The Legend of Hercules is an early contender for a 2014 year-in-review list. Hint: it’s not the good one:
“The opening shot immediately orients the viewer in a world more closely aligned with drawings adorning a grad-school hallway than anything resembling real life. This is ostensibly a live-action movie, though that classification operates under the assumption that the actors are alive. But the CGI surrounding these “humans” (again, merely a theory as to the race of the creatures populating this film) is atrocious, particularly a lion that seems to have been ported from the Daniel and the Den episode of Veggie Tales. The action sequences, such as sword fights with infuriating bursts of slo-mo, are bogged down with the flat, disgusting world surrounding them. Absolutely nothing here can breathe in the slightest which hurts any richness or fun this movie may have had.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

The Legend of Hercules is an early contender for a 2014 year-in-review list. Hint: it’s not the good one:

The opening shot immediately orients the viewer in a world more closely aligned with drawings adorning a grad-school hallway than anything resembling real life. This is ostensibly a live-action movie, though that classification operates under the assumption that the actors are alive. But the CGI surrounding these “humans” (again, merely a theory as to the race of the creatures populating this film) is atrocious, particularly a lion that seems to have been ported from the Daniel and the Den episode of Veggie Tales. The action sequences, such as sword fights with infuriating bursts of slo-mo, are bogged down with the flat, disgusting world surrounding them. Absolutely nothing here can breathe in the slightest which hurts any richness or fun this movie may have had.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

From Wes Anderson’s latest to the end of Homestuck, here’s what the Wine & Pop staff is looking forward to in 2014:
“Almost all of Wes Anderson’s filmography contains a sorrow underlying the whimsy. Moonrise Kingdom seemed to be the apex of this idea, feeling almost like an essay on how the defeated find hope in French New Wave and Futura. The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to deviate from this trend and return to the sheer comedic blur of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The story concerns a painting called Boy With Apple and the hotel manager (Ralph Fiennes) who inherits it. Intrigue follows, and Fiennes’ lobby boy (newcomer Tony Revolori) helps stash the painting. The remainder of the cast is stunning, from Anderson regulars (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) to recent converts (Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton) to newcomers (F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric). The way Anderson plays with time here sounds fascinating as well: different aspect ratios were used for the various timelines the film juggles. Kingdom was Anderson’s best since The Royal Tenenbaums, so Hotel has a good deal of pressure weighing on it. That apparent divergence of genre, more madcap than melancholy, could be a wise step in proving that though the director has recently created a near-masterpiece that explains the emotional underpinnings of his films, he’s far from finished exploring his signature style.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

From Wes Anderson’s latest to the end of Homestuck, here’s what the Wine & Pop staff is looking forward to in 2014:

Almost all of Wes Anderson’s filmography contains a sorrow underlying the whimsy. Moonrise Kingdom seemed to be the apex of this idea, feeling almost like an essay on how the defeated find hope in French New Wave and Futura. The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to deviate from this trend and return to the sheer comedic blur of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The story concerns a painting called Boy With Apple and the hotel manager (Ralph Fiennes) who inherits it. Intrigue follows, and Fiennes’ lobby boy (newcomer Tony Revolori) helps stash the painting. The remainder of the cast is stunning, from Anderson regulars (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) to recent converts (Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton) to newcomers (F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric). The way Anderson plays with time here sounds fascinating as well: different aspect ratios were used for the various timelines the film juggles. Kingdom was Anderson’s best since The Royal Tenenbaums, so Hotel has a good deal of pressure weighing on it. That apparent divergence of genre, more madcap than melancholy, could be a wise step in proving that though the director has recently created a near-masterpiece that explains the emotional underpinnings of his films, he’s far from finished exploring his signature style.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

The characters’ ethnicity and settings are new, but the problems with the Paranormal Activity franchise remain:
“When critics call for more representation in media, this isn’t exactly what they’re talking about. The newest addition to the Paranormal Activity family, dubbed a spin-off but fitting snugly into the series’ overarching story, trades upper-middle-class white suburbia for a lower-income apartment complex in a Latino neighborhood of California. The change is welcome in some regards: despite shallow characters and tepid exploitation of macabre iconography, it is nice to see diversity make it to the screen in any manner. But the whole project reeks a bit of “here’s one for these guys,” pulled back some by a fear of turning off a more mainstream audience. The only food items named are “salsa” and “tortilla chips” and tequila flows freely (it’s not that these details are false, but rather that they’re simple, easy truths). What could have been a real offering for an oft-underserved audience instead becomes a flat serving of cliché, both in terms of stereotype and the Paranormal Activity franchise.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

The characters’ ethnicity and settings are new, but the problems with the Paranormal Activity franchise remain:

When critics call for more representation in media, this isn’t exactly what they’re talking about. The newest addition to the Paranormal Activity family, dubbed a spin-off but fitting snugly into the series’ overarching story, trades upper-middle-class white suburbia for a lower-income apartment complex in a Latino neighborhood of California. The change is welcome in some regards: despite shallow characters and tepid exploitation of macabre iconography, it is nice to see diversity make it to the screen in any manner. But the whole project reeks a bit of “here’s one for these guys,” pulled back some by a fear of turning off a more mainstream audience. The only food items named are “salsa” and “tortilla chips” and tequila flows freely (it’s not that these details are false, but rather that they’re simple, easy truths). What could have been a real offering for an oft-underserved audience instead becomes a flat serving of cliché, both in terms of stereotype and the Paranormal Activity franchise.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

The post-post-Dan Harmon era of Community begins with promise, if not excel-lence:
“These two episodes at least manage to feel like episodes of Community. The rhythms, character beats and emotional murkiness is all there. Occasionally it’s quite good, even verging on great. But there still seems to be a layer of dust that returning showrunner Harmon needs to brush off. The first episode has the burden of reestablishing the show’s third-season universe and setting up what is to come. It buckles under the weight and doesn’t have much time for good jokes or proper storytelling. And however much Harmon wants to consider season four “the gas leak year” it still happened, so the immediate joy of seeing these characters reunited has waned.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

The post-post-Dan Harmon era of Community begins with promise, if not excel-lence:

These two episodes at least manage to feel like episodes of Community. The rhythms, character beats and emotional murkiness is all there. Occasionally it’s quite good, even verging on great. But there still seems to be a layer of dust that returning showrunner Harmon needs to brush off. The first episode has the burden of reestablishing the show’s third-season universe and setting up what is to come. It buckles under the weight and doesn’t have much time for good jokes or proper storytelling. And however much Harmon wants to consider season four “the gas leak year” it still happened, so the immediate joy of seeing these characters reunited has waned.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

The best films of 2013, from Before Midnight to Her:
“Her is a delicate beast of a film, one that draws out its emotional content by warping the standard romance plot only so slightly. Or perhaps more than slightly, as the central relationship is between a man, Thomas (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Yet the themes that Jonze grapples with here make a point of highlighting how similar this love is to any between two humans. The misfortune that comes with that affection is the weight of change, the reality of one partner growing while the other remains the same, or shifts in a different direction. The best material in Her doesn’t even directly involve the fact that Samantha is an artificial intelligence. The film is never better than a brutal scene between Thomas and his estranged wife (a superb cameo by Rooney Mara). In a handful of minutes the audience fully comprehends what this relationship once was and why it has crumbled. Thomas’ friendship with Amy (Amy Adams, in the role she should be getting awards attention for) is also stunningly realized, with the years between the two layered into every scene. This is also one of the year’s best comedies, especially in its vision of the future of video games. This is one of the year’s best films, not just because of the allegorical tension of human & computer love, but because of the shadings around that main premise. From the wonderfully and intelligently realized near-future of LA to Jonze’s shuffling of stereotypical gender roles, Her is as unique of a presence as the romance it documents.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

The best films of 2013, from Before Midnight to Her:

Her is a delicate beast of a film, one that draws out its emotional content by warping the standard romance plot only so slightly. Or perhaps more than slightly, as the central relationship is between a man, Thomas (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Yet the themes that Jonze grapples with here make a point of highlighting how similar this love is to any between two humans. The misfortune that comes with that affection is the weight of change, the reality of one partner growing while the other remains the same, or shifts in a different direction. The best material in Her doesn’t even directly involve the fact that Samantha is an artificial intelligence. The film is never better than a brutal scene between Thomas and his estranged wife (a superb cameo by Rooney Mara). In a handful of minutes the audience fully comprehends what this relationship once was and why it has crumbled. Thomas’ friendship with Amy (Amy Adams, in the role she should be getting awards attention for) is also stunningly realized, with the years between the two layered into every scene. This is also one of the year’s best comedies, especially in its vision of the future of video games. This is one of the year’s best films, not just because of the allegorical tension of human & computer love, but because of the shadings around that main premise. From the wonderfully and intelligently realized near-future of LA to Jonze’s shuffling of stereotypical gender roles, Her is as unique of a presence as the romance it documents.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

The year’s best albums, by iankcory:
“It almost doesn’t matter what this record sounds like. By sheer force of will Kanye West has lodged himself in the center of nearly every pop culture conversation that could be had this year. This album was going to make its way into the upper reaches of the Internet’s end of the year content no matter. Given that, we should all be glad that Yeezus turned out to be as bizarre and fascinating of a listen as it is. By now Kanye has completed his transformation from wide-eyed backpacker to leather clad super villain, stripping away at his usual melodic opulence until nothing is left but thick and distorted bass and soul samples beaten within an inch of their lives. And above this squalling din, Kanye himself remains as baffling and charismatic as always, smashing Corollas, decrying racism in the fashion industry, and ascending to godhood all before his croissants make their way to his table. Even when exploring such harsh terrain, Kanye’s deep devotion to pop songwriting shines through, insuring that any of Yeezus’s 10 tracks will get dance floors packed if any DJ is brave enough to play them.”Read more at wineandpop.com

The year’s best albums, by iankcory:

It almost doesn’t matter what this record sounds like. By sheer force of will Kanye West has lodged himself in the center of nearly every pop culture conversation that could be had this year. This album was going to make its way into the upper reaches of the Internet’s end of the year content no matter. Given that, we should all be glad that Yeezus turned out to be as bizarre and fascinating of a listen as it is. By now Kanye has completed his transformation from wide-eyed backpacker to leather clad super villain, stripping away at his usual melodic opulence until nothing is left but thick and distorted bass and soul samples beaten within an inch of their lives. And above this squalling din, Kanye himself remains as baffling and charismatic as always, smashing Corollas, decrying racism in the fashion industry, and ascending to godhood all before his croissants make their way to his table. Even when exploring such harsh terrain, Kanye’s deep devotion to pop songwriting shines through, insuring that any of Yeezus’s 10 tracks will get dance floors packed if any DJ is brave enough to play them.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

Three of 2013’s best films focused on characters that screwed up their lives by pushing everyone away:
“The horror of the dinner party is also on full display in Frances Ha. In that particular scene, Frances (Greta Gerwig) is unable to recognize that none of the adult strangers around her give a damn about old college gossip. She’s completely out-of-touch, oblivious to the conversational standards of her age group. Llewyn has the ability to read a room, but often fails to care about what others want to hear. He lashes out at those around him both because he cannot control himself, and because he doesn’t particularly want to. This seems to be the key difference between Llewyn and Frances: Frances isn’t aiming to hurt or offend those close to her, whereas Llewyn seems to want to inflict his internal pain onto others.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

Three of 2013’s best films focused on characters that screwed up their lives by pushing everyone away:

The horror of the dinner party is also on full display in Frances Ha. In that particular scene, Frances (Greta Gerwig) is unable to recognize that none of the adult strangers around her give a damn about old college gossip. She’s completely out-of-touch, oblivious to the conversational standards of her age group. Llewyn has the ability to read a room, but often fails to care about what others want to hear. He lashes out at those around him both because he cannot control himself, and because he doesn’t particularly want to. This seems to be the key difference between Llewyn and Frances: Frances isn’t aiming to hurt or offend those close to her, whereas Llewyn seems to want to inflict his internal pain onto others.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

iankcory looks at the year in pop promotion and production, then does a track-by-track review of Beyoncé:
“Pretty Hurts

Okay, so right from the get go Beyoncé isn’t fucking around. She’s long been the most visibly feminist pop star, but after a year where discussions about exploitation of race and gender came to the forefront, this is incredibly poignant. As a dude it’s easy to watch a song/video like this and brush it off by saying “Beyoncé’s the most beautiful human being on the planet, what the fuck does she have to complain about?” but if anything, the fact that she feels the same insane pressure that the rest of the world does proves how screwed up our whole culture is. On top of this, the song is larger than life in the way that only Beyoncé can pull off, stacking harmonies and belting until the roof is blasted off into outer space. Of course, the actual politics of this song are trickier than they initially appear. While Beyoncé is clearly condemning the impossible standards she’s held to, and the video shows just how grueling the lifestyle needed to maintain those standards can be, she’s clearly a natural born competitor and will push herself to win no matter how fucked up the rules are. It’s some real Hunger Games shit. ”Read more at wineandpop.com

iankcory looks at the year in pop promotion and production, then does a track-by-track review of Beyoncé:

Pretty Hurts

Okay, so right from the get go Beyoncé isn’t fucking around. She’s long been the most visibly feminist pop star, but after a year where discussions about exploitation of race and gender came to the forefront, this is incredibly poignant. As a dude it’s easy to watch a song/video like this and brush it off by saying “Beyoncé’s the most beautiful human being on the planet, what the fuck does she have to complain about?” but if anything, the fact that she feels the same insane pressure that the rest of the world does proves how screwed up our whole culture is. On top of this, the song is larger than life in the way that only Beyoncé can pull off, stacking harmonies and belting until the roof is blasted off into outer space. Of course, the actual politics of this song are trickier than they initially appear. While Beyoncé is clearly condemning the impossible standards she’s held to, and the video shows just how grueling the lifestyle needed to maintain those standards can be, she’s clearly a natural born competitor and will push herself to win no matter how fucked up the rules are. It’s some real Hunger Games shit. ”

Read more at wineandpop.com

A review of Chvrches debut album and a look at unfair assumptions we make about certain bands, by iankcory:
“It’s an understandable urge given how pervasive those instruments where in that decade due to their novelty, but making these kind of blanket statements tends to ignore the way that these innovations in technology effected the underlying compositions being written, or the vast amount of music in the 80’s that had little to do with synth-pop. The advent of sequencers did more than just change the timbre of the music made; it also lead to a lot of songs being constructed around static rhythms and bass lines. But instead we continue to gravitate towards the obvious surface details like the gated reverb or walls of electronic sounds, and thus completely miss it when a band like HAIM draws way more from 80’s pop than the 70’s soft rock that people peg them with. It can lead us to ignore a band’s strengths in favor of their quirks. And as a result, we can praise a band like Chvrches for being driven by an 80’s aesthetic, when instead they should be getting accolades for writing some truly timeless pop music.”
Read more at wineandpop.com

A review of Chvrches debut album and a look at unfair assumptions we make about certain bands, by iankcory:

It’s an understandable urge given how pervasive those instruments where in that decade due to their novelty, but making these kind of blanket statements tends to ignore the way that these innovations in technology effected the underlying compositions being written, or the vast amount of music in the 80’s that had little to do with synth-pop. The advent of sequencers did more than just change the timbre of the music made; it also lead to a lot of songs being constructed around static rhythms and bass lines. But instead we continue to gravitate towards the obvious surface details like the gated reverb or walls of electronic sounds, and thus completely miss it when a band like HAIM draws way more from 80’s pop than the 70’s soft rock that people peg them with. It can lead us to ignore a band’s strengths in favor of their quirks. And as a result, we can praise a band like Chvrches for being driven by an 80’s aesthetic, when instead they should be getting accolades for writing some truly timeless pop music.”

Read more at wineandpop.com

The final four episodes of Korra’s second season wrap things up with varying levels of success:
“Christmas came early this year and The Legend of Korra’s season 2 finale was released on the internet a week before it was supposed to air on TV. This means that we now not only get to talk about “Night of a Thousand Stars” and “Harmonic Convergence,” but also “Darkness Falls” and “Light in the Dark”! The question is, however, if Christmas came early this year, are we happy with the presents we got?”
Read more at wineandpop.com

The final four episodes of Korra’s second season wrap things up with varying levels of success:

Christmas came early this year and The Legend of Korra’s season 2 finale was released on the internet a week before it was supposed to air on TV. This means that we now not only get to talk about “Night of a Thousand Stars” and “Harmonic Convergence,” but also “Darkness Falls” and “Light in the Dark”! The question is, however, if Christmas came early this year, are we happy with the presents we got?”

Read more at wineandpop.com