Friday, January 30, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
It's been in the news a while now, still I thought it would be good to give a shout out to real life hero "Sully" Sullenberger for safely landing a jet in the water following engine failure. He saved a lot of lives that day by doing exactly what he was supposed to do and responding to a grave emergency with skill and dedication. It's been a long time since we've had a national hero, nice to see one with old school values that includes modesty. The rest of the crew and rescue teams also responded well to the disaster. I'll wrap up by saying thank you, Mr. Sullenberger, for a job well done.
Now, on to the Midnight Madness:
A Dark Night - For Batman fans hoping to get a little respect from the Academy. The Oscar noms limited their love for The Dark Knight to the late Heath Ledger (in the major categories at least). You would think Batman was some type of outlaw, running from the police after seeing how the Academy treats him. Bats is in good company though, Bruce Springsteen was also snubbed despite his excellent song for The Wrestler.
Hit The Lights - Meanwhile Metallica fans have reason to bang their head, the Metal band is going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jeff Beck and Run D.M.C. are being inducted as well (Little Anthony & the Imperials and Bobby Womack round out the induction honorees this year). I know it won't happen, but if the ending jam session with these guys includes Run D.M.C.'s It's Tricky that would make my day. Let's see James Hetfield cold bust some rhymes with some Jeff Beck soloing on top. Too cool.
Hell Yeah! - The awards season is in full swing, the first inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame is none other than the Rattlesnake! Stone Cold! Stone Cold! What? Stone Cold Steve Austin!
No Rod the Mod - Rod Stewart has put the kibosh on rumors of a Faces reunion. I guess we'll get stuck with whatever other ancient genre he decides to tackle next instead. I can see it now: Rod Stewart sings 19th Century sea shanties now on sale for $10.99. Hear Rod's new single "Blow the Man Down" available exclusively at Wal Mart. It comes with the bonus track "Row Row Your Boat".
Lemon? - The new U2 single Get On Your Boots is out and I have to admit to being a little disappointed. With Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite back in the producer's chair I was expecting something a little more classic leaning like their last album. Instead it seem's they're reviving some of that electronica Pop sound from the '90's. I'm still looking forward to the new disc and maybe this song will grow on me. Based on the few times I've heard it the song does get better on each listen. It wouldn't be the first time U2 put out music I was resistant to at first and dug later on. I did notice one of the other song titles on the new album is "Fez - Being Born". Did they write a song about that kid on That 70's Show?
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? - Boy George has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for imprisoning and beating a male escort. Church of the Poisoned Mind indeed.
She's a little bit Charm School, He's a little bit Rock & Roll - The Osbournes are coming back to TV in a variety show planned for Fox. Sorry Ozzy, now that you're no longer a drug addled burn out you're just not as funny anymore. We all know you've cleaned up and are just fakin' it now.
Hey You Guys! - The Electric Company is returing to television. Can they get Morgan Freeman back?
Yippie Ki Yay! - While watching music videos I came across this parody of the Die Hard movies. It's pretty funny, what makes the clip really worthwhile is the amazing Bruce Willis imitation this guy does.
Die Hard Parody - I Love My Wife
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Quarterflash "Harden My Heart"
John Parr was a British rocker in love with American AOR. He even played with a guitar painted as the American flag and had a minor hit in 1984 with the excellent Naughty Naughty. He then teamed up with Producer David Foster for the title track to the film St. Elmo's Fire which became a #1 hit. How does this relate to tonight? Because I can feel St. Elmo's Fire burnin', burnin inside of me (big rock howl while the music plays on at this point). Take me to where the future's lying - St Elmo's Fire! Oogada Boogada Ah Ha Ha.
John Parr "St. Elmo's Fire"
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
We're into the second week of the eighth season of American Idol, one of my favorite past times. Like every year, the show kicks off with auditions where a mix of delusional insane asylum screechers mix with Hollywood kids in training. After being a cultural juggernaut for most of it's existence, Idol stumbled a bit in season seven as ratings sagged a bit and participants failed to reach beyond the Idol faithful. Longtime producer Nigel Lythgoe left and a new judge, Kara DioGuardini, was brought in. This left the question: what's the status of the Star Search of the new millennium now?
The answer so far seems to be going Back to Basics. Unlike previous seasons, Idol has become more unassuming - not taking viewership for granted and constantly ramming it's greatness down our throats. It still plugs itself of course, just not every three minutes as in prior shows or extended documentaries on the making of the show. There's a genuine focus on the contestants this time out, much more than last year. An even mix of funny oddballs, showstoppers and sob stories goes a long way. The presence of the judges and Ryan Seacrest have been more subdued, less indulgent so far. They still bicker and needle possible Idol's and each other but are edited into shorter bursts.
Which leads to the new kid on the block, Kara DioGuardini. Being the new person, DioGuardini is getting a sizeable push in camera time equalling Cowell himself. Fortunately, DioGuardini seems to be what the show needs. Her presence gives a slightly bored Cowell a new person to badger, stabilizes Paula and takes over on the musicianly critiques that Jackson used to do before he became content to clown people. She hasn't shied away from saying her opinion and fueled the most noteworthy contestant interaction so far this season. DioGuardini's catch phrase seems to be "You've got chops" as she used that relentlessly during the first week's episodes. By mid-season, "Chops" could be the new "Pitchy" in overuse.
American Idol is settling in for the long haul, it's stopped tripping over itself to wow us and is serving up plenty to talk about. There's already been Bikini Girl and the guy who is like a human Gollum from Lord of the Rings to cause some minor sensations. This is shaping up to be a season of modest yet still watchable fun, assuming they don't find a breakout superstar. Idol may not have the fantastic runs and high notes it once had, so they are showing what they do have: chops.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Yes "Open Your Eyes"
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I'm a fan of Jackson Browne, I just like how the guy writes songs. His lyrics are usually thoughtful and he can turn a phrase pretty well. Musically some of his stuff can suffer from sounding the same album to album (he recycles songs sometimes in my opinion). Just not to the point I discard him. When Browne is on target, I relate to his songs more than most other songwriters. So it's a bit ironic that the first tape of music an apolitical guy like me was Browne's most political effort, Lives in the Balance.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Of course, I never knew Ricardo Montalban. It seemed fitting to name this post that title because after seeing Star Trek II my best friend at the time and I used to refer to each other in the same way Kirk and Khan did. That sort of spiteful tone on a seemingly cheerful title, "Old Friend", was fun to mimic. Such was the impact the actor Ricardo Montalban had on my life, a suave commanding presence capable of portraying villains and heroes alike. A great actor who passed away today at age 88.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Like movies, there are certain games that define a franchise. For James Bond that game was Goldeneye, the classic first person shooter that combined stealth and button mashing frenzy into a Walther PPK of fun. Except for the excellent Everything or Nothing at All or From Russia With Love games, the James Bonds that followed were copies or updates of Goldeneye. And in the first video game of the Daniel Craig era, the Bond formula stays intact. Goldeneye it is then.
The heart of the game is still sound, you try to sneak around buildings and bases disabling security equipment until you're spotted. Then, you pull out a personal armory and unload all kinds of weaponry on the bad guys who saw you. As an update of Goldeneye, the surroundings have gotten more detailed and the artificial intelligence of the opponents are much smarter than in the past. No more camping in a safe spot and picking off eight people in a row as they run through the same doorway, oblivious to the stack of dead bodies in front of them. No, this AI dodges your aim and thinks pretty reasonably. The environments come with exploding and breaking parts which add to the fun. A lot of natural gas canisters litter the playing field, shoot one of those and watch three or four enemies go up in smoke. Story wise, they manage to combine Casino Royale and Q of S together albeit clumsily. Sounds like Quantum of Solace is off to a good start.
My only real issue with the game is the controls. The Wii's controls for movement are extreme, even with sensitivity settings I find the foot movement and buttons sluggish. You try to run away from a timed bomb but Bond moves slow, so you push the button to sprint and suddenly you're stopping to hide behind a box instead. At the same time, the shooting and turning movement is hypersensitive and has a tendency to get stuck. Though to be fair, when it is working properly, the targeting is fairly accurate. And once I learned to minimize use of cover, jumping or running my game play improved.
There are some graphical glitches too but those are forgivable. Even with the game play issues I find I'm pretty addicted to Quantum of Solace, shoot 'em up games are a favorite of mine and the stealth system is pretty good here. Once I accepted the control issues, Quantum of Solace became a solid sequel to Goldeneye. I'm already going through the game a second time at a higher difficulty setting and enjoying my temporary licence to kill. It's fun to be a blunt instrument.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Not a lot of entertainment news out there this week, so I'm gonna discuss an adventure as lame, er, big as space! I''m talking one of my favorite TV shows of childhood that I just got on DVD, Space: 1999.
I came across the full series on DVD shortly after Christmas and could not resist picking it up. I used to spend Sundays mid afternoon happily catching the exploits of Commander Koenig and crew of Moonbase Alpha. I had toys (including a giant Eagle spaceship with dolls and a flying Eagle that could pick up nuclear cannisters), models and a treasured Comlink replica my late Grandpa made out of a block of wood.
Watching the TV show now, it's amazing how much of the cheese factor I missed seeing it through the eyes of a kid. The stories defy logic or common sense, the aliens are usually incorporeal spirits who speak in stuck up British echo chambers and as my wife has noted, Commander Koenig makes the worst command decisions possible. Despite this, I'm having a blast revisiting this classic show and enjoy the campiness (my poor parents, they probably watched me devote hours of time to this program and thought it sucked). Because let's face it, the future is meant to be experienced backed by a Eurodisco soundtrack.
For the millions who missed this show when it was on, Space: 1999 is set in the future where a manned base on the Moon has a nuclear accident resulting in the Moon being ripped out of orbit. It then hurtles through space on its momentum encountering a plethora of hostile alien life. It's antiquated vision of the future is fascinating and while I can't recommend this for everyone, if you love 70's Sci Fi chesse this show is a must.
Are the Terrible Towels still there? - Styx will be performing at a NFL Championship game soon, it seems the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken to "Renegade". The last time I followed football Terry Bradshaw was QB, still it's great to see them get more exposure with a great jam.
Whoa Ooh Whoa Oh - American Idol starts up on January 13th, let the mediocre talent search begin! I love me some American Idol.
Kelly Clarkson! - Cover art for her new disc is all over the web, can she dominate again?
When The Levee Breaks - Sounds like the Led Zep minus Robert Plant reunion has been called off. I'm pretty tolerant of lead singer switcheroos, though in this case I'm glad to see it fail without Plant. At this point in their career, it's not worth doing without him.Ron Asheton - Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton passed away at age 60. I liked the Stooges, a sad passing.
If You're Into It - Flight of the Conchords returns on January 18th! Yes!
More Space: 1999 - To close here's two clips from You Tube that summarize the series while playing that wicked awesome Eurodisco.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
About a month ago I picked up the new AC/DC album Black Ice from Wal Mart and have spent some time listening to it. There has been a lot of hype leading up to Ice, there's been rumors for a few years that a new album was coming. Then there was a lot of talk about this being their swan song, one last blast with an album and tour followed by retirement. Of course, the exclusive distribution courtesy of Wal Mart was the next subject. Meanwhile, band's came out of the woodwork to emulate the Aussie rocker's trademark sound-particularly Airbourne. Sometimes I hear Airbourne and I think it's AC/DC until the chorus hits and I realize I don't remember the tune that well. That's not necessarily a knock on Airbourne, they do the AC/DC well and acted as a herald for hard rocker's true comeback.
I debated on covering this disc just because I wasn't sure if there was a point. Every AC/DC album sounds the same as the last, more or less. At this point in their career, you either like what they do or you don't. It's not about originality here, it's about execution. Do the songs fire you up and stick in your head like dark beer or leave you flat? Well, I'll get to that in a moment.
That was nine years ago, almost a decade ago. After my birthday, I went out and picked up Black Ice for a long awaited listen. My impressions? It's still AC/DC. Screechy raspy vocals, throbbing bass, rock steady snare drum and vicious guitar assault. The execution of their classic formula is fairly strong, the performance doesn't lag or show any age. About half of the songs are memorable, particularly the thunderous Big Jack, the slick Wheels or the WWE hyped Spoilin' For A Fight. There's more variety in the grooves than the prior disc Stiff Upper Lip, songs move at different speeds and are aided by focusing on stronger choruses. My only criticism is that to me AC/DC is at their best with just the ten best songs on each album, the quality of their songwriting seems to suffer past that point.
Black Ice is a good dose of brutal, sleazy Hard Rock served up as only AC/DC truly can. It overstays its welcome a little, but by the end of the disc I was ready to start over at track 1 again. It's not the best AC/DC album, I'd rank it in the top half or so in their storied career. AC/DC preaches to the converted here and when they're on they make a good case for rock and roll salvation.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
The inspiration for this week's subject was not a good one. My wife received an electric shock from a light switch after washing dishes at my parent's house on New Years Day :( She is doing better now, but I was worried for a while. Hopefully there will be no more electric shocks in the future for little Bunny.
So with electricity on my mind, the third thing to come to mind was this classic kids tv show I used to watch. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, a sort of a female Batman and Robin on the cheap. The theme song has always stuck in my head. And yes Soap fans, that is Diedre Hall of Days of Our Lives fame in spandex and a cape. Electra-fantastic!
I Will Possess Your Heart - Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard (master of the sad sack unrequited love song) and indie singer/actress du jour Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy) are engaged. If these two have a child, it will probably be financed by an independent studio who really believe in the story.
Sign O' The Times - Prince is planning to release three, count 'em, three albums in 2009 without a label. By the time he's done, he may go down as the most prolific artist in the modern era by my count. This guy could is so talented, he could probably find musical inspiration in a fart.
The Dead Will Rise Again - The remaining members of the Grateful Dead are reforming for a tour.
Dropping the Ball - Owners of a certain model of Zune music players got a surprise when their machines shut down with the beginning of the New Year. I don't own a Zune, but I shake my fist at the sky in sympathy anger.
You Killed Kenny... - Quintan Tarantino's long gestating project Inglorious Basterds will finally be made and released this year. I think Tarantino's been working on this since before Kill Bill.
Employee of the Month - Not a good week for people who have starred in movies with this title. Actor Matt Dillon was caught speeding in Vermont. Meanwhile, actor/comedian Dane Cook's brother has been accused of embezzlement from Cook.
A Second Look - Speaking of Death Cab for Cutie, their recent album Narrow Stairs didn't impress me much on the first few listens when I got it in the Summer. I've had it in my car for the last two weeks and have found it a mildly addictive listen. The Mitchell Froom like murky sonics give a deshelved manner to a pack of songs about crushed romantic hopes and resignation (ironic this guy just got engaged). Songs like the loping "Your New Twin Sized Bed", the mid 90's alt sounding "Cath" and the fast moving "Long Division" sound great. And while "I Will Possess Your Heart" is Ok, I sing along doing a bad Patrick Stewart imitation which always makes it sound better to me. So my consideration of this disc has moved up from Meh to Pretty Good, an enjoyable album.
What's in My Car - For a change of pace, I'm changing my section on the songs I'm listening to now to the CDs in my car.
Wii Fit Mania - I've been doing the Wii Fit with my wife which has been fun, some of the games in the system could have even worked as stand alone titles (like the Skiing ones, especially the Ski Jump).
The New Year - This is really turning into more of a Death Cab post, but with this many mentions I thought it would be fitting to end with their song "The New Year". Again, done in the band's typical downbeat yet disassociated way. With his pending marriage, Ben Gibbard may face a big artistic challenge: can he write happy songs?
Death Cab for Cutie "The New Year"
Saturday, January 03, 2009
A few years back, there was a big buzz about a violent Korean revenge thriller called Old Boy (2003). It tells the story of a man who has been imprisoned in a room for 15 years without being told why it is being done to him. While imprisoned, his wife is murdered and he is framed for it. He has no idea what becomes of his daughter and uses TV as a link to the outside world. After 15 years, he is suddenly released and given a mission: He has five days to find his captor and figure out why he was imprisoned. With the help of a sympathetic female sushi chef, he takes his shot.
It's a good set up and the story goes through a variety of twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged. The lead actor, Choi Min Sik, is dynamite as the put upon Dae Su. He makes the character's journey believable, starting as a drunken lout and then changing to a man determined for revenge while still retaining his original personality. Min Sik's performance is boundless, running the gambit from fierce fighter to grovelling vulnerability sometimes in the same scene.
Directed by Park Chan-Wook, the film is well told using that over saturated color style that was popular in the mid-90's to dramatic effect. Chan-Wook tells the story cleanly and in a slightly comic book style (particularly a part where he fights a gang of thugs in a hallway using a hammer, it is a wide out side scrolling shot very remiscent of comics). Not only does Chan-Wook get good performances out of his actors, he keeps the emotion flowing through every scene.
That's the ultimate pull of Old Boy for me. It's like a litmus test because it thoroughly involves the viewer in its story. What if you were trapped in a room and not given a reason? How would you react when freed and teased with the possibility for knowledge and revenge? And what price would you pay for that vengeance, is the secret something you really want to know? When confronted with the truth, would you still be able to take your revenge?
Although I saw the main plot twist coming a mile away, the emotional impact is still powerful when the last pieces of this puzzle are put together. Old Boy lives up to its hype, a trip through the darkness of vengeance, forbidden love and focused hatred with uncompromising emotional brutality. And not since Memento (2001) has a plot twist driven film been this fun. Early on, the film dares you to take this trip by making you watch the recently released Dae Su demand a live octopus to eat at a sushi restaurant. It literally asks if you have the stomach for this. If you get past that scene, this movie is for you.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Ding, Dong, 2008 is dead! A great year for entertainment but pretty miserable on just about every other scale. 2009 is going to be all about hope. Hope for the future both personally and in terms of America and the world. After spending New Years Eve with my wife watching Star Trek it's easy to be in a positive frame of mind.
I also spent a little bit of time scouring the New Years shows for fun. My impressions? Kellie Pickler is still entertaining to listen to, Carson Daly complains too much about the cold, Lionel Ritchie and Elton John still have "it" while newbies Taylor Swift and the Jonas Bros can't cut it live. Did like seeing high profile exes Taylor Swift and one of those Jonas kids spend a long time together on tv standing on some platform. Awkward! For me, the musical highlight was watching The Ting Ting's live. Which my wife accurately pegged as being very Blondie-ish.
And what do we have to look forward to in 2009? So far, there's a new Star Trek movie and Bruce Springsteen album lined up. Sounds like 1984 all over again. S-S-S-Sex Crimes! (robot voice) Nineteen Eighty Four. Sorry, went off on a Eurythmics tangent for a second.
Anyway, I woke up wanting to find the perfect song to start 2009. My IPOD randomly selected the right artist, Bob Marley! Let's get the party started with 'ol Bob, "Three Little Birds".
Bob Marley "Three Little Birds"