On the Flipside: A Review Series
By Brandon Llamas
Royalty - EarthGang
“I’m the latest phenomenon you should be hip to,” Doctur Dut opens strong on the first track of Royalty, made in collaboration with fellow Atlanta native Jonny Venus. The Dreamville Records duo EarthGang’s jazzy end to a trilogy of EP’s sets the stage perfectly for their debut studio album Mirrorland, which has been rumored by the group for months. With only five full tracks, Royalty delivers a melancholy and thoroughly refreshing look at the group’s past, present, and future.
Reminiscent of Flatbush Zombies, Chance The Rapper, and frequent collaborator J.I.D, EarthGang serves as another pillar holding up the deteriorating bridge between oldheads and the new wave, but this is not to their detriment. Songs like “Lolsmh” and “Off the Lot” showcase a more relaxed, melodical side of the group, while others, such as “Cocktail” and “Build”, punch harder. Guest appearances by Ari Lennox and Mereba provide a well-appreciated contrast to Dut and Venus’ delivery, but, despite some fans’ requests, a verse from J. Cole himself, owner of the Dreamville label, was nowhere to be found.
It takes a lot of creative confidence to drop an eight-track EP and make almost half of those skits from the perspective of an Uber driver passing aliens and starting his own music group: PlantGang. Royalty delivers that in the best way, and shows us how the group has developed since the release of their previous projects: Rags and Robots.
In a 2017 interview with Pigeons & Planes, Johnny Venus called Royalty ¨a culmination of the two. This is us going up to the launching pad before we head off into this other world that we intend to take you into. It’s like being on the plane before you take off — the anticipation, the anxiety and restlessness, whatever you feel. It’s like let’s get there, let’s do this. This project really is us sitting in that space ready to free yourself from whatever is going on around you."
The Shape of Water - Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-Winning The Shape Of Water is a fluid look at human and inhuman emotion through the eyes of Eliza Esposito, a janitor played by Sally Hawkins, who falls tragically in love with a merman captured by the US government during the Cold War. Political and romantic tensions run extremely high throughout the film, keeping the audience thoroughly involved in the Bioshock-reminiscent nuclear world, as each scene seems to drip with saturation and subtle romanticisms.
Every shot in the film carried an intense beauty along with it, ranging from government director Strickland’s savage means to an end during the movie’s final downpour, to Eliza’s intentionally-flooded bathroom, foreshadowing the real genesis of her and the amphibian’s relationship much later in the film. The heist sequence, especially, draws the viewer in as close as it can to the changing dynamics between several characters, cementing many relationships in their unstable and untimely nature, which, in itself, seems to be one of the film’s major themes.
The music and the plot of the movie intertwine very well, with the two protagonists’ relationship pooling from her playing him jazz records that would vibrate through his tank. This evolves throughout the film to the point of a beautifully monochrome performance of “You’ll Never Know” - originally by Alexandre Desplat, featuring Renée Fleming - which, for a mute, is quite the feat. The soundtrack, available on almost all musical platforms, does the film more than justice, opting for a haunting and heavy record that flows beautifully through the movie.
Novato High sophomore Elliott Scheuer described some of the unique aspects of the film.
¨I liked the stylization, and I thought it was an interesting take on a classic horror story: Creature from the Black Lagoon. I like the coloring, and you could tell that there was a lot, from a production standpoint, thought out, when it came to every shot. I don’t like everything he (del Toro) does; some of it is a little bit over the top in The Shape of Water, like when he cuts off his (Strickland’s) fingers. I thought that was a little unnecessary… but I think he does good work,” said Scheuer.
Del Toro’s newest film reflects a long series of creative successes, including the Hellboy series, Pan’s Labyrinth (a 2007 Oscar nominee), and even Pacific Rim, which was just recently succeeded by its sequel: Pacific Rim Uprising. The Shape of Water is still showing at many of the larger theaters around the Bay Area and on YouTube from $4.99 and up.