Monday, September 28, 2015


So I was at a show with a cute friend of mine last week and we decided to stop by the merch table to pass the time in between acts. And as we were checking out the random items the bands had available for sell, to help them pay for their bar tab that night, my level of coolness took a dramatic drop in her eyes. She was complaining because she couldn’t find any cool patches to buy for her jacket; so in an attempt to show off my borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80’s (thanks James Murphy) I told her she should get one of the awesome yoyos they were selling.

She took one look at the item I was talking about, silently giggled to herself, and proceeded to pat me on the head. "Those aren’t yoyos dear, those are grinders. They’re for weed" Now I know what you’re thinking, but unfortunately I have had quite a few of these embarrassing moments in my life, so this was nothing new for me.

But the reason I’m bringing this sad moment in hook up history to your attention, is that it’s pretty obvious to everyone who comes into contact with me that I’m not a weed smoker. Now just because I don’t smoke doesn’t mean I’m lame; I actually one of the more adventurous people you’ll ever meet. But I’d have to be on the strongest strain of the stickiest icky ever conceived by man to even come close to climbing a mountain. And it would probably have to be laced with something even more powerful than that to get me to climb Mt. Everest.

As people climb that torturous mountain, their bodies literally begin to die. They suffer from conditions where they run out of oxygen, their bodies fill up with fluid which ultimately kills them, or their bodies play tricks on them and make them believe that they are burning up. And those are just the ones they explained to us in the film, I haven’t even mentioned frost bite or the dying from alcohol poisoning in an attempt to keep your body warm. Ok, so I made the last one up but the point remains the same. Why would anyone ever pay $65,000 to do this to themselves? Wouldn’t it just be easier to join a book club?

Well this is the basically what takes place in the movie Everest. In this film you are introduced to Ron, a lifelong adventurer who now makes his living taking people on guided tours, so to speak, up to the top of Mt. Everest. Everyone who signs up for this suicidal trek has to be an experienced climber, but even most of them aren’t truly prepared for what’s to come. On this particular trip there is added pressure for Ron to get everyone to the top as there is a writer who has decided to come along for the ride and chronicle everything that happens for his publication. So Ron finds himself taking risks that he normally wouldn’t take in order to help his business out and to also help the people he’s grown to know achieve their dreams.

The first half of the film is predictably dedicated to character development and setting up the ominous tone of the story. You hear all sorts of inspirational monologues explaining why they do what they do and there is a ton of climber lingo that will probably go over your head. But once they start the final climb to get to the top of the mountain, the movie really takes off.

The filmmakers do an excellent job recreating the tough elements they had to live through as they were making their climb. So much so, that you even start cough a little yourself out of empathy for these poor souls. I swear they were pumping some extra AC into the theater that night because I felt like I was freezing too.

And for the most part they treat some of the death scenes with the same harshness and indifference as the cold and the mountain did the climbers. It’s a fairly brutal goodbye to some of these characters, especially given the fact that you spent so much time getting to know them. But maybe that’s point. And that’s part of the reason some of the scenes towards the end are so gut wrenching.

I liked this movie but in the end, it runs a little too long and you are introduced to way too many characters. I would suggest paying the extra money to see it in IMAX to try and get the full experience of the climb but poor people like me will do just fine in normal 2D. I give this movie a rating of FRESH!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

I am desperately trying my best to fight off old age but every time I see one of these Young Adult movies in the theater, I realize that I am getting further and further away from my youth and that all of my dreams are being replaced with thoughts of Torchy’s Tacos and Whataburger! Yes, you read that correctly; instead of dreaming about all of the things I can achieve or see in this world, I now spend the majority of my day hoping that one day I can pull up to a gas station and walk out with a Whataburger with cheese and a Trashy Trailer Park taco.

I say this because there was once a time in my life when I thought it would be cool to run away from an evil organization with my friends while zip lining from building to building. But now I’d rather just watch football at home and hopefully convince my non-existent girlfriend to cook me a grilled cheese sandwich! And can you tell that the depressing tone of this review is fueled by the fact that I’m really hungover and am in dire need of grease to help ease my pain?

Well I promise that I wasn’t drunk or hungover when I saw The Scorch Trials this week. In fact, I went in hoping for good things as I was pleasantly surprised by the first one and some of its cool actions set pieces. And while there is a ton of running and action in this movie, the teenage dialogue and lack of acting chops on screen ultimately leads to its downfall.

In Scorch, the kids have escaped the glade and are now seemingly safe as a group of fighters have picked them up and led them to their secret facility. They feed them, clean them up, and supply them with a nice place to rest before apparently sending them off to a discrete location where Wicked cannot find them. But it doesn’t take long for the kids to realize that things aren’t quite what they seem and they decide to escape to the safety of the new world.

I call it the new world because the world as we know it no longer exists in this story. This world is a barren desert land and is full of collapsed buildings, rogue mercenaries, and creatures who look and act like zombies.

Now being a wannabe scrub screenwriter myself, I am not above borrowing from other films for inspiration. But the writers of this film don’t seem to bring a single original thought to this story at all. It felt like I was watching a cross between I Am Legend and The Hunger Games; and not in a good way. Maybe if they had the kids run into a crazed Will Smith shouting “This is ground zero” over and over again before he attacked them thinking they were the ones who killed his dog Sam, that would’ve been cool. But that didn’t happen, so it wasn’t. Sorry for the random rant but I did warn you that I was hungover.

Anyway, there are a few cool moments in Scorch: Barry Pepper screaming while firing off a .50 caliber was pretty fresh, the lame dance/sex club in the desert was funny, and some of the scenes involving the fast and aggressive zombies actually woke me up from time to time; but overall this film just felt like a sequel to Not Another Teen Movie.

I suggest passing on it and hitting up a Whataburger late night for some tasty taquitos instead. I rate this movie as WEAK!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Austin City Limits Sunday Preview

So with the return of artists like The Weeknd, D’Angelo, and eventually Frank Ocean this year, 2015 has officially become the year of RnB. You’re finally starting to see this genre take off and hit the mainstream with the meteoric rise of soulsters like Leon Bridges and Jidenna; two people who would have never made it through the front door of a music studio just 10 years ago. And this is nothing short of amazing news for us males who will be attending festivals that feature these artists, as this means that wet panties will be dropping like flies the very second night falls upon the sky.

Guys who have never been to this festival before should really come to Austin expecting Olympic Village level hooking up as girls can’t help but lose their minds the second Drake starts singing Best I’ve Ever Had. I honestly don’t think that Trojan is prepared for what’s coming in the next few weeks (no pun intended). All I know is that I’m walking in with a mason jar of penicillin and an airplane bottle of Jack Daniels and I’m going for broke! But enough about me, on to the artists…

First up at 11:45 is Austin’s own Night Drive. It’s too bad they stuck them with this time slot as this will be one of the better shows of the day. Their sound is similar to that of Twin Shadow; it’s synth heavy pop you can dance to. It honestly reminds me of the songs you hear playing during the final scene of a cool 80’s movie after the protagonist realizes that Johnny 5 is really alive. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

Next up is Ume; they come on right after Night Drive at 12:30. They are another Austin product who produces grinding rock music with a female lead. She not only shreds on the guitar with her hair swirling like a possessed witch in a horror movie but she also has the ability to sing with the best of them. This will be an energetic show that will take you back to the days of when people actually played guitar solos.

But if it’s far too early for you to dance or rock out, then Waxahatchie might be a better option for you. You’re really going to this show to hear her clever but mournful lyrics on relationships as they are only occasionally accompanied with the sound of an acoustic guitar that gets plucks every now and then. Not the most exciting show but it could serve as a precursor for what’s coming later on in the night.

Now it’s time to check out the previously mentioned Jidenna, or as I like to call him, the wannabe Andre 3000 clone. He is the male response to Janelle Monae in that he makes quirky RnB music that you can dance to. I’m not the biggest fan of his mainly because it’s a bit too mainstream for me, but there’s certainly worse options out there. So I suggest checking him out as he definitely has the potential to blow up. He comes on at 12:45.

An alternative to Jidenna would be Lion Babe. If you want what at times sounds like a throwback to old school RnB with a quick glimpse into what its future can be, then this is definitely the show for you. The bumping electronic beats mixed with the lead singer’s hair are reason enough to check these guys out. Think early Erykay Badu. They also come on at 12:45.

After this it’s a fairly rough afternoon with the choices that are available to you but B0rns is one artist you may want to check out as opposed to just sitting around in the tent and watching football (something I may wind up doing). B0rns is a kid who hails from Michigan but now lives in LA. His song Electric Love from his Candy EP has been played in nearly every commercial that’s ever been made but that’s mainly due to the fact that it’s early 2000’s pop at its finest. His gender bending voice blends perfectly with his electronic sound, but be prepared to fight off the horde of teenagers who will be on their way to see the Years and Years show. He comes on at 2:30.

Sylvan Esso follows him at 3:30. There’s not much to say about them except that they are the mellow indie version of Purity Ring. If pop electro music is your thing, then you should pop in.

Ben Howard follows them at 4:30. He provides you a few moving moments with his lyrics and his dreamy voice which has the ability to take you on a voyage into space (did I really just type that?) but overall this is way too mellow for an early evening slot.

So as an alternative, I would suggest popping in on the Suffers. They thankfully fill the void that Sharon Jones (get well soon) and the Dap Kings left once she fell ill. Think of them as the female answer to Charles Bradley as they are a true throwback to classic RnB.

Thankfully Chance the Rapper is flying solo for ACL. I’m not the biggest fan of his work with the Social Experiment but some of his earlier work is serviceable. Chance is Chicago’s less talented version of De La Soul; he brings a slightly off style to the rap game but he does the chops that are necessary to take over the world if he ever got serious about his craft. He comes on at 5:30.

Griz is one of the more intriguing artists playing this Sunday as he truly is trying and succeeding at something new. He’s a saxophonist that mixes funk with electronic dance music and the result will have you grooving with amazement. It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever heard but I must admit that I find myself nodding my head quite a bit. He comes on at 6:30.

I won’t waste your time talking about the headliners as I’m sure you’ve already formed your own opinion on them by now. But if you’re looking to potentially become someone’s baby daddy, then enjoy your time at The Weeknd.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Black Mass

It’s unbelievable to me that even at age 50 Johnny Depp still has what it takes to make high school girls fawn all over him. This borderline geriatric gypsy can still pull more wool than I could ever dream of and I am 100% certain that he hasn’t showered since he made Ed Wood back in the 90’s! His latest Houdini act involved converting a well-known 29 year old lesbian (Amber Heard) into his sex slave, or wife, or whatever they’re calling them these days.

And what’s worse is the fact that he hasn’t even really tried since Sweeney Todd came out in 2007. That’s eight years of just coasting through movies, playing the same "kooky" character over and over again. Hell, I’ve tried playing the laid back black guy who rides road bikes and wears Malcom X glasses for years and I still have to damn near juggle botchy balls at lunch just to get girls to pay attention to me! I both hate and love Depp at the same time!

But with that said, I have to admit that I was unbelievably excited when I saw he was playing James "Whitey" Bulger in Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart) Black Mass. Whitey’s story has always been an interesting one to me and I was just waiting for Hollywood to jump all over it. For those who don’t know, Bulger was a "Southie" gangster who rose to prominence in the 80’s by forming an alliance with the FBI; they would look the other way while he did his dirty work in return for him ratting on his competition.

He was able to do this because federal agent Scott Connolly, who was also from south side Boston, just so happened to grow up with Whitey and his brother Billy Bulger, the State Senator for Massachusetts at the time. Connolly used their relationship to advance his career by providing Whitey inside information in return for pertinent intel on the rival Italian mafia in town. And by ridding himself of the competition, this left the streets wide open for Whitey to take control.

Well for the first hour of the movie, Mass is your basic run of the mill gangster movie. Anyone who has ever seen Scarface, The Godfather, American Gangster, or any Sopranos episode ever, won’t be shocked or even remotely moved by anything that’s happening on screen. It’s not until the second act kicks in that you begin to see just how evil this man truly was.

Director Scott Cooper does an excellent job of presenting this biopic in a dark and grimy manner. It seems as if every shot was purposely filmed in a dark room or with an overcast sky; and the lack of color in the film (it’s not filmed in black and white by the way) just adds to the ominous nature of the story. Even when Whitey experiences tragedies in his life that would normally make you feel sympathy for him, you can still feel the wickedness oozing from his very being. And that is a credit to the aforementioned Depp.

Depp is the driving force behind this movie. He doesn’t do his usual bit where he adds some weird quirk to the character that totally doesn’t belong. He instead plays on and gets you to focus on everything that made Whitey so menacing in the first place: his posture, his dead tooth, and his seemingly white eyes. Just looking at guy makes you want to run the other way. Depp deserves every honor coming his way this awards season and trust me when I say that he will be up for quite a few.

I still believe that this movie ran about 20 minutes too long but is certainly was enjoyable. I give it a solid rating of FRESH! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Goodnight Mommy

It’s always really interesting to me to see how each race reacts differently to what’s happening on screen in horror movies. Caucasians typically just sit there and appropriately gasp silently to themselves while clutching their significant other. While Asians, girls in particular, quite literally jump up and start screaming in their chairs; once again living up to everything you’ve seen in those hilarious YouTube videos online. And then there’s the Blacks and the Latinos, who you can always rely on to yell as loudly as they possibly can "Aw hell naw! Girl, get yo ass out the house now! All of whom, quickly reaffirm everything what you’ve come to expect from their demographics at this point.

So whenever I see news stories about people who have either survived or lost their lives to intruders or predators, I’m never really surprised by the outcomes, because typically their behaviors are reflective of their horror movie reactions.

Now the reason I say all of this is because I knew right off the bat how the two brothers in Goodnight Mommy would react to their particular situation when I saw that their "mom" gave them some refreshing Kool-Aid to drink for a snack one afternoon. Granted it was from one of those fancy pitchers and she poured into in a nice glass, but the point remains, there weren’t any Hi-C boxes for these kids! I guess they keep things gangsta rural Austria!

Anyway, I put mom in quotes because the story starts when two young brothers, Lukas and Elias, come home one day and see their mother’s face completely wrapped in bandages. She apparently has had serious plastic or reconstructive surgery done to her face, but the reason for it is never fully disclosed. You do learn however that she is a television personality of some sort, so you can’t help but believe that that had something to do with it.

The issue for the two boys is that she is not acting anywhere near the way their mother used to before she had the surgery. She doesn’t seem to be picking up on certain things that a normal mother would, she’s short and testy with them, and she displays oddball behavior like randomly punishing one of them and only cooking dinner for the other. Things get so bad in fact, that at one point in the movie that the boys decide to run away and seek help from the local priest. But he of course doesn’t believe them, so it’s up to them to find out once and for all if it’s really her or if it’s simply someone who is there to hurt them.

Now this isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense of the word; there aren’t any hatchet men or killer clowns that randomly show up. It instead works as a mind bending suspense thriller that takes you all the way back to the days of Alfred Hitchcock. The weird angles and creepy set design the directors use to tell the story adds to the overall chilling nature of what’s happening to these two inseparable boys. And the fact that they basically look alike, makes you wonder if twins should be added to the list of common phobias like clowns are.

But towards the end of the film, you finally get what you came to see, a horror classic that ranks right up there with the likes of The Shining and Children of the Corn. Things all of a sudden take a turn for the weird and you find yourself squirming in your seat from all of the haunting images you see on screen; some of which will last with you for weeks. And by the time you walk out of the theater, you will feel great about the fact that you’re not a parent and that you don’t have to spend a significant amount of time around any children.

I loved this movie simply for the fact that it literally had me thinking about every scene I saw in it, just to be sure that I didn’t miss anything. And any horror movie that has blood and boobs in it, instantly has me sold. I rate this movie as very FRESH and I suggest that you go see it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Visit

For over a decade now I have repeatedly said that I would never write or pronounce M. Night Shyamalan’s name correctly until he once again put out a decent film. Lady in the Water, The Crappening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth are easily some of the worst pieces of trash I’ve ever seen in a theater; and that’s saying something when you consider the fact that I’ve also seen Ridley Scott’s The Counselor and all three of The Fantastic Four films in the theater on their opening weekends. But the fact that I didn’t include eight A’s and twenty five L’s in his name this time around, should give you some indication of how I felt about his latest effort The Visit.

In this particular film, Shyamalan was smart in that he chose to prey on the one thing we are all afraid of in this country, old people! Think about it, ever since Cloak & Dagger came out in the 80’s, every movie with old people in it portrays them as either killers, crazy people, or zombies; and sometimes all three.

Well in this movie we are introduced to Becca and Tyler, two kids who are on their way to visiting their grandparents for the first time ever. The reason why they are seeing them for the first time is because their mother hasn’t had a relationship with her parents ever since she left home at the age of 19 to run off with her high school substitute teacher. The two of them instantly fell in love and were determined to be together regardless of the consequences. Her parents clearly didn’t approve of this and apparently when she left, something so awful happened that neither she nor her parents ever talk about it.

Well Becca sees this trip as an opportunity to heal some old wounds and to help her mother reconcile with her parents. Her mother has decided to pass on the opportunity to go with her kids on this trip as she is not quite ready to face them. And as you learn more and more about these two old kooks, you can see why.

The first few days are full of what you would normally expect to see from kids interacting with their old grandparents for the first time. But as the week goes on, more and more weird stuff starts happening. They have logical and well thought out excuses for them but the entire time, the kids know that something isn’t quite right. They decide to try and get to the bottom of it and when they do, the results are terrifying.

Now in the past, that word meant something completely different for Shyamalan and your experience with his art but in reference to this movie, it’s actually a good thing. This film moves at a snail’s pace at times but there’s enough oddball activity that takes place at night to help make up for it. And another thing that helps is the fact that this movie is actually quite funny. Tyler’s desire to be a rapper leads to some pretty weak but hilarious freestyles from the 13 year old.

By the time you get to last act of the film and you finally know what’s going on, you will never want to go to your grandparent’s place alone again. Who knows, they just may ask you to get in the oven too! It hurts every bone in my body to say this but Shyamalan has actually put together a fairly decent film and I can’t help but give it a rating of kind of FRESH!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Austin City Limits Saturday Preview

So there I was on a lazy Saturday afternoon in the middle of my Labor Day weekend, attempting to enjoy my fresh off the grill dove popper, when a friend mine dropped an unexpected bombshell on me. She told me the story of how some scrub singer named Gavin DeGraw hit on her and her friends at one of his in store signings back in the day. I had personally never heard of this guy before, but this fedora wearing douche was at the height of his popularity back then; so naturally the girls said yes to him when he invited them to be guests of his at his show later that night. And apparently he was so enamored with my one friend that he wound up calling her a few days afterwards and left this awesome singing voice message on her phone in some lame attempt to make her swoon; pretty standard fare for a pop star these days.

But what really stood out about her story was the fact that he actually got in touch with another one of her friends and somehow convinced the poor girl to let him have hip sex with her. What is hip sex you ask? It’s basically DeGraw raw dogging if you will, her hip until he came. Gross, you say? Well that’s not all. What’s really interesting is the fact that he actually preferred doing this versus that of having normal sex as she allowed him to do this to her on multiple occasions! I guess this is better than Old Dirty Bastards’ approach to safe sex. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll let you Google it and find out for yourself.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, what’s the point of this odd story? Well the point is, I cannot wait until it’s time for ACL this year, simply for the fact that I will get to see how many girls will be waiting backstage to let Champagne Papi aka Drake have unprotected hip sex with them. I’m sure there will be a line out the door of lovely young ladies just itching to be dry humped by Canada’s finest! And who knows, they may even have to show off their hip sex skills to the doorman before he allows them back stage to chase their dreams. And yes, just in case you haven’t caught on yet, I really just wanted to see how many times I could type the phrase hip sex in one article before someone took notice. But moving on…

Outside of the main headliners, there really isn’t much to be excited about on day two of this festival as it’s clearly the weakest of the three. But if you happen to only have a day pass and you plan on getting there early, I suggest skipping the band Waters who comes on at noon. The only thing these poor saps have going for them is the fact that they bring a ton of energy to the stage. But you should know going in, that this will basically be the equivalent of watching a Telletubbies show for adolescents, so I’d suggest looking for entertainment elsewhere.

So as an alternative to seeing Waters, I would suggest checking out the band In the Valley Below instead. They are the quintessential daytime ACL act as they are an indie pop outfit whose music won’t require too much movement from you that early in the morning. Their music isn’t that great but they do have decent harmonies and a cute goth girl, so that alone should make them worthy of a quick pop in. They also play at noon.

Next up at 12:45 are The Levites. This multi-talented gospel group incorporates elements of Funk and Creole Jazz in their show and they also have the unique ability to make you want to move to music you never thought you’d dance to in your life. Every single one of them has the vocal chops necessary to tour on their own if they wanted to but they humbly choose to work together to bring you a sound that will have you shouting for more. (Full disclosure-I am personal friends with quite a few of them and have worked with them in the past, so take that for what it’s worth).

Next up is Charlotte OC. She is a breathtakingly beautiful singer whose voice immediately draws you into her music; so much so that she that could be singing about something as mundane as eating Skittles and you wouldn’t even care. Her clever choice of the piano and drums as her supporting instruments, versus that of the tired and overused acoustic guitar, really helps with the overall effect of her songs. And it turns what would normally be a lost in the shuffle artist into a memorable standout. She comes on at 1:30.

After her, it’s time for you to get your hip hop started for the day in the form of Vince Staples. Now for some reason he’s been getting a ton of credit for being the first rap artist to ever accurately depict what’s happening to him in the hood; I guess these people have never heard an Ice Cube or Tupac song before. But none of this errant hype is actually Staples’ fault; he, through the use of tight, bass heavy, and stripped down beats, forces you to solely focus in on his grimy rhymes and vivid storytelling. And he’s able to do all of this while still making you nod your head to his West Coast sound. That’s fairly impressive considering the fact most of his material is pretty depressing. Expect to see one or two white girls trying their best to twerk to his music as they prepare themselves for some possible hip sex later on in the night. He comes on at 2:30.

Now if Vince is a little too hard for you, then I suggest you mosey on over and check out the band So Cal instead as this will be the perfect time for a little family bonding with you and your loved ones. They make the kind of music your goofy parents danced to in the late 80’s. It’s full of guitars and light synths, so you may want to pack your androgynous clothes and makeup for this show. They also get on at 2:30.

I have to say that I like all of one Father John Misty song and that just so happens to be Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings. If he promised me that he’d play just that one song and get off stage, I’d go, but since he probably won’t do that, I think I’ll pass. I’m not much of a fan of Rockabilly indie music.

I’m also not a big fan of Folk or anything that even resembles country, so I’ll be skipping everything this afternoon until Unknown Mortal Orchestra comes on. But people do seem love Shakey Graves and Houndmouth, so give them a shot if you’re looking for something to do besides watching college football. There’s also Sturgill Simpson and 21 Pilots (pop emo) playing right after them, but again I’ll pass.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a weird psychedelic indie dance band who has somehow managed to stretch out their 15 minutes of fame longer than I ever thought was possible for them. I’ll give them credit for having a sound I’ve never really heard before, but the problem with them is that you’re tired of it after about 20-30 minutes. They come on at 5:30.

Now clearly you should be gearing up for Pretty Flacko aka A$ap Rocky at this point to hear a little L$D and PMW but I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped by to hear the Alabama Shakes perform their new album first. They have evolved well beyond the simple country band with an awesome soul singing Black woman for their front man. They now have a more versatile sound and at times remind you of the live acts you heard from the Motown era. And yes, just in case you were wondering, they even have back-up singers to boot. Both come on at 6:30.

And after this, it’s clearly TV on the Radio and Drake…duh! Ok one last rock star and groupie story for the road. This girl my buddy was sort of dating at the time, gave her number to A$ap Rocky during SXSW this year. He sent her a text one night that said "Hey! What’s up! It’s Flacko!" She replied "What’s Flacko?" He responded "NM" The end. Let that be a lesson ladies, bone up on your hip hop aliases. Enjoy.