multiple time periods and the issue of unreliable narration, but whereas the first season did this through a difference between what Rust (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty (Woody Harrelson) were saying and what we saw on screen, the third does it more through the lens of the degenerative mental state of Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali).
Ali’s performance is magnificent, both as the younger Hays in 1980/1990, and as the older in 2015, whose memory is failing him. He is the same man, but different. And the make-up work is exceptional, too!
The other actors in the season also kill it. Stephen Dorff’s turn as Roland West ought to lead to his own McConaissance. Scoot McNairy brings the anguish of Tom Purcell to life (and has some truly striking forehead veins). And I hardly know what to say about Carmen Ejogo’s portrayal of Amelia, other than she made me fall in love with the character right along with Wayne.
The long and short is that the third season of True Detective is definitely worth your time. It’s a story about trauma, loss, the human condition…and basically everything worth thinking about.
And let us know what you recommend! You never know, we might check it out and write something!