Thursday, December 3, 2009

Phish at The Garden

Let me get the Pimp/Whore business out of the way first...
Use Computer Associates for all your Information Technology needs.
(believe me, I'm not the Pimp in this scenario)

Now some of you know that I've sworn off Arena Rock and Stadium Shows this year. I made an exception for Paul McCartney at CitiField, and I don't regret it for a minute. I did, however, opt out of AC/DC as well as Metalica at The Garden... not an easy choice. But Phish is back together after something like a 10 year hiatus, and Dan K called me up out of the blue and said he had access to a Skybox... all on CA's dime. OK, I'm not made of stone. I'm in.

So I'm heading toward The Garden, and I'm getting just a little perturbed at the general rukus. Who the hell are all these johnny-come-lately hippies, who couldn't even find San Francisco on a map or wouldn't know Grace Slick if they bumped into her at a White House dinner. I'm noticing a lot of empty pint liquor bottles strewn around the street too. OK, I'm OLD. I know it.

Then as I push my way in towards The Garden's main entrance, I cut to the far left, as I've had the privilege to do only a few times before. I enter a glass doorway that most people see but don't realize is there. Suddenly the roar of the crowd is silenced. I hear some mellow music in the background. With uncertainty in my heart, and all the hope I can muster, I say to the worker at the desk "Ticket for Kevin Wilkinson?"... she checks and say's "Yes, here you go sir... enjoy the show. Take the escalator here, then the elevator to level 10."

OK, I've done this before... I breath a sigh of relief and I KNOW I'm in !!! The elevator has only two buttons... 3 (where I am) and 10 (the Mecca). A few seconds later I'm at 10.

Dan meets me at the elevator and we head over to CA's skybox. They have their logo bolted to the wall. Apparently they do a hell of a lot of business in New York. I meet the crew... best described as a bunch of stuffed shirts. OK, they're mostly nice guys just happy to be out of the house for the night, but for a Phish show these guys obviously just came from work and were lucky to lose the jacket and tie. Two guys were the head honchos... clearly in "Sales".

Now we've been busting Dan's balls for years now, ever since he first acknowledged himself as "Assistant Vice President of a Major New York Bank". But in this circle, that carries some juice. The CA sales guys were all "There's Dan K***"... "look, there's Dan, and he brought a friend..." I guess that major New York Bank paid for a good portion of that box.

So in comes hot trays of burgers, chicken fingers, pigs in a blanket, waffle fries, a couple of metal buckets full of beer on ice... and a bottle of Kettle One, some lemons, and a few liters of club soda. Yeah, I could get used to this. The actual seats of the Skybox were stage left (audience right), all the way up at the roof, but close enough along the edge that you could see the band very clearly... they weren't just ants. The sound was just PERFECT.

(Oh, and eventually the bottle of Kettle One was replaced by a second bottle when the first one was polished off.)

Sooooo... on with the show. I don't know Phish all that well. I saw them at Nassau Colosseum back in the 90s, I have their live double CD box set, listened to it a bunch one summer... I dig their free-form jam sound. Mostly high energy songs, each of the four players has their own groove going, and it all adds up to a cool amalgamated sound. They are definitely pigeon-holed into the Grateful Dead scene, and rightfully so... but they have their own sound. Tight, fun, interesting, unpredictable... somewhere between The Dead and The Allman Brothers, if you ask me. Metal heads, hip hoppers, stay away. This ain't for you. It's all rooted in the South Western and Southern Rock sound filtered through San Francisco Psychedelia with a bit of Jazz Fusion thrown in for flavor.

So as I posted on Facebook, they broke out into "Peaches en Regalia". It's an obscure Zappa tune that pops up in some of the most bizarre venues. The crowd seemed to pick up on it right away. The fist set went an hour-twenty, then a half hour intermission, followed by almost two hour second set, then an encore. The encore started with a ROCKING version of... get this... A Day in the Life. Wow... just wow.

Dan K had to run out to catch his train just before the end of the show. Me, I stuck around to enjoy a few Kettle One's w/ soda while the band played on. I thanked my gracious hosts from CA, but remember thinking to myself "Thanks for the good time... people I don't know and will never see again."

Big thanks to Dan K for the invite !!! Beats the hell out of whatever I was gonna do last night !!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Of monkeys, planets, and tomatoes

Just to flesh out something I started a few days ago, and oddly enough came up again in another e-mail. For some reason I mentioned that I don't like being told that there's a difference between apes and monkeys. I understand that there is a convention determined by some academic group or another, who determines which piles of animals we call monkeys, which we call apes, and which we call neither. And I'm sure that since I was a young kid, I was not in accordance with their categories. In my mind, Chimpanzees are monkeys. They are the definitive monkeys. Lance Link, secret chimp? Monkey. Tarzan's cheetah? Monkey. Kurt Russel's "Barefoot Executive"? Monkey. Gorillas and Orangutan? Big monkeys. Rhesus, Gibbon, and Colobus? Small monkeys.

OK, I get it. I can't go using my own definition for words when there are scores of people in corduroy jackets with patches on the elbows working hard to make these definitions. That's my own problem and I'll have to deal with it.

But what does irk me is when people say "It's a scientific fact that monkeys are not apes." It's right up there with the scientific fact that tomatoes are fruits and not vegetables. Or that Pluto is not a planet.

One of my biggest pet peeves in this world is the unscientific nature of science in the classroom. Again, I get it... not everybody wants to be a scientist. We have to teach everybody SOME science, but don't need to teach everybody how to be a scientist. So we turn science class into a vocabulary class and too often we refer to the art of classification as if it were science. I'm sure classification is essential to science, but it isn't science. I see it more as bookkeeping which needs to be done before we can do science. For thousands of years people have been naming animals. God literally gave that job to Adam in the first book of The Bible. More recently we have been grouping animals into categories like vertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, arachnids, birds, mammals, etc. I think in general, this was usually done by looking at the creatures and seeing which ones looked alike. Clams, mussels, and scallops... close enough, you're a group. Spiders and ants... nope, two many legs... three part body... two different groups for you. I'm sure there was a lot of interesting and lengthy observations made, including dissecting and using microscopes and whatnot. And that observation is, I admit, a big part of the scientific process.

But applying names to the various groups, I assert, is NOT science. It's bookkeeping. Science really deals with the unknown. It is the act of making a hypothesis, testing this hypothesis, and either rejecting it or letting it stand unfalsified until further testing. After sufficient tests have been taken, repeated in various locations independently, and the results are consistently reproduced we can finally reject the hypothesis or we can claim that it is supported by the evidence and thus it is a theory. So you can say "mollusks appeared on the earth before arachnids" or "birds evolved from reptiles", and then begin testing this hypothesis. And of course, these hypotheses could not have been made if we didn't have the groups such as mollusks and arachnids already defined. Thus the categorization is important to science... perhaps necessary to science. But that is not itself science.

The categorization process, as I see it, does not require hypothesis or testing. For example, the convention is that monkeys have tails and apes don't. So do we need a hypothesis to state "This creature I'm looking at swinging in the tree has a tail."... and then do we apply an experiment (i.e. look at it's tail as he is dangling off a branch of a tree w/ said tail)? Do we now replicate this experiment in various locations? That might be difficult since the creature I'm observing is really only in one location... right in front of ME. No, it seems to me that we just arbitrarily pick a set of criteria, and look for creatures with said criteria, and apply the name to all who fit the bill. At least that is how it's been done for hundreds, nay thousands of years. Has backbone... heats his own body... makes milk... has thumbs... has no tail... he's an ape. Oh HAS tail... OK, monkey. Tusks above the trunk? Mammoth. Bellow the trunk? Elephant.

Not really any hypothesis testing going on there. Just bookkeeping. It's not a "scientific fact" that monkeys have tails. It's a definition that monkeys have tails, then we go ahead and label the tail waggers as monkeys. Nothing was discovered, no hypothesis was confirmed or rejected. No secrets of the Universe were revealed.

Today we have a whole new dimension to the process. We see things in light of genetics and evolution. So the categorization process is a lot more dependent on hypothesis testing. You don't just look for a tail, you need to extract certain gene markers from a strand of DNA. Certainly a lot of science going on there. We see which creatures were descended from which, which couldn't possibly be related any time lately. I remember there's a creature that looks like a rabbit, with big floppy ears, but is classified as a Rodent. Now I don't know why a Rabbit is different from a Rodent... though I think it has something to do with the front teeth. But in any case, if you were classifying these buggers 200 years ago, you would probably say that they belong in the same group. But with the help of DNA we can say that the two had different evolutionary paths to similar outward appearance, and thus belong in different categories. THIS decision making process seems to be real science to me. There's a similar debate going on now about the Panda bear. Is it really a bear, or is it more like a big raccoon?

But in the end, the Panda is what a Panda is. It doesn't matter what label we put on it. It's an arbitrary grouping. A label based on arbitrary criteria. The fact that you know that a Kangaroo is a marsupial does NOT imply that you know your science. Any English major or political historian can memorize names and lists of criteria. This does not imply that they know how to apply the scientific method... that they are equipped to begin the task of explaining the unknown... that they know science. It only implies that they can memorize names and lists of criteria. This is NOT science.

This can be extrapolated to any of the sciences. Apparently Pluto is not a planet. Was it ever? Were the scientists of 20 years ago WRONG? What is the list of criteria necessary for a body to be called a planet? As far as I knew, it was a night time traveler, something in the sky that moved at a different speed than the rest of the stars. As such, I suspect we really have only three or four planets... unless we allow telescopes into the definition. Then it becomes ANYTHING that revolves around the sun? Anything of a certain size and heft that revolves around the sun? Anything that does not have a tail that revolves around the sun? (Yes, apparently that was one criticism about Pluto... he DOES have a tail... or he would if he were close to the sun). So again, I conclude WHO CARES ?!? This classification is NOT science. The science occurs while we explore the details... does Pluto have a tail? Would Pluto have a tail if it were closer to the sun? What is the size and heft of Pluto? THOSE are the kinds of questions that are asked by scientists, and answered by science. Once those things are all asked and answered (independently and consistently), then we can turn it over to the bookkeepers to drop these things into their buckets and slap a label on them. Then some smart alack kid can claim to "know" science and tell us that Pluto is or isn't a planet even if he knows nothing about the questions and methods used to derive the answers which were used to make the categorization.

OK, finally I come to tomatoes. Are they a fruit or a vegetable? First of all, can't you be both? What the heck is a vegetable? In my mind, it's all vegetation. The whole of the Plant Kingdom. Apples? Vegetables. Peaches? Vegetables. Green Pepper? Vegetable. Lettuce, Onions, Celery? Vegetable. Corn? Vegetables. Sunflower seeds? Vegetables. OK, so what's a fruit? Oh, those are the bloated part of a flower after the flower becomes pregnant. They swell up with water content, are usually surrounded by some sort of plant skin, and they bear seeds. Apples? Fruit. Peaches? Fruit. Green Peppers? Most certainly a fruit, as are cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and eggplant. Corn? By the ear... fruit. By the kernel... probably not. Sunflower seeds? probably not. Lettuce, onions, celery? Not so much.

Tomatoes? Unequivocally BOTH.

But here's the worst part of the fruit vs vegetable controversy. Who decides? It is NOT the scientists. It's not the white coats or even the corduroy jackets making this call, it's the dark suits with mirrored sunglasses. It is government law enforcement organizations such as the FDA who classify some vegetation as "vegetables" and some as "fruits". What criteria do THEY use? Generally orders from the president, or decrees from congress. And how on EARTH are they equipped to make these decisions? THEY control tax policy and tariffs. They determine that a can of crushed tomatoes from Italy is a vegetable but a can of whole tomatoes from Italy is a fruit. Thus crushed are tariff free while whole are subject to a tariff.

So in conclusion, I will keep in mind that categorization can be important for effective communication if you keep in mind that knowledge of categories is NOT knowledge of science.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This Might Get Loud

Been meaning to write up this review for a while now. I headed down to Houston Street to catch This Might Get Loud as soon as I could. It's a documentary produced by the same people who made "An Inconvenient Truth". Don't worry, it's not politically charged at all.

Basically they get three famous rock guitarists from three different eras together in a room, along with guitars and equipment, and see what happens. The three rock stars are Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.

It starts off with some sort of vignettes, each of the three by himself, giving random thoughts about music and guitars. They go into each one's very earliest memories from childhood and how they first discovered rock and roll, and guitars in particular. They show some of the oldest film and video clips available. They even get Jimmy Page at about 12 years old, on British TV strumming an acoustic guitar singing skiffle style. The Edge takes you back to his high school and shows you the room where their music teacher let the band, later to be known as U2, learned to play. He showed the bulletin board where he first read the notice that Bono was looking for a guitar player. Jack White takes you to the streets of Detroit, in an Spanish neighborhood, where he and his seven siblings were among the few English speakers still living there. He explains that it was not the Mecca of rock music in the eighties.

The very first scene is Jack White building a make shift electric guitar out of a plank of wood, a coke bottle, a pickup, some string, and a hammer and nails. "Who need to buy a guitar" he muses. The Edge tells you about how he and his brother built an electric guitar from scratch when he was 10 years old, including carving the body and neck, carving grooves for frets, laying the metal frets into those grooves, winding the wire around the magnets to make the pickups...

There are lots of scenes of each of them on their own, in their own element, doing their own process.

Eventually, they all arrive in a sort of studio room... more like a movie studio than a music studio... but all of their own equipment is there, set up by their own people. They all talk about music, guitars, their experience in the business, their process... everything.

At one point you see Jack White and The Edge talking and doing stuff when Jimmy Page starts to rock out some recognizable Zeppelin riff. The two of them almost turn white as their jaws seem to hit the floor. Everything instantly stops as their attention is glued to the rock legend.

There's not nearly enough playing, in my opinion. But there is some... and what they have is good. They all jam out together on Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying". A great number for fans of gritty slide guitar, which is perfect for Jack White. The Edge puts his own technical, crisp, clean, non-gritty spin on it. Even blindfolded, you would be able to pick out each one's style with no problem. They wrap it up by working out a group version of "The Weight" by The Band.

I learned quite a bit about Jimmy Page. I didn't really know much about him except he was from England and played in The Yardbirds. I had no idea about his life as a studio musician, writing and playing jingles for commercials and movies, as well as Musak.

I was also incredibly impressed by Jack White and his story. I knew virtually nothing about him... wasn't even sure if his drummer was his wife or what... turns out it's his sister. I wasn't sure if he was all talk, playing up some sort of image, but he comes across as a real and authentic. He talks about having virtually nothing while growing up, but scraping together enough music equipment that his bed couldn't fit in his room anymore, so he slept on a mat on the floor. He loves working with old dented broken, half out of tune guitars and pianos. There are also some almost scary similarities between him and Jimmy Page in some really strange ways... like in the old records they both listened to as kids, and some of the songs they chose to play early on.

If you are a fan of rock guitar, or rock music in general, this is a MUST SEE.

ADDENDUM: It is now November 26, 2011 when I'm looking back at these old blog entries, and I felt I had to add that I have since found out that Jack White's drummer in The White Stripes IS his ex-wife, and NOT his sister. And while I still dig Jack White, I really can't believe a word he says.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

MOTORHEAD at Roseland

Holy shit... what a fucking show !!! Don't write off The Goose 'till you see the box going in the ground. I STILL got some rock star in me after all.

Here was the lineup...
Nashville Pussy
Reverend Horton Heat

So I'm on line waiting to buy a ticket and some nerdy dude comes up behind me and starts talking... but talking in a way that made me uncomfortable. Maybe he was just nerdy, but did you ever get the feeling somebody is just being TOOO friendly? So he says "I'm here to see Reverend Horton Heat... I hear Motorhead is really good too." I'm like "YEAH !?!?!" (real douche bag like... sorry, I couldn't help it) He looks at the box office window and say "Oooohhh... I would NEVER name a band like that !!!" I said "Horton Heat or Motorhead?" He's like "No, the other one..." Then I couldn't hold back... I said "REALLY? What don't you like? Nashville or Pussy ????"

OK, drop $50 f'n dollars at the box office. Same show was $30 in Atlantic City last week (which I didn't go to, though with travel it would have been a hell of a lot more... though with table games, it could have gone either way). Meet up w/ Anthony right away inside, belly up to the bar and hang w/ Hoboken Jay (from American Standard). Me, I'm not drinking, but I say hi to everybody and we're talking...

Check out Nashville Pussy. Awesome full speed ahead, no holds barred, kick ass biker-billy, rock and roll. Songs about drinking and driving and fucking and fighting... two amazon women on bass and guitar, a scruffy cowboy guitar/singer, couldn't see the drummer... loud, fast, distorted hard rock w/ Nashville roots. Short set, like 15 minutes.

Next chill for 15 minutes at bar, and Reverend Horton Heat comes on. Power trio... hollow body w/ twang bar, stand up bass, stripped down drum kit... the perfect setup for rockabilly... though much more punk oriented. They are the definitive psycho-billy band. Latest album they say is a bit more country than usual, but that's just a phase and they'll go back to their psycho-billy sound next album. These guys kicked ass. Fun band, amazing talent on the guitar and bass, great showmanship... some long rocking jams, some short funny songs. All around great entertainment. They played for a good 40 minutes.

Another 20 minutes, just long enough to strike Horton Heat and uncover Motorhead's gear. Quick sound check by roadies, and on comes Motorhead. Motorhead, the archetypal power trio... this time w/ guest drummer from The Cult and Guns and Roses.

Had positioned myself into a good spot in the center when the shit hit the fan. Fucking MAYHEM all around me. Quickly had to duck and cover, had to spring into action and take evasive maneuvers. Fists and feet everywhere... bodies flying through the air... about a minute or two later a pit was established as some of us veterans were establishing the perimeter. My new motto... "I AM the perimeter." (Or maybe "The Pit Starts Here.") Basically, anybody moshing behind me get's tossed in front of me, anybody in front of me not moshing gets pulled back behind me (usually welcomed with thanks and praise)... and from then on, it's a matter of pushing people back into the pit as they try to expand their area. Had to tell myself, "OK, this is MOTORHEAD... take this seriously." Took off the watch and eyeglasses. Next thing several full beers come flying overhead from far behind in the auditorium, and I got a half full beer down my back. For two seconds I was pissed, and then I just had to remind myself again... "It's MOTORHEAD... and you're in the fucking midst of it." Crazy insane moshing goes on for the next I don't know how long... people hitting the floor HARD and people scoop them up as soon as possible. One dude would fall back down two seconds later, then we'd scoop him back up and then he'd drop again... he did this like six times so I was convinced he was fucking with us... I got in his face and yelled in his ear, "STay on your feet asshole!" He was back on the ground two seconds later. Next time he got up, I took him by the scruff of his neck and his belt and gave him the bum's rush across to the other side... epic wipe out and major pileup over there. This sweaty skinhead was panting and weezing and said "I'm too old for this shit... I'm 31." I'm like "Dude, I'm forty-fucking-three !!!" Fucking lightweight !!!

MOTORHEAD KICKED ASS. They were right on tonight. Last time they sort of dragged for the first half of the show and then turned it on towards the end... tonight it was full steam ahead from beginning to end.

After a few songs, once the pit was established, I noticed a clique of young girls (around 25-ish) who sort of formed their own little world in my shadow. They were going apeshit among themselves, reaching past me to sometimes push somebody back into the pit, then retreating behind me again. They kept banging up against my back and pushing each other into me. Next thing they're climbing up my back holding onto my shoulders getting in my ear and telling me "DUDE, YOU FUCKING RULE !!!". When I'd look back at them, they were all fist pumping and head banging and going apeshit... rocking out to Motorhead... all in the relative safety that is ME. Next I know they're grinding and rubbing all up on me... and I'm fucking sweaty and full of beer... and the music was PUMPING, and their were strobe lights... and the whole thing was just out of hand... next I know I got one girl up on my shoulders. She's playing my head like a drum, and stroking my hair and rocking out. Me? I was doing the bobble head... I hope she enjoyed it.

When the show was over, they all split... didn't get any pictures or numbers or anything. Just good memories of a great show. Oh, and top three buttons on my shirt were ripped off. By the end of the show I was a sweaty, beer soaked, ripped shirt, girl-on-shoulder-having ...rock star.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Running with the shadows of the night

So I had a choice to go to one of two free shows on Thursday. A couple of indi bands at Pier 54, or some headliners from my high school years out on Coney Island. The clincher for me was the opening band.

Amazing Baby and Yeahsayer would have been fun, but probably not blogworthy. But that does have it's advantages as they are a quick jaunt downtown on the A line, and I could even be back uptown before the A goes local.

But how could I resist a trip out to Coney Island to see The Donnas. I LOVE those chicks. Nothing beats their straight ahead hard rocking sound. Who doesn't like chicks that rock. Now throw in the other two acts... Pat Benetar and Blondie... OK, I'm in.

So on the one hand I'm thinking that I don't listen to Pat Benetar, so why would I travel the entire length of the city to see her? But sweeten the pot with Blondie, who though I have my issues with them, was always at the very top of my cool-ometer. Most likely I would have made the trek just to see Blondie, but throw in the other two, and you've got yourself a deal. Met up with my buddy Howie, celebrity stalker extraordinaire, who gave me the whole rundown of this venue... he's been going there for years. This summer he's already seen there Frankie Valley and The OJs... just to name a few.

So, long boring trip on the D train to the last stop and end up on Surf Ave, right near Nathans, one block from the Boardwalk. Walk a good few blocks along Surf Ave past the Freak Show, The Cyclone, Squirt the Clown watergun games, The New York Aquarium, etc. Eventually you come to a park on the other side (away from the ocean) about the size of a football field.

Sort of typical New York free show clusterfuck. They have folding chairs in the center of the field, fenced off. You pay $5 or $10 extra for a seat. On both sides and on the sidewalk, people bring their own chairs, throw down blankets, or just pull up some grass and have a seat (like me). There was a line for the seats wrapping around the block, but you could just meander into the non-seated area. So of course people who show up late are stepping over people who show up early. The crowd was a VERY strange mix... lots of 43 year old moms, a few freaks from the CBGBs era (for Blondie), bikers, biker mommas, some young kids who are into retro-rock... but an awful lot of local folk FAR too old to know who Blondie was... maybe they thought Frankie Valley was this week.

It soon becomes clear that this is a Parks Department production, not a professional concert promotion. Just like the shows at The Pier, or the Medieval fest up at the cloisters, they bear the mark of local groups just overextending themselves a bit. Not enough bathrooms, one tiny merchandise booth, no coordination w/ the subway trains (like they do for sports events and concerts). Most important, the continuous presence of one Marty Marcowitz. Dude stands about 5 foot nothing, wears a white tuxedo jacket, and works the microphone for about two hours. Tells you not to smoke, not to save seats for your friends, pick up your trash, tells jokes, thanks people, plugs local politicians running for office... just keeps running his mouth continuously. Apparently they wanted to find somebody MORE Jewish, but there is no such thing. BTW: this is the guy who had the signs put up on bridges and tunnels saying things like "Fughetaboutdit" and "Oy Vey, you're leaving Brooklyn why?".

OK, enough rambling... on to the show.

The Donnas took the stage promptly at 8, kicked mondo ass for (let's see, four songs, three minutes a song...) about fourteen minutes. Wish they could have played longer, but thems the breaks when you open for two legendary headliners. They kept telling the crowd "don't be afraid to STAND UP", but in this crowd, that might cause a broken hip... (I'm saying they're OLD).

Next up, Pat Benetar. OK, I'm gonna admit something now... and do you DARE repeat this to anybody... the first record I ever bought when I was a freshman in high school was Pat Benetar. Remember Fast Times at Ridgemont High... when they point out the girls in high school rocking the many looks of Pat Benetar... that was EXACTLY my era in high school. All the chicks wanted to BE her, all the dudes wanted to get WITH her. And why not, she was a rocker... and we were in the height of the "Disco Sucks" movement... and she wore tight leather pants... and had a great voice.

Turns out Pat Benetar got the act started back in 1979. So this is her 30th anniversary. Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, we can claim her as a New Yorker... though she and the band moved to LA at the start of their career. Her voice was PERFECT. She still looks great. And man did I have some SERIOUS flashbacks to high school. It's bad enough that I'm on Facebook now, and getting in touch with people who I havn't spoken to since 1983, but this jogged more dormant neurons than you can imagine. Bottom line, she put on a great rocking show !!!!

Next up, Blondie... but first some rock and roll classics cranked out by their DJ, accompanied by two go-go girls. Now when I say "girls" I really mean go-go women, since I think they were about my age... but they were beautiful, and I love REAL rock and roll. We're talking Chubby Checker and that era... finally they sneak in The Stooges (I Wanna Be Your Dog) and The Ramones (Let's Dance)... great stuff... and then on with the show.

Now I mentioned that I have my issues with Blondie, so let's air this dirty laundry now. I remember back in the day hearing a live call-in show where fan after fan told Debbie how much they loved her, but warned her to "STAY AWAY FROM THE DISCO". Bad advice from those fans since their most popular and profitable songs were Disco... or at least in that direction... Heart of Glass, Rapture, Tide is High. Blondie was a staple at CBGBs back in the day, playing along side The Ramones, Television, The Talking Heads, The Dead Boys... they kicked out songs like Detroit 442, Hanging on the Telephone, and One Way or Another... but they got noticed by the world for their dance numbers. Me, I think Disco STILL sucks... but I'm not the one with several platinum albums. Also, there was the whole controversy when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Debbie and Chris wouldn't let the original band mates play. Kinda puts a bad taste in my mouth... but what are you gonna do? Life goes on.

Now lets face it, part of Blondie's fame was due to Debbie Harry's stunning good looks. She was a freaking KNOCKOUT. But she was not just a pretty face, she could back it up with an AMAZGIN voice, and all around cool attitude. Actually it looks like Debbie's been spending some time in the gym lately, cuz she looked in better shape than she had in years. Her voice, as always, was phenomenal !!!

As expected, Blondie did most of their big hits and a few obscure numbers that only real fans would recognize. Of course they did long extended versions of their big dance numbers, Atomic, Tide is High, and Rapture.

They made my night at the encore, breaking out The Ramones' Havana Affair !!!! Then immediately went into Heart of Glass.

That's when it got weird.... Heart of Glass sort of melts into an unrecognizable disco haze, and then the keyboard kicks in... "what was that... I KNOW that riff... NO... they COULDN'T... COULD THEY???... " The disco beat goes on and it becomes clearer and clearer that EVERYBODY knows this song... the crowd goes nuts and dancing breaks out all over the place, as Debbie sings in a slow and moody style...

"Lovely is the feeling now
Fever, Temperature rising now
Power (ah power) is the force the vow
That makes it happen... "

Yes, it was Michael f'n Jackson's "Don't Stop 'till You Get Enough"

Damn, I actually just typed MJs name after I SWORE never to mention him again... ever. Oh well, it was actually a good choice, a good version, and a crowd pleaser. They guitared it up, put some hurt on it, made it mean... and Debbie's voice was hypnotic.

So that's the show folks. Glad I went. I had a ball. Don't think I'll be hitting up too many shows at this venue unless it's something equally interesting, but since I swore off big areanas this summer, this was actually perfect for me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was afraid of this film. I saw the preview, and it really reminded me of Solaris, which you can find reviewed on this very blog somewhere. Well I enjoyed this a bazillion times more than Solaris. This is a quality piece of Science Fiction, in my opinion.

Don't expect laser guns and space battles. It's not an action flick. It's a good SciFi story presented extremely well. It's good Science and good Fiction.

The Science is good in the sense that (as you might have guessed) it all takes place on the Moon. Much is inside a moon station, some is inside a six-wheeled lunar rover, and some is out on the surface in a space suit. The lunar landscapes and textures are amazing, the details inside the space station, all the video screens and LEDs in the background, the vehicles and lunar structures... they're done just right.

The Fiction is good in the sense that they set up a fairly simple plot, though it takes a bit of time to reveal it to the audience AND to the main character. As he figures it out, so do you. Once the plot is revealed, they play it out to it's natural conclusion. I won't spoil anything, except to say that it's a really neat SciFi sort of situation.

Now add to the good Sci and Fi is some really quality acting. I'm not talking about mellodrama, but real physical acting... having an actor portray different aspects and characteristics with more than just voice intonation, but with his entire body and movement.

I wish I could say more, but I WILL NOT spoil this one. If you can't get to your local art house to see this, be sure to rent it or catch it on cable when it's available. It will never see main stream theaters because it's just a bit too slow moving and cerebral. Like I said, no laser guns or space battles... but a really good story told really well with AMAZING visuals and quality acting.

Everyone who reads this blog should see this.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Deadgirl - with spoilers

So I headed down to Houston St on Friday night to catch this intriguing little work called "Deadgirl". The write-ups I saw all implied that this was one seriously disturbing film. While I caught the brief synopsis of the plot, they really didn't fill us in on what was so screwed up about this movie. The producers managed to book this film into some art-house venues across the country over the weekend, accompanied by a Q&A session with co-directors and producers.

Among other things, the director made it known that nobody in Hollywood would touch this movie. It will never see the theaters, and will be out on DVD in a few months. They knew from the start that this was not going to make any money, that everybody involved was not in it for a paycheck, but that they all really wanted to make this film "the right way", or not make it at all. At the end of the day, this is probably not a big deal... not a paradigm shift in cinematography... just another indipendent movie that pushed some boundaries. It did get enough notariety that even Rex Reid reviewed it.

After the movie, as the lights were coming up and the co-director and a producer took the mic, they said "Give us a second, we want to see the looks on all your faces... hey, there was not a single 'walk-out'... very impressive.".

I'm not sure how this movie will hold up to a home viewing. The big screen and good sound system creates the mood which may or may not translate to your living room.

Deadgirl fits in the horror category, but can not be put in the same category as Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, or Night of the Living Dead. There is plenty of gruesome nastyness, but not nearly as gory as any of the Saw movies or Hellraiser. There are some halariously funny aspects to it, but it's not a comedy... by no means is this Shaun of the Dead. It's sort of a "coming of age" movie, but is far from Stand by Me or River's Edge. There is some influence from Donnie Darko, but mostly in sound track and audio, not so much in visuals or plot.

OK, so that's what it's not. But what IS it? Well I suggest you just watch it and make your own oppinion. On the other hand, this is obviously not for everybody, so I can't in good concience urge you to watch it. But if you really want to know, read on... spoilers start here...


OK, I can sum it up in two words... zombie rape. Two high school kids cut school, get drunk, and explore an abandoned psychiatric hospital. After pushing through a heavy door which was rusted shut, they come upon a room which was clearly unused and unseen for a long time. To their shock and amazement, they find a dead girl handcuffed to a gurney covered in plastic wrap. They poke at her to see if she's alive, and low and behold, her eyes and fingers are twitching, and she is breathing shallowly. This is where it gets weird. One kid is like, "OK, let's free her and call the cops and get the fuck out of here." The other kid is like "Let's FUCK HER!"

The origin of the dead girl is purposely left untold. She is, however, clearly a zombie. While the one kid runs out of there wanting nothing to do with her, the other guy stays behind to discover that this chick is in fact dead, can't die again, and that she can now be his permanent sex slave... leaving her chained up in this dismal underground abandoned wreckage. How does he find out she can't be killed? Well during his attempt at sex with her, he beats the crap out of her and snaps her neck... just because he like it like that. While it was not actually shown, he claims he killed her three times during the first sexual encounter, and she keeps coming back to life.

Eventually several people find out about their discovery and some of them come down to the room to fuck the dead girl. Through the rest of the movie, the dead zombie girl gets raped continuously, beaten, shot, and stabbed.... some scenes more graphic than others. (With only two tiny edits, the director said they got an R rating.)

Eventually she starts to stink as her wounds are festering, and they're faced with the delema on how to make her more attractive and more sexually appealing.

I think I'll leave it there. There's a bit more to the plot, with some interesting twists and turns, but by and large, that's the gist of it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sir Paul McCartney

I swore off big stadium shows this summer, and when I saw McCartney coming around, I thought about it for about 30 seconds and decided that I wasn't interested. But then my brother Ed told me he got me a ticket for the show at the new Citi Field. The three Wilk bros and Harry B. I was prepared to pretend to enjoy the show just to be polite, and to appreciate it for it's historical value... it's not every day you get to see a Beatle doing Beatles songs. But Paul is known for the more hokey Beatles songs (Honey Pie) as well as the slow sentimental ones (Yesterday), so I was nervous.

Well it turns out the show really ROCKED. He chose mostly upbeat and high energy songs... even broke into Foxy Lady instrumental for a few minutes. (hey, did you know Paul could actually play guitar?) They inserted several honest to God arena-rock type jam sessions. They did a rocking versions some otherwise slow-ish songs like Elenore Rigby and A Day in the Life (into Give Peace a Chance). Began the slow George Harrison song "Something" on the ukelele before the band drifted in. I was especially pleased when they broke out into Helter Skelter... wow, totally rocking! Taxman, Drive My Car, and some of the old Rock and Roll era numbers kept people on their feat. Add a few Wings numbers like Jet and Band on the Run... and you got yourself a real Rock Show ! Also, they went APESHIT with pyro and fireworks for Live and Let Die. And perhaps best of all was the finale... Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the reprise version, you know, the one that ROCKS) into one of my favorites from Abby Road (the rocking jam that ends with "... and in the end, the love you take is equal too the love you make").

Sure, he brought it down a few times with Yesterday and Hey Jude and a love song he wrote for Linda. But that included a rendition of Blackbird, so I was happy. Also, some nice little anecdotes in between songs was appreciated.

Band was fairly minimalist, flanking him were two additional guitars, one of whom swapped for a bass when needed, keyboard player, and an amazing Samoan drummer (looked like a villain henchman from a James Bond flick). Paul swapped often between his signature bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and piano. Of course everybody on stage was brilliant, but they also cold sing the ooohs and ahhhs in the high pitched Beatles style (at first I was looking for the black girls singing backup when I realized it was all just them). I can't say enough about the drummer. He was banging the drums with GUSTO from the beginning to the end.

McCartney did not hide behind his band to cover his ass, you could always hear him in the mix. For a few songs Paul was on stage alone w/ just his acoustic. He is known for a wide vocal range, which makes a lot of his songs hard to sing. Well he hit the high notes, the low notes, the gravelly "Helter Skelter" notes, the bluesy skat-improvs.. simply put, he delivered the goods.

Paul took the stage at 9pm and went on to 11:30, did well over 30 songs, and put on a great rock show. My hat is off to this great performer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Boring Congressional Hearing ?

I decided to tune in C-SPAN to check out the Sotomayor confirmation hearing and was immediately struck by the sense of doom about how boring this was going to be. In the audience right behind her, you could see a teenage boy yawning... and the hearing hadn't started five minutes earlier. This is especially true during the first few speakers who will pontificate about generalities about the hearing and process, as well as the formal platitudes even from her opposition. She won't get a chance to answer questions or even speak for several more hours. Right now it's just the committee members blathering on and on.

BUT, a few minutes after Senator Feinstein started her monologue, somebody in the audience started shouting "Senator... what about the..." I wish I could tell you what he was saying, but it was not really audible. The committee chair then took to the microphone and instructed the police to remove the protester and admonished the audience that such outbursts would not be tolerated by anybody either for or against the judge.

So that made my morning... nothing like some good old fashion activism to liven up a congressional hearing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time for another movie review

This may contain spoilers, but I don't think you guys will run out to see this anyway. Read on at your own risk.

Caught this one called The Darwin Awards. It's worthy of mention and worthy of watching on a week night. No Oscars here, and the leading lady is Winona Rider... still not sure what the attraction is to her. But it was an interesting idea and definitely had some good laughs, but fell short on overall chemistry and seemed a bit contrived. I never really believed the actors, just thought they were reading their lines, if you know what I mean. And in one sense, it's really a complete ripoff of the TV show Monk.

Anyway, it's all based on a police investigator who gets fired because he always passes out when he sees blood. He takes a job for an insurance company investigating the more bizare insurance claims, all of which we've read time and time again in e-mails billed as The Darwin Awards. They have the exec that jumps out his window trying to prove that the glass is unbreakable, of course the Jato rocket attached to the car, and the headbangers sneaking into the Metalica show.

The film almost looks like an indi, but it clearly had some budget and production value. The cast was a bizzare who's who of talent... up and commers, old timers, SNL alumni, an authentic beat poet, the myth busters, and an appearance by Metalica.

They kept one gimick running through the whole thing and then blew it at the end. There's a student making a college film documentary about the investigator, but you never see him. They speak to him, and interact with him, but much of the film is from his point of view... through his camera. Once they do show him, but he's got the big camera covering his face. Then suddenly in the last few minutes they do this big goofy gag where they're scaling the side of a building and BAM there he is with not even a reference to the big reveal... just matter of fact... there he is. It's not a big secret as you recognize his voice almost in the first two minutes of the film... he's everybody's favorite Foreign Exchange Student from That Seventies Show. I just wonder why they bothered w/ the whole Hide-the-Face gag and then just dropped it with no fanfare.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hitchhiker's Guid to the Galaxy

OK, finally caught this on cable, even though the DVD has been sitting on my shelf for more than a year now. (At least SciFi ran it in HD, though it had commercials.)

I have to give this a miss. Some of the effects are really nice, and they do basically cover all of the important parts of the book. But the whole thing seems rushed, confused, and clumsy. Once again, that clumsy factor comes up in a movie... people bumping into each other and all talking at once is NOT funny.

They use the Vogons too much... and they look like something out of H.R. Puffinstuff. Or maybe those creepy puppets from the Phil Collins video.

In my oppinion, the book itself should be a big character in this movie. They do a few cut aways to graphic animation of the articles in The Hitchhiker's Guide, but not enough and not done nearly well enough. In fact, I'd say the old 80's graphics from the BBC show did a better job. These new graphics were more polished and sparkly, but not as neat or entertaining. Remember the whole graphic interpretation of the bloodiest battle in the galaxy (the perpertrators of which, due to an oversight in scale, were eventually swallowed by a dog)? There needed to be a lot more of that kind of stuff, but instead they rely on Zafod yelling at his 2nd head and showing the crew falling on the floor.

It's been a while since I read the book, but was there some sort of empathy gun (where if you shoot somebody, they know what the shooter is feeling)? I think that was completely manufactured for this movie... and if so I give a strong and rousing WTF ?!?!?

And WTF was Mos Deff doing in this movie? He added nothing. Ford is supposed to be the coolest dude hitchhiking across the galaxy, but he came accross as a bumbling baffoon... though even THAT didn't come accross very strongly.

It wasn't very long, so if you are a completist, and you just have to see it because you're a fan, then go for it. But it would never ever ever stand by itself, and was mostly a let down.

On the plus side, for fans, they did sneak a few references to Douglas Adams as well as some Monty Python references. Look for them if you decide to suffer through this film.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Two more movies

Two interesting obscure flicks I caught on Cable. One gets a qualified thumbs up and the other gets a guarded thumbs down.

Let's start with the bad news... Smiley Face.

This was a bizarre comedy flick staring Anna Faris. She plays a girl who just got WAY too high and has trouble getting things done, like pay the electric bill and go to an acting audition. She winds up stumbling through a strange and desperate series of events. She actually does a really good job at playing a girl who is completely and utterly stoned. Her paranoia, forgetfulness, severe munchies, and all around dopiness is performed masterfully. There's also some very entertaining camera angles, special effects, and some clever writing. Also a few guest appearences by recognizible, if not A-list, actors including Mrs. C from Happy Days, Harold from Harold and Kumar, and the big tall creepy comedian guy who pusehed the mail cart in Mad About You (and was one of he gay guys in Sarah Silverman Show).

The main problem with this movie, which just ruins the whole thing, is that the gag is worthy of a short subject... not a whole movie. It wears thin early on, and they keep milking it and milking it. If this was a half hour piece, it would have been a raging success in my oppinion. But an hour and a half of this is just WAY too much.

On a tangent note, I couldn't help but notice the last thing in the credits actually gave credit to the owners of the happy face symbol, a company called Smiley World.

Next up is... What We Do Is Secret

This is the Punk Rock equivalent of Oliver Stone's "The Doors". It tells the whole story of the rise and fall of The Germs, the seminal but short lived Los Angeles punk band fronted by singer Darby Crash. Chances are you never heard The Germs. They were one of the sloppiest and noisiests acts around... unlike the tight Ramones or the more Rock and Roll oriented X or the melodic The Damned. However, their T-shirst are still a staple among the alternative rock scene of the 90's and into this decade. You may also have seen their omnipresent logo either on shirts or as graffitti, though you would never know it... it was simply a blue circle.

Ironically, after their first gig, one of the chicks makes it clear that she is not and never was officially part of the band. She says that she would never want to be on stage with all those people looking at her. However, a few years later, young Belinda Carlisle would find herself in the limelite.

Darby Crash is played by TV star Shane West (of ER fame), and there's a good performance by Bijou Philips. IMO, the lesser known Rick Gonzalez steels the show as the guitarist Pap Smear.

The movie covers all the important fixtures of the early LA punk scene from around '75 - '80. This includes mentions of the clubs like The Whiskey and The Orphium, and the characters who owned and opperated them. Also they show the inception of Slash Records. They were sure to include the Rodney Bingenheimer character, a DJ sometimes known as The Mayor of the Sunset Strip, an obscure character who was influential in the scene. They also included the appearence of Penelope Spheeris who was making her documentary of the scene, "The Decline of Western Civilization".

Most important, they show the early punk for what it was, a bunch of low down dirty street hustlers making a statement. These were not posers, they lived the life and lived the scene.

If you have any interest in the punk rock scene, either musically or just as a social phenomenon, this is well worth seeing. If you don't care about punk, and can't stand the music, then avoid at all costs.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movies on Cable last week

Here's the latest round of movies... two thumbs up and one stinker....

This was a fantasy adventure romance where Claire Danes plays a star which was knocked out of the sky. It was a very well executed on all fronts. Good writing, good acting, and stunning visuals. Shot almost entirely against a digitally created background, they created some awesome landscapes, skyscapes, and seascapes. This includes the large crater formed when the star impacts, the evil looking crevasse where the witches lair lies, and the steam punk sky ship captained by an ambiguous Robert DeNiro (I won't say any more about this character for fear of spoilage). They created a great fantasy world along with a fairly detailed but consistent adventure story. While it's not as swashbuckling or as epic as Willow, it sits firmly in the same category in tone and in execution. The humor actually leans towards the dark side... lots of grusome yet comical deaths, and seldome seen necromancy humor. Probably best for pre-teens and above. So if you're looking for a light hearted romance with witches, ghosts, pirates, and some awesome special effects, I highly recomdent this one.

Black Snake Moan
This is the one were Morgan Freeman keeps Cristina Ricci chained up in his living room in her underwear. Needless to say, this is not for the kiddies. I really liked this one. More than anything, this movie is a story about the blues. Not a history, just an example of the blues in it's raw form, as unfolded in a bizzare and extreme set of circumstances. What is that set of circumstances? Well, did I mention Christina Ricci is chained up in Morgan Freeman's living room in her underwear? It tugs at your moral underpinnings, sort of like "American Beauty" does... you really have to ask yourself, "would you?"

The Darjeerling Limited
Go back and read the review The Royal Tanenbaums, and just copy and past it here. Then add some more SUCK to it. This was the worst of the crop. What a stinker. Take Royal Tenenbaums, wrap Owen Wilson's head in bandages, put him on a train in India, and add two hours of boring, take away the cool soundtrack, and this is what you get. Yes, even though one of the characters has an iPod and keeps plugging it in to his speakers to play music, they fell completely short on the bizare hip music. The story goes nowhere, the characters are completely unlikeable, and even though it leads up to them performing a likeable deed, you still don't like them or care about them.

I will add one general comment to this whole line of films that didn't get mentioned in the previous post. They DO make an attempt to do some interesting camera work. In both this and "Life Aquatic", they apparently had to build a replica of the vessel (train or boat) in a studio as a cross section so they can pan the camera along it's length giving you a peak into the various compartments. In "Life Aquatic", they would follow somebody as they walk from the bilge, through various ladders and stairs, through hatches and doors, all the way up to the deck and then onto an elevated tower. In "Royal Tanenbaums" they followed poeple through the house, into closets, onto the roof, and even had views from an upper window looking down towards a lower window (and this was written into the story, as Gene Hackman saw Owen Wilson thinking he was unobserved as he slipped out the window below). In Darjeeling Limited, they were forever panning back and forth from compartment to compartment, and also sticking their heads out the window and looking from one to the other on the outside.

So I will give credit where credit is due for the attempt to use some interesting and innovative camera work. However if those techniques distract from, rather than add to the expirience, then they are just camera angles for the sake of camera angles. You can decide if they work or not.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Another Night out on the Town

So I'm siting home on Saturday night planning a big night of doing nothing, when I get a call from Ben Munch. He and a buddy were moving South on the Hutch on there way to a bar in Chelsea (on W 17th St), and asked for direction to my place so they could pick me up. I hemmed and hawed a bit and said, sure, why not.

Ben's buddy Howie (not Schimmel) is a local from New Paltz, and says that he built this bar. Did the wood work, including a gazebo that is the DJ booth. So we find this little hole in the wall called "Retreat" with not much on the outside except three bouncers and a velvet rope. Howie asks, is Cliff here? They say, "Who wants to know." They start to grill him a bit.. "What's Cliff's last name?" (and Howie didn't know) He finally says, "Just tell him CHAINSAW is here."

One guy disappears inside for a few minutes and comes back and says, "OK, they're good." So in we go to what is physically laid out just like a million other bars. A fairly narrow strip, some bench seating hugging one wall, then the bar on the same side, and a bit more opened up area past the bar w/ a few booths around the sides. The club music was blasting, DJ in the gazebo mixing and mashing tunes together with the steady thump-thump-thump all night. The place was crowded with a great ratio of guys to girls, girls all dressed in the height of fashion... population skewed a bit towards Asian, black, and Spanish. Definitely a downtown New York scene... not bridge and tunnel.

While the place is dimly lit (in night club fashion, w/ colored lights pointing upward and low lights around the bottom of the bar and furniture), our host tried his best to show us his great woodwork. "Look at the grain... see how I made these joints fit... " It was almost like walking into a trendy night club with Bob Fucking Villa. I gotta say, the woodwork was pretty nice, but seemed a bit too... uh... woody for this place. Rough sawn wood, probably better suited for a ski lodge. Though honestly, I probably wouldn't have even noticed if this guy wasn't pointing it out in great detail.

He heads to the bar and comes back with some drinks... still not sure if he was paying or was getting comped. He told me my money was no good.

We had a good time, downing a few rounds, talking to some very attractive ladies... using "He built the bar" as the ice breaker. (I'm definitely gonna use that some time in the future.) For a while Howie had drifted away while me and Ben finished our drinks. I said "I'll get this round" and bellied up to the bar. "One Jack on the rocks, one margarita, no salt." "Sure... Here you go... that will be $23." OK, so I know how they keep the riff raff out of THAT place.

So apparently people who hang there have a lot of disposable income. It was a pretty young crowd, not many 40+, but the guys did look pretty professional. I doubt they would have gotten in the door in sneakers and jeans. And while the chicks were all decked out nice, I will say they were above average looking... but only slightly. Some super hot, some not so much... still everybody was friendly and seemed to be having a good time. We stayed until just after two and then split...

Then I missed a good deal on an XBox.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I wanted to jump on the Smallville bandwagon back when it first came out, but only caught it once or twice and never sat through an entire episode. Now they're re-running it on HDNET, in HD, with no commercials. Thanks to the DVR, it makes it extremely convenient to grab two episodes each day. Just the other day I caught the last episode (to date... I think there's a new season comming up), and then they ran the pilot and started it from the beginning.

The general comments that everybody gives is definitely accurate... too "90210". Still, there's more to be said about it.

First of all, the pilot sets up the scenario for the series in a smart way. Baby Superman's ship comes crashing down into a corn field in Smallville, Ohio (or is it Iowa?). But they included one detail that allows them to build a whole show. The first thing you see is Cal-El's ship flying through space, but it is not alone... it is in the midst of a swarm of meteors... apparently rubble from the exploding planet Krypton. As the ship lands, the meteors also crash to earth pelting the town and the surrounding area. They cause general destruction and chaos, including killing poor little Lana Lang's parents on the spot.

The series then picks up about twelve years later, where Lana and Clark are about fifteen years old in high school. By now, the meteor assault is just a local curiosity... just a sign on the edge of town "Smallville Population 50,001... Meteor Capital of the World". But the whole area is now impregnated with deposits of green glowing rocks from space, completely unnoticed by everybody.

So now they are set up with a method to create super villains every episode. All they need to do is have some troubled individual come in contact with the Kryptonite, and let the super powers ensue. Angry Coach of the football team has meteor rocks in his Sauna... obsessed pimple face kid with fascination for bugs captures bugs from woods who were exposed to kryptonite (and gets bitten by his bugs)... football jock falls through Ice into lake w/ meteors under water...

It also gives every episode the traditional Superman plot. Virtually indestructible Superman becomes vulnerable while confronting newly created super villain because there is usually kryponite nearby. This includes Lana Lang's necklace, which keeps as a reminder of her dead parents. So of course poor Clark has a hard time getting close to the object of his affection... at first he thinks it's just nerves when he come near her, but eventually figures it out. The necklace is used as a recurring plot device.

Another cool aspect is that they embrace death. In just about every episode the villain kills somebody... sometimes their own mother. Then each villain dies while fighting Superman. Of course he doesn't just haul off and kill them, but they either use their power too much and burn (freeze, electrocute, etc) themselves, or they get squashed by a falling piece of machinery that wouldn't have been falling if it wasn't for their own dastardly acts. So while Clark is essentially innocent, he is continuously surrounded by and confronted with horrific acts resulting in death.

Other plot points: most episodes Clark discovers some new power like X-Ray vision or Super Breath (but can't fly yet), Lex Luthor is not evil (yet) but is suffering from living in the shadow of overbearing father (why does this plot point come up all over the place? Tom Paris anybody?), eventually other DC characters start poping up (Green Arrow, Matian Manhunter), and there's a big tie in to Zod and other beings from The Phantom Zone. There's also some massive devestation, similar to what they keep narrowly avoiding on Heroes... a whole city gets raized... but that's much later in the show. Right now it's all about High Shcool, meteor mutants, and discovering powers.

I'm also fascinated by the way they construct super villains. It's the same basic technique used in many other programs, like Power Rangers and Sailor Moon. They take some characteristic of the character or the situation and build a villain out of it. Angry coach begins to cause fires when he gets angry, kid who falls through the ice needs to suck heat from his victims... basically, they start with some archetype that they can present visually, and then figure some plot line to inject that into a character. In Power Rangers (et al) they might have somebody laid up with a cold, and then up springs a monster made out of hypedermic needls shooting pills and medicine at their victims.

And finally two points about the 90210 aspects:
First of all, as sickening as it is, they are really good at what they do. The looks that say "I wish you loved me and not her", the "We're just friends" when it really menas "I wish we were more than friends"... typical soap opera stuff, but done PERFECTLY.

And the music... heavily ladened with the emo-pop-rock. You may not like that as a matter of taste or general principle, but it WORKS. They are masters at the back track, swelling to highlight the emotional scene as it fades to commercial. (except no commercials on HDNET!!!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Royal Tennenbaums

OK, so I finally watched this and being we were just talking about it via e-mail I figured I'd write up another review here. By the way, I now know why Mayor Ed Kotch did movie reviews after leaving politics. It's a quick and easy way to fill up space.

So stylistically this is along the same lines as Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and I assume Lost in Translation. It's got a slow pace punctuated with instances of frenzied action, there are lots of bizarre flawed characters, and the comedy is delivered wrapped inside ironic uneasy situations. I understand why this movie has a following, but to me it's just painfully boring. I want to know what happens next to the characters, but I'm hardly willing to wait through the long pauses and ironic looks to find out.

There's a lot of detail in the movie, and at first I though that it was very subtle. But then they went the extra step to point out every subtlety. Like the mice... in the first 5 minutes (which is really the best part of the movie), they introduce all the characters including the three gifted kids. One of them bred a "dalmatian mouse" and made a fortune selling them to a Japanese market. Throughout the movie, they show spotted mice subtly... which is cool, because you can say "Oh yeah, that kid invented those..." But then the go and write it in to the script, "Hey, what's with all these spotted mice"... "Oh, my brother invented them." So much for the subtlety. Another example was Paltrow's missing finger. They should have just left it an obscure mystery, not gone the extra step to explain it.

I'm not sure if they should give Gweneth Paltrow an Oscar for that role, but it must be really hard to scowl continuously and give such little emotional content in every line.

And sorry if these are spoilers... but the whole beauty of this movie was the funny bizarre characters. Did it really help to make it into a serious suicide attempt? Oh, I see... that's IRONIC... because it's suicide, and it's comedy. Not a slapstick suicide like on Laugh In, but a real bloody suicide, with funny ironic characters. And did we really need an "After School Special" aspect w/ Owen Wilson's drug problem? That added nothing, and just drew the whole thing out.

So basically, I'm with J on this. The writers and producers of this flick are hipster douche bags who want to show how ironic they can be, and if you don't get it, they win because they're hipper and more ironic than you.

Finally, I have to make this comparison. This reminded me of The Big Chill in a few ways. First of all, in TBC I didn't give a damn about anybody in that house. I didn't care that their friend died, and even though stuff happened... nothing really happened in the whole movie. But the most important thing in TBC was that they would play sound bites of popular songs from the 60s and 70s that spark emotional reactions. So the whole movie becomes a big series of rock video, only with sound bites instead of full songs.

Well TRT, takes that to a whole new level, as did Rushmore. There must have been 50 songs in there all picked for maximum emotional punch in as few seconds as possible. But they didn't go from the top of the charts, they went into the back catalogs... the obsucre selections... the "I'm cooler than you because you don't know these songs" section. Sure, everybody nows "Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones, but how many people know "Back Street Girl"? Never mind The Velvet Underground with Nico (at least two songs), Judy is a Punk by The Ramones, Police and Theives by The Clash. OK, so I actually GOT all those obscure references... cuz I AM that douche bag... but they will all go right over the heads of 99% of the movie goers.

Of the three, I liked Rushmore the best by far. Life Aquatic was much more fun and funny than Tanenbaums though it has mostly the same drawbacks, and it just got too far out for me. I GET The Royal Tannenbaums, and I see why some people would love it, but I can't recomend it. It didn't work for me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Night Out on the Town

Grrrrr.... I left the camera at home. I'm sooooo pissed, I totally meant to bring it, but left it on my coffee table on the way out. It would have made an EXCELENT blog of the night.

Pentagram was awesome, and it would have been great to get a few pictures. The singer looks like he's 70 years old, despite the long haired afro that he's sporting. His huge googly eyes were just creepy, and his Mick Jagger "chicken on acid" antics were hilarious. Turns out they hardly changed the main room at all since the days of The Ritz. I mean not even a new paint job. It was really cool seeing a real metal act back there. They did add a smaller dance room and a lounge bar downstairs... I thought the whole place was re-habbed... but that's not the case.

Met up w/ Anthony and long lost brother Barney Rubble (hadn't seen him in many years). So that's another set of pics I wish I got.

Next, off to Otto's Shrunken Head Tiki Bar... a heavy metal tiki bar on 14th St far East by Stuy-town. They have a back room w/ live music (saw Matty play there before). We caught this AMAZING act... a rockabilly trio called the High Octane Band. Stripped down drum kit, hollow body guitar, and stand up base. Dudes looking all hep-cat w/ big sideburns and greased back hair. They were FANTASTIC. They broke into some Johny Cash songs, and in the middle of Fulsome County Prison, without changing a note or a beat, they break into "Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all..." Yes... PINBALL WIZARD... with just a few pauses added here or there, the lyrics fit perfectly. I forget the other Johny Cash song they did, but they broke into The Yardbirds' "Train Kept a Rollin'" in the same manner... didn't change what they were playing at all, just squeezed in the other song's lyrics. And they ended w/ a fairly obscure song from The Clash called "Brand New Cadilac". I always loved that song... "Balls to you daddy... I ain't never comin' back."

and here's the Yardbirds...

So again, missed pics.

Finally, on train platform, this black dude is strumming the acoustic guitar mic-ed up through a mini amp. He breaks out these slow moody rock numbers... one was "Loosing My Religion". I was amazed cuz my prejudice mind told me I should expect Motown from this guy.

All this fun and excitement and still home before 1am. Only in New York I tell ya. If only I had the pics... it would have been awesome.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alexandra Pelosi

Daughter of San Francisco Senator Nancy Pelosi, Alexandra calls herself a New Yorker. She recently had some success creating some documentaries, two of which I caught on HBO. I thought both were excelent.

The Trials of Ted
The Trials of Ted is a series of brief interviews with Ted Haggard, the evangelist who fell from grace. Ted fell from the highest of highs in the Televangelist community when it came out that he was having gay sex with a male prostitute while high on meth. Prior to this he was able to command audiences with US Presidents, world leaders, and giants of the business world. He filled a huge stadium several times a week and was televised to millions of loyal viewers.

Pelosi did what I believe is an honorable job on this work. She does not inject herself into the story. She mostly asks some basic obvious questions to Ted and lets him give honest thoughtful answers. Of course she has the god-like power of editing, but I think the result was very fair. It is not a hatchet job exposing Ted's blatant hypocrisy. It really just shows a sad and broken man who lost everything, who is trying to find work to support his family. He seems to have a very realistic and reasonable outlook on his situation, and seems honestly sorry for his actions... not just the fact that he got caught. While his bigger than life persona is no longer projecting from the pulpit, he generally still keeps the bigger than life smile on his face. He still believes in God, believes in the Bible, believes that homosexuality and drug use is unholy and wrong. He does admit that he continues to struggle, on occasion, with same sex attraction. Unlike every other time I saw this guy, when I thought he was lying through his teeth, in this work he is completely believable. I wory that he might kill himself, and after seeing this, I would be sad if that happens. Now I see him as a person, not a characature of the Religious Right.

Right America: Feeling Wronged: Some Voices.
Remember toward the end of the presidential race when the McCain rallies were getting more rowdie and unmanageable? This documentary takes you into the heart of "Real America" during the height of those last few weeks. Pelosi asks random people at the McCain rallies some basic questions like "Why won't you vote for Obama?", "How will you feel about America if McCain looses?" and some simple follow ups like "What's the 'Real America'?" when it comes up in their answer.

She was kind enough to begin the documentary with a disclaimer saying that the following oppinions don't necessarily relfect the entire Republican party. And once again, bear in mind she is the final editing deity. So at first it is easy to assume that this one IS a hatchet job. The people are blathering on about the most ridiculous stuff imaginable... he's a Muslim, he works for Ossama Bin Ladin, He's not a full blooded American, and yes... he's a nigger. Several times, you hear Pelosi say "people are gonna think I hand picked the worst comments", and she askes people "do you think your view is extreme, or is this common around here?" I'm convinced that what she put on screen are all fairly typical reactions. Of course she's gonna put on the more flamboyant characters, but I don't think she really stacked the deck much. However, I don't think the deck was necessarily shuffeled in the first place being these were mostly people at a John McCain rally.

I think she puts herself into this moreso than in the Ted Haggard piece. She doesn't argue her point of view, except to the extent that she sometimes asks a follow up question that sometimes challenges the prior answer. But mostly she just lets the camera run and lets the people speak their mind.

Going back to Cali

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yet another movie review

OK, I know I'm reporting on a lot of movies, but I had to report on this one. In contrast to the complaint I had to Roadside Prophets, I just saw it's polar opposite.

Last Summer in the Hamptons
This movie was a tribute to method acting. It is performed by method actors and is also about method acting. The premise is that a matriarch of the cinema, who co-stared opposite Errol Flynn and Ronald Regan, has raised her family in theater. The entire family is composed of actors, directors, and playwrites. They all converge on her estate in the summer time, which becomes a sort of actors workshop. So it's sort of a snake eating it's own tale... the characters in the movie are playing actors who are working and talking about acting. To make it interesting, and ultra-realistic, this family of actors are all completely screwy. Not madcap screwy, but full of vices, insecurities, and self-centeredness that is so common among theater people. And just to add to the mix, there are a few characters from outside the family visiting the estate who similarly have their own screwed up agenda and vices. Everybody seems to be preying on somebody else, and manipulating the situtation as best they can to achieve their own goals.

While this may be too "Inside the Actors Studio" for most people, the acting is truly remarkable. The characters switch between their roles and their roles within roles flawlessly.

More Movies

I'll try to keep my movie reviews skewed toward positive. I'm sure nobody really wants to know what movies NOT to see... especially if they are obscure movies that you are not likely to stumble across. Well, I'll start that practice AFTER this posting. I've got two bad, one great, and one good.

Roadside Prophets
A 1992 indi-flick, I was hoping this would be cool. It had a good look and a good cast. David Horovits (yes, the Beastie Boy), David Caradine (yes, Qui Chang Kane), Woody Guthrie (yes, Alice's Restaurant), Timothy Leary (yes, LSD guru), John Cusack (yes, the guy from whatever the heck he's in)... several others... this should have been awesome. The plot could have worked as a vehicle for all this talent... a factory worker biker meets a guy for a few hours when he dies a sudden and bizzare death. So the biker tries to honor his last request by taking his ashes to some location in the Navada deasert. He has trouble locating this place, but meets some strange people on the journey. Unfortunatley the acting is mostly terrible... almost every character is un-believable. Nobody is "in the moment"... they're all acting. You know the basic rule... don't ACT like your smoking a cigarette... SMOKE the cigarette. Well in this movie everybody is ACTING like they're smoking the cigarrettes. The journy leads up to a big let down, and then peeters off from there. On the one hand, this tried to be "Easy Rider", on the other it tried to be "Repo Man". But the characters where not believeable or likeable like "Easy Rider", and the bizzare surreal obscure nature did not rise to "Repo Man".

I will say, there were two encounters that actually did work. There's the black hotel guy who shares a bottle of Wild Turkey... he gave a believeable and poinient performance. Also the meat seller... a bizare character in the middle of the deasert who sells meat. Again, a believeable and poinient performance, dispite the obscure situation.

Don't waste your time on this one. Not worth the big waste of time for about three minutes of good acting... which is a shame because the whole thing could have been great.


I should have seen this comming. I'm so done with comedy based purely on stupidity. But at the very least, the stupidity should be clever... like Black Adder or Faulty Towers. I was hoping for more from Mike Judge (of Beavis and Butthead fame)... especially since he has done some clever things, like Daria. But this was just pure stupidity with a scoop of dumb on top. Mya Rudolf (of SNL fame) was cute, but this did not show off her great tallent for comedy. Don't wast your time. Watch C-SPAN... it's funnier.


Being John Malcovitch
YES YES YES !!! I know everybody else in the world has seen this movie, and have told me many times that I HAVE to see it. Well OK, I finally saw it. This was fantastic. I didn't want to see this movie until I had seen John Malcovicth in some other movies first, because I didn't think I'd GET it. Well I finally did catch him in a few others, and felt comfortable watching this. Well it turns out that part of the gimmic in this movie is that most people don't really know what JM was in anyway... so there was definitely no need to wait. By now I had already known the basic plot... you go through this little door and start to see and feel everything that JM sees and feels... so you actually get to BE JM. But the cool part is what the DO with this bizzare situation. They use that a jumping off point to explore self identity and personal realationships. And the whole idea of the puppetteer expressing his deep feelings through some of the coolest marionettes EVER was fantastic. They probably milked the concept a bit much towards the end when the old dude and his friends were all trying to be John Malkovitch, but I guess it tied everything up in a nice bow... though I don't know if they really HAD to do that being it was such a bizzare situation in the first place.


Roger Dodger
I like this one, but I realize it's not for everybody. No big budget, no special effects, no action... just an indi-flick using NYC as a backdrop and some interesting dialouge. It might be a little to wordy for some, but I kinda like that. It's basically a male chauvanist who is too smart for his own good, and tries to impress everybody with his hyper-knowlege of women. Despite the fact that he seems to know everything, he is clearly unhappy and lonely. It gets more interesting when his 16 year old nephew shows up, and in one night he tries to teach him how to get laid. He spends the rest of the movie giving him advice on how to score, and the kid gets amazing amount of action for a 16 year old nerd right off the turnip truck. It ends with an interesting "leave it up to the audience" sort of cliff hanger. Well, baybe not a cliff hanger, but something akin to a cliff hanger. Good performance by Isabella Rossilini, who I like, but I don't now why some people think she's the most beautiful woman in the world. I do like the fact that she does indi-films, fantasy roles (like Merlin?), and even dresses as a Bumble Bee in a documentary about the sex lives of insects. It makes me think she's down to earth, dispite the fact that some people would put her on a pedastal.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday Night Fox Lineup

I'm pleased with the action based lineup on Friday nights.

Sarah Conners
OK, I'm a bit confused. Last thing Sarah saw a helicopter landing w/ three lights underneath. Now she wakes up in the hospital. Did the copter pick her up? Was there a copter? Who owned that warehouse? I guess they had the supply of the metal used to make the Chromarty style robot? Oddly enough, Garbage Terminator Chick took out the whole facility. Why? What IS her deal???

Sarah hallucinated Reese who talked her through a difficult time... that's pretty cool for a woman who is clearly beyond the brink of madness. Uncle scruffy takes out most evidence of Sarah's existence... except they still have her cell phone. Abused female doctor was willing to patch her up, and now she's not sure if anything Sarah said was true or not. And special guest appearance by TRIP from Voyager. At fist you think he's a good cop, turns out he abused doctor chick and got his come-up-ance.


Doll House

I like the concept. What other Sci-Fi story dealt heavily with not knowing if your past is real or just memory implants? It's been bugging me, but I just remembered it was Blade Runner. I'm sure there are dozens of others, but that's the one I was thinking of.

OK, I can see how you could mess w/ somebody's eyesight by scrambling their brain functions, but asthma? Sounds a bit more physiological to me... and even if you COULD do it mentally, does the inahler help?

Tech boy in the lab reminds me a bit much of Bionic Woman from this year... only lasted about 5 weeks. Too bad, I liked that show.

Not sure what was going on at the end, though. Some dude was watching video of her from before she was wiped? Who is he? What does he want? I'll stay tuned.

Ignoring minor flaws, it was a cool show... cool concept, good execution, hot chicks, and lots of action.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Next Two Movies

These two looked good, so I snapped them onto the DVR. Now I want those 4 hours back. Sorry I can't give you any "Must See" recomendations at this time. Just take these as a warning...


With an all star cast staring Robert Downy Jr., and with enticing plot elements such as hedonism and The Black Plague, I really wanted to like this movie. Set in the 1600s under Charles II, Robert Downy plays an undisciplined physician who is frustrated by the ineffective state of medicine at the time, and spends his time drinking and whoring. However, he just so happens to be the best damn healer in England. At several times during the movie, this is shown by him telling patients "Get some rest, and let nature take it's course." And as these several patients seem to gasp their last breath and close their eyes forever, he says "That's it... there's nothing more I can do." (thus admitting his failure) Each time, a few seconds later, they start breathing again, as it cuts to a scene were the patient has recovered completely. Oh, and one of those patients was the King's DOG.

The King rewards him with a large estate equipped w/ servants and concubines, fine royal gardens, and all the carnal pleasures a man could want. Then the King requires that he marry the King's mistress, but not touch her, so he can keep tabs on her at this remote location.
Yadda yadda yadda... King gets mad, takes estate from him, he's out on his own and goes back to doctoring. Joins up w/ some Quakers who run a mental hospital, and he decides (Patch Adams-wise) to cure the mentally ill with music and dance, rather than blood letting. Really. Seriously. Music and dance.

He knocks up Meg Ryan who was not necessarily crazy, just mad at her dead husband. They split the Quaker sanitarium and go back to London just as The Plague is hitting. Oh, and somewhere along the line, there's a scene where they play Three Card Monty. Huh? What? Why in the world did this movie need a Three Card Monty scene? It didn't make any sence. It had NOTHING to do with ANYTHING. They just thought that they should stop by a camp in the woods for a few games of "Find the Lady". Eventually he has to perform a C-section on poor Meg, who doesn't survive. So it's now Robert Downy and his infant daughter and the entire city of plague ridden London.

Finally, surprise surprise, he saves the Kings mistress (not from plague, but from whatever ailed her) and King gives him back the estate. Half of London burns, thus curing them of the plague. (Huh? Really?)

Sir Ian McKellan, Hue Grant, Meg Ryan, and probably eight other HUGE names, plus all the production value in the world couldn't polish this turd. The costumes, the fine jewelry and crowns, the elegant English gardens, the patient with a hole in his chest so RDjr can touch his heart... all technically perfect. But the movie was just plain old stupid.

Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You

I've been meaning to catch this for a long time. Set in Rome in the height of the sixties, this madcap farce was definitely one of the sexiest movies at the time. There was a combination of sexual inuendo and just blatent sex... though by today's standards it would hardly even rate PG-13. Nudity was limited to one instance of a woman's bare behind and lots of cleavage. It's a comedy of errors involving a playright who is cheating on his wife with several women. It reminded me of the old Pink Panther movies... except not really funny. Some of the comedy was based on non-reality... like his typewriter decides to eject his paper... so there's a long scene where he keeps trying to put paper in, but it keeps pushing it out. He yells at it and threatens it. Then the typewriter types out "This machine will self destruct in 5 seconds" as the Mission Impossible music kicks in. Oh, and there was a gorilla who says "I love you".

With some old sixties movies, at least you get a good sound track. Maybe something from the realm of psychedelia. Sorry, this had madcap comedy versions of Tom Jones type music... including "What's New Pussycat" (Burt Bacharach). The sound track was total squaresville. Stuff that some wanna-be THOUGHT was groovy, but NOBODY in San Francisco would be caught dead listening to. There was one groovy psychedelic discoteque scene (one of my favorite movie cliches), but it was more like an episode of Laugh In where they play music, then cut to somebody telling a joke.

Finally a big chase scene at the end, and they milked it... and milked it... and milked it. They used the same gag over and over... the whole entourage is in a horse drawn wagon running away from the police through a movie set... then there's two shakesperian swordsman... and they whole crew breaks right through their scene. OK.. funny. THEN there's two mexicans in the street having a shootout... and again, crew breaks through their scene. THEN there's two knights having a sword fight... same thing. I was begging for it to be over.

Also, this was another example where half the movie is clumsy people bumping into each other and falling on the floor. Who ever thought that was funny?

I was hoping for Mad Mad World... or Wild in the Streets... or Wonderwall... or Head... but nope, this movie was NOWHERE. A real stinker.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Big Bang Theory

You can see my objections to sit-coms in an earlier post. These all apply to Big Bang Theory as well. But let me add one more horrific construction employed by many sit-coms... the laugh track. If you need a recording to tell you when to laugh, then something is wrong. It is especially heinous on The Big Bang Theory. That canned laughter is so unnatural... it's uproarious laughter for about a quarter of a second, then back to silence. I find it completely distracting.

Some shows have done away with the laugh track, and may have suffered for it. The public has been trained to laugh when they hear laughter. Shows like Sport Center, 60 Sunset Strip, and others just let the funny lines hang out there and you can decide if the joke was funny or not. Personally, I prefer that... but I suppose the funny lines better be funny enough, or it might sound awkward.

Anyway.... Bing Bang Theory is definitely a funny show. Once again I'm embarrassed at how all the jokes are about how geeky these guys are... but they seem almost normal to me. Tonight it seemed like they were playing Talisman. The board was definitely the same size, shape, and layout as Talisman, but the pieces were different than the onese we use. They were cutouts shaped in the silouette of the characters, not all rectangular cards. It was hard to see the characters, but there was definitely one big huge frog. They also said "We're penetrating the region of fire to get the crown !!!" And one guy drew a card and said "Hey, I got a sword."

Great Batman Movie

I always liked the Batman Beyond series where Batman is old and sends out young Terry McGuinness in the high tech batman suit. This new Batman has appeared in some of the other DC cartoons like Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (when they do time travel into the future).

Well Cartoon Network ran a movie length special, Batman Beyond: The Joker Returns. Fans of Batman Beyond won't be disappointed with this. It was totally evil with a surprising amount of death and destruction. But even cooler, they go into some back story. The series already expanded on the Batman mythos, but this one filled in some gaps. I wonder how consistent it is with the comic books.

Arrested Development

So while looking at Juno on IMDB I noticed that the adoptive father and the nerdy boyfriend were both in the sit-com "Arrested Development". I checked out and found they have three seasons of it. Hey, it lasted 3 seasons at least, so I figure it might have some merit to it. I watched the whole first season and I'll give it a good grade.

It started out with a few strikes against in in my book. I guess I'm not a fan of the sit-com genera. The general formula is so damn played out. This one is very typical in a lot of respects. The name of the genera says it all... situation comedy. They make some contrived situation, introduce you to the several peronalities, and then each week show how each personality will react to the situation. Basically I see right through the character and see an actor playing that character. I can almost hear them saying "How would Lindsay react in this situation?"... "What would George say now?"

Strike two is that I came to the realization a few years ago that too much comedy is based on stupidity. What would a stupid person do now? How would a stupid person react to this? It's been done to death in "Black Adder", "Faulty Towers", "Three's Company", and a bazillion others. While it could still be funny, I think it's just lazy. Instead of thinking of something really clever, you just have to think of something stupid instead... and pretend you're being funny.

And finally, if the characters are so unrealistic that I just can't relate, then I loose any interest in them. Who cares what predicament they get themselves in... it's all just completely fake anyway. No, I need to be convinced that this situation is, on some level, at least possible before I can get attached.

This show has all that going against it, yet they still manage to pull it off. Each episode has well scripted plot with twist, turns, and irony. They do all sorts of call backs... punch lines to earlier situations are used again in completely different situations. Different characters keep using the phrase "I made a terrible mistake" in very different situations. Lots of situations where a character will say something completely inocuous, but it comes back as a central them later on. Also, each episode ends with "Next time on Arrested Developement..." and they show one or two short clips as if they were from the following show, but they never are... they're just sort of punch lines that were set up during the current show.

They have a great cast, too. You keep seeing people popping up that you know from various comedy venues... like Amy Poler (SNL, Upright Citizen's Brigade), Kevin McDonald (Kids in the Hall), Tony Hale (Mr. Show, Upright Citizen's Brigade), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) and lots of others. The only other disapointing thing was that they son played almost the same character as he does in Juno... soft spoken, nerdy, un-confident kid. Makes me wonder if he can act.

All in all, I would say give this show a try.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Latest Two Movies

OK, two movies from total opposite ends of the spectrum. Only thing they have in common is that I happen to watch them this weekend. Also, they both involve strong spirited women.

First up... Juno.
I was avoiding this flick like the plague... who want's to see an after school special about a pregnant teen? I was told that it's not like that, and that it really is a good movie. So the verdict... GREAT MOVIE. Not judgmental, not preachy, not a major downer... but didn't shy away from any of the important aspects of the situation. Possibly s0me of the greatest acting I've seen in a long time. Each character was 1000% believable. Ellen Page was awesome as Juno. The character of Juno was totally cool too (favorite band?... tied between The Stooges, Patty Smith, and The Runaways). Dad, Step Mom, and female best friend were all great. And her geeky boyfriend was an awesome character. I've seen enough clips from the movie that I had an idea what I was in for, but I was not aware of the whole dynamic with the adoptive parents. They played those roles PERFECTLY !!! The best line was "I was just dealing with issues WAY beyond my maturity level."

Geeky folk rock (actually anti-folk... yes that's a genre) worked well. Can't really tolerate Moldy Peaches on their own, but in context it worked. Good for them that they got a big score w/ this sound track.

OK, next up... The Taming of the Shrew
Yes, switching it up to a 1967 version of Shakespeare's classic staring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I enjoyed the acting, though some of it was clumsy... I mean really, clumsy servants bumping into each other... supposed to be funny, but really just looks clumsy. The costumes and textures were good, showing the juxtaposition of the wealthy vs the poor. All in all, a good rendition.

HOWEVER... what a heaping pile of dung this play is. I'm simply offended by the plot. The whole thing is a homage to Stockholm Syndrome. If your woman has an independent spirit, tear her down and treat her like dirt until she submits and becomes your slave. Then parade her in front of the aristocracy.

It's especially disturbing because Petrucio (Richard Burton's character) is such a stinking drunken louse that he's the last guy in the world to deserve a faithful subservient wife. He only marries her for the dowery in the first place. In the end, he gets the dowery and gets a hot slave for a wife. At several times during the story, you think perhaps she is going to end up taming him... or perhaps they will arive at a mutual respect. But no, this shrew was truly psychologically broken and is now a pathetic shell of a person... and this is heald up as a virtue. At the end, he has her to the point where he points to the sun and says "Look how the moon shines" and she happily agrees that the moon looks lovely. Then he says "You stupid woman, that's the sun" and she's like "My appologies my lord, I was confused... yes it is the sun." It ends with the most pathetic speech by Katharina where she tells the other wives how it is their duty to kneel before their husbands and put their hands beneath their husband's feet.

I really wanted to get behind this in a manly kind of way... but it was just too offensive.