Category Archives: Review

Character Studies: Sherlock vs. Sherlock

So, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downy Jr. Which of the two is the better Sherlock Holmes?

 

Like many such questions, the answer need only boil down to individual taste. Both actors play the same fictional character in a similar way; sometimes quirky, sometimes downright eccentric, but always with a killer wit and a British accent. Both Holmes’ portrayals also have a playful, on-again-off-again relationship with his sidekick, Dr. Watson, and while both have their share of very thinly-veiled homoeroticism (one version is a bit more obvious about it than the other), Sherlock Holmes and his partner in crime-solving are always congruent with mainstream, unread ideas about the character.

What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, what does the average person who has never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know about Sherlock Holmes?

…If you answered something along the lines of, “he’s weird, but very smart,” that is probably correct. As long as a portrayal sticks to that basic description and comes across as fairly likeable, the average movie-goer is satisfied.

Let’s look at some of the basics of each role:

Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a bit more suave than his scruffy Downey counterpart, and while he too has many funny lines (usually revolving around his misunderstandings about social norms), his writers explicitly label him as a high-functioning sociopath. Because of the TV show format (every episode of the show is as long as a full-feature movie), we are allowed to see his flaws more highlighted and expanded upon, as he struggles to relate and care about others beyond the potential of challenges and amusement. The movie, on the other hand, mostly uses Sherlock’s faux pas strictly for humor, and virtually nothing he does has lasting consequences on the relationships in his life.

 

In both versions, Holmes is also heavily compared to Professor Moriarty, a criminal mastermind whose intellect is frequently described as being on par with that of Holmes himself. He was less prominent in the original book series, but has since become a major enemy and foil to Sherlock, contrasting what little humanity he can sometimes feel with wanton cruelty and depravity, emotionalism that is expressed and directed in socially-unacceptable ways.

It is heavily implied that, had these men chosen a different path in life, they could very well have switched places.

Interestingly enough, Movie Moriarty contrasts with Downey’s character by literally being everything that Downey isn’t; suave, debonair, perfectly blending in with the world around him. This man contributes to society by teaching and donating, rather than assisting the police force and insulting them the entire time.

TV Show Moriarty, on the other hand, is fairly underwhelming at first glance. He blends in too much until his villain persona is revealed, and that appears to be very immature and almost child-like, as he giggles, wastes time, and occasionally has to stop himself from full-on, screaming rage.

 

TV Show Moriarty was built up and kept a secret more effectively  than Movie Moriarty, whose voice gives off enough presence by itself. Listening to him speak to Irene at any given time, you know pretty much everything you need to know about him on an almost instinctual level, before his face and machinations are truly revealed.

TV Show Moriarty had a bit more ease with which to hide, as the show is set in modern day and deals with themes like abundant, fully-integrated technology. He almost seems to revel in his anonymity, and the ease with which he can disappear, spy on, and command other people, whereas the movie’s character sits calmly and quietly, pretty much right up until the very end, like he is playing a difficult but engaging game of chess.

 

Smooth, maybe, but a little too traditional.

This gent is more of a typical mustache-twirler villain – an upper class Snidely Whiplash, if you will – while his TV show counterpart is less polished, but new and interesting. And how he relates to Sherlock is a bit more compelling than just “we’re not so different, you and I.”

A point goes to the TV show!

 

Sorry, boys.

But hey, that’s a nice segue! Let’s now consider the Dr. John Watsons.

Depending on whom you are, you might get a kick out of the fact that Bilbo and Smaug are now awkwardly flirting and solving crimes together. They have good friend chemistry, as Watson seems to have his own Diet-Sherlock tendencies (like being bored with the peaceful, post-military life and longing to go back to the excitement and bloodshed). He’s interesting and compelling, definitely, but personally, I’m just not sure he can beat Movie Watson, who tends to be a little less lost and befuddled and more drily witty and irritable. His bickering with Downey, as well as the fact that his partner keeps dragging him back into crazy Sherlock world no matter how much he tells himself he wants to escape, is adorable and hilarious.

Here, at last, I award a point to the movie. Props to you, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

 

But what about the brother character? Another figure who is close to Holmes, bringing out his complex personality through their interactions with one another?

 

Mycroft Holmes is also similar to Sherlock in many ways, but in the movie he seems to have a good relationship with Sherlock, while in the TV show it is clearly strained, perpetuated more by a grudging need for favors than genuine care and respect. Here, we can definitively say that the brother serves a very real and defined purpose in one version while being mostly superfluous in the other.

Movie Mycroft doesn’t challenge or change “Sherly” in any meaningful way; he’s just there for the sake of the plot, the humor, and the very necessary scene where he talks to Watson’s new wife, unashamedly naked.

 

Ugh…the point goes to the TV show, once again.

Finally, I address Sherlock Holmes himself. While Downey’s character is amusing and does more than enough to fluidly carry the rough-and-tumble films to their full 130-ish minutes, Cumberbatch is better at delivering dialogue and coming across as more socially stunted than just a generally eccentric weirdo. His movements still have tons of energy, and his face reflects the same speed and excitement of his thoughts as well, but it never really comes across as too hammy or played-up for the camera. It seems more natural and plausible, which helps to ground the story when it goes off into downright otherworldly sinister schemes and towering crime organizations.

Also, Sherlock uses certain book plots as a basis and changes them up a bit, which, while not the most faithful way to adapt a story, may intrigue book lovers enough to draw them into the show.

 

Some episodes drag a little, though, so you win some and you lose some.

I’ll happily go see a new movie if one comes out, but face it: Downey’s version is almost as cartoonish as Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective.

If only they’d had Vincent Price…

 

*None of the images in this post belong to me. Thank you for reading.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017): Doesn’t Hold a Candelabra to the Original

Just…go see the stage musical and pretend that Hermione is in place of whoever is Belle. It’s more worth your time and money to do that than to go see this live-action remake.

This is the only one so far that I would not consider buying. And spoilers below, so be warned.

Normally, I would wait to post this until I have calmed down and reflected more, but nope! This sucker is so flawed and inexplicably disjointed that I have to talk about it now. It is that astoundingly incompetent.

Maybe that’s not the right word…perhaps I should say that it’s astoundingly pointless. This is a diet version of the animated feature and has no reason to exist. If I could somehow scream the word “whatever” without putting too much effort and emotion into it, that  is how I would describe my feelings towards this movie.

This remake tries so hard to not just live up to its animated namesake, but be it as well, and it can’t possibly do so.

The music is noticeably over-polished and poorly mixed. It’s the opposite problem of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables; it’s not raw and emotional enough. It sounds like it was just made to sell the soundtrack as close to the “pop” section as it could get.

We (meaning my boyfriend and I) checked to see if it was just our cheap movie theatre that was behind the bad mixing, but no, there are plenty of problems still present in the music itself. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens sound great, but only the latter has any raw emotion in his voice, and both definitely sound like they’re singing in a studio, rather than in the actual movie. And the in-song dialogue is stripped of all emotion, as the producers were clearly more interested in making everyone sound “pretty” than giving them any semblance of character.

 

Notice how Belle gets really pissed off at the beginning, almost yelling? Imagine in this scene that she has a British accent, and then picture she’s in a chair at the salon casually complaining to her girl friends. That’s essentially how powerful and compelling it is; mild annoyance vs actual shocked outrage.

Also, Gaston doesn’t get humiliated with a wedding fiasco. Belle shuts a door in his face, and then the next time we see him, he’s mildly disappointed at the tavern. How does this fuel the fire of his depraved ego, making him into the true monster of the movie? What leads him to make the drastic jump of deciding to throw Belle’s father into a mental institution? I have no clue. It was in the original, so let’s put it in here too, I guess!

The actors (all good people clearly trying to do their best with crap direction) almost never seem like real people. Belle seems less terrified and more put-out most of the time, and otherwise, she’s smiling. I think Watson was trying to be more confident in an effort to seem stronger, willful, and more independent than the original Belle, but it just comes across like she’s not a real human being dealing with a terrifying and stressful situation. She’s not quite at Anakin Skywalker levels of bland, but still not very compelling, which is a damn shame.

 

The original Belle, voiced by Paige O’Hara, was a strong, likeable character who also managed to be human, if a bit more forgiving and kind than most of us would be in her situation.

Emma Watson, on the other hand,  has very little character. The film keeps telling me she’s odd and different and awesome, like the previous Belle, but she doesn’t show it unless she’s directly speaking, and even then, it’s pretty basic. There’s a lot of tell, don’t show that happens here, and it’s not just because it’s a musical. The original was a musical as well, practically virtually identical to this one, but even during moments where the characters were silent, a lot of personality comes through in their designs and the “cartoon-ish” animation. 

For example, when Gaston comes a-calling with a whole impromptu wedding party, Belle’s eye roll upon seeing him through her peephole is incredibly pronounced, even maybe overexaggerated. 

That said, Watson does look the part. She is gorgeous and I will always love her, even when her performance is sadly kind of bland and  lackluster.

The story is too much retreading of old material (word-for-word dialogue and essentially shot-for-shot scenes), to the point where you can’t help but compare it to the original animated feature. Some things are changed completely, while others are changed not nearly enough, and there is far more of the latter than the former, too much more for my liking.

This ain’t “recapturing the spirit of the original, with some new twists to make it fresh.” This is riding the original’s coat tails and throwing in a few scraps of difference to try to throw us off their scent.

 

The visuals are over-gilded and painful to my eyes; I had to look away for most of the Be Our Guest number, it was so hideous, overcrowded, and just overdone. The castle never feels lonely, ominous, or terrifying in any way, demonstrated best by the fact that Belle shows up at it during the day, in brilliant sunshine. Sooo dramatic! 

But don’t worry. God will still send that out-of-nowhere thunderstorm to the climax for dramatic effect. Some Disney tropes never die, after all.

The wardrobe is hideous and makes no sense. Most of the other objects I can tolerate, but she was too much, with her haphazardly flailing curtains and utter lack of a face.

The pacing is whack. I was checking my watch all through the first half, and then, to my surprise, numerous scenes in the second half went speeding by like the Road Runner. 

For example, the moment when Beast gets angry about Belle trying to touch his enchanted rose isn’t literally a minute, but it feels like it might as well have been. There’s virtually no drama behind it, and then Belle leaves, looking like the Beast just told her to go to the kitchen and make him a sandwich. I have no idea why she’s running or why she just up and decides to leave after this; the look on her face is minor frustration, and nothing more.

She doesn’t even look all that scared staring down a pack of angry wolves that are about to eat her face off.

That said….the added songs were nice. And some of the jokes were pretty damn funny. Some of the added scenes were interesting, if superfluous or largely irrelevant. Why did Belle’s mother getting the Plague matter? I could have sworn they were leading up to some Sweeney Todd-style rape ambush; you know, maybe something related to the fact that she was apparently a weirdo like Belle and her father, and people ganged up on her…?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing was added to Belle and the Beast’s relationship other than her telling him about her family a little bit…Cool? Belle didn’t even know her mother, and was a baby when she died, so I’m not sure why she remembers much or why this is so important to her.

Yeah, I was pretty much right in my pre-movie fears. But even before that, I should have started having misgivings once it was mentioned that they were going to be using the original songs and score. There is taking inspiration and changing context, and then there is copy-pasting in someone else’s work instead of doing your own.

But hey, that’s how the film basically pays for itself. Who needs creative marketing when you have simple brand name recognition?

I tried so very hard to go into this and be fair and objective, but the movie begs so much to be compared to its predecessor, and in that light, it fails miserably. I’d rank it below Maleficent, and it didn’t even have the gall to do the “here is the true version of this story, lost to time and retellings” bullcrap. At least Maleficent was working from an already fairly flawed movie, and tried to switch the sympathy to the villain.

It just feels so lazy. I was of half a mind to go back to the cashier and ask for my money back before we had even reached the halfway point, and not because I was all that angry.
I was bored. I’d seen this all before. It was like going to the stage musical without the novelty of it being live, and after a short time, I stopped wondering how they were going to handle the scenes from the original movie differently. The CG was just so fake and hideous…I almost stopped caring until the “Days in the Sun” scene.

The stage musical, at the very least, had some intrigue. What props will they use? How will they set up and work with the stage? The “movie magic” on the screen isn’t true movie magic anymore. It’s all done with computers. That’s the answer.

The Beast isn’t scary or even all that intimidating. The household objects are confirmed to be frozen in their forms once the last petal falls (left ambiguous in the original movie, but a major plot point in the Broadway musical), and it is needlessly sad, even for Disney. Someone told me to bring tissues, but I wasn’t even crying. And guys, I cry at everything! I cried when Ash got turned to stone in Pokemon: The First Movie, for Pete’s sake!

Honestly, that was the darkest thing about the entire movie, and doesn’t it make the Beast so much more likable that he screwed them over, just for a hot girl?

 

I’m sorry, petrification is one of the most universally scary things ever. Being frozen alive, but aware for the rest of your life sounds absolutely horrible and torturous. Waaaaay worse than being a Beast who can travel anywhere in the world on a whim (the Enchantress gave him a magic book for some reason), and yet this guy just lets Belle go knowing this is going to happen to his servants?!!!! 

If I were one of them, I’d probably beat him with the hardest, sharpest part of myself right up until the very end. Yeesh…and people call the original Beast a jerk.

 

Oh, also, Disney took a page from the original story, in that Belle’s father takes a rose from the garden and that’s what pisses the Beast off initially…lame. It’s not like Maurice went after the enchanted rose or anything. Hell, he took food from the Beast’s table, but no, Maurice. You picked a flower, you heartless thief! How dare you?!

If there anything that the original movie did right, it was picking and choosing what to adapt out of the source material. Maurice trespassing pisses off the Beast, and the Beast only cares about the rose (not a random rose from his garden) because its wilting is tied to his curse. His despair leads him to act more like the animal he had become, and guess what? Animals are territorial. It makes sense on a simple, but also brilliant, level, when you think about it.

What was the point of her father’s taking one leading him to be locked in a dungeon? Also, why is it randomly snowing in Beast land?

 

New Beast still seems too human, but ironically he also doesn’t emote very well, and his voice is princely but not remotely beastly. It’s a wonder that anyone can take him seriously.

There is so much to complain about in this movie that I can hardly keep focused. LeFou is officially gay now, which kind of strikes me as the new filmmakers poking mean-spirited fun at the old version of LeFou, but ultimately, I’m surprised more people are pleased by that portrayal. I mean, he knows Gaston is doing bad things the whole time, and he seems genuinely regretful,  but LeFou stands by and lets things happen just because he’s got a crush on Gaston.

 

In the end, Gaston snubs him pretty casually and pointlessly, and that’s all it takes to get him to be a full-on good guy. Not that it amounts to anything. LeFou talks to Mrs. Potts, and then a few scenes later, he appears again with dancing with a new guy….Cool? I guess it pays to be an obvious walking-stereotype that compromises his morals for a hot person and then gives up being a bad guy immediately

No sir, nothing questionable or poorly-thought-out there…

But hey, I can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t find insulting. Visibility is still visibility, after all, and the “women scorned” trope can probably work just as well on a man…who didn’t seem all that committed in the first place. Last minute redemption, anyone?

I just think it’s weird to praise it simply because it’s Disney. There is a much better LGBT victory AND first from Disney that we should be talking more about, in my opinion…

 

Gaston is okay, but like LeFou, he’s not nearly as despicable as his animated counterpart. His scene at the tavern is probably the best thing in the whole movie, but again, I’d personally rather be watching it live, on a stage. The script tries to make him cartoonishly, unambiguously evil, but it’s more funny than damning.

I’d still rank his acting higher than just about anyone else in the film.

The Enchantress appears very obviously throughout, especially at the end, but we never get her thought process on the terms and conditions of this curse she’s evidentially so proud of. Never once does anyone think to question her about her actions, even when she’s standing right next to them. Mrs. Potts handwaves a short explanation that she and her fellow servants let the king brainwash his son, turning him into a fellow scumbag, but that’s the only indication we ever get of what the Beast’s father was like. 

Oh, and if we’re going for realism here, the servants were probably a step up from property, so what choice would they have really had, movie? You want to elaborate on that one a little bit more?

See, the animated movie had its unfortunate or questionable implications, but it didn’t draw attention to them nearly as much as this one does. The remake tries to explain a few things (such as why no one in the surrounding area remembers the cursed ruler of the land and his castle in the nearby woods), but utterly ignores several crucial others.

It DOES answer one very important question right at the end, however…that yes, Belle was very much into the bestiality of the situation.

 

No, seriously. Belle teasingly asks if the Prince-Beast can grow a beard, and he roars at her, making her laugh. 

Um….ewwwwww……Thanks for that, Disney. That is one part of the story that I never wanted to seriously ponder.

To cut this disjointed rant short, the new movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s okay. But it is pretty bad and pretty shamelessly just coasting off the love and prestige (duels deserved) of a much better movie. You can argue that all of the Disney remakes, retreads, and sequels do that to some extent, but this film is the live-action iteration that tries the  absolute least, and it’s arguably the one that should least be allowed to get away with that.

Despite their flaws, Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book gave me enough that was new and likeable for me to acknowledge their existence. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, truly feels like a hollow, whore-ish cash-grab, and given what it’s trying to be, that’s depressing.

But hey, Hermione’s in it, so that automatically makes it good, right?

Not for me, thanks. I think I’ll stick with the original, despite how much it traumatized me as a child. At  least it was well-paced and creatively put together by clearly passionate people. 

At least that beast had some bite to it.


 

*3/10

*Please note: none of the images, songs, or video clips in this article belong to me. They are owned by Disney (except the Medusa one). 

 

 

First Impressions of the Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild

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The initial release weekend has come and gone. Finally, am I right? How long has Nintendo been hyping this game in particular?

I will preface this by saying that I spent the weekend constantly trading off my playtime with my boyfriend, who works significantly different hours than I do, but we both can safely agree that we love this new system.

The portability is amazing, and any graphical quality reduction that might occur when moving from a TV screen to the Nintendo Switch’s screen is more than forgivable, assuming I even noticed it in the first place (which I haven’t). No longer are you tied to Wii U’s exact location, unable to take the controller more than 10 feet away  before it starts fussing. Now, you could take The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a several-hour car trip, provided that it is properly charged on the docking station beforehand.

I’m saying all of this because I started playing the Switch almost completely blind. Unlike my boyfriend, who has been watching updates on the system and the game for months, I ignored all news, obsessing over other things in my hope to make the time go by faster.

It worked, by the way. I was excited, but not agonizingly so, like someone I know…

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The switch controls were a bit confusing and awkward at first, but you can arrange and rearrange them at your leisure. The system comes with a classic-style controller, into which the joy-con controllers can be snuggly inserted. Otherwise, you can strap them to your wrist, much like the original Wii’s controllers. The flexibility is a welcome change, and while I was dubious at first, I’ve come around to it very quickly. Overall, the Nintendo Switch feels like a fully realized-realized innovation over their original Wii system, whereas the Wii U was, as I’m sure many will agree, a floundering, confused half-step in the right direction.

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As for Breath of the Wild (hereby referred to as BotW) itself….my God.

The comparisons to The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim are apt, but at the same time incomplete. Both games have impressively large overworld maps to explore, numerous side quests to choose from, vast amounts food to prepare, and various different weapons to pick up along the course of your adventure, but Skyrim allows for a complex job system with its enhance-able skill trees. For example, a person could, in theory, choose to improve their magic spell-casting and nothing else, and spend the game as a mage. In BotW, you have that one “job” you always have in The Legend of Zelda series: Swordsman Hero of the Land. Sure, you might employ a bow, hookshot, bombs, etc., but at the end of the day, you’re going to use the Master Sword to defeat Ganon.

I don’t even need to finish playing this game to tell you that.

The towns are fewer than in Skyrim, due to much of the population being scattered one hundred years prior to the time of the game. They are also very Japanese. It’s almost like being back in something like Okami, but with less Ukiyo-e.

Or like stepping into a scene out of Princess Mononoke.

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The roads between locations are more visibly populated with enemies as well; the encounters tend to be less random at every time but night, when skeletal monsters can pop out of the ground, but even then, the location still feel like they have been pre-ordained by the programmers. The only enemies that seem to truly appear out of thin air at any given time are the Guardians, the ancient, large, autonomous, mechanical beings that move quickly and shoot death beams at you. But I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on game design. I just tried returning to a location where a Guardian was meandering around before, and it wasn’t there anymore.

I won’t go into any spoilers here, but BotW is very addicting and fun. Exploring the land feels organic and engaging, and once you get the Paraglider, there is no limit to where you can go. You can go straight to Hyrule Castle at that point, not that it’s advisable.

My favorite things, as with Skyrim, are hunting enemies and animals out in the wild. You use the parts and meat collected from your kills to make different food and elixirs, which grant health and status effects depending on the combination. Link’s cooking and eating animations are adorable and hilarious as well, and I personally feel that they help to break up the monotony of long cooking sessions.

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I also like finding wild horses. I’m a bit confused by the ones that appear to be blue and pink, but otherwise, the experience of catching and taming them is not too terribly removed from actual riding and training (keeping in mind that this is a video game). Each horse almost has a mind of his or her own, and he or she may try to fight your control occasionally, especially if you have a heavy hand with the reins and don’t soothe your mount at all. It’s not as difficult as riding Agro in Shadow of the Colossus, but it’s not as easy as riding Epona in earlier games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

The camera system also feels much less out-of-place than it did in The Wind Waker (regular and HD).

BotW feels new and different, but recognizable enough as a Zelda game. It is just as ambitious as it looks in the previews, but by no means feels like it’s taking on too much. At least, not in the beginning.

We’ll have to see as the story progresses.

But I think that long-time fans of the series will adore it, provided they can comfortably adapt to the less linear, more open-world elements. Those who prefer the 2-D games may find themselves presently surprised, as this might just be the 3-d iteration they’ve been waiting for. It seems to be marrying story and exploration very well, but keep in mind, I haven’t even reached the first dungeon yet. My boyfriend has, however, and he definitely agrees with me in this aspect as well.

 

So far, 9/10

*The images in this post do not belong to me. They belong to Nintendo.

Top 5 Anime Clichés I Wish Would Die

…Well, “die” is a strong word. Maybe they should just…go away? Quit their day jobs? Take a vacation?

Don’t get me wrong; I love me some good Japanese animation. I’ve grew up with it, even if it was mostly terrible, kiddy-fied dubs of adult shows done by 4KidsEntertainment at first.

By middle school, I was frequently sneaking downstairs at 3am on a school night to catch Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, which broadened my horizons with shows like Inuyasha, Case Closed (a.k.a Detective Conan), .hack//SIGN, and Wolf’s Rain. That was when I really learned that, despite its silliness, anime had so much more dramatic, mature potential. I certainly preferred it to live-action teenage schlock like Degrassi and One Tree Hill.

This was the closest I ever came to being a hipster, by the way.

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All compliments aside, anime can be weird. I mean really, really weird. Like used underwear in a vending machine weird…even though those don’t really exist.

Here are some things that annoy me about anime:

 

5) The Tsundere Character

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While it may be true that there is a fine line between love and hate, most average people don’t behave this way. It’s extremely bipolar.

I suppose it’s only to be expected. There’s a prevalent stereotype that women date men who are no good for them so that they can “fix” them, so why shouldn’t the opposite be true for some men? It might make sense that they’d want to melt the beautiful, frigid harpy’s heart. In theory, the greater the challenge, the more satisfying the reward, so if you could just tweak her the teensiest bit, she’d be the perfect wife!

I’ve never personally felt the attraction to people who treat me like crap (unless you count a few odd two-faced friends), and while I can understand why it’s a popular fantasy, I’ll thank it to stay out of my escapism as much as possible.

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Wait no, just kidding! NOTICE ME, SENPAI!

 

The Tsundere character is, as you might have guessed, a belligerent female character. She either runs hot, cold, or jumps schizophrenically back and forth between the two, almost as though she’s in need of some serious therapy. Even more so in the cases where the woman seems unaware or in denial of this fact.

But I’d never suggest something like that. This behavior is obviously totally normal and healthy. Why, just look at how often it shows up:

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It’s not cute and charming. It needs to be treated immediately.

 

4) Too Many Harems

Ah, I remember being young and having 7+ super attractive male friends who all had a stupendous crush on me and constantly fought for my attention.

Oh wait…

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I can buy some people making lots of friends, even if it’s predominantly with one gender. What I can’t buy is an unremarkable dude (or girl, for that matter) being surrounded by hotties, all of whom seem intent on winning this Joe Schmoe’s heart.

There is nothing subtle about this setup; it’s a shallow fantasy for the viewer at home to mentally port themselves into. Even if the main character has something of a genuine personality, which is unlikely, there’s usually a very flimsy explanation given as to why they’ve suddenly become the clueless anime Bachelor.

Even if I could believe it more often, I’m getting sick of it. Save it for the dating simulator games. To make it work effectively in a un-interactive visual medium is to make the protagonist so bland that you could close your eyes and lose nothing whatsoever. It’s junk food sprinkled over many generic anime shows, particularly poorly-written ones like Sword Art Online. Probably the best use of it was in Ouran High School Host Club, which was an affectionate parody of the genre and ended over a decade ago.

 

3) “You Had Me Worried”/”I’ll Never Forgive You!”

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I see this attitude as an extension of Japan’s highly collectivist culture, and in truth, there is something to be said for it. It’s not wrong to keep others (especially your loved ones) in mind when deciding how to live your life, and in anime, protagonists frequently run off and risk their lives, and not always for the sanest reasons.

However, coming from a country where mental illness is skyrocketing, I find something distinctly off-putting to this as well, at least in the anime context. Particularly when it appears to be presented as the only reason that the protagonist should feel bad.

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You might have just as easily destroyed the world, rather than saving it, but who cares? Your bae was worried about you!

The two basic flavors here are sadness and anger. Either the character is trying to guilt our hero into an apology, or he or she is trying to scare them into one.

On some level, it comes across as battling selfishness with more selfishness, just from a different source. And then the other person (usually the protagonist) mumbles a “sorry” and either all is pretty much instantly forgiven or the worrier is mollified for the time being. It feels like a lip-service to the worrier, and trust me, there is a world of difference between someone who shows concern for others and someone who feels the need to play the martyr.

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This can often be the dutiful girlfriend/boyfriend character, which also pairs well the Tsundere. It’s more obnoxious when the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, so to speak. Even when it seems genuine, it’s still an attitude that doesn’t sit well with me, but to be fair, I am an individualistic Westerner. Maybe its value is just lost in translation.

 

2) Blandly Unlikeable (Or Just Bland) Protagonists

This is very in-line with trope #4 above, but whether the character gets a bunch of interchangeable love interests or not, bad writing is still bad writing, regardless of how much bad writing there is.

People often debate about what makes someone a Mary Sue, and to what extent that title is warranted. Why would some complain about Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when she is no more inexplicably gifted and lucky than Anakin or Luke Skywalker before her? Is it just because she is female, and the largely male Star Wars fanbase can’t easily picture themselves in her shoes without having to sprout a uterus in the process?

I understand that the term “Mary Sue” gets thrown around to the point of near meaninglessness these days, but think about it’s classic definition. And think about this: the lead character, as you might expect, usually has to carry the story (unless you’re particularly clever and talented)

 

*cough* deathparadevisual1 *cough*

 

and while you can fill the screen with quirky side-characters to balance things out, you’re better off putting some real time and effort into your main man (or woman) right off the bat. Who that person is can determine what your story is really about (for example, growing up vs saving the planet).

If all you can say is “she’s pretty and nice,” but then have her instantly become an all-powerful witch who can bend reality to her whims…that’s when it can become a problem.

Believe it or not, a character can be unlikeable, yet still easy to sympathize with. Characters can do bad things or think bad thoughts, but the point is to make them work with their flaws, not be ignorant or dismissive of them. Real people are admired for overcoming adversity, and so too are their fictional counterparts. We like to see that we’re not alone, and furthermore, we want to believe that, regardless of the obstacle life has thrown at us, we can beat it.

On the flip side, you can also find characters that are so ridiculously upbeat and happy-go-lucky that you pretty much never find them in the real world. Or if you did, they’d likely annoy the living hell out of you.

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It’s fine though. They’re just too good for this world, kind of like Jesus or Nausicaa.

Being too nice and generic is by no means the worst that can happen, though. In fact, I’d prefer that to a character who is despicable, yet inexplicably coddled.

Involving the every-man in a world-changing story can be a great way to build character, drama, and intrigue in a way that doesn’t feel too forced or contrived, but giving a boring, unremarkable, sometimes actively contemptible character mad skills or a remarkable destiny doesn’t endear us to them automatically.

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Nor should it.

Huh…maybe Sword Art Online is just the perfect barometer for everything I can’t stand about anime.

Speaking of which…

 

1) Gratuitous/Surprise Nudity and Perversion

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But seriously, guys. If the show is not labeled as an Ecchi, Hentai, or whatever sexual genre, I don’t want to see stuff like this popping up. It’s very off-putting.

If I know to expect it, that’s one thing. While I think the “don’t like, don’t read” sentiment is too often used as an excuse not to write better,  it does have some practical, necessary uses. I take the “Mature Audiences” label with as big of a grain of salt as I can muster, especially if I’m familiar with the studio, director, channel, or even time of day that I’m watching. But I don’t think I should just expect to see some “hilarious” (MASSIVE air quotes) sexual harassment just because I happen to be watching an anime. To me, it’s like a happy kids movie being suddenly interrupted by a vicious grizzly bear mauling. Where did that come from? Why?

Did it add something meaningful to the story or the tone that I’m just not getting?

If there is one thing that puts me off about Japan and Japanese culture as a whole, it’s the portrayal and representation of women. And I say this as someone who has become significantly less prudish since I left high school.  I realize that my country has a very different religious background, among other things, and that we have this weird double-standard where extreme violence being easily visible and accessible is a-okay, but sex isn’t.

That said, both the U.S.A. and Japan have their share of problematic elements, and we seem to be on a similar page when it comes to how we view ladies. Whether they are competent fighters or damsels in distress, 14 year olds who look 20 or 20 year olds that look 14, there is nothing quite like the unparalleled character development we get from naughty up-skirt shots.

And it seems my cup runeth over with them, no matter where I go.

Notice that I’m not calling  for a ban. If that is your thing, power to you. Just because I like chocolate doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily like chocolate covered ramen noodles, but you totally can, if you catch my drift. I’m just asking that we give it a point, or ease up on it a little bit, because plenty of people do find it creepy.

At least when it comes right out of nowhere and is particularly mean-spirited. You have the entirety of the internet for that, if you really want it.

 

*None of these images in the article above are owned by me.

Diary of the Casually Linear: Skyrim

DCL…It’s like DLC, but scrambled!

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For reference, this is my first not strictly-linear video game. What can I say? I’m a moron who likes following the plot and knowing where to go next. This is why I tend to watch more movies.

But my boyfriend is getting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as soon as he can, and he said this game would be a good way to prepare for its epicness, so there’s that too.

And yes, I know mods for this game exist, but why would I start on those? I’m going to have enough chaos as it is!

 

Day One

I booted up the game, only to be told I was arrested for crossing a border. The gentleman planning to execute me seemed unsure of who I was, and very nicely allowed me to spend half an hour meticulously designing my character.

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She’s a Wood Elf.  🙂

Then, in a suspiciously timely fashion, a dragon attacked the prison. My boyfriend started trying to direct me, telling me to follow the arrow, but I’m still adjusting to the controls, graphics, and general confusion as the dragon barbecues everything within a mile radius of my character. Frantically scrambling to get out of range, I ended up going with the Imperial Soldiers who just tried to cut my head off, and after my boyfriend was done laughing at me, he insisted that I follow through with that storyline, as he’d already chosen to follow the Stormcloak rebels in his file. He seemed intrigued by the dialogue as we meandered around Riverwood, but having the world opened up to me right from the get-go, I just founded myself dazed and hopelessly lost.

Is the land called Skyrim or Tamriel? Is there a difference between the two?

On the way there from the prison, my boyfriend told me that it was up to me whether or not I kept a weapon out at all times. It seemed to slow me down a little bit, but I decided it was worth it for now once a small pack of wolves tried to chew my face off. Also, I know now to not pick up things like buckets and tankards. They don’t sell for much gold and they just take up space and weight you could be using for other things.

Time to figure out how smithing works now…

 

Day Two

I helped a guy named Sven convince his crush that another guy she liked wrote her a mean letter, but then got Sven killed while trying to retrieve some claw artifact stolen by bandits from the Riverwood Trader guy. He randomly said he’d accompany me, so I let him. And now the other guy is pissy with me. Whoops.

He’s still offering to teach me archery for a price though, so he can’t be that mad, I guess.

I also got this Dragonstone tablet thingy. My boyfriend tells me that will be important later. I wish he would have told me not to take Sven along on my first real quest earlier, because he told me after the fact that the guy is a weakling, but whatever. Now I have the keys to his house and I spend time using his cooking pot and bothering his mother. There goes my plan of trying to be an upstanding citizen.

 

Day Three

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I made it to Whiterun, and it seems like a nice place. I got my hands on a bow and took an extra long time getting here because I got distracted by trying to shoot deer, foxes, and rabbits on the way over. I think I want to improve my archery, but first I have to process how the skill progression works.

People keep approaching me with minor quests, but no one seems to be in that big of a hurry, so I figure I’ll do them whenever I feel like it. For now, I’m trying to follow the main story. Probably out of sheer habit.

I found a little girl who wants to be adopted, but I have no house to put her in. 😦

I’m a thane now, which I assume is like a Lord or Lady. All I had to do was give the Jarl some news and kill a dragon squatting at a nearby watchtower. I have a housecarl named Lydia who offered to follow me, and I’m told she’s good. She can double the amount of items you can carry by trading with her, which especially helps for things like dragon bones and scales. I’m surprised I don’t have to pay her a cent for risking her life and purposefully weighing her down. 😄

Speaking of Dragons, I now have a destiny to fulfill, so I’m going to see these old mountain hermit guys.

 

Day Six

I am a Dragonborn(e?), and I can shout at people using the dragons’ own language, which does things. Cool. So far, I can knock people over or jump 20 feet in whatever direction I’m facing.

There has been yet more running around in the wild and shooting things. On the way, Lydia and I also ended up at a place called Hillgrund’s Tomb, and helped a man kill a necromancer who was messing around inside. He has a lot of scary family members, although that might just be because they’ve been there so long that they’re skeletons now. What’s a draugr?

After much trial and error (and a lot of deaths. I handed my boyfriend the controller at one point so that he could give it a few tries, but he hadn’t come across this quest yet and only did slightly better), I managed to keep both Lydia and the guy alive. I’m happy I did something my boyfriend couldn’t manage to do. 🙂

I read online that this guy can’t reward you if he dies…which makes a lot of sense, actually. How could anyone willingly reward you if they’re dead? 😄 But even if you could just take the reward off his corpse, the quest won’t be considered successful. Maybe not even complete.

Anyway, I got gold and raided the enemy corpses for goodies. Huzzah!

I discovered that I really like lockpicking, so that’s another skill to work on. I like searching around rooms for things you can pick up and sell. Or eat. You’d be surprised where you can find fresh food in this game. 😄

I don’t read most of the books I pick up because our TV is tiny. Well, tiny isn’t the right word, but it’s far enough away from the couch that it makes serious reading a struggle. I can barely see the dialogue options half the time unless I’m sitting on the floor, and that starts to get uncomfortable before too long.

 

Day Nine

So much map space, so little time.

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I finally bought a house in Whiterun and filled it up. I adopted Lucia, the girl I met a few days ago, and Sophie, a girl who was selling flowers in Winterhold. I found her sleeping outside in an alley one night and adopted her on the spot, despite the fact that she and Lucia seem to have the same voice actress. I get so confused when either one of them calls out to me. It’s very disorienting.

I stopped doing so many main story quests after a while and just started exploring, or doing minor quests that popped up. Riften seems like fun, although any ideas that I had about playing an even remotely moral character got thrown out the window once I got there. I somehow ended up joining the Thieves’ Guild while searching for this one peasant’s missing bow-heirloom, so now I’m just rolling with it.

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It took me an embarrassingly long time to get how skill progression works too. So whenever you level up, you get 1 point you can apply towards any skill you want, provides that skill has enough of its own levels internally. If that makes as little sense to you as it did to me (my excuse is that I’m a better hands-on learner when it comes to stuff like this), it’s like this: your character can be level 15 as a whole (which can determine what you fight in certain dungeons/areas), but your archery skill can be level 30, or as I like to think of it, you have 30 archery “points”. There are special abilities within the skills that you can unlock, but you can develop any skill you want right off the bat and improve it anytime you want.

To unlock the zoom/slow-down archery ability, I might need to have at least 30 archery points. If I don’t have those the next time my character levels up as a whole (level 16), I have to pick something else and just keep training in the meantime (using my bow out in the world or paying a trainer to give me a point automatically). It’s funny to me that if you’re impatient and have the coin for it, you can just pay someone to essentially use your skill for you until it goes up a point. I wish I could pay someone who would make me instantly better at soccer or volleyball in the real world.

Here’s a visualization, but with the Conjuration skill tree:

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By the way, sooo glad I spent all that time sculpting my character’s appearance. I pretty much never see her face because she’s always wearing helmets! 😄

 

Day Thirteen

So I found this guy who asked me to befriend a dog that he’d seen on the road outside of town, and somehow that dog speaks my language in a bizarrely out-of-place accent. My first thought was that I drank some potion with wonky side effects or something.

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He told me to help him patch his relationship with this guy, who is some kind of statue-god-thing as far as I can gather (a daedric prince?), and that led me to a cave full of vampires. Now I’m one because I guess I got bitten at some point, so after that quest seemed to have finished up, and realizing that the sun was starting to hurt me, I went to Morthal to see a man about a cure.  I could never quite figure out how to lure and feed on victims as a walking abomination, but talking to Falion eventually led to much fun discovering how to buy and use the spell Soul Trap (you need it to fill up a black soul gem, and it has to be a human you use it on), as well as me learning how to raise zombies.

I went back to the prison where the game started, only to find it crawling with bandits, so I didn’t feel too bad about imprisoning one’s soul in jewelry so that I can get rid of this pesky undead thing. Nifty.

In other news, I bought a horse….well, technically two by this point. These things are suicide-ily loyal, because as long as you’re not on them, they will attempt to curbstomp every enemy that comes near you. I lost my first horse that way; I didn’t even want it to go fight a bear. It just did it.

R.I.P. Stupid, Loyal Horse #1

The second one I got was from a stable outside another town (Solitude, I think. Whichever one has palominos). I wanted a different color, and this one thankfully has lasted so far. It seems kind of pointless to own it for riding because it doesn’t go that much faster than you can, running on foot. But I’m an Equestrian at heart and it is amusing to see it go kamikaze itself at wolves and the like.

I only wish I could actually name it. Right now, it seems to go by “Freya’s Horse,” which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

 

Day Seventeen

Lydia doesn’t annoy me as much as she seems to annoy my boyfriend. According to him, as a male character, she only says, “I am sworn to carry your burdens,” in this tired, sarcastic tone of voice. She mixes that one up with, “I am at your command,” for me, and I think at least one other thing, so it doesn’t bother me. It makes me laugh, actually.

I’ve grown so attached to her (and terrified of having her die or simply get permanently lost on quests with me) that I just went ahead and married her in the Temple of Mara in Riften. She lives in my house anyway, and now she can help watch and nurture my NPC children for me.

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Otherwise, I keep killing dragons and bears. Once I was even ambushed by a bear during a random dragon encounter, and that was fun. Another time, I got attacked by a Frost Dragon in a town. I guess that starts to happen more often, as you fast-travel at higher levels. I’m not as annoyed by that as I am by cultist and other NPC group attacks somehow. Either way, it’s funny to watch townspeople run around screaming in panic, and then two seconds later, they’re back to normal conversations. They completely ignore corpses and bones in the street, even if I steal the clothes and it’s just a naked assassin lying there.

I wonder if that’s Skyrim’s equivalent of a snow day. Maybe in the south, people freak out at one dead body in the road, but in the north, they just shrug and don’t cancel schools or anything.  “In my day, we had 10 ft’s worth of dead bodies in the roads, and no one got out of school!” 😄

So far, I am loving this game. It allows for so much freedom, letting you set your own pace and do basically whatever you want first. I’ve never had that kind of experience with a game before, but The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim also draws me in with mythology and fantasy. I need to pay more attention to the conflicts and lore, but then again, it’s taken me forever to figure out the basics of gameplay. 😄

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My favorite moment (a.k.a. glitch) so far was when I was climbing a mountain to fight a dragon marked on my map. It was proving very difficult until the bugger knocked me off the cliff, sending me a good ways down to the ground. I survived, and found it sitting up on the ledge, looking down at me in its usual menacing fashion.

So I pulled out my bow and started shooting at it. Usually, after so many hits on the ground, a dragon will take off into the air again and circle around you for a bit, breathing fire or ice or whatever, but this guy just sat there, not moving at all, letting me take as many shots as Jenassa and I felt like. Eventually, we killed it, and it rolled down the side of the mountain just like I had, before crashing at my feet and beginning to decay/surrender its soul/etc. My boyfriend and I laughed, and he said that was the easiest dragon fight he’d ever seen.

Granted, he’s only been playing for a year (and not even much during that year), but still. 😄

 

…To be continued? Let me know if you’d like to hear more, and definitely feel free to share your own stories in the comments.

*Also, I took one or two of the pictures myself, but the rest came from the Internet. The Skyrim screenshots belong to Bethesda, and the original meme that was Skyrim-ified is courtesy of the blog Hyperbole and A Half.

 

 

The Lego Batman Movie, And Why It Outclasses Despicable Me

Pandering doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but neither does it have to be stupid.

After siting through a commercial for Despicable Me 3, and then immediately following it with The Lego Batman Movie, I got to thinking. What’s the difference between these two family movies? Why do I find one infinitely more tolerable?

I’d ask why I find the other one utterly obnoxious and loathsome as well, but I’ve already kind of answered that question before.

The Lego Batman Movie has many of the same kinds of jokes (butts, low-hanging fruit jokes, etc), but in addition to poking fun at the angsty dark knight, it also satirizes the film industry as a whole while having its own complete, engaging story. It also has many jokes that adults can appreciate on multiple levels, such as poking fun at the 60’s Batman show and other lovingly nerdy references.

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Based on the trailer, and my experience from watching the other movies, Despicable Me 3 appears to be mostly silly slapstick. While the dialogue might sound more mature than The Lego Batman Movie, the very presences of the minions makes me picture Illumination Entertainment dangling shiny keys over the audience and making silly noises.

Sadly, this seems to work for most people.

We have a supervillain who is pretty much Vector/Victor from the first movie. He wears silly clothes, dances in a ridiculously outdated way, and generally acts “too cool for school,” except now we should be making fun of him for that, rather than being charmed by it. Gru still sucks at being a bad guy, and now sucks at being a good guy too, and not even working off the genuine charm of Kristen Wiig can help him. I sort of laughed at him beginning to sing after accidentally mooning an office birthday party, but that was about it.

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The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie speak to my inner child far more than the bright colors, quirky shapes, and loud noises of Illumination Entertainment films, and not just because of my personal ire. I didn’t own legos as a child and didn’t play with them much when I did get my hands on them, but the dialogue and story progression of these movies harkens back to play sessions with any kind of toy. Barbies, action figures, horses, dollies, or what-have-you, most kids made up stories like this, sometimes even more elaborately. It’s a pleasant, nostalgic reminder of the unfettered creativity of childhood while still having adult structure and thought applied to it, and the slapstick jokes (as overdone today as the pie-in-the-face of yore) are mingled with actual intelligence, humor, and wit.

Hell, my boyfriend and I laughed at the opening credits. The only other movie that got us to do that (that we can remember) was Deadpool.

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You may be skeptical watching the trailers, and perhaps rightly so; I certainly wasn’t sure the first few times, even after hearing how well the first film was received by critics and general audiences. But I definitely believe that these movies deserve more praise and affection than those made by, if you’ll pardon my bluntness, marketing whores and rip-off artists with barely half of that remarkable talent. That’s just instant gratification, in my opinion, and until I see some vast improvement, I shall continue to scorn and ignore Illumination Entertainment and its kindred.

You’d think a movie about legos would seem like the more blatant marketing exercise, but not so, somehow. It’s very fun and genuinely funny. Even the jokes that weren’t my typical cup of tea didn’t get so much as an eye-roll from me.

The Lego Movies may look iffy, especially to older folks, but if you take the risk, you may just find yourself well-rewarded. If nothing else, it’s cute, and you, your kids, and your grandkids will enjoy it together.

 

8/10

*Any images used in this post do not belong to me, but are being used for the purposes of review and satire.

Pop Music Icons Summed Up in 10 Words or Less

Who has time for long-winded, ego-stroking think pieces anymore? Certainly not my generation. According to every article I’ve seen in the past ten years, millennials have the attention spans of lab mice, which is why we flock to short, punchy bursts of instant gratification like Vine and Twitter.

Well, allow me to continue that supposed trend today. I’m basically going to take tweets (succinct opinions) and publish them wholesale here. Let’s mock us some pop stars just in time for the Grammys, the most pretentious, inbreeding, self-aggrandizing excuse for an award show to ever grace cable television!

Let the mocking begin!

 

Carrie Underwood.

Queen of Modern Country. Breaks up the sausagefest.

 

Justin Bieber

Bearable since his bitter little balls dropped.

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Lady Gaga

Madonna-wannabe. Wish she’d just sing.

 

Beyonce 

Gifted. Gorgeous. Must have God-awful taste in men.

 

Ed Sheeran 

Wordy ginger brit with major feels.

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Taylor Swift

Whether mad, sad, or glad, that chick be boy-crazy.

 

Rihanna

That one friend who never takes a vacation.

 

Silentó

NOT A REAL ARTIST. SORRY NOT SORRY.

 

Meghan Trainor

GLEE’s Amy Winehouse. Insufferable. Arrogant. “Hollywood fat” at best.

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Drake

Asleep at the mic. Stream of consciousness.  No new friends.

 

Adam Levine.

Thinks he can pull off Justin Timberlake.”Maroon 5 who?”

 

Bruno Mars

Retro-fitting the 21st Century, and I’m okay with that.

 

The Chainsmokers

Hoping you’ll forget this one sometime soon:

 

Lukas Graham.

‘Nough said…no really. You’d think it’s just one guy.

 

Katy Perry.

Like Miley Cyrus but with autotune and no Disney shackles.

 

One Direction.

Not as bad as they were, in nearly every way.

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Nick Jonas. 

Discount Justin Timberlake. Still better than Adam Levine.

 

Sia.

Iggy Azalea’s phony accent with actual pipes to back it.

 

Justin Timberlake. 

Remember NSYNC? He pretends not to. Lonely Island represent!

 

The Weekend.

Half of Justin’s range while singing through their noses.

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DJ Snake.

Usually more fun away from the mic.

 

Adele. 

Gorgeous voice. Still not convinced she’d move on.

 

John Legend.

Doesn’t sound like he belongs to this decade.

 

Jessie Jay.

Discount Katy Perry.

 

twenty one pilots.

Good points. Depressing music. Seem like they need Linkin Park.

 

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Ariana Grande.

Still can’t get over “bwake fwee.” Sorry. Nice voice though.

 

Selena Gomez.

Boring music. Like Ariana, she looks 13.

 

Demi Lovato.

More boring. Still can’t escape the mighty shadow of Disney.

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Lil Wayne.

Weird looking. Jerk to women. Still gets women….?

 

Chris Brown.

Scumbag. Decent voice. Awful. Has awful fans.

 

Mariah Carey.

Amazing pipes. Pissy diva attitude.

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Skrillex.

The sound keys make in the dish washer.

 

P!nk.

My favorite artist. Needs a new live show routine though.

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*Please note: this is not meant to be a serious stab at anyone other than Chris Brown.