Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dream Carries On

Oops,haven't posted in a while. Happy Turkey Day everyone! Today's review is an album I've been listening to for a while, Dream Theater's A Dramatic Turn Of Events.

I purposely sat on this one a bit because the last few albums from them I liked a lot more when I initially got them and then less over time. In particular the last disc Black Clouds And Silver Linings fell off quickly and I eventually only found half the album enjoyable. So I waited until the newness wore off on this disc this time out.

The album's title refers to obvious events in the DT camp, founding member Mike Portnoy exited the band after he failed to convince the others to take an extended break. The Portnoy / Dream Theater saga hit soap opera proportions as fans sided with one person or the other. Once the dust settled, Dream Theater went on a search for a new drummer before selecting Mike Mangini.

And the change has done the band good from my point of view. Dream Theater sounds like a band out to prove it's still vital on ADTOE, unleashing barrage after barrage of their trademark riffage and noodling. Portnoy's absence brings a welcome change in their dropping that nu metal growling / melody style in favor of a more classic approach (which I'm really really happy about. Systematic Chaos gave me a literal headache at times). New guy Mangini has a drum style notably less heavy but no less dexterous than Portnoy, allowing a lot more space for bassist John Myung to groove.

There are some songs on ADTOE that I flat out love, and funnily enough my favorite is the slightly nu metal flavored "Build Me Up, Break Me Down" with it's "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" keyboards, churning guitar riff and stellar chorus. The band locks in to prog nirvana on "Bridges In The Sky" as they pile on the solos until things get almost jazzy. The rest of the disc is filled with high points in almost every song and even surprises by showing a bit of restraint on the closing track "Beneath The Surface".

Despite doing just about everything right, I don't care for the album as a whole. Part of the problem is I didn't like most of the ballads, the power ballad "This Is The Life" felt lie it should have had a better melody. The whole track builds up to this flick your bic moment and then the chorus hits and it's kinda a let down. And while I like vocalist James LaBrie generally I found the Phantom Of The Opera tone to "Far From Heaven" a bit much to take. Speaking of choruses, many of them seem to follow a similar pattern on ADTOE so it takes a while to differentiate the songs from each other.

After having A Dramatic Turn Of Events for a month I find I'm still going back to it repeatedly so while it's not perfect I like it a lot. Dream Theater proves they are still plenty awesome.


Monday, November 07, 2011

More Quick Movie Reviews

And the latest serving from my movie watching habits are:

Tron: Legacy - A movie as cynical and pre-programmed as the subject (an electronic world existing inside a computer network). It lacks the innocent adventurism of the original, though does improve on cgi special effects (naturally) and pacing. A perfectly functional, rational sequel to the computerized original. But not any more than that.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World - I wasn't planning on watching this but I had some time to kill. Big ups for the director, I haven't read the comic/graphic novel/whatever this was based on but the flying words and whiz bang scene transitions really captures that comic book feeling. As for the story, I was surprised it worked pretty well as a starry eyed video game enhanced exagerration of your usual teen angst/romance. Normally don't care for this type of genre, what I think of as the fantasy pile-it-on genre where anything goes and every five seconds something new and random gets thrown on screen (thinking Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai as an example). But I mildly liked this flick. Never want to see it again, but liked it for what it was.

Tangled - Disney used to make animated movies like this all the time but in the modern age it's all computerized. A retelling of Rapunzel, Tangled isn't spectacular but is instead a solid earnest entry in the Disney fairy tale catalog. The story is told with zip and unlike many other similar films shies away from modern pop culture references for laughs. The characters / voice actors are nicely drawn (probably helps I'm a fan of the tv show Chuck since Zachery Levi is the main guy in this film) and the film is effective at hitting all it's targets (mushiness, sadness, gleefulness, romanticness, dramaness, any other kind of ness). The songs in this film aren't memorable but not offensively bad either.

Of these three I probably liked Tangled the most followed by Tron then Scott Pilgrim. Too lazy to rate these, so I'll leave it at that.