Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Today's Playlist

1. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2. Money - Pink Floyd
3. Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
4. My Hero - Foo Fighters
5. My Own Worst Enemy - Lit

The Impossible Strikes an Emotional Chord

The Impossible was incredibly moving and brought me closer to tears than any movie has in a very long time.  Focusing on the incredible true story of a family on vacation at a resort in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake, the film was both visually striking and superbly portrayed by veteran actors Naomi Watts and Ewen McGregor.  Watts plays Maria Bennet who is separated with her eldest son Lucas from her husband Henry (played by McGregor) and her youngest two sons when the first wave slams into their resort one morning as the family is enjoying time by the pool.  The film successfully captures the horror of that initial moment when peace and serenity is shattered and chaos ensues.  After being swept away and horrendously injured in more ways than one, Maria and Lucas are faced with making their way to safety and attempting to make sense of what has just happened.  The film keeps you on the edge of your seat as you watch the different members of the family come so close to finding each other only to just miss each chance encounter.  For anyone who’s been on any sort of family tropical vacation, the movie really hits home.  It’s incredibly easy to superimpose yourself and your family over the Bennet's which makes the intense emotions conveyed all the more real.  In addition, the film really showcases the disaster in a way which I feel was both accurate and mind-blowing at the same time.  The gravity of the situation is incredibly apparent and makes the viewer feel as though they are another survivor being swept along with the family.  Overall, the film was simply fantastic and Watt’s Academy Award nomination was well deserved.

World War Z - A Pandemic of Epic Proportions

World War Z was a different and interesting take on the classic zombie apocalypse.  The film focuses less on the zombies individually and more on them as a unit which makes the movie feel more like it’s about a pandemic rather than the flesh eating undead.  Based on the movement and behavior of ants, the zombie hordes flow through cities and areas like a flood, at times moving in a very fluid like manner.  Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former UN employee who is tasked with finding the source of the disease and possible solutions after his family is rescued by helicopter from a building top in Newark, NJ.  Safely aboard a US aircraft carrier in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Gerry must come out of retirement and attempt to make sense of the world wide disaster in order to secure his families safety aboard the ship which consistently flies people off the deck and around the world to different refugee camps.  While the story line is pretty simple the film takes off from 0 to 60 in the first 10 minutes which is nice and makes the viewer feel as though they are one of the confused mass of people running blindly from something they know nothing about.  Pitt’s acting is great as usual and certain core zombie concepts are different such as the rate at which people change which is refreshing in a time when the zombie theme has been beaten to death (pun intended).  Even though the movie is about zombies, it still maintains a real sense of believability which is difficult with the zombie theme; and ends up having a solution which is creative and unique.  Packed with suspense, horror, and action the film has everything you want in a big budget blockbuster and successfully keeps you guessing as you root for Brad Pitt to save the day.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This Mornings Playlist

1. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
2. Basket Case - Green Day
3. School - Nirvana
4. That's When I Reach for My Revolver - Mission of Burma
5. Orange Crush - R.E.M.

The Emperor - A Compelling and Overlooked True Story

The Emperor was a wonderful story, albeit it one that has been largely overlooked.  Focusing on the immediate aftermath of WWII in Japan; the film centers on Brigadier General Bonner Fellers (played by Matthew Fox) who is tasked with determining whether Emperor Hirohito, seen as a god by the citizens of Japan, is guilty of war crimes.  Working under Supreme Allied Commander, General Douglas MacArthur (superbly portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones) Fellers must determine whether there is enough evidence to convict the Emperor and execute him along with the high ranking members of the military, or to exonerate him and let him maintain his throne.  Fellers position we learn is unique in that he has a romantic history with both Japan itself, and the daughter of one of Japans generals whom he met in college before the war.  Part love story, part historical epic, The Emperor is a film that was both inspiring and awe striking.  Scenes of cities decimated by fire bombing and a culture on the verge of collapse really send home the horrors of the Second World War.  Fellers decision is a heavy one.  If he convicts the Emperor as the government and citizens of America want, he risks starting a rebellion and the recommencement of hostilities in Japan.  However, if he forgives the Emperor he feels he is both letting down his country and potentially letting a criminal get away with murder.  As the mystery of both his personal story and that of post-war Japan unfolds, we get a rare glimpse at a compelling true story and one that has been largely left out of the public eye.

Cloud Nothings - Leaving the Past Behind

Cloud Nothings pack a serious punch.  Unlike anything I’ve heard in a while, this Cleveland, Ohio based indie-rock band delivered something completely new with their latest release Attack on Memory.  The title of the album is perfect seeing as the content is a complete departure from Cloud Nothings earlier more poppy-electronic sound.  The album is pure alt rock post-punk in all its glory.   Mixed by famed audio engineer Steve Albini whose resume spans three decades and includes work with bands such as Nirvana and the Pixies, the albums eight tracks are really close to perfection.  Don’t get me wrong, some songs feel a little forced like “Fall In” which sudden tempo changes feel a bit out of place.  But all are catchy, and make you want to crank the stereo up to 11 and shriek the lyrics.  Lead singer Dylan Baldi screams with passion on songs like “No Future/No Past” and has a voice that mirrors early Kurt Cobain or Greg Sage of the Wipers.  “Stay Useless” is probably the most radio friendly song of the bunch so it’s no wonder why it was picked out as one of Rolling Stone’s top songs of 2012.  Still, the band’s sound is ferocious with drumming that is supersonic in songs like “Wasted Days” (though the nearly nine minute run time is a little long winded).  While the lyrics are a little simple and overall pretty negative, they all get their message across: Cloud Nothings is a band that is leaving their past behind.  As Baldi screams in the heaviest track “No Sentiments”: “We’re over it now, and we were over it then”.  Who knows what these guys will produce in the future, but it’s certain to raise both eyebrows and energy levels.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Some Tracks from Today's Playlist

1. No Sentiments - Cloud Nothings
2. Everlasting Neverendless - Echo and the Bunnymen
3. Pinch Me - Barenaked Ladies
4. Every Morning - Sugar Ray
5. Baba O'Riley - The Who

Rolling Stone's Top 10 Covers of All Time

As I was perusing some old Rolling Stone articles I came across this one from a couple years back which I felt was a pretty good list.  The Top 10 includes Johnny Cash's cover of Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt" which honestly feels more like Cash wrote it himself after such a meaningful rendition (and incredible video).  The list also has two songs from Nirvana's MTV Unplugged session, The Beatles covering "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers (another cover which sounds more like an original) and Joe Cocker's memorable Woodstock performance of The Beatle's "With a Little Help from My Friends" which in many ways has become more iconic than the original.  Check out the list and see if you agree with their picks.  Which would you have chosen?

Top 10 Covers of All Time

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today's Playlist

1. Looking for a Fight - Bleached
2. Disappear - Army of Anyone
3. I've Had It - Black Flag
4. Rascal King - Mighty Mighty Bosstones
5. Somewhere Beyond the Sea - Frank Sinatra

The Master - Incredibly Believable Acting, Not So Incredible Story

The Master was a movie I expected SO much more out of.  While the acting was beyond incredible by leads Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, the story just didn’t line up with the caliber of the performances.  The plot centers around a disturbed World War II veteran (played by Phoenix) looking for a place in the world.  As time goes by he comes into contact, almost serendipitously, with a group of people and its charismatic leader Lancaster Dodd, simply called Master (played by Hoffman).  The two form an interesting bond and go on to develop an even stranger relationship over the course of their time together.  The group, which many in the film label as a cult, travels around the country preaching its strange views and beliefs led by both Master and his wife Peggy (played by Adams).  An interesting look at both post-traumatic stress and the inner psychological workings of a cult, the film feels at times more like a pseudo-documentary centered around real historical characters, which is only a further testament of the actors ability to embody their roles.  Still, the movie was just strange and left me wondering what the point of it all was.  There is no a-ha moment or big reveal; nor is there any direct meaning to the events that occur (at least that I could ascertain).  I would have liked them to develop the history of the characters further as I think it would have put a lot of the interactions (namely between Hoffman and Phoenix) into perspective.  Overall, this is definitely a thought provoking movie and one that requires your complete attention.  So don’t throw it in your DVD player before bed because I assure you, it will be difficult to make it through the full two hours and change.