Welcome to the DFL's new go to blog about music and movies! Here at the Duxbury Free Library we have a wide array of movies in all genres from Action and Adventure to Comedy and Horror. We also have a ton of television shows including new seasons of True Blood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and of course Downton Abbey. So if anyone is like me and is saddened by the demise of movie rental stores, fear not! The DFL is the place for all your video rental needs. As if a great selection of DVD's wasn't enough, the DFL also has a fantastic selection of CD's covering all styles of music from all eras. Be sure to check in and see reviews and write ups on some of the best music and movies, new and old, that the DFL has just waiting for you to take out

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Most Wanted Man Makes Me Miss Philip Seymour Hoffman

When it comes to spy thrillers, John le Carre knows what he’s doing.  His enormously popular series The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been made into two film trilogies and a successful British TV series.  Fewer people noticed another film adapted from one of his novels which came out last year after the death of its lead actor.  A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe, and Robin Wright details covert anti-terrorism operations in post 9/11 Hamburg, Germany.  Hoffman plays covert agent Gunther Bachmann who heads a small, government run, technically illegal group of operatives whose mission is to locate, contact, and turn lower to mid-level individuals with ties to terrorist organizations operating inside Germany.  Specializing in Islamic terrorism, Bachmann has been spending years trying to ensnare a local millionaire philanthropist named Dr. Abdullah whom he suspects has been funneling legal money through his legitimate charities to Al Qaeda.  After the recent arrival of Issa Karpov, an Islamic Chechen national with ties to Russia, Bachmann sees an opportunity to not only entrap Abdullah, but perhaps use him to gain access to the real threat; the terrorist leaders he is funneling money to.  That is if the local German authorities and CIA reps don’t get to him first.  While the film has its exciting moments, its strength is in its subtleties.  The characters are all attempting to stay hidden from the authorities and while Bachmann is trying to secure Abdullah as an asset, he is also trying to look out for Karpov who is seemingly innocent and caught up in this mess because of his Russian mafia connected father.  The dialogue and cinematography reflect the espionage in that everything feels subtle, quiet, and in the shadows – just where Bachmann’s team operates.  Performances by Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman are stunning and while Defoe’s portrayal of the banker is good, it takes a backseat to the other stellar performances.  In the end, your adrenaline is rushing and your hope is high for the success of an operation which has taken years to put together and is so near completion.  All the chess pieces are necessary and in play as the finale approaches and it is one that leaves you both wide eyed and confused whilst leaving you to exhale as the credits roll. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today's Playlist

1. Chips in the Moonlight - NICE GUYS
2. Polyamory - Slothrust
3. Who's Gonna Be My Babe? - Free Pizza
4. Hanging by a Moment - Lifehouse
5. Came as a Glow - Pile
6. Taboo Tattoo - Midriffs
7. Right Home - The Julie Ruin
8. Adderall Nighter - Tacocat
9. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Frey
10. Saturday Morning - The Eels

The Innkeepers Was a Breath of Fresh Air in the Horror Genre

Every once and awhile you watch a horror film that stands out as being more akin to the classics.  There are so many low budget “indie” horror flicks that after awhile you start to loose hope that classic horror is no longer a reality.  Films like It Follows and The Babadook remind us that there are still those who have an appreciation for the cinematic side of horror; directors that understand less is often more when it comes to fright films.  This is the way I felt when watching The Innkeepers a 2011 horror film by Ti West, an up and coming horror director.  The film stars two relatively unknown actors as Claire and Luke, the last two employees of a once palatial hotel which is now set to close.  Luke runs an amateur ghost hunting website which chronicles the varied paranormal experiences many quests have had at the hotel which is supposedly haunted by a variety of apparitions including the suicidal Madeline O’Malley whose ghostly figure is said to appear in the old stately building.  Recruiting Claire to assist him with his ghost hunting, Luke comes to realize that the paranormal happenings inside the Yankee Pedlar Inn are more real than he ever truly believed.  The arrival of several eccentric guests and a series of rapid fire paranormal experiences catapult Luke and Claire into the middle of terror and certain doom as the inn’s final weekend winds down.  While I felt the film was a little slow on the upstart, lighthearted jokes and the occasional startling moment keep you entertained as you await the scary parts later on.  In addition, the waiting adds to the sense of unease and emptiness which reflects the nearly vacant status of the hotel.  The films filter creates an eerie glow to each scene which when coupled with an incredible original soundtrack gives the movie and almost Hitchcock like vibe which contributes to the overall “classic” feeling of the entire film.  Receiving mostly positive reviews, The Innkeepers was a breath of fresh air in an overly saturated genre.  PLUS the hotel is still open in real life, so you can visit and get your paranormal investigator on by seeing if you can find your own evidence of life after death.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ex Machina Is Science Fiction At Its Best

It’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of what I’ve in the past called “classy science fiction”.  That is to say, sci-fi which tackles broader, more serious topics and how they relate to the human experience.  Alex Garland’s Ex Machina fits this description perfectly and captures the imagination whilst simultaneously offering a frightening and realistic example of the future of artificial intelligence. 
The movie stars Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, a talented young programmer working for Bluebook, the world largest search engine.  After being selected for a secret weekend at a remote compound owned by the company’s founder Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) Caleb learns he is to administer the Turing Test to an exciting new humanoid robot with astounding AI.  Caleb learns his task is to see how he relates to “Ava” despite knowing she is a machine.  Over the course of the week, Caleb finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into Ava’s psyche and begins to empathize with her situation.  Ava’s imprisonment inside the compound coupled with her apparent human like intelligence causes some profound moral questions in both the viewer and Caleb.   Particularly when Ava manages to short circuit the facilities security system and speak candidly with Caleb, where she reveals that all is not what it seems. 
Calling into question humanities right to create such life, Ex Machina crafts a beautiful reality; one which we as a species are fast approaching.  AI has long been a deep rooted human fascination and the film manages to capture the love and fear we are certain to have for these intelligent machines when we do in fact create them.  As is said by Nathan in the film, it was not a matter of if, but a matter of when. 
As you watch Caleb interact with Ava you begin to question how you would feel in the same situation.  Simultaneously, you’re left thinking about the broader question of whether or not you consider Ava to be a human equivalent.  If she looks, acts, and feels like a human both internally and externally, does that make her human?  Touching upon a multitude of these themes, the film does what any great sci-fi film should in that causes you to question the very essence of what it means to be alive while managing to avoid cliché.  After many great moments, the film’s ending is both surprising and exciting making Ex Machina one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen. 

Songs from this Morning

1. Just a Girl - No Doubt
2. Grip - Jawbox
3. Misery Over Dispute - Waxahatchee
4. White Fire - Angel Olsen
5. Froot - Marina and the Diamonds
6. The Graduates - Speedy Ortiz
7. Nadine - DENT
8. Just My Luck - Laughing Stock
9. Targets Of Men - G.L.O.S.S.
10. Mulch - Gnards

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

There's no question that streaming services are here to stay.  Just like they did when the MP3 revolution occurred, the music industry has been forced to adapt to the ever changing and constantly evolving technological landscape.  Services like Spotify and Pandora have been around for some time now and as more and more people have come around to their convenience and accesibility, it's becoming harder and harder for other platforms to compete.  While there has been some artist backlash against the current trends, most notably Taylor Swifts refusal to put her music on streaming services, most musicians are doing what they've always done, going with the flow.  The newest player is Apple who after being the one to usher in the digital music age, is rather late to the streaming game.  Their new service Apple Music offers the same type of streaming service people have come to expect: curated playlists, access to a massive online digital library, algorithms that determine new artists you'll like.  But where they differ is most notably in their incorporation of Beats 1 Radio, a radio station with shows by artists for fans.  Similar to Sirius XM radio, Beats 1 will feature programs by artists like Dr. Dre and St. Vincent alongside other programming. Personally, I think streaming services are destroying the personal relationship music has always had with people.  Much like everything else in our constantly updating technological world, it only serves to create a disconnect between fans and music while giving the user the illusion of increased connectivity.  More access and more content is not always a good thing. But that is a discussion for another day. Rolling Stone breaks down the new Apple service and lists it's pros and cons.  You can read their report below.

Apple Music: The Ins and Outs

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ex Hex's Debut Rips in Title and Sound

I haven’t reviewed an album in a while and that is mostly because I haven’t heard one in full which was worth talking about.  However, I recently went and saw Ex Hex at the Sinclair and boy was it a show to remember.  I originally went to see two local openers the first of which absolutely killed.  But Ex Hex was a band that had been on my radar for some time after lead singer/guitarist Mary Timony formed the band Wild Flag alongside Sleater Kinney's Carrie Brownstein.  After an incredible set I picked up their debut record and after several times through, it only keeps getting better.  Entitled “Rips” the album contains twelve nearly perfect tracks of 80’s infused, guitar driver pop rock.  Album opener “Don’t Wanna Lose” establishes the "love theme" which is present in most songs on the album and starts things off with a whiny guitar sound which is ever present throughout the record.  “New Kid” calls to mind early Joan Jett and maintains a steady baseline with layers of lead and rhythm guitar which play off each other superbly.  Betsy Wright’s bass and Timony’s guitar work bounce back and forth like a perfectly timed ping pong match. “How You Got That Girl” is one of the two tracks written by Wright and hearkens back to 80’s giants like Pat Benatar with a chunkier rhythm and the snappy guitar squeals which define Ex Hex’s sound.  Heavy track “Beast” is a slap in the face before the haunting, muted “Everywhere” takes things in a different direction.  Later on “You Fell Apart” is right on track with other 80’s revivalists of today sounding like a cross between the Dum Dum Girls and L.A. garage pop vixens Bleached.  The album closes just as strongly as it begins with the upbeat “Radio On” bringing more sing along choruses and bubbly new wave a la The Go Go’s.  Closing track “War Paint” has one of the best lines of the album as Timony sings “Put your war paint on and dance alone in the crowd”.  This sums up Ex Hex. They are who they are and they do what they do and you'll just have to deal with it.  A band which clearly comes out of the marginalized, loner portion of society and provides the world with the kind of catchy radio rock which is friendly enough for your grandma and rough enough for your cousin going through his punk phase.  Although still relatively fresh having just released their debut back in October of 2014, the band is incredibly tight live and is destined for a phenomenal follow up in my opinion.  Keep your eyes peeled and catch them if you can because I’m sure they won’t be playing such small venues for much longer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Today's Playlist

1. Kari Ann - The Monsieurs
2. Waste Your Time - Ex Hex
3. Waterfalls - TLC
4. Walkin on the Sun - Smash Mouth
5. Cumbersome - Seven Mary Three
6. Molly's Lips - Nirvana (Vaselines cover)
7. Nu Punk - Ovlov
8. Bed for the Scraping - Fugazi
9. Peggy Sue - Blink 182
10. English Country Garden - The Darkness

Kingsman: The Secret Service Was Surprisingly Great

When I first saw the preview for Kingsman: The Secret Service I had 0 desire to see it.  First off, it appeared to be a kid’s movie.  Secondly, it seemed like it would be full of awkward, cringe inducing one liners, something I absolutely despise.  However, after a friend recommended it to me I figured I’d give it a go and I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie was fantastic.  First off, it was rated R so any aspect of “kid movie” went out the window after copious amounts of the F word and the superfluously violent fight scenes.  Add that to that Samuel L. Jackson as the flamboyant billionaire super villain with a lisp, alongside the always suave James Bond-esque Colin Firth as head agent Galahad and you’ve got the formula for a great movie. 
Beginning with a failed mission in the Middle East in which an agent in training sacrifices himself for his compatriots including Firth, we find the man had a young son at home.  Galahad returns and offers the boy a Kingsman medal with a number and tells him if he ever needs anything to call the number and give the code word.  Years later, the young man nicknamed Eggsy finds himself in some trouble and calls the number.  Gallahad reaches out and informs him of the Kingsman, a private secret agency tasked with saving the world from its threats free of the influence of world governments.  Eggsy begins his training alongside other candidates to replace the recently deceased Lancelot who was killed on a recent mission investigating billionaire Richmond Valentine (Jackson).  As Valentine’s plot becomes clear, a conspiracy begins to unravel as Eggsy must use his training to help the Kingsman take down Valentine.
The film was beyond entertaining and surprisingly thought out.  We get enough background on the history of the Kingsman to appreciate the organization and answer our questions (i.e. who are they, where did they come from, what’s their deal?)  The action sequences are wonderfully choreographed and when combined with a veritable smorgasbord of weapons and gadgets make for some intensely awesome fight scenes.  The training of the new agents is also fantastic as the young men and women are put into death defying situations in which they must react in real time adding an adrenaline inducing excitement to each task.  The humor is perfect as well.  Subtle enough to not be too in your face and cliché but over the top at just the right times; Samuel L. Jackson is superb.  Overall, the film was immensely entertaining and something I would most certainly watch again.  It felt like a mash up of James Bond, Harry Potter, and Kill Bill with sup
er cool spy gadgets and copious amounts of obscenities.  What could be better than that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jupiter Ascending Was Flashy But Not Memorable

As sci-fi movies go, Jupiter Ascending was pretty typical.  Captivating plot twists and intriguing storylines were sacrificed in favor of stupendous action sequences and brilliant visual effects.  The resulting movie is a two hour burst of flashing lights and not a single memorable line.  That being said, the movie did have a certain entertainment value and thus can’t be tossed away entirely.
The movie centers on Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis) who learns she is a genetic reincarnation of the powerful matriarch of the Abrasax family who until her recent passing, owned the Earth and many other planets.  Now pursued by the wealthy woman’s three children, Jupiter is assisted by Caine, an ex-soldier with a bone to pick with the Abrasax children and their demented methods to achieve immortality.  If this all sounds loose, that’s because it is.  Small details like Caine’s lost “wings” and his past mentor/friend Stinger (played by Sean Bean) are glossed over so quick they feel like snippets thrown in to try and establish more character depth.  But the film progresses from one thing to the next so quickly we never get the chance to really develop any sort of attachment to ANY character.  Even Jupiter’s backstory feels so rushed and insignificant that it’s hard to sympathize with her plight in any way.  While there are many grand declarations of futuristic technologies and processes interspersed with brief explanations of the history of the universe and the aliens Jupiter encounters, it is almost all lost amongst the flashy miasma of the action sequences which tend to flow from one to the next allowing for little time to understand what you’re witnessing.  On top of that, little explanation is given as to how these advanced human races have managed to maintain control over vast quantities of our own solar system without ever being noticed.  The only reason we are given is some sort of Men in Black rip off where Caine tells Jupiter that they erase people’s memories when they witness something they’re not supposed to.  That’s pretty flimsy when you see the scale of destruction left by many of the events in the movie.
While I totally appreciate a female lead in a genre which predominately sees male protagonists, I feel that Mila Kunis was a poor choice.  She has reached a level of notoriety that makes it hard for you to see her as this poor daughter of a Russian immigrant who works as a cleaning lady.  She doesn’t fit that role and when combined with Channing Tatum who is also a recognizable figure, the film lost much of its believability, something that is CRUCIAL for a good sci-fi film. 
Overall, I would have loved more backstory.  The story of the alien “humans” who are simply a more advanced version of our own species I found very intriguing and in my opinion would have made a far more interesting story than the one we got.   In the end, the effects were dazzling and the action sequences top notch (despite being a little too chaotic).  Fans of Divergent or Hunger Games will probably love the movie.  Fans of Cloud Atlas or Moon will not.  You get my point.