Saturday, May 18, 2013
All week I kept trying to find a funny story from a convention or an online chat room to use as ammunition for my jokes about Trekkies. You know, because it’s weird for them to dress up in full costume and congregate together while quoting weird one liners to one another. And then a buddy of mine pointed out to me that sports fans are just as freaky. We all get together in large stadiums wearing face paint and the jerseys of our favorite players, while doing stupid chants or cheers as dudes run around trying to grab other dudes; or if it makes you feel better about it, tackle each other. I couldn't deny that I am guilty of such acts, so here I am as a sports fan saying trek on weirdos, trek on.
I watched the television show from time to time but I really consider myself to be on the Star Wars side of the nerd wars. But I love sci-fi, have seen a few of the Star Trek movies, and J.J. Abrams did a surprisingly decent job of re-booting this franchise; so I was moderately excited for part two of journey where no man has gone before.
This movie comes out of the gate swinging with an intense action scene involving Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) who are being chased by this indigenous tribe of a planet that they are simply supposed to be observing. But as usual Kirk goes against protocol and decides to execute this crazy plan to save the planet's people, while nearly losing the lives of his own expedition team. Well once they return to earth he is immediately suspended, until one day the Federation finds itself under attack by a new enemy that they believe to be linked to the Klingons. After a fairly predictable death, Kirk has his crew back and is sent on a mission to find and kill the man responsible for these attacks. And in the process of capturing him, realizes that he may need this new enemy’s help to get out of a fairly sticky situation.
Let me say that while I did enjoy this movie, there were far too many flaws in it to simply overlook. First of all, Simon Pegg’s toupee was distractingly bad! Alice Eve is stunningly hot, but her character was completely pointless. And while they did introduce to us a rather familiar foe from the past, J.J. blew his load in revealing who it was and then didn’t quite know what to do with him afterward. The new bad guy is really cool and they could’ve done so much more with him but in the end it felt like he was a slightly more evil version of Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. The action scenes are entertaining but with an ok at best storyline, they just fell rather flat.
Now I will say that this movie is really funny. Basically everything that comes out of Bones’ mouth is comic gold. And there are of course, the usual funny moments with Spock trying to understand humans. What I really like about Into Darkness is that they embrace what makes the franchise popular, unlike the new Bond movies where they throw out the cool gadgets and the shaken not stirred line. This movie is chock full of inside jokes and little nods to the tv show. And while some of this goes over the casual fans head, it’s not enough to where you can’t follow what’s going on. In the end, it’s the curse of J.J. He can set up cool action pieces that visually look great but he can never make a great movie. However this is a fun popcorn movie and I rate it as barely FRESH!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Let me be the first to state the obvious; there is no way Zilker Park holds up for two straight weekends of a festival. So do yourself a favor and get out to Austin’s otherwise awesome park for the first weekend of ACL so that you are not caught in a mud/dirt fest in week 2 and you don’t miss the surprise hologram that is Freddy Mercury during Muse’s performance!
I’ve had quite a few friends ask me what I think of the lineup this year and my answer is simply this; it’s great if you’re over the age of 40 or have never been to ACL before. But for the rest of us it's the same ole same ole. For the oldies in the house you have Depeche Mode and The Cure. I can’t hate on The Cure because 90% of the bands I like wouldn’t be around if it were for them and it will be cool to see Robert Smith and his Edward Scissorhands hairdo live. Depeche Mode…meh. I mean, I had guaranteed access to their SXSW show but decided to get too drunk during the day while chasing punk bands and free BBQ plates instead of seeing a band whose best days are long gone. But I have respect for them so I’ll probably be in the house.
In the “We’ve played ACL 8000 times before category” lies Muse, put me to sleep Wilco, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, The National, Passion Pit, and Silversun Pickups just to name a few. But after I looked over the entire lineup, I actually had to concede the fact that ACL had the best lineup of all the major festivals this year; that was until my friend reminded me that Bonnaroo had R. Kelly and that ended that argument. Well played Bonnaroo…well played!
The big act that I’m excited to see is Muse, mainly because they are my favorite band and they always put on a killer live show. If you have only heard their recorded stuff, it pales in comparison how Matt rips his guitar live. Their new album aside, they are a must see. Atoms For Peace is another act that excites me because it’s Thom Yorke and their album is growing on me. Plus have you ever seen a black man inspired to dance by a goofy white guy that's gyrating on stage? Well besides Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that is. The National, Queens of the Stoned Age, Arctic Monkeys, Kendrick Lamar, and Silversun Pickups are the other obvious choices.
I will be previewing a ton if acts as we get closer to the actual festival but here are some under the radar bands to pop in. I've previewed Fidlar here before after SXSW
I think you definitely need to check them out in a weekend that's full of mellow and fruity indie rock. This will definitely wake you up a bit and may even inspire a mosh pit or two. Another band that is similar to Fidlar is Parquet Courts. They aren’t as good but they're still underground New York punk with a lead singer who sounds like a real life Max Headroom meets a young Ben Stein. "Bueller? Bueller?" The baseline and the beats of the drums are pretty basic but it’s punk music so it’s supposed to be simple. I have seen them live before and about half of their songs have you dancing around like an idiot but then the other half have you standing there wondering why your beer is getting warm. I definitely suggest checking them out but they get a rating of kind of WEAK.
Tame Impala is another band to pop in on. They wont exactly blow you over with their performances but they give you a refreshing take on psychedelic music by adding a surfer pop element to it. Elephant is a direct rip from Deep Purple and The Beatles but it’s a fun song. Solitude is Bliss and Mind Mischief are a few cuts that are a bit more progressive and seems to set them apart. In the end I can’t really give a psychedelic band a rating of fresh because after a while it starts to sound like every other psych band you've heard in the past, but that’s the nature of the style and I can’t really blame them for that. So they get a rating of kind of WEAK.
Last preview for today is D’Angelo. I never thought that I would be writing a preview for him as an up and comer to check out but it’s like that saying with sex; if you’ve gone so long without having it, it’s like you’re a virgin again. I was in grade school when he first broke out and he almost single handedly saved RnB music. This is around the time when Soul music was morphing into full blown hip hop and you had Puff Daddy dancing in everyone’s videos. And by the time his second album and masterpiece Voodoo came out, everyone was emulating Missy Elliot and doing weird dances in their videos. Thankfully his Neo-soul movement reminded you of old school Marvin in his heyday and all of his tracks had live instruments that had a jazz feel to it. Missing were all of the over produced beats with awful samples. It also didn’t hurt that he looked like a real life black statue of David; but that eventually lead to his downfall. He didn’t know how to handle all of the attention he was getting and that led to him becoming an alcoholic. Well, it seems like he’s back on track now and I would strongly suggest seeing his shows while you have the opportunity because what he brings live rivals what you see at a Erykah Badu show with its sexual energy. D’Angelo is definitely FRESH but I will not be bringing a date to this show as I do not want her looking at me like I’m a scrub after seeing him.
More previews to come.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
So there I was, a little too sick and a little too black (running a bit late) to go see DJ Shadow on a Thursday night. So I decided that I couldn’t be completely lame and that I may as well go see the new Leo flick, The Great Gatsby. But I’m a straight guy as well, so when I ran into my buddy in the hallway and he asked what I was about to go do, I had to lie. “Uh, just a quick run to the drug store.” Apparently I thought I was living in the 20’s like Jay Gatsby; the drug store???
Well I wasn’t the only one because as with most opening night shows there were clowns dressed up for the occasion. Some guy walked in sporting a tux complete with a top hat and cane. Hopefully he went all out and took his date for some Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos beforehand. But with Baz Luhrmann you should expect the full gambit of wackiness. Don’t get me wrong, he was considered a bit of a visionary when he combined his over stylized filming approach with a cool and different take on the use of soundtracks in films with Romeo and Juliet. Radiohead, Garbage, The Cardigans, and an awesome cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry had you bopping your head while trying to figure what the hell people were saying on screen. And then he reached his peak with every girl’s wet dream with Moulin Rouge. But after a while, these films seemed a bit dated and he ultimately went over the top with the long and boring Australia.
So naturally he tries to right the ship by taking on one of the hardest books in history to adapt to the screen in The Great Gatsby. But there was hope that this could be a return to form when you saw the excellent cast which included Leo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and even Jay Z doing the soundtrack. You notice how I left off Tobey Maguire? He just happened to get the coveted Nick Carraway role but the question is how? What has he been excellent in? He always plays the same “Aww Shucks” character who when tries to look angry, you just end up laughing at him. He doesn’t have any range at all as an actor and he doesn’t bring any sense of cool to the big screen like his counterpart Leo or even a young Corey Feldman. No I can’t let go of those days. We all laughed when in Entourage they offered Vince the role of Carraway but never did we see the real life Vince getting said role.
Well aside from Maguire being his usual average self, the movie itself isn’t that bad. You just have to get through the first 30-40 minutes of it. This is where Baz drops the majority of his 127 million dollar budget, supposedly a ton of that on costumes. He always feels the need to have extravagant galas and dance numbers in his movies and he combines that with his now distracting filming style where he cannot focus on one person or thing for longer than two seconds before zooming in or out to something. And Jay Z’s songs in this marathon of a movie neither enhance or take you out of the scenes; they are just kind of there. It’s weird how these two weren’t able to make this work. But once you get past this, he and the movie settles down a bit and the love story starts to kick in.
If you have never read the book, the story is about the mysterious Jay Gatsby who befriends his neighbor Nick Carraway. He has returned from the war and rises rather quickly to filthy rich status with no one really knowing how or really knowing much about him. Across the way lives Carraway’s cousin Daisy (Mulligan) who is married to the cheating and self involved Tom who is played wonderfully by Joel Edgerton. I would say it was an Oscar worthy performance but how hard is it to play a narcissistic trust fund baby who is an asshole?
Anyway, Gatsby is trying to reunite with his long lost love Daisy and this is where Baz’s talent is put on display. There are only two scenes that you take away from this film and one of them is when Gatsby sees Daisy for the first time. This is the most beautiful I have ever seen Mulligan on screen and you believe that Leo is so nervous that his heart actually stops. From this moment on, it becomes a decent film and you get into it.
The only issue is that it’s just a decent film and not great or even really good one like it could have been. I think it’s a combination of the length of the movie and the difficulty of trying to translate the book’s material to the big screen. Leo actually carries this film, especially when he finally loses it in a scene towards the end. Mulligan and Edgerton both put in memorable performances as well. Overall I just think the movie falls a bit flat and it will become of those conversation topics in about 5 years where you and your friends say “Oh yeah, they did make a Gatsby movie”. And based off of that I give it a rating of kind of WEAK.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
It’s that time of the year again, where we get Hollywood’s laziest efforts to entertain us in the forms of The A Team Redux, The Smurfs : The Reckoning, and Rocky 5…thousand. As a result, our minds are slowly melting and we get closer and closer to a mental state where we will eventually buy the Lazy-E Boy/toilet chair that you can masturbate in for entertainment. “Go away, I’m batin!” Well thankfully Ironman is past it’s Avengers set up phase and the producers decided to give a real action writer in Shane Black a chance at not only the script but also directing. Black wrote Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, The Last Boy Scout, and Long Kiss Goodnight. Plus he also wrote and directed one of my favorite films in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang which starred Robert Downey Jr and fat Val Kilmer aka Gay Perry. Had he stopped being lazy and lost 25 lbs, Kilmer might have played the role of Aldrich Killian; instead of the low rent but still good Australian(born in England) version of him in Guy Pearce.
Black is known for his buddy cop movies which are full of sharp wit and funny one liners that usually involve an interracial duo. And his stories are complex enough to keep you guessing as to who done it the entire time but simple enough to where it won’t go over the general public’s head. In this installment of Ironman, he picks up soon after the alien invasion in Avengers almost took out the entire planet. And just like in Ghostbusters 2, the public blames the hero (in this case Ironman) for what happened, so T. Stark basically is forced to stay in his basement and tinker with his toys while Pepper (Paltrow) runs his company. But initially, the movie flashes back to the year 1999 when at a convention, Stark is too busy hooking up with a revolutionary botanist (Rebecca Hall)to pay too much attention to the undiscovered nerd genius Killian (Pearce) who is desperately trying to get his attention. So naturally in a night where he’s simply trying to get laid, he ends up making a few enemies.But in typical Black fashion the story isnt quite that simple. There is someone else that is grabbing your attention at the moment and it is a man that is terrorizing the public and threatening the President of the United States with his random bombings in The Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley. Well one of the Mandarin’s bombs puts Stark’s friend in a coma and this leads to a direct challenge from Stark to his latest nemesis. And the movie goes from there.
What’s cool about this movie is it’s basically Lethal Weapon with a big CGI budget. While there are plenty of explosions and a cool new trick where Stark has magnetized himself so that he can throw on his suit from anywhere, Black also shows you another side of Stark who is dealing with anxiety attacks from the craziness that happened just a few months ago. So you get all the goodness of the action you’d expect but along with that an actual police procedural with some character development as well. The big CGI battle at the end is a little over the top and silly but seeing the result of a what a weapons genius can do with months of alone time made it bearable. The scene where Ironman has to try and save everyone from a plane crash is probably the one that will stick with you the longest ala Ironman finallytaking out the terrorists in part 1.
In the end this movie is a little better than the usual popcorn fluff you always get in May and it actually appears as if they tried. The bad guys are kind of cool, Don Cheadle isn’t annoying in this installment, and the jokes don’t make you feel like you’re watching a post Dumb and Dumber Jim Carrey movie. The only real complaints I have is that they try and make a gangly Gweneth Paltrow seem sexy by putting her A cups in a sports bra and the fact that they didn’t have a scene with Ben Kigsley where he yells “They F you in the drive through! They F you in the drive through! They know that you're gonna be halfway home before you realize you got F'ed” I rate this fun movie as FRESH!
Monday, May 6, 2013
I will consider my experience at the Hunters/Bleached show as a lesson learned. When you have a crush on the lead singer of a punk band, don’t take a female friend with you. As Isabel (Hunters) was rocking out, she apparently kept checking out my companion who looks like she could be in a punk band herself. My friend even commented “I like how she makes eye contact”. It was at that point that I wanted to elbow my friend, throw a bag over Isabel’s head, and throw her over my shoulder to make a run for it.
Why not try and convince my friend to have a three way? Because I live in the real world! The only role I would’ve played in said threesome would be that of the old trainer who dies in Rocky; yelling from the side of the bed, “Give em hell Rock!!” As I have a heart attack and they possibly mourn my death with a montage that's playing Living In America by James Brown.
Anyway, the Hunters killed it as usual and I actually got to meet Isabel after the show. But I froze like a nerd trying to put on a condom in front of girl for the first time, so she spent the entire time talking to my stupid friend instead! Angry!!!!
The surprise of the show was Bleached. They are two sisters from California who play poppy surfer rock music. Their recorded stuff sounds like a better version of Best Coast but I have seen Best Coast live before and left the show early because it was so boring. I figured the same would happen here but I ended up staying for the entire set. They aren’t super cute or anything and they wear weird clothes, so it’s not like you’re staring at their bodies the entire time. They actually put on a good live show and you find yourself dancing off beat while secretly wanting to play a game of beach football. “Johnny fucking Utah! Sorry man, didn’t mean to get in ya face!” This is perfect day drinking by the pool music and I suggest you check them out. Only after seeing them perform will I give them a rating of barley FRESH! Pop in on their songs Think of You and Next Stop.
Next up is Haim. They are the perfect example of a band who has a song that gets some play on Sirius radio, has a few teenage girls tweet about their SXSW performances, and all of a sudden they are the next big thing and become a part of the festival circuit. Don’t get me wrong, they have some talent and get a lot of respect from some of their peers but if you are straight male, you will want to avoid this band. It’s pop that is heavily influenced by Rnb and folk music. Their best song is Forever but there is a big gap between this song and their other recorded offerings. Women will love them as they will fill the void that was left when The Bangles and The Spice Girls came back down to Earth. But I am not a woman and I rate them as WEAK!
Friday, May 3, 2013
I never bought into the “good old days” hype that old people always try and slap us with. As far as I am concerned, things have always been messed up. Everything up until the sixties had to deal with slavery, racism, or unreported date rape. The 70’s brought bad fashion and Aerosmith, the 80’s introduced us to AIDS, and the 90’s had the revival of boy bands. So you can’t blame technology and social media for this apparent disconnect in regards to human interaction; parents have been ignoring their children since we stopped plowing their fields for them. How else do you explain them allowing their children to spend hundreds of dollars on The Backstreet Boys?
The perfect example of this is my best friend in high school. We acted like model citizens around our parents, so much so that they wouldn’t even ask what we were doing as long as we said we were doing something together. It wasn’t until his mom got in his car one day to make a quick run to the store that she started to question some of the things we were into. His tape deck (yes tape deck) was broken so all he could listen to was the Nirvana In Utero album. And it just so happened that when she got in the car Rape Me was playing, and at a loud volume! And in the classic old people versus technology battle, the old person lost and she couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. Needless to say, from that point on she thought we were sociopaths and grilled us about everything we were doing.
When I first saw the buzz around this film, I thought it was going to be a preachy story of how the world is going to shit unless we all sit down and actually talk to one another. And to a certain extent is does say that but it really just presents the material for what it is without trying to beat you over the head with a message ala Green Zone. The movie centers around a group of people and how in today’s instant access to everything via phones or notebooks; you really don’t need to or have any desire to personally connect with anyone. It starts off with a reporter going online to chat with an 18 year old boy in his live video sex chat room. It turns out that she wants to do a report on him and his lifestyle but their relationship becomes complicated and turns both of their worlds upside down. Then it shifts it’s focus to two teenage boys deciding to play a prank on a social outcast by creating a fake facebook profile and posing as a girl. Once again things go too far and lead to dire consequences. And lastly, there’s the story of a young couple who is coping with the loss of a child and no longer communicate with each other. So the wife in an attempt to deal with the painful situation reaches out to a support group online and starts a dangerous affair in the process.
All of these stories are happening simultaneously and director Henry Alex Rubin does an excellent job of showing what's happening and how each one is connected while keeping you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think the story is about to reach absurd territory he switches you to the next story and leaves you hanging until he returns to that particular situation. It’s like watching a soap opera with decent actors and a better budget. What keeps this movie from being a cheesy soap opera or even the overrated Crash, is that there isn’t any melodramatic music to hammer home the point he is trying to make.
Well, not until the final climatic scene where out of the blue he decides to film everything in slow motion with blaring indie music. Slow motion pseudo action scenes only work with Milla Jovovich running around with two shotguns. But outside of this major flaw, I liked this movie and suggest that you pop in. A lot of what happens in the film is a true social commentary on our lives and how we approach or even value relationships today. But thankfully you don’t walk out feeling like you deserve a Klondike bar because you survived a 5 second talk with your granddad. I rate this movie as FRESH!
Now on to the important stuff : Yes Andrea Riseborugh who is wonderful in this film, gets naked; Hope Davis is finally starting to look old, and even though they repeatedly threaten to do so, they never actually show any kids masturbating.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It’s refreshing when you see a director properly capture a specific region’s charm without overly glamourizing it. I have a buddy from New York who recently clued me in on the fact that everyone in the northeast is just as jaded as he is. Even at age 12 when his family moved to San Diego and his friends tried to teach him how to surf, his response was “Surfing??? That’s outside! Fuck surfing son!!” Only someone like Scorsese or Spike Lee can make these people seem endearing. Well Jeff Nichols, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors, along with Benh Zeitlin (in spite of his stupid name spelling) were able to do the same for the south in Mud and Beasts of the Southern Wild respectively.
Mud continues the hot streak that Matthew McConaughey is on. Gone, it seems, are his days of making romantic comedies with talking horses like Mr. Ed. Ed aka Sarah Jessica Parker is finally fading into nothingness and this is freeing McConaughey from the evil spell that her shark eyes has put him and Hollywood under. He can once again make decent movies without getting away from what he does naturally; relying on his southern accent and charm. Strong acting is what drives Nichol’s films and this picture is no different. I am always leery when a movie relies on child actors but Tye Sheridan (Ellis) and Jacob Lofland (Neckbone) deliver great performances in solidly portraying two young boys growing up in the country; versus some of their counterparts who look and sound like they are reciting their Easter speeches on screen.
Mud tells the story of Ellis and Neckbone, who while exploring a nearby island, discover a boat that’s stuck in the trees. Once they climb up with the hopes of turning it into their clubhouse, they realize that someone is actually living in it. This is when they meet the mysterious Mud (McConaughey) and make a deal with him to bring him food in exchange for the boat. Well as they get to know each other and form a friendship they learn that Mud is waiting to meet up with the love of his life Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) who is in town and awaiting further instructions from him. It isn’t until Ellis and his mom are stopped by a police barricade on the highway one day that Ellis discovers that Mud is a wanted man by the authorities. Ellis and Neckbone confront Mud about his fugitive status and this is where the movie picks it up a notch.
If you go in not knowing much about the film, you think you know what to expect; the typical, boys get in too deep with a criminal and really discover that he is a bad man and therefore puts their lives in danger. But that’s not this movie’s focus; it’s about Ellis learning some pretty hard lessons about life early on and how he looks to the superstitious McConaughey and his quest to reunite with Juniper to help him cope with the broken marriage between his parents and his own insecurities about relationships and how they should end up. The entire time it seems like the only pure advice he is getting is from Mud but you are never really sure about McConaughey's character. Can he really be trusted? You keep waiting for him to show his true colors but you also want to believe that he is a good man mainly because he is McConaughey, much like Denzel in Training Day.
This movie moves slow at times, but just like the wonderful Take Shelter, every bit of the story that is told is necessary to set the overall tone of the film. The final climatic scene seems a bit out of place, but the action junkie in me loved every second of it. So I really liked this film and I give it a rating of very FRESH.