Let me just start this review by saying: this multiverse isn’t that mad.
It’s impossible not to compare Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to the other big multiverse hit of the year, Everything Everywhere All at Once. The latter film breezes into totally different character histories, filmmaking styles, and finger… materials? Compare that to Multiverse of Madness, where the only alternate world we spend substantial time in is one where green means “stop.”
None of this is to say that the 28th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is without madness. It just comes from director Sam Raimi. His giddy eye manages to breathe new life into a franchise that’s functionally remade Iron Man no less than a dozen times.
Frankly, it’s to the film’s credit that the multiverse takes a backseat. The idea of infinite parallel universes may be inspiring for real-world philosophy, but as a narrative technique, it quickly loses steam. Instead, Multiverse of Madness is powered by the real juice behind Doctor Strange: dreams, ghouls, and oddball mysticism.
These macabre elements lend it a certain fairy tale quality. It feels more like a Wachowski-style bout of sci-fi whimsy than another perfunctory chapter in Disney’s medieval-marriage version of filmmaking. That’s probably why I found it much easier to connect to than any recent Marvel outing.
It’s interesting how well the film seems to stand on its own, given that it asks its audience to do more homework than any other MCU film to date. It assumes you have a knowledge of Marvel’s TV shows, recent property acquisitions, and obscure comics lore. Still, with its striking visuals, bold takes on characters, and complete embrace of mysticism, there are times where it seems to transcend Marvel entirely.
The secret ingredient here should be obvious. Raimi, who hasn’t made a film since 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful, is stronger as a hired gun than many MCU directors at their best. It feels like it’s taken 28 movies for Marvel to realize you have to turn the camera on. It’s got zany zooms and frantic motion, but at its core, this is the first Marvel movie whose shots feel carefully planned out. There’s a vision here; not a perfect one, but one just strong enough to overpower Disney’s corporate interests.
There were moments in this movie that had me wanting to leap out of my seat in the theater. More surprisingly, they seemed to get more and more frequent as the film progressed. Even some of Marvel’s best—Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy—have suffered from a dull third act. Multiverse of Madness only builds, dumping its dull moments in the first third before ramping up to nonstop thrills once the villain is revealed.
While this first act is weak, it still has its charms. Raimi relishes the chance to place Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in real-life circumstances. It’s why fans have taken note of the film’s performances. Marvel often takes its A-list casts for granted, but Raimi revels in the chance to direct them.
Cumberbatch and Olsen handily deliver two of the MCU’s best performances. Newcomer Xochitl Gomez also leaves an impression, although she’s definitely a supporting player. The big Illuminati cameos you’ve been promised won’t exactly have you jumping for joy, but like the multiverse itself, they’re used with a clever economy. Even brief cameos get a chance to shine here, especially Bruce Campbell and Michael Stuhlbarg (who does 30 seconds of wig work and walks away with the “with” credit).
While fans of the MCU’s formula may find this a jarring departure, most of the film’s issues come from its Marvelisms. Like Eternals before it, the infusion of a distinctive vision makes Marvel’s shtick more glaring. The “universe-building” elements, such as the Illuminati’s introduction and pointed references to Thanos and Spider-Man, are the ones that break the movie’s spell.
On a similar note, the too-cool one-liners are especially poor here. As quippy as MCU movies are, there’s not a single memorable verbal gag in here, and there’s a few that are actively distracting. No Way Home’s one-liners are no less cringeworthy, but Raimi’s singular vision is what makes this movie work, and these moments of glaring studio intervention compromise it.
The lack of pith isn’t to say that this movie has no levity. In fact, it finds more moments for emotional connection than any other MCU film, both within and without action. Raimi employs a technique so often forgotten in today’s blockbusters: action as a gag. PG-13 as it may be, Multiverse of Madness makes hilarious use of horror and gore. Putting delicious kills front and center, it walks away with a distinctive sense of humor in spite of its paint-by-numbers dialogue.
My opinion on this film will likely be completely different in six months. Maybe it’s doomed to a fate like Shang-Chi, beloved in an instant and forgotten just as quickly. But whether it’s the Raimi stan in me or not, this brought back the sense of wonder in me that the MCU’s assembly line beat out of me a decade ago.
Maybe the fact that Multiverse of Madness came out this late in the series already precludes it from being seen as a highlight. But right now, I don’t find myself wondering if it’s the best in the MCU. I’m wondering if it’s the best in the MCU by a country mile. A-
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now in theaters.
FN Meka, the world’s first AI rapper, gets booted out by record label
It’s not unusual for companies to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create artist personas. In the 2022 VMAs, Eminem and Snoop Dogg performed in the metaverse with their digital alter egos. And AI rappers are no different. In April 2019, FN Meka debuted as the world’s first AI-powered rapper.
Soon enough, he gained a huge following on Tiktok for his Hypebeast aesthetic and larger-than-life personality. In 2021, his Tiktok ballooned to 10 million followers. His popularity prompted Capital Records to sign him on August 14 this year. But, internet users began pulling up records of his questionable online behavior. Ten days later, his label booted him out.
Here’s how it happened.
Apparently, AI rappers exist.
FN Meka’s concept isn’t a true original. In fact, when it comes to virtual rap avatars, you’d probably think of British rap group Gorillaz first.
Brandon Le created the AI rapper avatar to sell non-fungible tokens. However, executive Anthony Martini led the avatar to new heights. Martini signed the rapper to Factory New, a record label he made for virtual artists.
His first single, “Florida Water,” features Gunna and Cody “Cix” Conrod, a Fortnite player. On the day FN Meka signed the deal, the single was released.
The rapper is the first artist to sign in Factory New.
A few days after his new record deal, Industry Blackout, an online activist group, called out FN Meka over his questionable actions.
For one, the AI rapper had used the N-word in several of his songs, including his first single. He also mocked police brutality and posted a picture of himself being beaten up by the police.
Plus, FN Meka was criticized for racially stereotyping Black people because of his appearance and aesthetic. Furthermore, rumors began circulating that no actual Black people were involved in his creation in the first place.
Other news outlets also criticized the AI rapper for collaborating with Gunna, who is in jail for racketeering.
The record company has since dropped him. In a statement, the record label offered “their deepest apologies to the Black community.” Because of FN Meka’s actions, the label has cut ties with him “effective immediately.”
More and more problems
It doesn’t end there.
Kyle the Hooligan has come forward as the voice behind FN Meka. And the rapper has dropped new information on the issue. He alleges that the company did not pay him for the first three songs he made for the AI rapper. He also claims to have been ghosted by the creators at around 2021, when FN Meka just started gaining traction.
Of course, this comes as a surprise. Factory New claims that the AI writes the song while the humans only perform it.
Kyle doesn’t know who currently voices FN Meka, and he hasn’t probed it. What we know for sure, though, is that the rapper is based on other trendy rappers like Ice Narco, Lil Pump, and 6ix9ine.
On August 28, Kyle the Hooligan announced that he would file a lawsuit against Brandon Le and Factory New.
There’s a sort of irony in FN Meka. The AI rapper, voiced by a Black artist, is the product of white creators. And some activists and critics even call the AI rapper a new form of blackface. Here, critics argue that anyone can use and adopt Blackness without being Black. Today, a majority of FN Meka’s music and videos have been deleted from TikTok. Martini has also walked away from Factory New and FN Meka, leaving the rapper’s fate hanging in the air.
How Diddy Turned a Nothing Vodka Into a Success
You remember the early 2000s, right? All about the flip phones, rented tapes from Blockbuster, those low-rise jeans I could never pull off, and of course, a music revolution.
Pretty much every decade had its unique flavor of popular music. But from 2000 to 2010, while garage rock was making a comeback, we also saw the uprise in amazing hip-hop tracks. One of the big artists from that era was Sean Combs. Better known as P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Love, or whatever you wanna call him.
Diddy; you’ve probably heard of him. He’s responsible for the hit tracks such as Bad Boys for Life, I’ll Be Missing You, and I Need A Girl (Parts 1 and 2). He’s also known for being the face of a well-known vodka company. Although Ciroc is one of the most coveted beverage brands, things weren’t always so easy for them. You might be surprised to learn that Diddy is the sole reason you know the name in the first place.
Ciroc is a French brand that produces alcoholic beverages. Established in 2003, it mainly creates different flavors of vodka. But it also sells brandy as well. Ciroc is different from other vodkas in that it sources its alcohol from grapes rather than grain or potatoes. Its quality is, well, questionable. Well, it generally has good reviews some have claimed otherwise. According to Wine experts, the fruit used for Ciroc and many other beverages is Trebbiano grapes. They’re known as an unsophisticated grape; the type that doesn’t cost much and tends to produce undistinguished alcohol.
Well, wine experts, I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t care. As long as the alcohol tastes good and does its job, then people will buy it. The success of alcohol depends mainly on marketing. And nothing is better proof of this than Ciroc.
At first, Ciroc had a stupidly tough time establishing itself within the American markets. For a while, they collaborated with some no-name athletes. Earl Little was one of the first to promote it. They soon introduced Ciroc to various nightclubs with minimal success. Still, they were the 50th-ranked premium vodka. They were struggling just to sell 40000 cases. Something needed to change; they needed to do something drastic in order to become a success.
How Diddy Elevated It
In 2007, Diddy was recruited to be a spokesperson for Ciroc. He was sort of a last resort, as the company decided they didn’t have much to lose. In typical Diddy fashion, he took this unknown brand and made it really cool. He took over Ciroc’s marketing in the United States, applying his unique salesmanship to it. And by that I mean, he was shocking.
Here’s a good example. In the early 2000s, one of the key events of the decade was Obama’s run for president. Meanwhile, Diddy began calling himself “Ciroc Obama,” basing much of his promotion on that one pun.
Aside from the jokes, Diddy would also give the company free product placement and his music videos. He went on to create endless flavors for Ciroc Vodka, promoting it whenever he had the chance. His advertisements emphasized the “sexiness” of using grapes as the source of alcohol. He made it clear that no other vodka was like it. Over time, Diddy’s name became intrinsically tied to the brand. Within a few years, Ciroc skyrocketed to #2 on the premium vodka listings.
Nowadays, Diddy still creates flavors and promotes Ciroc in his own unorthodox way.
Featured image from Rolling Stone
Is The “Death” Of Choco Taco A Marketing Ploy?
Guys, I have bad news. On July 25, 2022, Klondike made a devastating announcement:
“Over the past two years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide.
“A necessary part of this process is that we sometimes must discontinue products,
“even a beloved item like Choco Taco.
“We know this may be very disappointing, but we hope you’ll try one of our other great products, including–”
Shut up! I don’t care about your other lame products! We want Choco Taco!
I don’t get it, Klondike. You’ll drop Choco Taco but keep Klondike Shakes?! This is the saddest ice cream news since Coldstone Creamery insisted on making their employees sing as a means to distract consumers from their inadequate business model.
But I digress…
This Doesn’t Make Sense
What’s this about, Klondike? Why discontinue an ice cream truck staple? Were sales really lagging that much? Why do you have to make room for other products? You have, like, four other things. You can’t hang onto the iconic Choco Taco?
None of this makes sense. Unless, of course, it’s all a marketing scheme.
After the announcement, Twitter had an eruption of expletives (what’s new?).
Why would the Klondike brand make a decision like this? Either this is a marketing scheme to create surge profits down the line. Or Klondike is being run by a bunch of morons.
The Klondike brand is owned by Good Humor-Breyers Corp. which is owned by Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company. Fun fact: Unilever is the largest producer of soap in the world.
We have ice cream decisions being made by a bunch of limey soap-hawking suits.
Unilever’s YTD stock is down, though they’ve had a teeny tiny upward trend in the last month. Could this giant international conglomerate be faking the discontinuation of a beloved summer treat in order to regain profit? Unlikely.
Still, one has to wonder whether the discontinuation of Choco Taco is a simple marketing ploy to increase sales. Why not?
There’s a Precedent for Bringing Back Discontinued Products
Plenty of products have been discontinued only for them to later return. Notable products include Dunkaroos, Waffle Crisp, 3D Doritos, and Crystal Pepsi. Planters, known for their immortal mascot, brought back their Cheez Balls after a public campaign for their return.
Perhaps the most famous of these is the McDonald’s McRib. The irresistible boneless pork sandwich molded into the shape of ribs was first introduced in 1981 but discontinued in 1985 only to be brought back later that year and discontinued again in 2005. Now the McRib is available here and there as a limited edition option.
It’s the “limited edition” that makes consumers salivate the most, isn’t it? The very idea that something could only be available only for a short while increases desire. A sudden sense of exclusivity or rarity makes something immediately valuable. It’s a classic supply-and-demand tactic. We want what we cannot have.
We see you, Klondike/Good Humor-Breyers/Unilever.
Will Choco Taco Return?
Maybe one day. For now, there will be ice cream fiends hoarding and rationing out Choco Tacos, trading them like currency in an increasingly dystopian society.
Reddit user FilthyGunger eloquently wrote:
“I thought it would be here forever, and I always told myself I’ll have one later but later is here and a choco taco is not.
“It’s [sic] like losing a dog, but instead of a loving animal, it’s an ice cream-filled taco topped with chocolate and nuts.
“Honestly, if there was anything I could say about its passing, I would say that the world didn’t just lose an ice cream taco, it lost its way.”
RIP Choco Taco. For now.