Wednesday, March 26, 2014

American Hustle - Was it True or Not?!

After all the hype surrounding the Oscar nominated American Hustle I was surprised to find that the film was an overly convoluted and confusing crime thriller with a comedic edge that, while entertaining, left much to be desired.  The film focuses on small time con man Irving Rosenfeld, superbly portrayed by Christian Bale and his accomplice/love interest/mistress Sydney Prosser, also wonderfully played by Amy Adams.  The two are unstoppable and feel like they could do anything and con anyone, until they get caught in a sting operation by up and coming FBI agent Richie DiMaso played by Bradley Cooper.  In an attempt to escape prosecution, the two agree to help DiMaso try and bring down Mayor Camine Polito played by Jeremy Renner.  Along the way, DiMaso gets too power hungry and begins to break the rules established by Irving and Sydney and ends up getting them dragged into the deep underworld of corrupt politicians and deadly mob bosses.  The movie is stacked with big Hollywood names such as Louis C.K. who plays the FBI agent in charge of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence who plays Irving’s immature, wild, and dangerous wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld.  While the film is a brilliant portrayal of the glitz and glamor of the 1970’s, the story was difficult to grasp and didn’t have the sophistication of other great crime thrillers.  It felt like the movie couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be.  Part comedy, part love story, part drama, part thriller, the list goes on and on and made the film feel like a splattering of different genres as opposed to a seamless melding of two or three.  The only relatable character is Irving who you can tell is a good guy but a criminal at heart and desperately just wants to be happy.  While the ending was surprising, it didn’t give me the wow factor I was hoping for after sitting through the 2 hour long movie.  In addition, the film opens with the strange statement of “Some of this is true” which I thought would be clarified at the end but wasn’t which left me with more questions than I knew what to do with.  All in all, after seeing the film it’s no surprise it went home empty handed at the Academy Awards.

Thor: The Dark World - A Decent Yet Disappointing Sequel

When it comes to super hero movie sequels, it’s often difficult to get it right.  When they’re bad they’re awful, and when they’re good they’re fantastic.  Thor: The Dark World amazingly manages to fall right between the two.  The movie picks up two years after the first film left off, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) imprisoned in the dungeons of Asgard and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)  fighting to regain control of the nine realms whilst gaining further admiration from his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and preparing to take the throne.  Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is left on Earth trying to pick up the pieces of her life while endlessly searching for Thor and hoping that one day he will return.  Her search brings her to an abandoned building where portals in time and space allow for objects or people to move between realms.  After getting sucked in to one of the portals, Jane finds herself face to face with the ancient artifact Aether which was created thousands of years ago by the dark elf Malekith in an attempt to take over the nine realms.  Once the Aether has attached itself to its new host Jane, Malekith awakens and returns to defeat Asgard and bring destruction to the Universe.  While the movie was as entertaining and action filled as you would hope any super hero movie would be, the plot didn’t feel as cohesive as the first film and Natalie Portman’s character was largely useless apart from being the vessel for the Aether.  Her sidekick Darcy and colleague Erik are even more useless, showing up at random times to make some sort of comment for comedic relief.  The movie does see Thor asking for the assistance of Loki which is fun to see as the brothers execute an elaborate and tricky plan to try and stop Malekith.  Overall, the film felt forced and didn’t feel like a natural progression from the first movie.  A small Captain America cameo was appreciated and reminded us that the Avengers were and are still around, despite working on separate projects at the moment.  At the end of the day, if you’re a big Thor fan than the film will not disappoint because the hammer wielding brute is his same old heroic self.  But for someone looking for some substance, Thor: The Dark World shouldn’t be at the top of your list.

Songs from Today's Commute

1. Gotta Get Away - The Offspring
2. Clint Eastwood - Gorrilaz
3. Minnow and the Trout - A Fine Frenzy
4. Same Old Song and Dance - Aerosmith
5. Money - Pink Floyd

New Artists to Watch

Billy Corgan recently announced that 2014 will see not one but two new Smashing Pumpkins albums giving long time fans something to look forward to.  But as cool as it is when long time bands release new material it's just as exhilerating, maybe even more so, when new artists burst onto the music scene and deliver gut punching, heart wrenching, and awe inspiring debut releases.  Rolling Stone has compiled a list of 10 new artists to keep your eye on and all of them are poised to do great things.  From the Arcade Fire, folk rock sound of KONGOS to the smooth Brit Pop of 23 year old John Newman, the alt-rock fuzzy sound of Nothing or the carefree summer jams of Thumpers, there's new music for all tastes.  Check out the list below and listen to some tracks from their new releases.

Great New Artists

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HUNTERS - Heavy Post-Punk With an Incredible Stage Presence

HUNTERS is making some incredible rock and roll and doing it with a strong DIY aesthetic that only adds to their success in the underground.  Their debut eponymous album released at the end of 2013 is a raw explosion of punk rock charged music that is both lyrically and musically diverse in its apparent simplicity.  Lead track “Narcissist” opens with a steady guitar riff that gets your head moving right away.  “Street Trash” has a hauntingly heavy bass line interspersed with fuzzed out guitars and a conflicting yet intriguing chorus of “I know what you want, I don’t know”.   Tracks like “She’s So” , “Undone” and “Wonder” have a slower tone with a loud/quiet/loud structure that makes them impossible not to scream/sing/scream the lyrics.  One of the heaviest tracks on the album “Seizure” has a crowd pleasing chorus of “HEY!” which makes it a classic sing-a-long with an amazing 60’s style guitar solo at 2:20 which incorporates some heavy post-punk style percussion.  HUNTERS is just the latest band to emerge from the superb Brooklyn scene which has produced other current post-punk heavyweights like The Men and Parquet Courts.  Lead singer Izzy Almeida sings back and forth with lead guitarist Derek Watson in a way that compliments each other while still allowing the focus to be on the music which is HUNTERS strong point no question.  While nothing revolutionary is going on here, the band has managed to craft a catchy sound and has become renowned in the underground for intense performances which should not be missed.  With Izzy contorting her body and writhing around on stage, all tangled up in the mic chord while still screaming her lyrics, and Derek often dropping to the ground while still shredding next to his amp to give the song that Nirvana style squeal, it’s easy to overlook the other two members of the band who quietly stand in the back and drive the music steadily forward.  I’m excited to hear HUNTERS future releases to see if they manage to break free of their relatively simple (yet powerful) song structure and produce a sophomoric effort that lives up to their talents and better incorporates the energy and intensity of their live performances.

Playlist for Today

1. Alligator - Winter
2. Institution - Courters
3. I Wanna Be Your Dog - The Stooges
4. What's Golden - Jurassic 5
5. Right Home - The Julie Ruin
6. Left and Right in the Dark - Julian Casablancas
7. Chihuly - Lemuria
8. Over My Head - Lit
9. South Side - Moby ft. Gwen Stefani
10. Summer of 69 - MXPX

Numbered is Emotionally Charged, Life Affirming and Inspirational

Numbered like all Holocaust documentaries is an incredibly moving story of survival, but at its core is a life affirming tale of perseverance and happiness.  The short, 55 minute story, centers on survivors of Auschwitz who were each tattooed with a unique identification number upon entering the camp.  Over 70 years later, each survivor has a unique take on their experience and their number.  One woman who loves shopping has never denied herself anything she wants after having everything taken from her including her family.  There’s a man who always has a smile on his face and laughs at the thought of death who says that life is a onetime gift and should be celebrated always.  There’s the story of two sisters with sequential numbers who always stuck together and made it through their time in Auschwitz by constantly having each other’s back.  Each story is different but one thing is the same, every person knows their number by heart.  It is a part of them just like anything else and they see it now as a badge to be worn proudly.  It acts as a constant reminder of the horrible acts humans are capable of committing.  Each survivor has come to see their number as something not to be ashamed of but talked about.  They often welcome questions as it helps future generations understand and remember the horrors of the Holocaust.  This is carried on by two people, a woman who gets her father’s number tattooed on her to not only remember him but to remember everyone who was lost and a grandson who tattoos his grandfather’s number on his arm to honor him and the millions who never made it this far.  Overall, the film is a celebration of life and the happiness one can achieve despite the constant reminder of a time when they were treated as nothing more than a number.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

YA Books Take Over the Cinema

From Twilight, to the Hunger Games, to the Mortal Instruments, YA film adaptations have taken over today's cinema.  Some are more successful than others and everyone has their own opinion on which is best.  Rolling Stone recently published a brief history of these films culminating with the one that started them all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, released in 2001.  Have you seen or read them all?  Read the list below.

YA Books Made Into Movies

This Morning's Playlist

1. Hazardville - Potty Mouth
2. Promises - Fugazi
3. Unwanted Place - Swearin'
4. Fell it All Around - Washed Out
5. Architects Sleep - The Evens
6. Feather Pluckin - The Presidents of the United States of America
7. We Got the Neutron Bomb - The Weirdos
8. Control - Broken Bells
9. Same Old Thing - Black Keys
10. I Feel Fine - The Beatles

Wes Anderson - A Cinematic Genius

For anyone who hasn't watched a Wes Anderson film, its almost impossible to describe his highly artistic, extraordinarily detailed, character driven stories in a way that would do them a shred of justice.  The 44 year old director has never settled or compromised and has thus maintained a certain artistic distinction which is rare in cinema today.  His smaller, lesser known films like 1998's Rushmore or 1996's Bottle Rocket (based off a short he had done previously) are just as magical, dry, witty, and sophisticated has his more mainstream hits like 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums, most definitely the directors masterpiece.  He also isn't afraid to take risks either, delving into the world of both animation and children's movies with 2009's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a stop action animation staring George Clooney as an aloof fox trying to keep his family safe in a sort of "Wind in the Willows" style tale involving a badger, a rat, and a weasel just to name a few.  Anderson has been back in the spotlight the last few years releasing the acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 and now with his brand new film The Grand Budapest Hotel released just last week.  Always working with the same actors like Bill Murray, Owen and Luke Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and most recently Adrien Brody, and Ed Norton, each film feels like just another chapter in a whimsical anthology plucked from the directors distinct imagination.  Creative cinematic techniques and a wonderful sense of humor only add to the directors long list of successes.  I've seen all his films and am greatly looking forward to seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I will surely do a review of it, which will undoubtedly be positive, but until then check out some of his previous films, like The Darjeeling Limited, a highly underrated story about three brothers on a train trip through India searching for their estranged mother.  If you can appreciate film making as an art form then I assure you, you won't be disappointed.

We Have Video Games!

You may not know, but the Duxbury Free Library has video games available in the children's room!  With over 30 Wii and Xbox 360 games there is sure to be something for everyone.  From the experienced gamer looking for a challenge with a game like Portal 2, to a family looking for a fun Friday night with Wii Carnival or maybe Mom and Dad looking to revisit their childhood with Super Mario Bros., the library has you covered.  Next generation systems are also entering the mix now and the library is staying up to date.  New Xbox One and WII:U titles are added every month like the reissue of the popular Gamecube title The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker now in HD.  So try before you buy!  Nothing is worse than spending $50 on a game that no one likes.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MINOR ALPS - 90's Collaboration Release "Get There"

MINOR ALPS released their debut album Get There at the end of 2013 and the records 11 tracks are alternative, indie pop music at its best.  The two piece collaboration is made up of two 90’s stalwarts, Juliana Hatfield formerly of indie rock band Blake Babies and Matthew Caws, former singer/guitarist for indie rock band Nada Surf.  Their acoustic based, melodic style of pop rock has something for everyone and interestingly has both Hatfield and Caws singing together in harmony on almost every track.  The result is an elegant and graceful sound with carries you from each song to the next.  “If I Wanted Trouble” is a catchy indie track about someone who has always played it safe with a chorus of “If I wanted trouble, I could find it”.  Another gem is electric guitar driven “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Hands” which has a powerfully simple drum beat which drives the song through a person’s inability to make any decisions about their life.  The Broken Bells sounding “Wish You Were Upstairs” is a nice pop song about being lost in life and love.  The haunting “Radio Static” is an acoustic ballad which follows the albums biggest surprise, the track “Mixed Feelings” a heavy, punk rock driven song with hardcore style power chords, intense rock and roll drumming, and fast paced new wave vocals which shocks you awake.  The soft rock ballads “Lonely Low” and “Waiting for You” are great 90’s indie throwbacks with the same soft, harmonized vocals as the rest of the tracks and bring you back to the sound of the first half of the album.  It’s a shame that the collaboration is most likely a onetime deal which will not see the two touring as MINOR ALPS.  But maybe a future release is in the works, we’ll just have to wait and hope because the tracks on Get There are all nearly perfect.