Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Concert Series - Part II: The Lemonheads




Lately, it seems like a good idea for bands and artists to go out on tour and play the entirety of one of their signature albums.  This seems to be even more prevalent with those artists who might be a little hard up for cash and haven’t created anything of consequence in years and need more of a gimmick to get people out to see their shows.  Last year Matthew Sweet took his classic album, Girlfriend on the road for its 20th anniversary and I really wanted to see that as it’s one of my all-time favorite albums.  However, I was a victim of poor geography and this tour just happened to be another one that wanted nothing to do with Florida. 

Last November I saw the Pixies play the Orlando Calling festival and they played the entirety of their preeminent album Doolittle.  Though I didn’t know the album at all, I did buy a copy about a week or so before the festival so I could at least somewhat familiarize myself with it.  And obviously there have been other artists that played their concept albums live like Roger Waters taking The Wall out on tour and the Decemberists playing The Hazzards of Love which both were meant to be played as whole pieces.  Despite the fact that I get that this strategy is wholly designed to entice more fans to buy tickets, I bought in hook, line, and sink to the Lemonheads performance of their best and most popular album, It’s a Shame About Ray last Thursday night in Orlando.

I almost didn’t go to this show as it fell on a weeknight in a city two hours away from where I live.  I once saw a Ben Folds show in Orlando on a Wednesday night and by the time I got home and into bed, I probably got only two or three hours of sleep, which made for a very long rest of the week.  I realized that going to concerts on weeknights was just not going to happen for me anymore.  And I kept to that line of thinking until I saw that Evan Dando was bringing his band to play the entirety of an album that was one of the first records I ever became obsessed with.  I actually remember telling a friend in high school once that my all-time favorite band was the Lemonheads which would also represent last time I ever answered such a question with anything but “The Beatles”.

Unfortunately I do not have any friends down here that would enjoy going to see such a show with me so I ended up going by myself, which represents the second time I’ve seen this band alone.  I saw them in Jacksonville when I was in grad school and no one wanted to join me.  I don’t typically go to shows by myself so the fact that I’ve now seen the Lemonheads twice in that way is pretty interesting.  For me, once the show gets started, it doesn’t really matter who I’m with since I’m so engrossed in the performance.  But as far as the ride to and from the venue and hanging out before and after the show goes, it’s nice to have at least someone to chat with.   And it would have been particularly nice to share the pre-show festivities with a friend or two since this particular venue was unlike any other I had been to before.

The concert was billed as part of the Orlando Hard Rock Hotel’s “Velvet Sessions” which sounds like it came from the brain of Hugh Hefner.  But rather than a cocktail party attended by mostly celebrities and scantly clad ‘bunnies’, this was a unique music venue that only entertains such shows the last Thursday of the month (save November and December for some reason) and is held in the lobby of the hotel.  As I pulled my car into the hotel parking lot I was offered complimentary valet parking, which I declined but it was funny to be offered anyway.  I walked in the front entrance of the building and noticed a very well-dressed and attractive young woman collecting tickets not 20 yards from the entrance.  I provided my ticket for which I was given a yellow rubber bracelet that said “Lemonheads 2/23/12” and “Velvet Sessions” on it.  A number of people were circling around the main floor area, cocktails in hand as the stage stood to the immediate left.  Theoretically, one could just walk into the hotel and view the concert from the front without needing to buy a ticket.  However, I would suspect some bouncer or security guard would kindly ask you not to loiter in the lobby area, but still, you could totally see the stage and hear the music if you decided to do that. 

Part of the appeal of this event is that every ticket purchase includes complimentary beverages and appetizers.  Every “session” includes a different mixed drink option and this event included vanilla Coke and vodka and some other vodka drink which seemed to be mixed with Sprite and Grenadine.  Yeah, the alcohol content was pretty low, but the price was right.  If that wasn’t your thing, you could have also purchased other drinks at the bar stations throughout the lobby.  There were also waiters coming around with all kinds of appetizers also free of charge.  I grabbed a drink and soon noticed that the venue was not just isolated to the stage area but that there were other lounges and bar areas in the back in which you could hang out.  I decided to head to the balcony outside and I soon found myself looking out on the courtyard of the hotel and the large pool which many of the guests were enjoying at the time.  It’s also worth noting that after the show, the venue turns into a dance club and a DJ spins until about 1:00.  All together, this makes for a very interesting and unique concert going experience regardless of who is playing.


I finished my drink on the balcony, went inside for another one, and caught a glimpse of Dando passing right by me as he apparently was checking the sound from the back.  It was almost 8:00 and it looked like he was getting ready to start.  I grabbed one more drink and headed toward the front of the stage and a few minutes later, the band came out.  Now having said everything above about my love for the Lemonheads, particularly when I was in high school, I understand that the band is pretty much Dando and whoever is playing with him.  They have gone through all kinds of lineup changes over the years and it is clearly his band.  Despite the fact that I am well aware of this, there is something more appealing about going to a Lemonheads show than there is about going to an Evan Dando show.  At any rate, I did notice that the bass player and drummer were the same two people playing with Dando the last time I saw the Lemonheads back in Jacksonville in 2006 or 2007, so it appears there has been at least some consistency over the years.

I was slightly surprised that they started right out with “Rockin’ Stroll” which is the opening song to the Ray album.  I had seen some set lists from previous shows and they had played about six songs before going into the album, so to see them get right into it was unexpected but still very much welcomed.  From the onset, it seemed that Dando wasn’t hitting the higher notes that he does on the album and I became a little concerned.  After all, he isn’t getting any younger and has had enough experience with substance abuse in the past that having his voice go a little on him was not entirely surprising.  But I was relieved to notice that it was only in a few places and that as the show progressed, his voice seemed to get better.  It was also very noticeable how quickly he moved through the songs.  There was barely any time taken between them and there were not any instrument changes.  Dando would just take a few seconds to check the guitar tuning and maybe throw a capo on and would just start strumming the chords to the next song.  Interaction with the crowd was nonexistent. 

The whole show lasted an hour, tops.  It’s a Shame About Ray is only 33 minutes long in album form and it seemed like the band was playing the songs faster live than on the album.  And for some reason, when they bill the show as the entire album, it is not really true since they decided to omit the final song off the album, which is the one they probably received the most notoriety for, their cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic “Mrs. Robinson”.  I thought that the reason for this glaring omission might be because it’s not their song and that they only wanted to play the original songs off the album.  However, that is not true as they have been closing the album set with a cover of “Frank Mills” which is a song from the 60’s hippie musical, Hair.  So why they don’t include “Mrs. Robinson” is beyond me. 

As the show progressed I became more and more aware of how their performance was the polar opposite of the Avett Brothers whom I saw nearly two weeks earlier.  Whereas the Avetts were all emotion and energy, Dando was pretty stoic and even seemed bored as he played.  Most of the time he stood still with his head turned to the side; his long thin hair covering most of his face.  In fact, the only time he allowed anyone to see his face while playing was when he played the closer, “Frank Mills”.  He even stopped playing the song at one part and sang it acapella as he looked out into the crowd almost inviting us to sing along.  It was the most interaction he would have with the crowd all night. 

So where I was disappointed in Dando’s overall demeanor and nonchalance, I was probably more upset with the crowd.  After they finished playing the album, Dando played a number of songs by himself on acoustic guitar.  This is when many in the crowd decided it would be OK to start talking fairly loudly to each other and lose interest in the show.  I tried my best to ignore them and focus on the performance, but it was still difficult.  I hate when people do that.  I wholeheartedly understand wanting to be social with your friends, especially after having a few drinks, but to do so in such a blatant fashion during a performance is nothing short of rude and obnoxious.  If you really want to talk that much, it only makes sense to at least move towards the back of the venue so as not to cause such a commotion.  Dando must have been aware of this and he seemed to start moving through the songs even faster to the point where it became fairly obvious that he just wanted the set to be over. 



The band came back out a few songs later and they finished the set.  I thought for a moment they’d come back out for an encore, but when the background music came on it was clear that they were done.  It was almost 9:00.  Part of me was relieved because that meant I would get home at a reasonable hour and not be totally worthless at work the next day, but I also felt sad.  Not because I felt in any way cheated out of the 30 bucks I spent on the ticket, the hours I spent driving, or the money I spent in gas to get there to see such a short show, but the show was a little sad in and of itself.  This was an artist who at one point in time was signed to a major label and wrote some great pop and punk songs and was fairly well known and respected in the musical community.  He hasn’t really created anything noteworthy in nearly 20 years and he’s probably just trying to scrape by.  He’s playing fairly small venues that would attract only the most devoted fans, but here he was playing to a group of people who seemed more interested in talking and drinking than they did in watching the show.  Maybe I’m being too critical of the crowd, but the noise level was very noticeable and excessive. 

In the end, I’m glad I went.  I was taken back to a place and time I look back upon favorably.  It would have been nice to share it with someone else, or to have been treated to a longer or more energetic set, or to have a more engaged crowed, but those are things that were beyond my control.  In the end, it was just great to experience a performance by a man who was responsible for so much happiness and excitement in my youth and who played the entirety of an album that holds a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons.  And it is that memory that will stand out as the years go by in favor of all the negative aspects of the evening, which totally makes sense.  After all, that’s what nostalgia is all about.

-M

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

25/50 Lurching On

Everyone on the edge of their seat for when I finally finish a book!? Stay tuned!

But until then:

Unstoppable (2010) (14/50 movies)
I have to give this props for a movie that is so gloriously stupid. It comes off as one of those eighties movies that are ultraspecific in the occupations it explores (i.e. action movie about being a bike messenger: Quiksilver!) I also have to give it props for using, at least to my eye little to no CGI in the stunts which is pretty unheard of these days. Even though it is a true story, it still comes off as the cinematic equivalent of this:
Where problem is stacked on top of problem, but I guess it wouldn't be excitement without that. Also, I mean it lives up to it's name and moves at a brisk pace, so there's that.

I was disappointed though, that nowhere, not even the closing credits did they use this song:

I mean half the time they are showing a TV Screen with the words "Runaway Train" on it.

I would have settled for this one as well


Also, it features the greatest looking railroad boss

And Kevin Corrigan as...I believe a railroad...inspector of some sort
Kevin Corrigan usually gets roles as scumbags, so it was quite a twist to see him play someone helpful.

Rampart (2011) (15/50 movies)
You know, I thought that this was gonna be my first new, as in first newly release in 2012 movie, but at least according to IMDB it came out last year. Which is true, it's been on the festival circuit for a long time last year, and I feel like I have been hearing about it for a while. I tried to go catch "The Adventures Of Tin Tin" but it was only being shown in some special screening room and was sold out. So I hurried across town and caught this. Now, I had been interested in seeing it but was slightly annoyed by it's tag line in the trailers, something about Woody Harrelson playing "The Most Corrupt Cop In Movie History" which, as Vincent Vega would say, is quite a bold statement. And it turns out I was right, Harrelson's performance is really good, but I still expected better from a James Ellroy script, this should be right in his wheelhouse. Harrelson plays the main cop character, who has been corrupt his whole life, and gets embroiled in a new scandal, scandals actually, just as the heat is coming down on the LAPD in  general over the Rampart scandal in 1999. I mean it's a somewhat interesting character study of the machinations of a true asshole, but in the end, I don't know, I didn't find it all that interesting. And, quite frankly, Harvey Keitel's life falling in "Bad Lieutenant" was still more interesting, and even that I don't feel like going back and watching again.

Sidenote: there have been rumors for a long time that the Rampart division rogue cops were involved in Biggie and Tupac's death. The fact that I kept thinking about this during the movie shows how much I kept drifting during the movie.

Moneyball (2011) (16/50 movies)
This is an interesting case, especially as far as "sports movies" goes. This is like The Social Network of sports movies. Let me explain: before I saw The Social Network I wondered how they were going to make basically a bunch of people hanging out on their computers into anything dramatic, and David Fincher managed to do so. With this I was like, how are they going to make a book that is basically about statistics into an interesting, dramatic movie? Well, they managed to, and while it is an interesting attempt it didn't grab me as much as The Social Network did. But when thinking about this as a sports movie or a baseball movie, it's interesting how it definitely did not end up where a typical sports movie ends up, I don't want to spoil it, but it ends in a much different place than one would expect, and I liked that as a surprise. Being a true story I am not sure how much you can chalk up to drama, but even the one big triumphant moment is at a somewhat strange spot, again as far as baseball movies go. I thought for the most part it was perfect, I liked the flashbacks to Billy Beane's (Brad Pitt's) playing days, but I thought they could cut the personal stuff with Pitt and his family. I did think Pitt and Jonah Hill were perfect for their respective parts, I'm not sure it is Oscar-worthy performances, but in these parts they were cast really well. I just think in the end it was a bit overlong and lost a lot of steam as it came to the ending, but maybe that was sort of the point.

But, hey, Bill James ended up helping the Red Sox to 2004, so I guess, for this area. there is a happy ending embedded in there.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Use Your Illusionist: Gina Carano, At Home

At Home – Bill Bryson (Book 5 of 25)

One of the rules of the challenge is if a book is 500 pages, it can count as two. Well consider this a tactical error. At Home, coming in at 452 pages, just misses the cut. It was a MONSTER. I had a crink in my neck last weekend so I pretty much sat around and read this for 8 hours a day, and it still took me a week. Although my pace became glacially slow once I went back to work.

All that said, with Bill Bryson writing, you know this shit will at least be interesting, even if it’s a history of the home and domesticity. Yeah, it sounds boring, who wants to know the history of the dining room? But Bryson always asks interesting questions that lead to a greater story. For example: of all the flavorings and spices in the world, why did the West settle on salt and pepper? Turns out the salt and pepper trade have a pretty violent history, replete with intrigue, colonial brutality and high sodium content.

Unfortunately, the book’s particular focus is on Britain in the Victorian period, which I could give fuckall about. How shitty was the Victorian era? You have the Industrial Revolution in its laissez-faire glory, with kids working 16 hours a day and everyone getting a single day off a week, if they were lucky. People were regularly dying of cholera, amongst other preventable diseases. Of course, the upper classes totally shat on the poor, saying they were responsible for their own ills.

Why are people so obsessed with this time? Why all the costume dramas and period pieces that show shitass nobility and their lives? All I know is that my ancestors were barely clinging to life as tenant farmers in the motherland, along with millions of my other Irish brothers and sisters, many of whom died of hunger in a famine where their country was EXPORTING food. Fuck that noise.

So anyway…the book was long, but good, although I’m not in a rush to read it again. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move on from the Victorian era.

Movies:

The Illusionist (Movie 7 of 50)

Except I decided to watch the Illusionist, which meant I was stuck it that time a little bit longer. Yeah, yeah, I know. Technically it’s probably not Victorian because A) it’s not England and B) I think it takes place a bit after her death. But close enough. I do think it’s kind of funny that two magician movies that took place in the late 19th/early 20th century were released in the same year, 2006. I still think the weirdest example of something like that is when they released two films about Steve Prefontaine, a runner who never even got an Olympic medal, at the same time (although Without Limits is seriously dope).

I really didn’t know what this one was about beforehand, only that it had magick! When it turned out to be a period piece, I almost shut the damn thing off. However, since I have no friends and had nothing else to do, I decided to watch the entire thing. My complaining aside, the movie was solid. I’m always a fan of Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti is regarded as a great character actor, although I’m not smart enough to really say that with authority and will only parrot the sentiment. For a movie that took itself so seriously I had to suspend logic (and disbelief) a little more than I would have liked. But shit, it’s a movie about magick! Honestly, it felt like a Masterpiece Theater set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I kept waiting for the pledge drive where they try to sell you some John Denver records.

Anyway, not in my wheelhouse, but not terrible. At least nobody died of cholera.

Haywire (Movie 8 of 50)

First off, this movie was ILLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!

Fucking finally! Due to the ridiculous embargo on the Santa Barbara area, I had to go to god damn Hollywood to see this one. Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, to be exact (thanks again, Santa Barbara!). I missed the first five minutes or so because the entrance to the actual movie theater is not at the famous fa├žade area, but instead in the mall next door. Nevertheless, I paid my $13.75 (!!!!!!!) and settled in. I was kind of annoyed by a lady who was STANDING behind me making weird noises with her mouth for the first half of the movie, but she eventually sat her annoying ass down and stopped causing such a racket.

I must say I really enjoyed this flick and it’s always cool to see a chick who can actually kick some ass. It’s nice to have a woman who looks like she can actually do it, unlike the waifish Angelina Jolie and Milla Jovovich. Sorry ladies, I can’t take either of you seriously as athletes or ass-kickers. Gina Carano would woop your ass, straight up.

Then again, she is a former champion cage fighter.

Speaking of which, this had some of the coolest fight scenes I’ve witnessed, with some truly graphic shit mixed with some ill-ass acrobatics, but not in that corny ass Matrix or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon way. I guess it was sort of like the Bourne movies, but 70 percent as intelligent. Which is totally fine with me. I also have to Gina her props. Besides delivering some of the coolest moves I have ever seen during a fight, her acting wasn’t terrible. Not that she had to do much, but still.

Full disclosure: I find her quite alluring and her looks definitely won’t be a hindrance in Tinsel Town. Whether or not she has a long career, nobody knows. But she has some pieces in place to play some fun action roles. Gina, you could definitely holla at me anytime. As long as you don’t put me in armbars.

Happy Birthday, Sidney Poitier!



Fun fact: He also directed the Bill Cosby comedy, "Ghost Dad"

-K

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Concert Series - Part I: The Avett Brothers



I began grad school in the fall of 2005 at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  Little did I know it at the time, but the three years I spent there would yield some of the greatest concert experiences of my life.  I had just moved from Baltimore and though I was able to see some great shows in the Baltimore/D.C. area I was also shut out of many other ones due to the fact that many of the most sought-after acts would sell out in a matter of minutes.  I did not expect to see that many great shows in Gainesville, but I soon found myself pleasantly surprised not only by the great shows I saw there, but I was also treated to some of my favorite concert-going experiences outside the area in Orlando and Jacksonville.  The best part was that I never had to worry about getting tickets because none of these concerts ever sold out, with the exception of Springsteen but even those tickets were easy to get for a Springsteen show.

But all things must pass and eventually I graduated and moved to Port St. Lucie where I secured a job at a local high school.  Since then, I have been in a fairly steady concert drought, save for my annual trip to Bonnaroo every June (by the way, have you seen the lineup this year?  SWEET!!!!!).  However, recent events have changed things up a bit and over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to secure tickets to see three of my all-time favorite live acts.  The first of these shows occurred last Saturday and I thought it would be nice to blog a bit about it. 

If you haven’t seen an Avett Brothers show before, you really are missing out.  I like a lot of different bands and artists and can speak very highly of many of those live acts I’ve seen.  But for the most part I can be objective and say that at least on some level, I could understand why someone would not like one of those bands or live shows.  People have different tastes and I respect that (for the most part).  But I honestly think that just about anyone with any appreciation of modern rock, pop, folk, country, or punk would really enjoy an Avetts show.  Little kids love them (I happen to know a couple of six-year-olds who are infatuated) and old people love them too (I sat behind what appeared to be an 80 year old woman at this particular show, and she even stood up for a majority of the performance).  The band attracts fans of ages and nearly all genres.  I’ve probably seen them about ten times now and Saturday night’s performance at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville was the most recent.  And as always, they did not disappoint.

I had a great seat and was about ten rows back in the middle.  There was no opening act and the band played for about two hours.  They played a good mix of more up-tempo rockers and slower somber ballads.  A highlight would be a solo acoustic performance by Seth of “Last Song to Jenny” which is an absolutely gut-wrenching and beautiful breakup song.  Inevitably, when an artist tries to set up a more intimate setting during a show and really slow things down, you’re going to get the occasional d-bag who thinks it’s cool to just shout out whatever he wants because, for this brief moment, he knows that he’ll get everyone’s attention.  Add to that the amount of alcohol this guy consumes and this happens way too frequently.  I will say that despite this occurrence, there were some moments of the song when just about everyone was silent and all you could here was Seth and his guitar and it was absolutely stunning.  We were only treated to a few short moments of this, and I can only imagine how ridiculous it would have been had people kept quiet for the majority of the song.


The band did an excellent job of drawing from all of their albums and I can’t really say that any one was more dominant than the other.  Personal favorites include tracks off of “Emotionalism” as they draw some of their best live material.  The band clearly loves what they do and they put so much energy into every song they play and when you really think about it, it’s amazing how they are able to do this night after night.  All that screaming cannot be good on the vocal chords.

If I had any complaints, I’d say that they played too many slower songs, or at least, there were too many played in a row.  While these may be some of the most beautiful you’ll ever hear, I just can’t help but want to see an Avett show that rocks out and places just a few of the ballads in here and there.  I know the guys are getting older and are branching out, but those foot-stomping, head-banging, all out punk ho-downs is what a stellar Avett show is all about.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen them so many times, or that in some strange way I’m used to them, but I think there is something to say about the novelty of seeing one of their shows for the first time.  I first saw them at a very small and intimate club in Annapolis, Maryland and they have yet to match that performance.  In some ways, I’m always looking for that show again, and I never seem to get it. 

I could also see how someone would find their stage demeanor a little cheesy and over the top at times.  While the band pours so much out into their music and care so very deeply about what they do, it’s almost impossible not to chuckle here and there with some of their antics.  Like Scott getting all emotional while he holds his arms out and counts the three words “I and Love and You” as he sings the chorus of the title track of their last album.  I have no doubt that they are totally being genuine in their antics which is one of the reasons they’re so great.  It’s just that sometimes, for me, it seems to be a bit much.  And if you need any more evidence, go read the liner notes to “I and Love and You” and you’ll get more of an idea of what I’m talking about.

Oh, and they always manage to play one of my least favorite songs of theirs, “And It Spread”.  I really tried to like it this time but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  However, given the reaction of the crowd and how much they all seemed to like it, I suppose this is more on me than the band.  But it did cause me to think and wonder what it really is about the song that I do not like.  For the life of me I can’t put my finger on it.  I just think it’s kinda lame.  I would have much more preferred "Talk on Indolence" which is their best live song, and I only seem to get to hear it from time to time.  I totally admit that I'm nitpicking here and the fact that they played a song I don't particularly care for is fine, because every artist is going to have at least one song that you’re not going to like.  Hell, the Beatles had “The Long and Winding Road” so even they’re not immune.

All this is not to say that I don’t get into their shows anymore, because that is far from the truth.  They are one of my all-time favorite live acts and I will always take the opportunity to see them if I can.  I genuinely believe this is a band that anyone will enjoy seeing live and with so many different tastes and people out there, this is a very difficult thing to pull off.  In that way, they actually are like the Beatles.  Their music is timeless and I will listen to it years after the band’s tenure is over.  

Oh, and if you do ever go see them, I recommend having at least a few beers to help get you in the mood.  Not that it's absolutely necessary, but it's one of those shows that becomes so much more salient and meaningful if you do.  But I will say that the beer is much better if you drink it than if you spill it on some poor unsuspecting soul standing on the floor below you, which is exactly what happened to me and a few others around me midway through the show.  After being doused with the cool frothy beverage, the guy behind me said “I think it may be water”, but it sure didn’t smell like it. 


-M  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Something Borrowed (2011) (13/50 movies)


So let me say this straight off the bat: Tina and I weren't looking for a romantic comedy to watch on Valentine's Day last night, we just happened upon this as a placeholder. We really wanted to watch "The Loving Story", the new documentary about Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who brought their case to the Supreme Court and which led to them declaring all interracial marriages legal. That was a great Valentine's Day watch. Something Borrowed? Not so much. In fact,  Something Borrowed feels like it goes on forever, and basically, treads water for close to two hours as people cheat one eachother and try to figure things out because they are.... GASP....turning thirty?! What does it all mean? Ugh, it is so tedious. And the worst has got to be Colin Egglesfield, who I guess came from soap operas, who is supposed to be this romantic ideal and just comes across as a block of wood. One of the funniest scenes that wasn't supposed to be funny was seeing him try to emote while standing in the rain. (It especially suffers in comparison, and I guess this is somewhat unfair, when one thinks about some genuinely great screen couples of the past, which is what my friend, co-worker, and fellow bloggers Peter did yesterday) There were actual two good things about this movie: 1) John Krasinski did the best he could and was also funniest in the best friend role, and 2) there was a song I really enjoyed by a band called Hipjoint somewhere in there.

-K

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Intros to 22 James Bond Movies All At The Same Time

There is no reason why this should exist. This is one of those times when one could just say: Well, it's the internet, this is what the Internet does. What, is someone on the Internet not going to make a video 22 James Bond movie intros all at the same time? C'mon, grow up.



-K

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Kim Novak!

You're becoming kind of crazy in your old age, but hey, you're 79, what can you do?
I may or may not be preaching to the choir here but if you haven't seen Hitchcock's Vertigo, this goes without saying, but I highly recommend it. To many people, it's Hitchcock's best movies, personally, it's not mine, but it is great, and it is oh so surreal.

Also, I want to dine in a restaurant decorated like the one she is walking in the photo above. I shouldn't put this out there because this blog is so highly read, but I always wanted to open a Hitchock-themed restaurant/bar/lounge called the Vertigo-go. Maybe some day. Any rich donors out there?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

25/50 (50/100) Rolls On

50/50 (2011) (10 of 50 movies)
I thought this was a really well done cancer "comedy" (dramedy?) It was actually based on the real life story of a friend of Seth Rogen's (who here plays the best friend) battle (and eventual triumph over cancer-knowing that sort of took some of the suspense out of the ending but whatever) and Rogen does his thing as a vulgar, funny buddy to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is suffering from cancer. I am not sure why, actually, this hasn't received more attention but it could find another life on DVD and what not. I am sucker for a good story with best friends, and one shot of Seth Rogen when he was waiting to see the results of Levitt's surgery. I will admit it made me tear up. I have to stop admitting that.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) (11/50 movies)
Pretty much the 180 degree opposite of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a spy movie that is dry as melba toast, and, pretty slow moving. Which sounds like I didn't like it, but I did. First off, it's an acting masterclass, Gary Oldman does away with his usual histrionics and plays George Smiley so quiet, trying to sniff out a double agent in the British secret service. They manage to wring, to me,  suspense out of simple conversations as he tries to suss out people's motivations and loyalties. It's good, but it is slow, it is not just a homage to seventies movies, but it seems like it has been transported via time machine from the seventies.

The whole reminded me of Eddie Izzard's bit about British Vs. American movies


To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) (12 of 50 movies)
I am quite sure that someone smarter than me could watch this movie and tell me that there are a bunch of different ways that this Hollywood movie got cross-dressing and/or homosexuality wrong, or it is offensive in some way to either or both of these groups. I will give them that, most certainly. So, we started watching this out of the blue one night, Tina had seen it in the theater when she was younger, and to be perfectly honest, it totally broke through my black, cynical heart. It was intending to be heartwarming while maybe, just maybe (I know) shining a positive light on a minority group. And it's just nice, very very nice. So if mainstream movies like this, The Birdcage, and In and Out helped push the needle a bit as far as the acceptance of different people and different lifestyles, I'll say there isn't anything wrong with. Its wholly inoffensive in a good way, and it has a nice message of being oneself. You can't really go wrong with that sort of thing, I think.

The Meaning of Meanings


The Meaning of Everything
Simon Winchester
Book 4 of 25

Yo yo yo! Big up to my three loyal readers! This is your boy Perspicacious P aka the Vanilla Thrilla, back with another installment in the 25/50 challenge. Today I check in with a book review, if you can believe that shit. I’m on a tear right now, averaging about a book every 10 days or so. I have no idea how people with full-time jobs can read more than one book in a week. I spent a solid 2-4 hours every night reading this book, and it took me from Sunday to Saturday. Back when I used to hoop, once in awhile I’d come across guys who played D1 or were nearly that good and I couldn’t even relate to how much more gifted they were than everyone else. I sort of feel the same way about people who read fast. I’m just not physically capable of it, something that held me back in grad school. But you know what they call the person who graduated last in his class in his master’s program? Master.

ANYWAY, back to the book. So, dear loyal readers, you are well aware that I read Simon Winchester’s book on the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Professor and the Madman. Well, he went ahead and wrote another book about your favourite (see what I did there?) dictionary. The problem is that he borrows heavily from his first book, retelling, damn near word-for-word, a lot of the same anecdotes and even using similar weird adjectives in places. I still enjoyed the book, but his high-flying Victorian triumphalism attitude was a bit much when he described the writing of the dictionary. I suppose it is one of lexicography’s greatest achievements, the thing defines like 600,000 words, along with etymologies and sentences to illustrate a word’s use. But still. It isn’t a cure for cancer or even the moon landing (if it happened, LOL). He has other books about maps and shit, but I’m all set with his writing for now. I had fun, know more about the composition of the Oxford English Dictionary than 99 percent of the population (does this mean I’m finally in the 1 percent?), and now know what the word polymath means. But it’s time to move on.

Now excuse me while I watch obscure silent movies online to review.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Perfunctory, Half-Formed Opinions on Movies and Books

OK OK OK. So it’s been awhile since I last blogged. In the interest of being a more regular contributor, or rather, a contributor at all, K-Diddy and me (or is it I), P-Phunk (aka Based Child aka The White Falcon aka Pusha P aka P Dilla aka The PZA aka The White Pterodactyl aka The Human Philosoraptor) have decided to embark on  the 25/50 challenge. This is a variation of the 50/50 Challenge, something on Facebook that calls on people to read 50 books and see 50 movies this year. Well, me and K-Dawg decided to twist it to our own needs and made it the 25/50 challenge. I hardly ever read, and when I do I am slow, so there’s no way I’m reading 50 books in a year. I don’t think I’ve read 50 in my life. Movies I can handle. But I’m going to review movies I have already seen, because I am lazy, whereas K-Dawg will not. Largely because he is a 1-Upper.

I will be keeping an Excel spreadsheet of everything, so you know this is some serious shit.

Before getting to my reviews, what’s with the holier-than-thou attitude of some people who read a lot? Oh, you read, please go on about how intelligent you are. Oh, you don’t own a TV, you must be so much more cultured than the rest of us. Please tell me more!

Well, hopefully I end up just like them. I can move to Portland, shop at Whole Foods, complain about Republicans and tell everyone I only eat organic food. Consider this a first step in that direction. Without further ado, here are P-Phunk’s book and movie reviews, all 120 words or less, for your pleasure! Enjoy!

The Grey
I actually wanted to see Haywire, but the shitass movie theaters up here of course didn’t carry it. You know, since we’re 90 miles from Hollywood and all. That would be far too much to ask. Desperate to get out of the house, I decide to see this, despite not caring about dogs or mountains particularly. Anyway, I enjoyed it. It was darker than I thought it would be, PLUS it had a wicked awesome plane crash scene…er…if you’re into that sort of thing. Remember, I was the guy who was disappointed when I found out Faces of Death was fake.

Contraband
I went into this with high hopes since it was Marky Mark and a heist, how could you go wrong? Well, although it wasn’t awful, it was really slow. I am not that critical of a movie watcher, but even for me it lagged. For a movie that took itself so seriously, some parts strained credulity. It would be worth seeing on DVD, but not forking over your hard-earned dollars at the cinema. But yea, I did. I really wanted to see Haywire, but of course it wasn’t playing, and I needed some excuse to get out of the house.  

War Horse
This movie was aaaaaaaiiiiiiigggggghhhhhhtttttt. I’ve never been a horse or animal person, so I’m never going to care as much about a horse as I am the millions of people who died in World War I. Not that I want to see horses killed by mechanical warfare, I’m just saying it’s never going to connect with me. I’m sure a lot of squirrels died in World War I and nobody’s made a movie about them. Why do horses get such exalted status?

Mission Impossible 3
Not much to say on this one. It’s the brainless action movie I have gotten into over the last year or so. It meets your expectations, no more, no less, and I’m just fine with that.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I actually saw the Swedish version with Spanish subtitles a couple of years ago when I was living in Spain (yes, I am better than you). I didn’t think the American version could match its brutality, but my homeboy David Fincher came correct. Rooney Mara did a great job inhabiting the role and Daniel Craig always puts in a good effort. I did think it weird that they sort of spoke with Scandinavian accents. Well, some of them did and some of them didn’t. And some began the movie with the accent and then lost it. Which made it weirder.

The Artist
I got around to seeing The Artist a bit late, thanks once again to the shitass cinemas here 90 miles from Hollywood. BECAUSE GOD FORBID YOU GET MILDLY ARTY MOVIES SO CLOSE TO LA. I think some of the critical praise is excessive. This is a nice novelty movie but nothing really, really amazing. Although I admit the lead guy, Jean Dujardin, was pretty brilliant. And I think I fell in love with the female lead, Berenice Bejo, as I am wont to do with French –Argentine girls. Then again, who couldn’t fall in love with them?

Book reviews! Or, Yes!, I Do Actually Read!

The Hunger Games
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. It’s a book for 13 year-old-girls. But I saw the trailer for the movie and it looked pretty ill and I have no friends where I live so I needed something to pass the time. ANYWAY, the book is super tightly well-written and a fun read. You can tell it’s a bit of a chicklit book because there’s like 30 pages devoted to the girl’s clothes and wardrobe staff. It was tough to get through that, but let’s face it, 33 year-old dudes weren’t what she was after. Irregardless, it was a fun read and I’m pretty psyched to see the movie.

Catching Fire (Book 2 of the Hunger Games)
We’re back to seeing our intrepid heroine rage against the machine. It’s wack in that it repeats some of the same elements of the first book, but I still really liked it. Kind of like in Star Wars when they were writing Return of the Jedi and were like, “Let’s do the Death Star again!” It’s not terribly original, but it is good. Except for the Ewoks, but I didn’t think they were all that bad when I was a kid. Anyway, although there was too much talk once again in the book about dresses and shit, it’s still good.

The Professor and the Madman
This was an ill book. It’s about this schizo American guy who killed some random dude in London and then got locked away with those insane asylum cats. But he was hella smart and when those intellectual cats started to write the Oxford English Dictionary, he made literally thousands of contributions. I am a bit of a etymology and history dork, so this book was right up my alley. Although, it was a bit shocking when, out of nowhere, there’s 10 pages devoted to the American guy cutting his dick off. I’m not kidding.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Expect more literary and insightful reviews as the project moves forward. As always, it’s been a pleasure, and the pleasure’s all yours.

Friday, February 3, 2012

100/50 Super Post

From now on, I'll try not to wait a month and just stack everything up like this, but Pat and I just came up with this idea, so I thought I could get started this way. I am doing well on the movie front (as you shall see) not so much on the book front...yet. So here are the new movies I watched in January. If you happened to read my favorite films of 2011, you'll definitely see some overlap. Here we go:

Oh and to be clear for our ridiculous idea, we are taking the 50/50 challenge model and modifying us so the 100/50 model is 100 movies and 50 books for 2012 between the two of us (so 50/25 each. Why? because we know our limitations all too well)

At this pace, I might even go over in the movie category. All right, I'll stop stalling:


Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (movies 1/50)


Surprising in that 1) it wasn't terrible, 2) it was a mainstream movie that had me basically cheering the downfall of humanity by the end. To be honest, the real meat here is the last 45 minutes of ape violence, but it wouldn't have been half as cathartic without the first part of the movie, of course, where apes and monkeys, some intelligent, through a ridiculous set of events are systematically mistreated. Oh, and I guess Andy Serkis' "performance" is good, I mean it's probably better than James Franco's, he made feel sympathetic but I am not sure an actual monkey wouldn't have done the same thing.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) (2/50 movies)

I've already talked about this, but I will add this, I am a non-glasses wearer, but I have never seen someone pull the move that Daniel Craig does here where when he isn't wearing his glasses he sort of has them hooked on one ear and under his chin. Is this something people do? Give to Craig for introducing me to this. Maybe it's a European thing.

Shame (2011) (3/50 movies)
This didn't work for me overall, I mean it is a harrowing look into addiction, in this case sex addiction. And after a while it just became too much, which perhaps that's what they were going for. I will say this, Steve McQueen, the director, makes a beautiful looking movie, and Carey Mulligan and especially Michael Fassbender, are especially good as a brother and sister who come from some screwed up childhood, of which it is never explicitly spoken about.

Fast Five (2011) (4/50 movies)
I mentioned this before, but I really have to give it up for an action movie which does not take itself too seriously, and is just as ridiculous as possible. I also have to add that I think The Rock needs to get in touch with Jason Statham's agent, because considering his background and athleticism, and charisma (which isn't really on display here) he could be a bigger action star than he is. I stand by that.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) (5/50 movies)
I love how this also was ridiculous, and even though it is definitely high tech, it is also strangely old school, what with the Kremlin getting blown up and the rogue insane person trying to destroy part of the U.S. with a nuclear missile. I hope the producers of the next James Bond movie are/were paying attention, because this movie is doing the whole fun, outrageous spy thing in the best way possible. I am making assumptions here, but Brad Bird seemed to have brought a lot of lessons gleaned from The Incredibles  to bear here on the great action setpieces here, some which just pile on twist and turn upon on another in a way that should be but isn't messy. The one unbelievable thing? Well, two actually, 1) I had to get used to Tom Cruise playing the world's biggest badass in the beginning, but I was able to suspend disbelief (and you really need to here-but it's so much fun it doesn't matter) and 2) that the best Mission Impossible movie (or best movie in nearly any series) would be the fourth one. It made me want to go back and actually see #3.

The Ides Of March (2011) (6/50 movies)
You know, I enjoyed this mostly, I thought it was well acted particularly by Gosling, Giamatti, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Particularly the latter two basically having a gruff-off among eachother. I have to admit that George Clooney, at first, casting himself as the world's most perfect progressive candidate was a bit annoying, but that sort of sorts itself out as the movie goes on. Overall I thought it was good, but I don't know, the message in the end where the young buck learns to play politics, or is it politics are particularly ruthless, while it was mostly well done, it also left me feeling that it was sort of a well trod idea and territory.


Hall Pass (2011) (7/50)
For a present day, Farrelly Brothers comedy, it's not that bad, if not that memorable either. The actors here definitely elevate the material. But I would be lying if I said I didn't laugh at all because I definitely did. I mean, if there is nothing else on, which is why we were watching it, then it's worth a look.

Insidious (2011) (8/50 movies)

You know, for real, this, at least for the first 2/3 was some really creepy stuff. There was some great haunted house stuff a la Poltergeist. It doesn't exactly fall apart in the last part, there are still some scares, but depending on your sensibility it sort of gets a little silly. But I mean, you're already dealing with psychics, ghosts, demons, and people that have out-of-body-experiences, so your mileage is going to vary anyway. I definitely was surprised at how much some stuff wormed it's way into my head for days (and particularly late nights) afterwards.

Timer (2009) (9/50 movies)

Now this was a pleasant surprise, particularly because Tina picked it randomly to watch from Netflix Watch Instantly. I like the idea, since it never seems to happen nowadays, of going into a movie completely blind and it's even better when the movie turns out a lot better than you were expecting. It takes a silly conceit, that in an alternate future people can be fitted with "timers" which will tell you when you have met your exact romantic match. I know it sounds cornball, and to an extent it is, but good acting and likable characters elevate this one over the usual romantic-comedy dross, which is nice nowadays. It's also nice that it isn't completely predictable, which, again, is some fresh air these days.