Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Songs from Today's Commute

1. 100% - Sonic Youth
2. Regular - Idiot Genes
3. Black Sap Scriptures - Plague Vendor
5. Paranoid - Black Sabbath

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cult Classics - Meatballs is a Feel Good Summer Film for All

Considering today is the last day of school, it seems like a good opportunity for another Cult Classic, a timeless summer camp film which is a perfect way to get excited for the school vacation ahead.  Released in 1979, Meatballs was the first starring role for comedian Bill Murray.  Focusing on the quiet, introverted Rudy Gerner, away from home at sleep away camp for the first time, the film is part coming of age tale, part raunchy teen comedy, and part feel good family blockbuster.  Murray plays head counselor Tripper Harrison, in charge of the camps CIT’s (counselors in training) a group of elder teens which help lead activities and run the assorted bunk houses.  Tripper takes an interest in young Rudy and takes him under his wing for the duration of the summer.  The two go on long runs together and discuss life over games of poker.  The summer is filled with first loves, competition with neighboring camp Mohawk, and many pranks on camp director Morty Melnick.  There are WAY too many jokes and one-liners to list but suffice it to say that the entire movie is quotable.  From the CIT theme song to Murray’s constant sarcastic remarks both directly to campers and counselors and also over the camp loud speaker, the film is laugh out loud funny from start to finish.  In the end, the message is simple: be yourself, laugh often, and always remember to have a good time because when you take a step back and look at whatever problems you have, in the grand scheme of things….it just doesn’t matter. 

The Monuments Men - Good Film, Not Quite Serious Enough

The Monuments Men was an exciting and comical adventure which was only loosely based on the popular novel of the same name.  Written and directed by George Clooney, the film has an all-star cast including Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett.  The story begins with Frank Stokes (Clooney) convincing the Allied generals that saving Europe’s classic works of art is vital.  He believes that an Allied victory will be meaningless if the great works of the Renaissance masters are lost forever, either damaged, destroyed, or stolen.  Stokes is allowed to assemble a team of experts, historians, and artists to try and infiltrate enemy territory and recover the missing masterpieces.  Working with a Parisian curator named Claire Simone (Blanchett), James Granger (played by Matt Damon) attempts to get information about the missing pieces which are hastily being brought to Germany under the leadership of Nazi officer Viktor Stahl ahead of the advancing Allied armies.  The information is relayed to Stokes and the other members of his team who have split up and are scattered all across Europe attempting to retrieve priceless works such as Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.  With no military support, the story is uplifting as this hodgepodge group of underdog’s singlehandedly save the history of Western art from the destruction of World War II.   However, I felt that the tone set by the director was very reminiscent of Ocean’s 11, another Clooney/Damon collaboration.  The seriousness of the story was overshadowed by the comedic elements which I feel took away from the gravity of what the team was trying to accomplish.  While comedic relief was necessary, it seemed to go a little far making the movie feel more like a art heist comedy when I was expecting a war drama.  Still, the movie was entertaining and enjoyable to watch, especially when you consider that the events depicted actually took place.  In the end it was an interesting and untold chapter in the history of the Second World War which makes viewing the great works on display at museums like the Louvre all the more special.   

Today's Playlist

1. Footsteps - Eagulls
2. Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
3. Somebody to Love - Jefferson Airplane
4. Artificial Life - Operation Ivy
5. Out of Step - Minor Threat

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Exciting Summer Shows

I can't believe it but the Game of Thrones finale is this Sunday and that means that we will have to wait another year until more episodes.  But that doesn't mean there's nothing to watch.  This Summer promises to have some great new television series starting up about everything from angels, to vampires, to Victorian mysteries.  Some notable ones to check out include: Leftovers, an HBO show in which a huge section of the worlds population suddenly disappears and the rest of the planet is left to pick up the pieces and decide what happens next.  Penny Dreadful, a Showtime drama about Victorian England using fictional characters from the era such as Dorian Gray and Victor Frankenstein.  The Strain which premiers on FX, is based on the book series by Guillermo Del Toro about vampires and promises to be just as gory and realistic as the Walking Dead.  Other cable network shows include Dominion on SyFy which is based on the movie Legion and involves the disappearance of God and the subsequent battle between the angels Gabriel and Michael.  Finally, for those who are looking for less substance and more action and explosions, check out Last Ship on TNT.  Directed by action filmmaker Michael Bay, the show is about a battleship out at sea which receives information that 80% of the worlds population has died of a mysterious disease and it is up to the crew of the ship to find a cure.  All seem interesting and with such a wide variety, there's a little something for everyone.  Read the full Rolling Stone hot summer series list below.

New Summer Series

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eagulls Make Some Fantastic 80's English Post-Punk

Eagulls have put out the best British post-punk I’ve heard since Echo and the Bunnymen which is saying a lot considering the latter is considered one of the best bands to play the genre and the former just put out their debut less than a year ago.  The five piece rock band from Leeds, England released their debut eponymous album and its 10 tracks ooze with hardcore guitar riffs, exquisitely deep and haunting base lines and vocals which sound straight out of the 1980’s New Wave/Post-Punk English scene with an extra gritty sincerity all their own.  Lead in track “Nerve Endings” has singer George Mitchel melodically shrieking the chorus in a way that is reminiscent of Mark E. Smith with a hoarser, "punkier" squeal which reveals Eagulls history in the hardcore scene .  The following track "Hollow Visions" is a veritable punk explosion of energy.  Tracks like "Amber Veins" and "Fester/Blister" have great speed and 80's guitar riffs that recall early Joy Division with a faster, heavier tempo.  The group clearly has an ear for history while bringing their own style and feel to each and every song.  The tempo changes brought to the table by drummer Henry Ruddel are perfect and not only drive the songs forward but keep them interesting as the sound of each starts to blend slightly by the end of the album.  While almost all songs maintain the punk aesthetic like "Footsteps" which channels 70's bands like The Damned or closing track "Soulless Youth" (one of the best on the album) some like "Possessed" and "Tough Luck" are reminiscent of the more pop oriented 80's sound of bands like Gang of Four (also from Leeds) or The Cure while still maintaining that hardcore influence alongside drumming that sounds straight out of Mission of Burma's entire catalog.  The band, which formed in 2010 is setting itself up for a successful run.  Their live show is supposed to be out of this world and they're slated to play Great Scott in Allston two weeks from today.  I have tickets and am so excited to see these guys rip through some songs which you would swear were straight out of 1984.  If you grew up in the 80's or are a fan of underground music from the era, you will not be disappointed with this album.

Spike Jonze's "Her" Raises Many Ethical and Philosophical Questions

      From a sociological perspective, Her was very intriguing and raised a lot of ethical questions which were fun and interesting to ponder while watching.  That being said, the movie was not the romantic comedy the previews billed it to be.  
      Theodore Twombly is an introverted and quiet middle aged man going through a devastating divorce.  Ironically working at a company which writes personal love letters for people, Theodore goes through the motions of his average life wondering if this is it.  If he will ever feel the happiness he felt with his now ex-wife or if he is destined to only feel lesser versions of all the times he spent with her.  He has supportive friends and a comfortable life but what Theodore desperately wants is to love and to be loved once again.  
      No year is specified, but the “near future” the film takes place in shows a society not too far from our own.  Every single person has a small earpiece which they speak to constantly.  It reads them their email, gives them messages, and searches the web, anything you desire.  As such, humans have becoming increasingly disconnected from each other, similar to how many people in our society today claim that the smartphone and social media have destroyed personal human interaction.  This only compounds Theodore’s problems as he finds it increasingly difficult to meet someone meaningful.  That all changes with the invention of OS1, a personalized, artificially intelligent operating system available for purchase which promises to be anything you want it to be.  
      Theodore decides to give it a try and after booting it up and answering a few basic questions, Samantha is born.  Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Samantha instantly makes a connection with Theodore.  The two become fast friends as Theodore and Samantha have conversation after conversation with each other.  Constantly connected via his earpiece, Samantha is only a click away whenever Theodore wishes to talk to her and after a while, the viewer begins to feel as though she is a physical person that he’s speaking to on the phone.  She can even see and comment on the world around him via his “smartphone”, a tiny tablet which connects to his earpiece that Theodore carries around in his breast pocket.  
      Here’s where the movie starts to delve into some deep philosophical and ethical questions.  Samantha is, for all intents and purposes, a person.  She can think, learn, feel, make decisions, be angry, sad, happy, frustrated, depressed, you name it.  The two have many conversations about what she is.  Is she just a computer program or something more?  As the two fall in love, become intimate, and begin to pursue a more meaningful relationship these questions become all the more imperative and you quickly begin to realize that there is no direct answer.  Not only a commentary on love, Her is a commentary on life itself and what it truly means to BE alive.  
      Director Spike Jonze does a fabulous job at subtly dealing with these questions alongside some superb acting, particularly by Johansson.  At the end of the day however, the movie is an overall depressing story and one that leaves you with more questions than answers.  But in a way, that’s the point.  Does anyone really have a definitive answer to life or love?  No, just like Theodore, we simply have to dive in feet first and hope everything works out.

Songs from this Morning

1. Nerve Endings - Eagulls
2. Black Sap Scriptures - Plague Vendor
3. Hymn to the Pillory - Nothing
4. Eye of the Pearl - Quilt
5. Psychic Trauma - Cloud Nothings