Monday, March 31, 2008
M83 starts touring North America on May 20 and comes to Boston on June 2 at the Middle East Downstairs.
It needs to be known that I am what you could call a musical hater. I thought Sweeney Todd might make me change my mind, but that movie was terrible. One of the reasons I hate musicals is because the music almost always sucks. Also, I feel like they're always suffering from an identity crisis. On the one hand, you have a regular movie that's supposed to be believable and realistic (for the most part) but then all of the characters break out in a song and dance. What that hell is that all about? It's all or nothing. Either follow in Fantasia's footsteps or forget the whole thing. That being said....
Romance & Cigarettes is a musical comedy written, produced, and directed by John Turturro that stars James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, and Kate Winslet with numerous others supporting. I had some reservations about it but come on, what's not to love?
Gandolfini plays Nick Murder, married to Kitty (Sarandon) but having an affair with trashy Irish hussy Tula (a surprisingly believable Winslet). Kitty figures it out when she finds poetry about Tula's vagina on Nicks dresser and then it all comes crumbling down. What follows is how every person involved deals with their own problems. Both Nick and Kitty are tormented, trying to decide if they should stay or go, meanwhile their daughter Baby (Mandy Moore) is having her own pre-marital troubles with Fryburg (Bobby Cannavale).
This movie reminds me of many of Turturro's various characters: silly and fun. It's very clearly a movie that he made. The first 60 to 75 minutes were pure joy; I was laughing constantly. Yes, Turturro took a plot like that, threw in some dance numbers and made it hilarious. Music was an integral part of the movie, though. It wasn't just thrown in for comedy's sake. The lyrics sung in all of the songs were used to further the plot and were descriptive of what was going on in the story. But these songs weren't the only musical part of Romance. If nobody was singing on camera at the moment, they were spouting song titles and lyrics in the middle of their conversations (particularly Christopher Walken). This made for not just a musical but a movie largely influenced by music. I congratulate Turturro on his apparent encyclopedic knowledge of music.
The majority of Romance & Cigarettes was a musical covered in cheese but sadly it suffered it's own type of identity crisis. Most musicals fail because the music is out of place and unintentionally funny. It interrupts the rest of the movie and makes it seem like the director smashed two different movies one grand piece of garbage. Romance overcomes that challenge but comes up short in a similar way. The last half hour almost entirely gets rid of the comedy, cheese, and music and it becomes a depressing drama. There's a specific moment where you realize, "Oh, this is serious now. No more jokes." It felt like the movie completely switched gears. I'm not saying the end was bad, I'm just saying it was out of place and had a different tone than the rest of the movie.
I appreciate John Turturro making a musical that even someone who hates them really enjoyed. It was hilarious, surreal, and cheesy. It had all of the things that make for a good movie: nice cinematography, fine acting, great soundtrack, all that good stuff. If only Turturro stuck with it through the whole movie and kept it consistent, it would have been near flawless. Otherwise, though, this is a great movie and I highly recommend it to my fellow musical haters looking for something to change their minds.
Friday, March 28, 2008
This is one of those movies that I wanted to see in theaters but couldn't really justify spending the money on. It looked good enough but it wasn't a "must see." And while I still wouldn't consider this a necessity, it was well worth watching.
Wristcutters, directed by Goran Dukic and based upon the short story Kneller's Happy Campers by Etgar Keret, is your traditional love story: boy loves girl, boy kills himself, boy lives out his after-life, finds out his girlfriend killed herself, embarks on a quest to find her. So the entirety of Wristcutters takes place in a world where all of the citizens are suicides. Everybody is left with their resulting scars and nobody can smile. That's about all that's explained in this world, though, and that's something I feel like should have been delved into a bit deeper. Not having read the short story makes me wonder if any of that stuff was omitted from the movie. It would make sense if none of it was ever brought up in the original story, though. There were so many questions that I never had answered and I'm sure everybody in the after-life felt the same way.
This could also be categorized as a road movie as well as a love story. Zia (Patrick Fugit), the main character who is searching for his girlfriend Desiree (Leslie Bibb), is joined by his Russian rock star friend Eugene (Shea Whigham). They pick up a hitchhiker named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon) who is looking for the People In Charge, and the fun is found in the journey. They drive a car that has no headlights and a black hole under the passenger seat. Everything dropped down there, from multiple pairs of sunglasses to lighters and maps, disappears forever. They meet strange people along the way and that's what drives the movie. The journey seems less about trying to find Desiree and more of just going somewhere, anywhere. When they end up at a camp (where we find Tom Waits running the place and the under-used John Hawkes), they enjoy themselves almost enough to forget about finding Desiree and the People In Charge. But the desire does come back and off they go, to a creepy Jesus camp type place where the Messiah (Will Arnett) is about to perform an epic miracle.
If Wristcutters was set in our world as opposed to the Suicide World, it probably wouldn't have been as good. But that's what storytellers try to do: take an old fashioned story and put a cool, interesting twist on it. Rarely do I want to read the book that a movie is based upon after I've already seen the movie, but this Wristcutters was just good enough to make me want to do just that. This is a highly enjoyable movie that is different enough to make it interesting but with a traditional foundation that makes it fun and accessible.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I know I just posted a review about Fuck Buttons' Street Horrrsing less than 24 hours ago but that's the only reason I found out about this show. By searching the web for an image of their album cover, I discovered they were about to go on stage in Boston in 2 or 3 hours. So I obviously needed to rush down there as soon as possible and secure a ticket and a spot right up front. It was so coincidental the way it happened and I'm really happy it turned out the way it did. Otherwise, if I had known about this show weeks in advance, I wouldn't have gotten any sleep due to my sheer excitement.
I would think that Caribou fans would really enjoy Fuck Buttons. They both are melody driven with occasional bouts of fierce drumming. But apparently that's not the case. I guess Fuck Buttons is just too harsh for the delicate ears of Caribou fans because as far as I could tell, nobody was pleased with what they were hearing. Clearly, these people don't know good music when they hear it. One kid who was standing next to me was explaining to his friend who arrived after Fuck Buttons finished playing that "they didn't even have any real instruments. It was just electronic button mashing noise." Evidently, drums, keyboards, and microphones aren't "real instruments." I assure you, live Fuck Buttons is just as good, if not better than studio recorded Fuck Buttons. It does not sound like "electronic button mashing noise." It sounds (to steal a quote from Pitchfork) "like the sun rising over the ocean... then going supernova." It's having your ear drums explode from beautiful noise.
I need to admit something. I only found out within the past few months that Caribou is actually the new name of the guy previously known as Manitoba. I had been digging Manitoba's Up In Flames forever, not paying any attention to whether or not any of his new material was coming out. Then by some strange accident, I found out that Manitoba changed his name to Caribou. Now it all makes sense! Although, it didn't really change anything because I still haven't heard anything from Caribou proper. That is, until last night. Caribou was pleasant and wonderful, everything I expected them to be. They haven't changed too much of their sound since Up In Flames came out, which I was thankful for. I wasn't expecting was two drum kits, however. That made for some fierce drum-duels. I also didn't expected to hear much from Up In Flames, seeing that it's been out for 4 years, but I was surprised to hear quite a few tracks form that album. Also, they had a projection that was timed perfectly in sync with their music. I'm still not quite how they did it. I think the drummer had an earpiece so he was able to time everything correctly from the start of each song. It made for a great audio-visual experience. Now I think I'll need to go hunt down some real Caribou.
Fuck Buttons and Caribou are still touring so you have a chance to catch them when they come around.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Oooooooh wow. This one...this one is special. I still haven't finished listening to the whole thing but...damn. This is everything I want in a band. Buzzing synths, tribal beats, beautiful drone, in-the-red vocals, and loud as fuck. A lot of people have been saying that this record and that record are already contending for their year end Top 10 lists. That usually makes me mad this early in the year. Maybe people still have their Top 10 lists from last year still on their mind, so they're trying to stay focused and remember these early releases when December comes. But you know what? It doesn't matter. I don't even make lists, and this is still at the top of it. Yes, I'm placing Street Horrrsing at the top of my non-existent list. It's that good. I can't say anything else about this record. Except I think Fuck Buttons is a dumb name. That's the least of my worries, though. They could be called Bunny Killers and I wouldn't care (as long as it wasn't true). This is so so so easily the best record of the year. I can't imagine anything else coming out that can top this. And my imagination is pretty good.
Update: I just found out they're playing tonight at The Paradise with Caribou. I'll be leaving shortly to go see them and I shall return with what I'm sure will be an amazing review.
This game looks absurd. It's a free downloadable PC game (which means I'm excluded) that combines all of your favorite classic games into one crazy mind fuck. You want to see Mario, Link, and Pac-Man mixed in with Gauntlet, Defender, and Space Invaders? Then go to the Farbs website and download it. Please, let me know how it goes.
Click here for fun.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Last night Frightened Rabbit and Bodies Of Water played at The Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge. It was a fantastic show. The crowd was a bit thin when FR went on and there didn't seem to be too many people that were really into it. Except for one guy that I think was a friend of the band's or something. He was a bit crazy. But I obviously understand because their music is great. Almost the whole of their set was songs from their new record, The Midnight Organ Fight (due out April 15 on FatCat), with the exception of Be Less Rude and The Greys. They finished with The Greys and it was a really cool extended version. All of the new stuff they played sounded really good and I look forward to MOF. They sold pre-orders at the show. For $12, you received a sealed air mail envelope with a letter inside that gives you an e-mail address and a coupon code. Send them your info and voilà, you get the CD a week early in the mail. Sounds good to me.
Bodies Of Water surprised me. Not really in a good or bad way, more in a neutral way, I guess. Their music is...unique. I can't really describe it. For the most part, it's fun, and a little Westerny, with more "Oooooohs" than actual lyrics, which I like because that means it's easier for me to sing along. They definitely have an original sound and I recommend checking out their MySpace page to give them a listen. They played well and I enjoyed it enough to want to listen to it some more (quite the opposite of how I felt about Howl the other night). Their CD, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, was first released on Thousand Tongues but they just signed to Secretly Canadian and it's being reissued by them now. Bodies Of Water has also mostly finished their new record, A Certain Feeling, and they say it should be out in a few months.
5 years ago, a little movie came out called Donnie Darko. It spread like wild fire and since then, everyone has been waiting to see what Richard Kelly would do next. Well, Southland Tales was released in theaters to awful reviews and it did so poorly, it dropped out before many people could get a chance to see it. I was one of the many. Now the DVD is upon us and everyone can attempt to watch this baffling movie.
I don't think I am properly equipped to critique Southland Tales. I only understood it on a very literal level. And even then just barely. But I will try nonetheless. For the first half of the movie, we are treated to wonderfully random people doing ridiculously random things. It sounds pleasant, and it is for the most part, but the whole time I was thinking to myself, I hope I don't need to understand all of this. A lot of it went right over my head. I mean, I understood the basics: It's set during WWIII in a pre-apocalyptic California, there's an election, Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is being hunted by mostly everyone, and there's Neo-Marxists that are against the politicians (which look to be Republicans but that's never explicitly stated).
I know there's plenty of symbolism, undertones, and metaphors that flew right by me but that's not to say I didn't enjoy Southland Tales. From a technical standpoint, it was an artfully crafted film. It was visually beautiful and the soundtrack was impeccable. The Pixies' Wave Of Mutilation was used in a way that will surely be remembered and there was probably the coolest version ever of The Star Spangled Banner performed live by Rebekah del Rio & The Section Quartet.
One of the greatest parts about this movie was seeing the person you'd least expect pop up in the next scene. The cast in Southland Tales was quite possibly the most ambitious and all-encompassing cast I've ever seen. Anybody and everybody is in this: Wallace Shawn, Zelda Rubenstein, Curtis Armstrong, Jon Lovitz, John Larroquette, Christopher Lambert, Abbey McBride (the voice of Ling-Ling on Drawn Together), Beth Grant, Kevin Smith (with a gray beard!), Miranda Richardson, Cheri Oteri, and Amy Poehler. And then there's the famous pop stars: Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Sara Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott, and Dwayne Johnson. The best part, however, was the half a second shot of Janeane Garofalo in army fatigues, dancing with Justin Timberlake. Don't miss it.
I'm sure there's a lot some people could tell you about Southland Tales and how deep it is. And that may appeal to you, so watch it for that if you choose. But there's plenty more to watch it for. Watch it because it's from Richard Kelly, or because the soundtrack is great, or because you'll never see another movie with this kind of cast, or you could just watch it because it's awesome.
Harmonix has officially let us all know when we can play drums on the Wii and that glorious day is June 22. Of 2008. YES. I am a very happy man. Although, I could be happier because there are a few downsides to this bit of news.
1. Guitar Hero III controller will not work with Rock Band. Because Activision sucks.
2. No downloadable content. Even though WiiWare is on it's way. I want Siva!
3. It's (unsurprisingly) a PS2 port, meaning no Wii Waggle.
It retails for $170. Also, it comes with "five bonus songs for Wii gamers to enjoy" in addition the the normal 63. Let's hope they don't suck. But you know what? I don't care. I just want to rock.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Everyone knows Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz) had a British show called Spaced a few years back. Well, following in the shoes of The Office, Hollywood is making an American version of Spaced and not letting the creators of the original have anything to do with it. There's an article, which you can find here, that has reactions from Pegg, Wright, and co-creator Jessica Hynes. Keep in mind none of them have any rights to the show anymore, but also remember that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (The Office creators) were very involved in the American version of their show.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
You can check out the article and the rest of the videos on Always Watching right here.
I went to the Church last night in Boston, which is the new name of the restaurant/club previously known as Linwood right by Fenway. It was my first time going there and two things I noticed right off the bat. One, they had an actual stage so it gave gave the feeling of a venue more than I thought it would. And two, the first band wasn't very loud at all. I found out that apparently any time a band plays before 10, they keep the volume a bit lower because the restaurant is still open. Kinda lame. Also lame? The $15 cover. After perusing the Church's website, I found that that was the most expensive show they've had. Or at least are having within the next month or two. It also sucks that there's no parking anywhere because it's all residential. Unless you want to pay to park in a lot.
Anyway, I went with my friend to see Psyopus. It took us forever to find a place to park so by the time we got there, the first band was already playing. Your average local hardcore/metal band. I can't really remember anything about them, actually. Then Psyopus came on and kicked ass. The guitar player is crazy. Most of the time he plays just by tapping. He must have had his whammy bar really souped up or something because he would just tap and use the bar to make these cool noises. For the most part, their on-stage-presence was enthusiastic enough but they weren't going insane or anything. But then during the last song, the singer runs and launches himself into the thin crowd (I'm talking at least 1 to 2 feet between every person thin). I saw my friend Johnny shit his pants as this guy comes flying towards him. It was like he was aiming for right for Johnny, it was hilarious.
We ended up only sticking around to hear a couple of songs by the next band, Howl, which was terribly boring metal (but the girl was actually playing guitar!). I wouldn't really recommend Church unless you need to go. As for Psyopus, though, check them out the next chance you get. It's worth it.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I am a huge fan of all things Miranda. Elise and I want to be her best friends. Me And You And Everyone We Know is one of my all time favorite movies, her book No One Belongs Here More Than You is fantastic, and I've even contributed to her assignment website Learning To Love You More. She's currently working on her second movie. I think I remember reading somewhere that it would have similar themes as Me And You but whereas that movie focused on 20somethings, her next movie would follow people who are in their 30s. No word on when it would be released, who's in it, or even a title, so needless to say, nothing is written in stone. In her recent newsletter, Miranda July linked this video that she just made with VBS.
Check out How To Make A Button.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The opening track is almost 30 minutes, broken into three parts: Sounding, Salt, and Seacow. The first part is a beautiful drone with what sounds like an organ alternating between two chords and electric guitar with high end feedback. But it's soft and warm, not harsh or piercing. Infinitely soaring, like an albatross with the call of an eagle. Salt sheds the feedback and fades the organ into a single chord in the background. Skittery electronics replace the guitar and out comes the more traditional organ playing, louder than any of the other layers below it, dominating your attention. Slowly, the background noises raise their heads, competing with the organ, wanting to be noticed. It all melts together while some low bass rumbling pushes it's way through everything else. It's so hypnotic, one could make the argument that it's closing in on "psychedelic". Almost everything falls away and starts anew with Seacow. It opens with high end organ barely audible in the back, electronic clicks and squeaks, and sparse echoing guitar plucks. The guitar and shrill electronics build, rendering the organ almost nonexistent and some scraping/creaking noises make the foundation that could be made of tapes. Everything fades, leaving you with the guitar and the single relentless organ. Complete and utter beauty.
The other two tracks, Tackle and Staunch, make up the final 15 minutes. Tackle is the most abrasive of the bunch. Staunch's first half is very guitar driven and the second follows similar melodies with an organ. It could probably be called a pop song if run through a different filter.
Obviously, the organ is what drives this album. Throughout it all, the organ is there, mesmerizing you with it's perseverance. Sometimes it's hiding behind the layers, waiting for it's turn and at other times it's in command, weighing down on everything else. This is a fantastic album, though mostly due to the first half hour. But nevertheless, this is highly recommended.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
An English remake of the original, with sound. I thought it could be really good. A modern take on a 1920s German Expressionist film. It had a lot of potential. I guess this was more of an homage than anything else. There was nothing modern about it. They used green screen to edit in footage from the original and there was dialogue. Those were the only "modern" things. Maybe you could consider the font to be modern. They used the font from The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie album. It pisses me off whenever I see that used anywhere other than that record. This was just a pathetic goth soap opera. And for some reason, everyone had to wear black eye liner. Ridiculous. The acting was pure shit. The only redeeming thing about this movie was seeing Doug Jones. Not that he was that awesome or anything, it's just that he played Cesare and that was kind of cool. But please, just stay away from this movie.
Lots of documentary watching has been going on lately in these parts. I think it started with the Salem Film Fest, which was almost entirely documentaries. Since then, I think every other movie I've received from Netflix has been one as well.
The latest was Confessions Of A Superhero. I saw a trailer for this a while ago, way before it was out on DVD and I thought it looked beautifully composed and well shot. It reminded me of the book Animal House by Catherine Ledner (mostly the scenes with Superman being interviewed in the green room). The preview was definitely a good indication of how the rest of the movie was filmed. Everything was gorgeous, especially all of the still shots that are found throughout. They're super crisp, punchy, and high contrast. Perfect combination for superheroes on the streets of Hollywood. If you're the type of person who leaves movies running on their TV in the background while they go about other things in their house, this could definitely be another one to add to your collection. It reminded me of a really cool screen saver at times. In a good way, though.
Confessions follows a few different people who dress up in costume and walk around Hollywood Boulevard trying to get tourists to take their picture. The catch being, of course, "we work on tips" and the camera quickly cuts to Batman flashing his fistful of dollars. As you would expect, this isn't what these people dreamed of when they came to Hollywood (with the exception of Superman). They're aspiring actors. The film accompanied the superheroes (dressed as their civilian alter egos) to various auditions, proving that they are serious about acting and are trying their best to get into the biz.
The director of this movie, Matthew Ogens, must be a very sensitive person. I think this because of the way I felt towards the superheroes. Elise and I were talking after the movie was over and she said, "Batman is a shit." I offered that he's not "a shit," but rather he has serious psychological issues. She told me that if I knew him in real life, say, as a co-worker, I would think he's an angry, violent, lying prick. I thought about it for a minute and she was right. I would hate Batman if I knew him. The same goes for Wonder Woman. I'd probably call her a crazy self-centered Baptist hussy. But Confessions never makes fun of these people. They're portrayed in a very sympathetic way. It's not that the director wants you to pity them, though. He just wants you to understand. Realize that these are real people trying to do what they love. Nothing more. That's why this was a successful movie, in my opinion. It would have been so easy to spin it so that these superheroes are turned into freaks. Bums with no life and no motivation. Ogens certainly didn't take the easy route.
However, Confessions is not perfect. It had a slight failing in a way that I see in so many other documentaries. It feels like it doesn't really go anywhere. We watch these people work, they talk about their past, their aspirations, but not much else. I say slightly only because that's really what this movie was supposed to be about. It's title alone makes reference to it. It's really nothing more than interviews with these superheroes because it's not supposed to be. Although, that is the only fault I can really find with this movie. It's tender and magnificent and if that's the way you like your documentaries, then this is highly recommended.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I just got out of the shower and was getting dressed when the doorbell rang. Elise was due home from so I thought it was her. I finished getting dressed, meanwhile the doorbell kept on ringing. I get downstairs and see a note stuck to the door from UPS. I run outside, door slamming behind me, running down the street trying to catch the man holding my much desired package from Aquarius Records. I reach him, sign for my goods, and run back home. I get to the locked door only to realize my keys are still upstairs on my dresser. Shit. It's fucking cold outside and all I'm wearing is pants and a t-shirt. I figure I'll bug one of my neighbors so I ring their doorbell, they come downstairs, let me in, etc. I get upstairs and open my package.....
Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol. 1
Jasper TX - I'll Be Long Gone Before My Light Reaches You
Philip Jeck - 7
Mamaleek - Mamaleek
Half Makeshift - L'Anse Amort
Tzesne - Cliffs Under The Mist
Expo '70 - Music From Inaudible Depths
The Angelic Process - Coma Waering
Nadja - Bliss Torn From Emptiness
Sightings - Through The Panama
Sunken - Eye Electric Organ, Brain Electric Nerve
White Hills - Heads On Fire
Machinefabriek - Marijn
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Shining Skull Breath
Agitated Radio Pilot / The Nether Dawn - The Ghost Of Medb / Under Your Night [Split]
Chessie - Manifest
Nemeth - Film
Alcest - Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde
FUCK YES. I'm so excited about these. From what I've listened to so far, they're all amazing. I used money I got for my birthday last month to buy these. So completely worth it. The packaging for these CDs is gorgeous. I may take some pictures for when I attempt to review some of them.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
My wife just showed me this story. I understand that it's from 2003 but it is most certainly worth reading. It's from The Daily Victim.
When I first got this bird I spent two weeks trying to get him to say “Hello.” By the end of the month he was saying “‘lo! ‘lo!” But that was about it. So I gave up.
But then I bought a GameCube and, well, every Resident Evil game they’ve cranked out for it. I played them for hours on end with the lights out. I won’t lie to you -- it sorta put me “off,” you know? I started sleeping with the lights on and locking my windows at night.
One night I crawled out of bed to get myself a drink, and I shuffled down the dark hallway between my bedroom and the kitchen, feeling along the wall with my hand as I went. The kitchen was nearly pitch black until I opened the refrigerator, and then a brilliant wedge of light poured out, causing me to squint. That’s when I heard it:
“Grraaa ... aaaagghhh...”
It was the slow, raspy moan of THE UNDEAD. I wheeled around, panicked, staring into the darkness beyond the fridge. The milk slipped from my hands and crashed onto the ground, spilling all over the kitchen floor. I didn’t move a muscle. Time was frozen for me. And then again:
“Nnyyaagghhhh... glup, glup, glup...”
The sounds were terrifying, and yet ... familiar. Slowly, my socks wet with milk, I stepped gingerly forward toward the family room. I must’ve left my Nintendo on, I thought ... but no, it and the TV were both silent. The Resident-Evil noises were coming from elsewhere. Then, from behind:
I whirled around and reeled backwards in horror. I smashed into the lampshade and furiously reached over to flick the switch. And there, sitting on his perch amidst the warm glowing light that filed the room, was my parrot. “’lo! ‘lo!” he said to me, cheerfully.
Apparently all those zombie noises from the game had gone to the little guy’s head. He could duplicate them exactly! This went on for some weeks, until finally I got used to it. The groanings and mumblings as I lay in bed at night actually started to get kinda soothing.
Of course, I forgot to warn my friends and neighbors. A couple weeks ago, after a late night partying, Gary crashed on my couch. At 4:30 he came slamming into my room in his boxers clutching a baseball bat. “SOMETHING’S IN THERE!” he hissed at me, panting.
So of course I had to introduce him to my parrot’s habit. He only does it when the lights are off -- I guess I trained him to do that, you know, by playing those games in the dark. “’lo! ‘lo!” he’d squawk, and then we’d flick off the lights and it would be: “Mmwwwaaahhhhh... *slurping noises*”
One day Gary and Chris and I all stood around his cage one evening talking it over. We dimmed the lights until the bird let out a long, low, “Grrannggpphhnyayyyaahh” sound, like an oboe being played by an asthmatic’s last breath. “See?” I said. “Zombie bird.”
“Dude,” Chris said, stepping back. “How do we know that that bird’s still alive? Maybe he’s dead. Or ... undead. Has he eaten recently?”
“Truth be told, he’s been a bit peckish,” Gary said.
“Of course he’s peckish,” I grunted. “He’s a bird.”
“You better take him to the vet,” Chris said, holding up a crucifix.
The next day at the Animal Clinic, the vet couldn’t figure out anything wrong. “That’s a fine healthy bird!” he told me.
“’Lo!” the bird cheeped in return.
So I turned out the lights in his office. The room fell silent.
And then, from the cage, a soft low murmur: “Braaaaains...”
“Maybe he should stay for observation...” my vet answered.
The next morning I came in to pick him up, but I found his cage outside the office with a note attached. “Please take bird home,” it said. “Dogs all scared and night janitor quit.”
From what I've read about The Daily Victim, I don't think their stories are true. Nonetheless, that is hilarious.
I like doom (all shapes and sizes). Generally speaking, I like days. I definitely liked The Descent by Neil Marshall. So it only makes sense that I liked his new movie, Doomsday. It was an over the top, ridiculous, post-apocalyptic action kill fest. Just my kind of thing.
It's kind of like a mix between Mad Max and 28 Weeks Later. A virus spreads rapidly through Glasgow, the government walls them off, years later there's a resurgence of the virus, and a team goes back into in to find a cure. Marshall had a not so original idea but he was sure to leave enough room to make it his.
As much as I enjoyed this movie, though, I don't really want to say too much about it. You can't do that with a movie like this without ruining it for those who haven't seen it. The fun comes in the unexpected craziness. The only thing I will specifically mention is that someone gets decapitated and their head flies towards the camera, bouncing off of the lens. AWESOME.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Nintendo has been trying to steal XBox Live Arcade developers with apparent success.
Reasons to develop for Nintendo's forthcoming WiiWare:
Developing new, original, unique games
Reasons not to develop for XBLA:
"...The service is full of shit"
Every other game is a remake of a retro game (Frogger, etc) with no chance for ingenuity
Just another reason why Nintendo is better than everyone else. Check out the article from Develop here.
I just read an article over at Living In Cinema that talked about the previously banned film Syndromes And A Century created by Thai filmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul being edited with black tape over the "controversial" scenes so it could be shown in it's home country. Definitely an interesting choice by Weerasethakul. Check out the article here.
Friday, March 14, 2008
I have just acquired what is hands-down the coolest thing in my music collection. Tristan Perich's 1-Bit Music is not available on vinyl or CD or tape or any other traditional media. What you receive in the mail when you order from Cantaloupe Music is a clear plastic CD jewel case sans CD and CD holder. Inside is a series of 6 components connect by wires. There is the power switch, battery, processing unit/circuit (aka the music maker), a "skip" button, volume knobs, and a headphone jack. Yes, to listen to the music, you plug headphones or speakers directly into the jewel case. That alone is the coolest thing I've ever heard.
But the music you ask. What does it sound like? It sounds similar to regular 8-bit music. The major difference is that 1-bit music is so stripped down and lo-fi, it is only capable of making a handful of sounds. It's not just a "beep" or a "boop," though. I am most definitely surprised at the range of noises that come out of this jewel case. There are piercing high notes and low end bass notes, along with what sounds like a character walking/shuffling away on to the the next level in some NES game (Double Dragon, perhaps?).
The first song starts out with just 3 notes I think, making a really cool beat. But then it kicks in with these layered syncopated rhythms that just make me wanna dance. This is definitely not the minimal music you would expect from only being able to work with 1-bit. These are some awesome pop/dance/glitch songs (along with a couple of some more experimental type stuff). But there are actual songs. 11 of them to be exact. The electronics are programmed to play specific, named songs in order that you can skip through using the skip button. But seriously, there isn't anything on here you'd want to skip through. I think the addition of that button was more out of politeness than necessity.
So not only does this thing look awesome, it also plays some of the best electronic music I've ever heard. And definitely the most original. I don't really know what else to say about it. You need to experience it. If you liked the Buddha Machine or you're into electronic music or you like to mix your music with your art, then please please please check this out. I can't recommend it enough.
You can listen to some of the music on his website and the website for 1-Bit Music.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I've only played it for a few hours but I must say, it's just more of the same. It's fun, yeah. And the in depth story mode is great for playing alone. It's cool to play as Pit and kick the shit out of Sonic. And it's nice to be able to play online and having new characters and stages and such is cool but other than that, I must say I'm a little disappointed. But then again, I knew all of this before I got the game. Maybe I was just hoping to be reinvigorated by the game because I haven't played Melee in a long time. I don't know how much I'll play Brawl but, sadly, I'm pretty sure it won't be nearly as much as I played Melee.
Disclaimer: I talk about specific scenes in this movie which are very graphic.
Lake Of Fire is Tony Kaye's latest attempted bipartisan abortion documentary. Kaye isn't the most prolific director but he's probably most famous for directing American History X. Going on that information alone, I knew I needed to see this movie, and I tried to read about it as little as possible. I wanted to go into it without knowing any more than what I already did. I kind of wish I had a done just a tad more research, though, so I could be prepared for the graphic scenes.
It only seems natural that the director who filmed the infamous curbing scene in American History X would have have graphic moments in a documentary about abortion. You see 2 different women on separate occasions getting abortions, the aborted fetuses/fetus pieces being rinsed in a pan, an image of a woman who died by trying to give herself an abortion with a coat hanger, and pictures from the crimes scenes of murdered doctors. The majority of this movie, however, is not visually disturbing. It's central driving force is interviewing people, such as professors and radio hosts, about abortion and their views on it.
Being a pro-choice believer, it was hard to watch this movie objectively. I feel like whenever a person who was pro-life in the movie was shown, they almost always seemed completely ignorant and/or spouting religious nonsense about doctors and women burning for eternity in a lake of fire. I read a review of this movie that said his major criticism was that the pro-choice people in the movie were well educated and well respected whereas the pro-lifers were for the most part ultra-conservative extremists. And I agree for the most part. I think that although the film tried not to have an obvious spin, it was clear which side Kaye stood by looking at the type of people he chose to portray each side of the debate.
This was an interesting movie even though I am firm in my belief on abortion. I definitely wasn't swayed to the other side but it did present some new ideas to me. There was an analogy made that put abortion in a new perspective. Someone said that killing is on a sliding scale. In reference to animals, killing a bunny is in awful crime but hardly anyone gives a second thought to smashing the mosquito on their arm. The point is that there is no absolute. Some people would kill the mosquito and not the bunny, just as some people would abort a fetus and not shoot someone in the middle of the street.
The movie was a little too long (2.5 hours) and without having a real stand on the issue made it go by pretty slow at times. It wasn't as enlightening as I would have hoped but it was a fantastic movie that I'm glad I saw. It left the issue as open as it was when the movie started, answering no questions, with the possible exception of just leaving it at "It's always circumstantial."
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
In The Soup
A weird pseudo film-noir absurd comedy with Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel. I enjoyed it. I laughed a bit. A bit slow at times but there are definitely moments of greatness. Such as when Seymour is watching Steve try to learn the Cha Cha. Good stuff.
The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters
If you really needed one more person to recommend this movie, then I'll do it. It's fun. Even if you don't care about video games (such as my wife), it's still interesting because the characters are just so, well, full of character. It's worth watching at least once.
I've seen this before, and actually own it, but Elise hadn't seen it yet so we watched again the other night. The second time around, I definitely noticed more flaws, but I also noticed much more subtleties. It's kind of like watching The Sixth Sense again. You notice all of the signs of things about to go awry. And Michael Shannon is really great for the most part. There are times when he overdoes it a little bit but otherwise he does a good job.
The Painted Veil
This was shoot-me-in-the-head boring. Elise needed an old fashioned love story and this was the only time in 7 years that she's ever requested such a thing. So I obliged. I thought to myself, "I like Edward Norton, I definitely like Naomi Watts. This can't be that bad." And it wasn't. If you're my grandmother. The beautiful cinematography only went so far. Lets just hope Elise doesn't get these urges anymore.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Some people like The Beach Boys. Some people love The Beach Boys. And then there's The Explorers Club. They've gone above and beyond. It's kind of like a Beach Boys cover band that got bored and decided to write their own songs. On their MySpace page, they obviously list "The Beach Boys" under as an influence (and they also put "zombies" for some reason, which is definitely odd) and under "Sounds Like" they put "Sunshine." I guess if you had to compare them to something other than The Beach Boys, sunshine is the next closest thing.
Right now, they only have two songs available to listen to on their MySpace and Virb pages. The good news is their single for Do You Love Me comes out as a 7" on April 8 with a different song as the B-side. The bad news is their full length, Freedom Wind, doesn't come out until May 20th. I guess I'll just listen to more Beach Boys in the meantime.
The creator's name is Erik Svedang and you can check out his blog here. He made a post called "A Story From The Blueberry Garden" that is as follows
That may or may not be the plot for the game, there's no further explanation of the story. But, a beautiful game that's depressing as hell? Count me in. It's planned to be released this summer on PCs.
The birds and the party hats were living their peaceful lives at separate sides of the tower.
One day the birds decided to move to the other side of the tower where the party hats had their home. Since the birds could fly they ate all the blueberries before the party hats could reach them.
Now the party hats are dead.
He also created a game called Flipside Of The Divine that looks to be really fun and probably a pretty challenging. There's a beta out for it now, available here, but it's only for PCs so I sadly can't participate. If you give it a whirl, let me know what you think. Here's the trailer...
This guy seems to have some really great ideas and it's great that he's making games. I hope eventually he'll do some cross-platform (ie Mac) stuff so I can get a taste of the action.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I must admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for Roland Emmerich movies. Independence Day is a wonderful alien flick. Who doesn't love Jeff Goldblum? He's basically reprising his character as Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park and that's fine by me. The Day After Tomorrow was an enjoyable apocalyptic epic that was full of plot holes and bad writing. The Patriot has Mel Gibson kicking ass with a hatchet and the character of Colonel Tavington, the role that Jason Isaacs was born for. We'll try not talk think about Emmerich's other movies (coughGODZILLAcough) but rather focus on what he does best: cheesy epic movies.
10,000 BC was ridiculous. It was full of awful cheesy coincidences and every line of dialogue sounded like it was written by a 14 year old boy living in 1986. If you expect this to be a quality movie, then you will be sorely disappointed. There are two reasons and two reasons alone to pay to see 10,000 BC. You either want to see it for the herds of woolly mammoths, the badass saber-tooth tiger, and the strange raptor/ostrich hybrids or you want something that will put you in hysterics every time one of the characters decides to be serious or emotional. Or both. That's why I saw it. I also saw it because it was free. One more thing that needs to be mentioned is how ludicrous Affif Ben Badra's character of the Warlord's voice was. It was like a cross between Xerxes from 300 and Richard Kiel in Happy Gilmore with an added echo effect. The movie is full of stupid stuff like that. I would recommend 10,000 BC on two conditions. One is that you have an affinity for unrealistic epic movies and the other is that you don't take it seriously. At all.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Thanks to Pitchfork, I found this new song Andrew W.K. made for the show Fair Game called McLaughlin Groove. It's lyrics come solely from John McLaughlin quotes. It's awesome just like most of the stuff Andrew does.
Please, go listen to it on the Fair Game website.
Everybody had their thing when they were a kid: G.I. Joe, Barbie, Transformers, Bratz, etc. Well, mine was Ninja Turtles and anybody who was into something else sucks. Ninja Turtles are awesome. The only other one that can compare is Transformers because, well, they transformed. Cool stuff. But give me a break. Turtles that are ninjas. They were taught their ninja skills by a giant rat. It doesn't get cooler than that.
Strangely enough, my favorite turtle was Raphael when I was a kid. Man, he was such a moody prick. I hate him now. I have no idea why I liked him so much. Maybe it was because he had sai as weapons. That is so awesome. Everybody knew what a sword, bo, and nunchuks were. Who knew what a sai was before the Ninja Turtles? Only the Asians, that's who. But then Raphael busted them out and everyone wanted one. Including me. I made one out of wood with my grandfather in his workshop. I instantly became the coolest kid around.
Anyway, I found my TMNT sewer in my attic a couple of weeks ago filled with all of my old toys. I photographed all of them and put them all on Flickr. Then I bought a toy collector's magazine to find out how much they're worth and am now contemplating selling them on eBay. If I get what they're worth, I'll make around $400. Bitchin'. I hope I find some guy that needs all of them and wants to pay me a grand for 'em. I would toy with his heart a little bit at first. But then I'd do it. And I'd be a millionaire.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
It just so happened that these were the two movies I currently had from Netflix and on our day off, Elise and I decided to watch both of them. I hadn't seen either of them yet but both were movies I had previously made plans to watch but just never got around to it.
I didn't really expect that these two particular movies would go as well together as they actually did. But after thinking about it for a little while, I thought why wouldn't they? They're both directed by contemporary "indie" filmmakers that are popular with a lot of kids my age. One was a tried and true classic while the other was a new film that came out with mixed reviews. Both directors have a love for Bill Murray (one of the reasons I love them so much).
Something that caught me by surprise, though, was that they both had suicide written all over them. The Virgin Suicides is obvious, but I had forgotten about Owen Wilson's attempt just after The Darjeeling Limited came out. It kind of weirded me out going from watching all of these sisters commit suicide to Darjeeling where Wilson was apparently going through his own real life troubles. Suicide aside though, the movies work really well together because there are so many commonalities between them. Family problems, sex, identity, searching, and foreign people just to name a few. There were definitely a lot of parallels.
That being said, I really liked both movies. I expected to like The Virgin Suicides because I love Sofia Coppola's other movies (Lost In Translation is utter perfection). However The Darjeeling Limited had me a bit concerned. I had heard various things about it and not all of them were good. Some said this was Wes Anderson's worst movie and that he wasn't progressing, just churning out the same old thing. I must say I'm pretty shocked that anyone could say that. This movie is such a departure from his previous movies. In Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic, there was always a slight suspension of reality. Everything was a little too over the top and exaggerated so that it was never totally believable. The Darjeeling Limited is probably Anderson's most down to earth movie and because of that, I thought it was one of his most successful creations.
I had wanted to see this movie even before I knew it was playing at the Salem Film Fest. When I was at the 2005 Venice Biennale, I saw Edward Burtynsky's photographs. The scale of what he was shooting as well as the images themselves was breathtaking. When I heard that there was a movie about him and eventually that we would be playing it at our theater was thrilling.
The movie was made by Jennifer Baichwal, not Burtynsky, and it seemed like it was filmed to be part homage, part documentary. The opening tracking shot is mind blowing. It attempts to capture through video what Burtynsky does through still photographs. The camera goes from one end to another in a massive Chinese factory, taking about 10 to 15 minutes to do so. When standing at one end of the building, you can barely see the other side.
There is very little narration in the movie. The only time we hear Burtynsky's voice is either from him talking out in the field while he's photographing or through sparse clips taken from what seems to be a lecture he gave. Baichwal lets Burtynsky's images speak for themselves, which is exactly what he intends. His goal is to pursue his interest in urban landscapes and it's effect on nature, never putting a positive or negative spin on his images but rather showing them just the way they are.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The first time I was introduced to throat singing was when the two musicians in Nomadak TX traveled to Mongolia. I was definitely intrigued, especially because so little of it was shown. And because of the minor throat singing aspect to Nomadak TX, it was an appropriate segway into the movie I watched the next night. Genghis Blues documents Paul Pena, a blind American blues man, who teaches himself Tuvan throat singing from only hearing 10 minutes of it on the radio. As much as this movie is about Paul Pena, it's also a movie about serendipity. After a series of coincidences, Paul ends up traveling to Tuva, a country located between Russia and Mongolia, and he's followed by a motley group of people who film his journey. They meet a famous Tuvan throat singer who shows them great hospitality, and Paul performs in a national throat singing symposium. It's certainly a movie with an original story line but also one that doesn't progress too much. Knowing what the movie is about ahead of time kind of spoils it. It's similar to seeing all of the good parts of the movie in it's trailer. I wasn't so much as waiting for the movie to end but more wondering how it was going to end. And of course, it ends with everyone going back to America. Not the most exciting conclusion, but with such a unique story, I guess it doesn't matter.
This is a movie that I knew hardly anything about but knew I would love. The movie centers on two men who play the txalaparta and travel to various nomadic villages. They go all over the world from the Arctic Circle to Mongolia to the Sahara to the edges of India where they find people who are no longer part of traditional society. Most of them live in their own villages, others choose to wander. The two musicians go to these places in search of native sounds, be they musical or natural or both. Whenever they arrive in a village, they set out to use the local materials to create txalapartas. They end up making them out of ice, rocks, and bamboo, but each one always has a slight variation in sound from the traditional wood. I liked this movie not just because it's focus was on sound but also because it was the complete opposite of a plot driven movie. These men traveled, playing music for and with other people. To me, there was no greater message, never implying anything positive or negative. Although according to the film's website, "They use the music to say to the rest of the world: We are here, we are alive, we are who we are." I guess that would be a "message", but certainly one that's non-intrusive. This was definitely the best movie I viewed that was part of the film festival. I recommend it to all who are interested in music, sounds, and nomads.
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It's about a retired Thai boxer who becomes a monk and opens The Golden Horse Monastery to take in poor and starving boys. He gives them each a horse, and teaches them how to care for it. He also teaches them boxing and how to be good people, living in the "now." At first, I got the impression that this guy was a bit righteous, not that he didn't have the right to be, but he still rubbed me the wrong way. As the movie progressed, however, I realized what a respectable person he is. He compared his popularity to a straw fire saying that it doesn't last very long, but you need to use that light and bring it to dark places.
One of my favorite parts was when they were on a long journey to rebuild a run-down temple and one of their horses gets sick. They stop everything, make a camp, and spend the next days successfully nursing the horse back to health. It's so refreshing seeing a non-Western perspective on animals. In America, that horse most likely would have been shot so things could be kept on schedule. It's a really great movie and in addition to it being a touching story, it's beautifully shot, capturing the gorgeous Thai jungle and villages.
The Salem news thinks I'm smart and sexy. Just a few days after they interviewed me about the Best Picture nominations, they came into Cinema Salem and took my picture while I was building the movies for the Salem Film Fest. It's only going up now because I've spent the last week working my ass off for the festival. I'm not complaining, though. The fest was awesome. We had a lot of really great movies and it was very well attended which is impressive due to the fact that the planning for it started only a few months ago.
Sadly, though, due to my involvement with the festival, I didn't get to see a lot of the movies we had playing. The only films I was able to watch were ones that were 35mm prints because I had to run them through to make sure the splices and cues were correct. The only time that was able to happen was after we closed for the night, so I did a lot of lonely late night screenings. But that did mean I got to watch to the 4 movies I was most looking forward to that we were showing. Short impressions on them will be coming very soon.