Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Star Wars Episode VII Cast Announced!!!

FINALLY!  We can all breath a sigh of relief now that the cast of Star Wars Episode VII has been officially announced and all the heavy hitters from the original trilogy will most definitely be reprising their roles.  No more beating around the bush Harrison Ford!  Fans will get to see all their favorites.  Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia along with the towering Peter Mayhew as Solo's partner Chewbacca and the two lovable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 played by Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker.  In addition, the new cast has been announced and includes Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac who worked together on the critically acclaimed Inside Llewyn Davis last year, and CGI heavyweight Andy Serkis who rose to fame playing the roles of King Kong, Caesar in Planet of the Apes and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  To see the entire cast sitting together and going over scenes drives home the fact that this film is most definitely a reality.  With a slated release of December 2015 we still have plenty of time to speculate as to the events of the film but for now, knowing that fans will get to see their beloved characters return to a galaxy far far away after over 30 years is enough.  Read the Rolling Stone article below for a more complete list of actors and words from director J.J. Abrams.

Star Wars Episode VII Cast

Today's Playlist

1. Mystery Man - The Strypes
2. Make Myself True - Together Pangea
3. Hunger Stike - Temple of the Dog
4. Jealous Again - Black Flag
5. 1985 - Bowling For Soup

The Strypes Shove 60's Garage Rock in Your Face

The Strypes are bringing 60’s garage rock back into the mainstream in a charismatic and enthralling way,  combining elements of jazz, blues rock, and some minor undertones of the New York post-punk revival scene of the early 2000’s to create an original sound all their own.  The Ireland based four-piece recently released their debut album Snapshot on March 18th and the albums 12 songs are rock and roll at its grittiest, earliest, most gut punching best.  The bands mature sound is made all the more exceptional by the member’s respective ages.  None are out of their teens yet they sound like they’ve been a band for decades.  Lead singer Ross Farrelly’s howling snarl has the same earnestness as early Mick Jagger and the harmonica, brought to the table by both Farrelly and bass guitarist Pete O'Hanlon adds a bluesy southern feel which feels right at home with lead guitarist Josh McClorey’s classic riffs.  Touching on 50’s swing in tracks like “Mystery Man”, pure southern rock bliss on songs like “Blue Collar Jane”, and the folk rocky sound of “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” The Strypes display a wide and eclectic knowledge of the many forms of roots rock.  The band brings their youthful energy and power to every track which makes for enthusiastic performances and exuberant recordings.  Classic suits, leather jackets, and dark sunglasses give each band member that feeling of quintessential cool (despite somewhat ripping off Julian Casablancas) and make you do a double take as you wonder if it is 2014 or 1966.  I expect The Strypes to do many more great things and with so much time to go before they even finish puberty, I’m excited to see where the band takes things in the near future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

12 Years a Slave is a Masterful Portrayal of the Human Experience

To try and put the emotional response evoked from a film like 12 Years a Slave into words is impossible.  The film transcends modern cinema in a way I’ve never seen to the point of being an instant classic; and an adaptation which will go down as one of the absolute best in the history of film making.  The film takes its name and events from the journal of Solomon Northrup, published as his memoir in 1853.  It follows Solomon’s harrowing descent from New York high society where he lives in a comfortable and many would say luxurious home with his wife and two children, to the confines of American slavery in the deep South.  Swindled by two con men, Solomon is captured, imprisoned, and secretly smuggled to Georgia where he is sold into the darkest institution this country’s history has ever had to come to terms with.  Solomon spends the next 12 years biding his time and surviving as best he can.  During that time he lives on three different plantations under three very different masters which not only represents the varied opinions and personalities of the white men in control, but also the distinctly different experiences of the slaves in their possession.  Survival is not what Solomon wants though.  He famously says “I do not want to survive, I want to live”.  This statement is made all the more profound by the fact that Solomon was a free man.  He was not born into slavery, he did not escape its confines; he was born and lived as a free man before that freedom, which many human beings take for granted, was stripped from him in the most vile and aggressive way possible.  In this way, the film forces the viewer to reflect on not only their own freedom, but also the fact that for over 200 years we not only denied that right to fellow human beings but took it a savage step further.  The violence in the film is prevelant, aggressively accurate, and completely necessary.  The pain and suffering endured by not only Solomon but the many slaves he encounters during his time in captivity reveals the unrelenting brutality and systematic dehumanization of an entire group of people.  Trust and hope are the only two things Solomon has left and in the end, it will be a combination of the two that saves him.  The film unquestionably deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture and director Steve McQueen has no doubt created a masterpiece.  Superb acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fastbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt make the film an acting powerhouse.  In the end, the viewer is forced to contemplate the experience of all involved in the institution of slavery as you ponder how so many people could turn a blind eye to such insatiable human suffering.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Final Trailer of X-Men: Days of Future Past

The third and final trailer for the new Marvel movie "X-Men: Days of Future Past" has been released and gives us a few more glimpses of some of our favorite mutants joining forces once again to save the world.  The film promises to be a seamless melding of the X-Men in two different time periods as Wolverine travels back in time 50 years to save Magneto from his imprisonment beneath the Pentagon.  Watch the trailer and read about the film below.  In the meantime, check out X-Men: First Class or any of the X-Men trilogy to get yourself up to date with the genetically evolved super-humans.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Trailer

Today's Playlist

1. Hang Wire - Pixies
2. 60 Miles - Doctors and Lawyers
3. Expire - Screaming Females
4. Shut the Door - Fugazi
5. Stuart - The Dead Milkmen

Nirvana and Joan Jett Rock the Hall of Fame

      Last week was the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and boy was it one for the record books.  From a performance by the E Street Band with their previously inducted leader Bruce Springsteen, to the first live performance by Cat Stevens in decades, to all four original members of KISS putting aside their differences to stand on stage and accept their award together, it was one mind blowing moment after another.  Linda Ronstadt couldn't be there to accept her award but received a wonderful tribute by some of the biggest women in rock including Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow.  Hall and Oates joked about being the only duo accepted into the Rock Hall who are still friends before cutting their speech short because of lack of time.
      Of course the most anticipated moment of the night was the induction of Nirvana.  In their first year of eligibility, the punk rock founders of grunge came together with some amazingly talented women to play songs which they haven't performed in over 20 years, since the death of their legendary singer Kurt Cobain.  The performances were beyond spectacular and would  no doubt have made the voice of Generation X proud. Things started off with a remarkable performance of their most famous single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" fronted by the ever talented Joan Jett.  Her vocals were spot on and sounded so much like Cobain's snarling raspiness you would have thought it was the real thing with your eyes closed.  Dave Grohl looked right at home behind his kit, banging his head just as hard as the drums with Krist Noveselic leaning back and ripping his bass lines with the same ferocity as his 25 year old self.
      Next up was a fantastic rendition of "Lithium" by St. Vincent's Annie Clark who captured the hoarse screams of the songs chorus perfectly.  Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon came to the stage to perform the blistering b-side "Aneurysm" even falling to the ground at one point and shrieking into the mic with the same heartfelt sincerity as Cobain himself.  The performance closed with the In Utero classic "All Apologies" performed by Lorde, the only one of the women born after Cobain's suicide.  Noveselic put down the bass for the last song in favor of his latest intstrument of choice, the accordian and capped off an already phenominal performance.
      The three surviving members, Grohl, Noveselic, and guitarist Pat Smear then performed a secret show at a small club in New York to family and friends playing a full set of classic Nirvana tunes.  The band was joined again by Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, and other 90's stalwarts like Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis whose performance of the Bleach track "School" was sensational.
      Obviously I'm leaving out many more stupendous performances and OMG moments but you'll have to watch the broadcast of the show in May to see everything. For now, you can see the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" performance below.

Nirvana with Joan Jett "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Outkast's Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix

When I first heard there was a Jimi Hendrix bio pic in the works I was understandably skeptical.  Who could ever portray the guitar god in an accurate and successful manner?  Who would have the look, voice, and fingers to pull off an on screen rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" live?!  The answer presented itself in the form of Outkast's Andre 3000.  The singer turned actor spent months intensely preparing for a role which had to be done right.  Considering the legacy of the man himself, it would have to be exact and after watching the clips and seeing the pics, its obvious that Andre nailed it.  From his clothes, to his voice, to his mannerisms, the Outkast singer did a phenomenal job.  The film recently had its U.S. premier at SXSW and will no doubt be available soon to those who could not attend.  I'm anxious to watch the movie in its entirety and hope that it's just as spectacular as it looks.  Read this Rolling Stone article below about the film and others which premiered at SXSW.

Andre 3000 Plays Jimi Hendrix

Ender's Game - YA Adaptation of a Sci-Fi Classic

When my 9th grade English teacher decided to abandon the curriculum during our fourth term we were all a little skeptical.  Tossing aside Bram Stoker, she decided she’d rather read Orson Scott Card and thus we blasted off into space with the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game instead of trudging through nineteenth century Transylvania.  The book was INCREDIBLE.  Not only was the story captivating and intensely well written, but Card’s concept is strikingly original.  So naturally, when I heard the film was being made I was beyond ecstatic and my enthusiasm for the movie only grew when I heard the great Harrison Ford would be playing Colonel Graff.  After all was said and done however, the film turned out to be an attempted YA adaptation of what is truly a sci-fi classic which was a little disappointing.  The film focuses on Ender Wiggin, a young boy genius in the future who is selected to train with other young prodigies in an attempt to ready themselves for an attack on an alien race known as the Formics.  The aliens attacked earth 50 years earlier in an attempt to colonize the planet but were stopped by the great hero Mazer Rackham.  Now, decades later, it is up to these young children to stop the Formics once and for all.  Ender is consider by Graff and the other commanders to be the most likely to succeed at stopping the aliens and as he progresses through his training it becomes ever clearer than young Ender will be the one to save them all.  Starting off with the new “launchies” Ender is a natural from the very beginning.  He quickly ascends the ranks to join the Salamander Army, one of several teams who compete in zero gravity matches to practice strategy and leadership.  Ender sets himself apart from the older Salamanders rather quickly and soon is given his own team, the Dragon Army to command.  After continuing to excel, the moment of truth is upon them and Ender moves on to advanced battle simulations, the last phase of his training.  While the movie was great, it was nothing compared to the book.  Characters like Ender’s friends Bean and Petra have such minimal roles in the film after being pivotal in the book and much of the backstory is largely brushed over.  In the end, the movie was a successful adaptation albeit one that didn’t do justice to the novel.  Definitely watch the movie, and if you like it and are intrigued, READ THE BOOK!  It will not disappoint, and with ten other books in the series you’ll get to see a lot more.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cult Classics - Dazed and Confused, the Perfect Summer Film

This has seemed like the longest winter in recent memory but good weather this week is certainly a sign that spring and summer are nearly upon us.  For students, the warmer weather also means that summer vacation is inching ever closer and so I thought that it was an appropriate time for my next Cult Classic, a movie that defines the end of school and the start of summer.  Dazed and Confused came out in 1993, but the movie is so accurate that you would think it was truly filmed in 1976.  The film centers on several groups of friends as they try and navigate the often brutal, confusing, and insane universe that is adolescence.  Mitch, the young na├»ve freshman, is caught between two worlds.  He and his friends must evade the seniors at all costs as the annual tradition of spanking the new freshman on the last day of school with homemade paddle boards is alive and well.  After getting cornered at the end of baseball practice and having his rear end mercilessly slapped, young Mitch is taken under the wing of coolest of the cool seniors, quarterback Randall “Pink” Floyd who invites him out for the first night of summer to partake in some serious shenanigans.  Remember, this is 1976 so it’s not just the young boys who must deal with the ever present threat of hazing.  The popular girls led by a young Parker Posey do all manner of humiliating things to the incoming freshman tweens before inviting them out as well, having been officially accepted into their clique.  All high school stereotypes are well represented from the uncool kids who stay in and play cards on the weekends to the stoner, party types whose only focus is keeping the party going.  Crazy cool muscle cars and a soundtrack which is unparalleled including tacks by War, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Sweet, and many others bring even more to this already exceptionally well done film.  The movie also acted as a launching point for some Hollywood heavyweights including Oscar winners Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey whose character Wooderson has become a cultural icon that McConaughey continues to embrace, even ending his Oscar winning acceptance speech with Wooderson’s classic line “Alright, alright, alright”.  The film is one unforgettable quote after another and is a perfect way to get excited for the warm weather to come.  So throw on some Aerosmith, roll down your windows and go for a cruise straight back to the summer of ’76.     

Songs from this Morning

1. Million Years - Nico Vego
2. Popular - Nada Surf
3. Junk Cruzn - King Cop
4. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
5. Sticken - No Doubt
6. Supervixen - Garbage
7. Sirens - Pearl Jam
8. Fun - Speedy Ortiz
9. No Ground - No Age
10. Different Days - The Men

TD Garden to Host Two Incredible Classic Bands

There is certainly no shortage of amazing live music to see in Boston on any given day and this summer is going to be no exception.  Besides mainstays like Boston Calling Music Festival and Radio 92.9's annual Earthfest (which is free in case you didn't know) the Boston TD Garden will play host to two huge stadium rock bands this year and both promise to be unforgettable.  Queen with Adam Lambert has announced a full North American tour after the success of their shows last year and are slated to play the Garden on July 22.  Brian May has said that this is the closest anyone will get to seeing Queen as they were in their hey-day with their undeniably incredible front man Freddie Mercury.  His large shoes have been masterfully filled by Lambert who, while focused on his own projects, is having an amazing time touring with Queen and brings the same flair, enthusiasm, and vocals to classic songs like "Don't Stop Me Now", "Bicycle", and of course "Bohemian Rhapsody".  As if that wasn't good enough, the TD Garden will also host Fleetwood Mac on October 10th and with the recent announcement of the return of Christie McVie, the band will see it's Rumours lineup together again for the first time in nearly 20 years.  McVie has fully committed to the tour and the potential for a new album which means longtime fans would not only get to see classics like "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams" but also new tracks from a band that has spanned nearly five decades.  So don't miss out!  And be sure to stay up to date with the rest of the Boston music scene because it continues to provide some of the best shows in the Northeast.