Wednesday, March 28, 2007

DVD Review - Children of Men



How much more can I possibly praise this movie? Best film of 2006 by a long shot. Visionary, masterful, groundbreaking, and utterly original. I'm actually getting tired of saying how great it is.

Let's just go ahead and forget about the truly horrendous cover art, cause the DVD is pretty good, with some mini docs that break down some of the tracking shots. There is a crazy montage showing how the birth scene was done, and an Alfonso Cuaron directed doc which compares modern cultural issues to the themes in CoM. Oh yeah, and interviews with the cast and also a philosopher who tells us what we already know - this film is amazing.

Film (****) - DVD (***)

Watch the trailer

Read my full review

This makes me sad...

...for 3 reasons:

1. There aren't any bands as dangerous, confrontational or as in-your-face as this anymore (and this was "past their prime").

2. CBGBs is now extinct, resurrected as a Las Vegas tourist trap.

3. As much as I love modern music, there won't ever be another band as good as this again :(



Sunday, March 25, 2007

FYI

It's kinda old news now, but if you don't know, I am now the film critic at BOOMj.com. I will still be posting my normal quick synopsis/rating for most films I see here on my blog, as well as linking the post to my full review at BOOMj. I'm also the music critic, but since it's a site geared toward older people, that unfortunately means no Xiu Xiu or Boris reviews. The site is still somewhat under construction, but you can check out the few reviews I have done so far by clicking the link below (bear with it if things aren't working properly). Many more will be coming though, don't worry.


BOOMj

BOOMj Film Reviews

Friday, March 23, 2007

Live - The Besnard Lakes & Dirty on Purpose @ The Detroit Bar 3/22/07

There were enough effects pedals between these 2 bands to knock out an ear drum, but it would have been all worth it, considering these are two of the most promising indie bands currently working. The Besnard Lakes, who already have released one of the years best albums with Are the Dark Horse (the fact that these guys didn't headline is proof that that album title is no lie), are like a mad hybridization of The Beach Boys, Spiritualized and Crazy Horse (if that makes any sense at all). Their set was made up of 6 pretty much perfect renditions of the 8 tracks on Are the Dark Horse, with each slowly building, spaced-out guitar helix combining in a vortex of of symphonic noise. And if the psychedelic mood wasn't already set by the music, they also shot out smoke from under the drum kit. It was over way too soon.

Dirty on Purpose, a NYC indie band that flirts with their own kind of guitar pyrotechnics, released a overlooked album last year called Hallelujah Sirens (so overlooked I still haven't even heard the whole thing). Apparently they were debuting lots of material from their new, forthcoming album. It sounds pretty great, although it doesn't look like it will be too much of a departure from what has come before. Oh yeah, and Helio Sequence headlined - some dug it (evidenced by the mini dance party in front of me), others didn't (evidenced by me and my friend leaving half way through).

The Besnard Lakes



















Dirty on Purpose











Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Well I'll be darned



"Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank"

I couldn't help but think of this classic Modest Mouse lyric during my first listen to "March Into the Sea", the opening track from their new album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Isaac Brock's maniacal vocal performance brought back memories of prime MM and immediately brought a smile to my skeptical face. You see, after the hit or miss Good News for People Who Love Bad News (an album, which on the back of "Float On", brought MM to the masses), I pretty much gave up on this band - a band, mind you, as influential as any I can name. And even though they will probably never reach the heights of The Moon and Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West again, We Were Dead at least puts up a fight.

What still bugs me about these last two records though is their blatant front loading of the more pop-oriented material ("Dashboard", Fire It Up", and the James Mercer guesting tri-fecta "Florida", We've Got Everything" and "Missed the Boat") which only works as an extended hand to the people who probably aren't going to make through the entire record anyway. So like Good News, a majority of the best songs are stuffed towards the end (excluding "Parting of the Sensory" which is probably the highlight of the whole album). In fact, from "Fly Trapped in a Jar" on, there is rarely a miss step.

My initial hesitancy with this album came from my exposure to lead single "Dashboard", a horn laced flair up unlike anything I've heard from these guys. Repeated listens haven't necessarily changed my opinions of the song, but like a friend of mine pointed out (word up Bert!), it does work better as part of the album as a whole. Which isn't really surprising, as most MM albums tend to have connecting lyrical tissue running through their track lists. I'll just give it a polite pass and move on.

And like I said before, the second half of the record totally kills - "Fly Trapped in a Jar", "Invisible" and "Steam Engenius" are classic MM, "Little Motel" is among the most beautiful songs Brock's ever penned, and "Spitting Venom" is a return to the epic structures of their early years, which in and of itself is cause for celebration. And I haven't even mentioned that the legendary Johnny Marr is now officially a member of the band for this record. And even though his contributions are quite subtle, it's an oddly fitting addition to their tweaked sound.

So what I guess I'm trying to say is that its better to be pleasantly surprised than slightly disappointed.

Friday, March 16, 2007

SXSW 2007



I don't know, maybe it's just me, but if I'm Direct TV and I am going to go through all the trouble of airing performances from the largest showcase for independent music of the entire year, wouldn't I want to put on some decent bands. I mean, what's this Razorlight and Aqualung trash? There are literally thousands of bands to choose from. I've already seen tons of crazy photos all over the net of what look to be amazing shows - Les Savy Fav, Boris, Magick Markers, Bat for Lashes among many others. Why not air those? Thankfully a few good bands get some face time - Peter Bjorn and John, Annuals, Polyphonic Spree and the almighty Buzzcocks. If you missed them today, you can check out Annuals & Peter Bjorn and John tomorrow (Sat.) at 10 am and 11 am respectively on channel 101.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

DVD Review - Casino Royale



I very much enjoyed Casino Royale upon it's theatrical release back in December of '06. In fact, it nearly made my year-end top ten list. And re-watching it today, I am reminded of why I liked it so much (and why I like it even more now); it's very nearly a great film, and most certainly in the top 2-3 Bond films ever made. Daniel Craig is the perfect James Bond, resurrecting, and quite frankly, saving the series from it's embarrassing downward spiral - I don't see any reason to ever replace him with anyone else (okay, maybe Clive Owen at some point). Martin Campbell, who directed the last half way decent Bond flick Goldeneye, also took back the directing chair, and he turns in his most impressive work to date, helping establish this new Bond as much darker and hard-edged as well keeping the action more realistic (relatively speaking). This dark undercurrent is illuminated by the unbelievably gorgeous Eva Green, who puts a nice little spin on the typical "Bond Girl", building a character as tough, quick witted and unpredictable as Bond himself. But it really comes down to Craig; as long as he stays signed on, the franchise is in great hands.

The DVD is somewhat disappointing for being 2 discs. There is nothing on disc 1 besides the film, which granted looks great. And the second disc has a couple 20-30 minute docs on the making of the film and the special effects/stunts, as well as a mildly interesting set of interviews with former Bond girls. And there's a pointless Chris Cornell music video tacked on (oh how the mighty have fallen, huh?). At some point there will be a better DVD, but for now, it'll have to do.

Film (***1/2) - DVD (***)

Watch the trailer

Monday, March 12, 2007

2007 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame




The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony went down tonight, with it's usual mixture of classic rock dinosaurs and truly great acts being inducted. I'm not really into Van Halen (full disclosure: I think they're one of the most overrated bands ever), but it's not surprising to seem them get the invite into the Hall. More on my wavelength were the well deserved mentions for R.E.M., Patti Smith, and the Ronnettes.

R.E.M. are quiet simply one of the best bands ever, releasing a run of albums in the 80s that is nearly unmatched. Patti Smith is an underrated proto-punk legend, carving out a place in the NYC art scene while still experiencing mainstream love. And of course the Ronnettes are the one of the quintessential girl groups of the 60s and the act that pretty much defined Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production. Everyone loves the Ronnettes, whether they know it or not. Oh, and Grandmaster Flash was inducted as well. I'm not sure, but he may be the first rapper to make it in. So that's cool. Still not the most exciting inductees, but what do you expect?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

DVD Review - Night of the Comet



I pretty much wait patiently every year for some good old classic cult films to be released on DVD. There's usually 2-3 good ones released every year, but what with Criterion releasing Border Radio earlier this year and now MGM issuing Night of the Comet, that makes two forgotten classics in only 3 months of 2007. Night of the Comet is pure 80s cheese, with a wildly lame soundtrack, cliched dialog and horrendously low budget special effects. In other words it's awesome. There's been rumors flying all over the net that this was going to be a full screen DVD, but thank god MGM is presenting it the way it was meant to be, in perfect anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen. The picture quality is probably as good if not better than the original prints, which is about all I can say for the DVD since there are no special features to speak of. But just having this on DVD is good enough for me...for now. Night of the Comet doesn't feature the underlined social commentary of Repo Man or Heathers or They Live, and it certainly isn't as violent as Dawn of the Dead or Evil Dead or Tromeo & Juliet, but it still sits perfectly in line with any of those films, with it's solid combination of humor, horror and comedy. It's about time.

Film (***1/2) - DVD (**)

Watch the Trailer

Neon Bible



"Don't want to give 'em my name and address
Don't want to see what happens next
Don't want to live in my father's house no more
Don't want to live with my father's debt
You can't forgive what you can't forget
Don't want to live in my father's house no more
Don't want to fight in a holy war
Don't want the salesmen knocking at my door
I don't want to live in America no more"


Sophomore Slump? Yeah Right...

Monday, March 5, 2007

On Second Thought



So a couple months ago Clap your Hands Say Yeah released the highly anticipated follow-up to their self-titled debut masterpiece. Initially I had no patience for Some Loud Thunder - Dave Friddman's production flourishes got on my nerves, and I felt like there was a concerted effort to smudge out all melody and vocals in an attempt to mask lyrical deficiencies. And I still feel that way about many of the songs, but some recent listens have helped some of those blurred hooks shine though. The first half of the record in particular is pretty strong, even though "Satan Said Dance" has about 100 ideas more than 1 song can handle. The second half is quite hazardous though, beginning with the inconsequential segue "Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant". "Goodbye to the Mother and the Cove" is at first inviting, but once you realize nothing is changing throughout its nearly 6 minute runtime, you kind of zone out. Things climax with Underwater (You and Me)", which along with "Mama, Won't You Keep Those Castles in the Air & Burning?", are the only 2 songs that can stand up with best moments on their debut. And the album really should have ended with "Underwater". The closer "Five Easy Pieces" is a perfect example of my problems with many songs on the album - it features a pretty guitar melody and harmonica line, but is overwrought with vocal manipulation and blurred sonics, in addition to stretching out about 4 minutes too long. So yes, I still don't think the album is a total success, but I give the band credit for making what is certainly a less accessible follow-up to a wildly successful first album, as well as experimenting with electronics and new ideas. I'd still only give it around a C+, but that is more than admirable for what will probably end up being a transitional album.

So what do you think? Have you heard it? Any thoughts?