Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Best Albums of 2015!!!

In a ritual as old as time (or at least as old as Neanderthals playing rudimentary bone flutes) it is time once again for a year end list.  It's almost a requirement, as if necessary to prove you've been listening all year.  Everyone's list is different, and if you read my list from last year you'll know that my picks certainly fall into a certain category/niche.  But nevertheless, here are the albums I thought were the best this year and deserve your attention.  Some above ground, some underground, and some in between (in no particular order).

1. No Cities to Love - Sleater Kinney
      -It's been 10 years since Washington based 90's riot grrrl powerhouse Sleater Kinney released an album but the trio came through in 2015 with a new full length which is just as relevant and raw as any of their previous releases.  Seeing them live was one of my best shows of 2015.

2. The Race for Space - Public Service Broadcasting
      -Definitely the outlier on my list, this ambitious indie electronic album was unlike anything I've ever heard.  Using actual audio recordings from both the the US and Russian space programs of the 1960's, the band captures both the era itself and a unique sound all their own.  It's hypnotic.

3. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit - Courtney Barnett
      -Universally hailed by fans and critics alike, Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett released what many are calling the best alternative rock record of the year (maybe even the decade).  Her intricately crafted lyrics reflect the angst and disillusion of the millennial generation better than most this year.  The album is both complex and accessible at the same time making it a top pick for most who hear it.

4. First Demo - G.L.O.S.S.
      -Transgender punk band G.L.O.S.S. from Olympia, WA put out one of the most important hardcore releases of the year (maybe THE most important).  The albums lyrics are confrontational, brutally honest, and frighteningly important at a time when LGBTQ and Trans rights are at the forefront of the modern progressive movement.  Despite all the progress, their songs remind us that we still have a long way to go.  Definitely the most goose bump inducing release of the year in my opinion.

5. Predatory Highlights - Tenement
      -Wisconsin based punk band Tenement has been around for 10 years now but this year saw the release of their most formidable album yet.  The records 25 tracks spread across a double LP jump between hardcore thrashers, post punk compositions, and poppy lullaby rock.  It's as sonically diverse as it is powerful and has been compared to such iconic double albums as Husker Du's Zen Arcade and The Minutemen's Double Nickles on the Dime for it's complex style and original structure.  It's an album for the history books, no question.

6. A Distant Fist Unclenching - Krill
      -As the band sings on the first track from their second album "Krill, Krill, Krill forever".  Unfortunately, that dream came to an end this year as the beloved Boston trio called it quits after 5 incredible years.  But that didn't stop them from putting out their best album to date.  After garnering extensive praise from both underground and mainstream critics alike, the band packed things in just weeks after the albums release.  Listen and be jealous you weren't along for the ride.

7. Time to Go Home - Chastity Belt
      -Chastity Belt's second full length is light years ahead of their first album.  While the bands initial recordings suited the party rock, collegiate comedy punk they were going for at the time, the quartet got serious in 2015 and put out a decidedly modern, stringently feminist piece of ethereal, rain drenched pop rock.

8. Full Communism - Downtown Boys
      -Besides the G.L.O.S.S. demo, the other cataclysmic punk release of the year was Downtown Boys debut full length.  As the title suggests, the album is staunchly political and confrontational in the best way possible.  Lead singer Victoria Ruiz is in your face with every word as she stares down the gaze of the straight white male and declares this the time of the disenfranchised, of the people of color, and of the middle class.  Like a jazz fueled battle cry this album is certain to be looked back on as an historic precedent.  It reminds us all of what punk can do.

9. Rose Mountain - Screaming Females
      -Screaming Females are probably my favorite band playing music today.  When lead singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster became ill at the end of last year, fans waited anxiously to see the band return to their former selves.  At times, it seemed as though it might be the end of the furious DIY basement trio.  But the band stayed true to their name and came screeching into 2015 with one of their best records to date.  The songs take on new lyrical depth without sacrificing an ounce of their signature shredding guitar solos and weighty bass fills.  The album is highly confessional and paints a picture of the uncertainty the band dealt with looking towards the future.

10. Women's Rights - Childbirth
      -Childbirth's first release It's a Girl made the honorable mention section on my year end list last year and their follow up in 2015 sees the band honing their style and developing beyond the side project they started out as.  The members are all actively involved in other fabulous Seattle bands including Chastity Belt, Pony Time and Tacocat but that doesn't slow them down.  Each song oozes feminine power and dictates Childbirths view of the modern world while not losing their lighthearted, catchy rhythms.  While not as stripped down as their first release, the album is just as raw and intense as anything that came out this year.

Honorable Mentions

Sun Coming Down - Ought
      -Ought's first album More Than Any Other Day made my list last year so their follow up full length was naturally on my radar in 2015.  I picked it up from the band when they came through town this year and played at Great Scott where their post punk fury translated even better in a live setting.  The new record doesn't see too much musical growth but that's OK.  The bands blend of poetic lyrics, wiry sporadic guitars, and complex song structure create the perfect rock cocktail.  Why fix it if it ain't broke.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy - Titus Andronicus
      -Anytime someone puts out a record about their mental health and extreme anxiety, you have to question the sincerity.  Don't we all get a little depressed and anxious at times?  But lead singer Patrick Stickles truly is about as mentally unstable as they come.  The result is an album which comes straight from the heart and is a powerful confession from one man to the world.  Having been around for 10 years, the bands latest is their most ambitious to date.

Feels Like - Bully
       -The alternative rock world fell in love with Bully this year.  This young band, still in it's infancy, released a harsh, earnest album which recalls the best elements of 90's indie rock.  While many bands seem to want to skirt the "90's revival" tag that gets thrown around a lot these days, Bully seem to embrace it.  Their songs are hard enough to head bang to and poppy enough to keep fans of lighter fare bobbing along as well.  Critics will no doubt be anxiously awaiting their sophomore effort so jump on their debut train while it's caboose is still at the station.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Testament of Youth Was Brilliant

I’m a self-proclaimed HUGE fan of period dramas.  Being a total history nerd, I love immersing myself in a well filmed, well-acted, well written historical drama and 2014’s Testament of Youth was just that.  Based on Vera Brittain’s memoir of the First World War; the film stars Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina, Ex-Machina) as Vera and Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) as her fiancée Roland.  Focusing less on the battles and violence and more on the emotional weight of the conflict, the film manages to instill the fear of the unknown in the viewer as the men and women at home in England wait with bated breath for news of their loved ones.  Vera’s fiancée, brother, and childhood friends are all sent off to the front which inspires her to abandon her long sought enrollment at Oxford to become a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Front.  As she spends time waiting for news of her loved ones Vera helps to heal both allied and German soldiers.  This humanizes the conflict and shows how the Great War was not just a war between countries but a war humanity faced against itself.  Testament of Youth shows how close we came to the brink of destruction and how despite all the tragedy and suffering endured by those who were there, we still managed to emerge on the other side with hope for the future.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mr. Holmes Was a Triumph

                Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character that the role is a difficult challenge to take on.  Add variables like retirement, extreme old age, and the onset of dementia, and the detective’s dry wit and immeasurable powers of observation become even harder to get across.  However, Sir Ian McKellen manages to embody the character; simultaneously capturing his youthful abilities while keeping things in perspective.  Mr. Holmes provides a glimpse into the future of a character that the world has come to recognize as the definitive sleuth. 
                It’s 1947 and Sherlock Holmes, now in his mind 90’s, is living a quiet life having retired from Baker Street after a final devastating case.  His old partner Watson, who has since passed away, wrote of his adventures with Sherlock and despite his personal experience embellished the tales to a great extent.  As a result, Holmes begins to try desperately to fend off his increasing memory loss long enough to recall the true story of his last case so he can remember why it was he left his beloved profession behind.  Flashbacks to 1912 provide glimpses into the reality of that case in which Holmes was hired by a husband to find out why his wife had changed so much since her second miscarriage.  These brief snapshots put the viewer in the old man’s shoes as he frustratingly attempts to piece together the story.  In the present, Holmes befriends his housekeeper’s son Roger and the two form an unlikely bond as Roger’s curiosity intrigues Sherlock.  Roger’s inquisitive nature helps him start to remember the forgotten case as things slowly become clearer.
                The film was brilliantly emotional and just complex enough to provide an air of mystery.  This is a Sherlock Holmes story isn’t it!  Holmes’ relationship with Roger provides a lovely end to the detectives life and presents a perspective he’d often not considered: that love and the personal relationship we form are the most important element of a well lived life and are quite literally ALL that matter as we near the end.  As a result, Sherlock is humbled in his twilight hours and is able to reflect on not only his mysterious final case, but his life in its entirety.  After struggling for years with regret and guilt, the man is finally able to come to terms with his life and embrace however much of it is left with excitement and hope.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Terminator Genisys is a Successful Return to Form

What year is it?  Who’s aware of Skynet?  Is it still called Skynet?!  Just some of the questions that were flying through my head as I dove head first into the new Ahhnold action flick Terminator Genisys.  Initially I thought the film was going to be a straight remake.  The movie opens with John Connor leading a resistance army against the Skynet mainframe in an attempt to destroy to the sentient machines once and for all.  Having acknowledged its potential impending destruction, Skynet activates a time machine and sends a brand new T-800 (that’s young Arnold) back in time to murder Sarah Connor in an attempt to prevent the birth of John.  John’s right hand man Kyle Reese promptly volunteers to follow suit and protect Sarah.  This is essentially how the first Terminator film begins and as such I thought we were getting a remake. 
However, because there has been so much time traveling over the course of the franchise, the film took an interesting route. The space time continuum is so altered, that when Reese returns to the 1980’s to save Sarah she is already aware of Skynet and is waiting with an aging T-800 (current, post Governator Arnold) at her side as a reprogrammed bodyguard.  The three then have to decide how best to take out Skynet in the past (or the future?) whilst interpreting alternate time line visions in Reese’s dreams and running from a T-1000 (liquid metal baddie from T2).  More advance Terminator models later join the pursuit culminating in an interesting twist. 
Overall, I felt the film was very successful.  I was skeptical that Arnold was going to feel out of place and overly campy and yet he pulled off his role incredibly well.  Treating him as an aging T-800 was a brilliant ploy and fit nicely with the rest of the cast of characters.  Additionally, the film truly hearkened back to the originals which is something Terminator 3 and Terminator: Rise of the Machines failed to do. As such, those last two felt more like stand-alone films and less a continuation of the Terminator timeline.  Jai Courtney’s rendition of Kyle Reese was fine but took a back seat to Swartzenegger and Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor.  Clarke was a pleasant surprise as I felt her role as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones would be hard overlook despite her change in hair color.  But she was a totally believable Sarah Connor.  In the end, the film was a nice return to form and saw many aspects acting as homages to the original 1980’s classics.  While there are obvious questions, like why the machines would send back an easily destroyed T-800 to kill Connor when significantly more advanced units are available,  the film should be taken for what it is: an classic style action flick with Arnold Swartzenegger kicking ass and taking names…and some other stuff thrown in there too.  With an open ending courtesy of a surprise mid credit scene (wait for it!) it is safe to say that this franchise….will be back. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Today's Playlist

1. Womb Gold - Stickers
2. Born Good - IAN
3. It's Nice - Screaming Females
4. Don't Lose Touch - Against Me!
5. Before Your Time - INFJ
6. Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth - Teenage Cool Kids
7. Tech Bro - Childbirth
8. Rain - Ava Luna
9. The Funeral - Band of Horses
10. Ride Your Heart - Bleached

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

25 Best Horror Movies Since 2000

Horror has long been a genre that has captivated humankind.  We like to be scared, there's no way around it.  The rush, the jump, the hands over your eyes, the edge of your seat; all are sought after feelings which keep many people coming back for more.  If you're one of those people who doesn't like horror movies because they scare you then you are missing the point entirely.  That is what they are supposed to do! You wouldn't say, I don't like comedies because they make me laugh right?  At the end of the day, a horror movie that doesn't scare you or at least leave you feeling a little uneasy is a BAD HORROR MOVIE.  That being said, there have been quite a few INCREDIBLE horror films over the course of the last 15 years since we left the slasher flicks of the 80's and 90's behind in favor of more subtle, nuanced fright fests.  AV Club has compiled their picks for the 25 best horror films since the year 2000 and I have to say, the list is pretty great.  Many are foreign, because in case you didn't know, they are almost always better than American made horror as they rarely conform to the intense capitalist agenda that holds sway over everything in this country.  My point is their focus isn't as entirely set on making the next breakout hit.  From zombie sleeper hits like 28 Days Later and it's sequel to period pieces like The Others (Nicole Kidman's best film in my opinion) to monster movies like The Host the list is a comprehensive overview of the best of the best.  Yes, hits like SawInsidious, and Paranormal Activity are left off but that is purposeful.  The point is that while those films are great, there is gold out there beyond what Hollywood spends millions on to market.  So check out some of these sleeper hits and obscurities.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Best Horror Films Since 2000

Modern Horror Trends

As is the case with anything, movies are about making money.  As such, after the commercial success of one or two films that adhere to a certain genre, there is inevitably a trend which develops as Hollywood tries to cash in on whatever is popular.  As we approach Halloween this weekend it seemed only appropriate to have a couple horror themed posts the first of which is an article which I've linked to below from AV Club which details the extent to which horror trends are representative of not just the current generation, but of society as a whole.  The essay uses The Babadook and It Follows as examples of a current trend of horror in the 2010's.  One of hopelessness and a never ending sense of doom and dread.  It's an interesting read and gets you thinking about all the scary flicks from past and present that you'll no doubt be gorging on in the coming days.

New Age of Horror

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hoopla Has Novels Too!!

Beyond the outstanding catalog of music and movies on Hoopla, there is also an ever expanding catalog of books, audio books, and graphic novels.  For some suggestions of where to start, check out the DFL's book blog From Austen to Zusak!!!

From Austen to Zusak

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hoopla Highlights - Music

Hoopla is only 5 days away from launching here at the DFL and I’m already planning my first checkouts.  Last week I highlighted some of the great films Hoopla has in their ever expanding catalog and today, I’ll pick out five albums currently available in their massive music library.  While the albums I’ve chosen today are all new, one of the best aspects of Hoopla is their back catalog.  There are some truly unique, bizarre, and hard to find albums available on the streaming service and while the albums below are fantastic, definitely take advantage of the long list of older albums as they would be hard to find anywhere else.

Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey (2015)

The latest from moody, ethereal alterna-pop star Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon is a tad more uplifting than here previous efforts drawing influences from an eclectic range of genres including jazz and hip hop.  While coming under fire for some controversial comments about suicide earlier this year, the singer is no doubt a talented force in the diluted pop landscape of the 2010’s.

Dodge and Burn – The Dead Weather (2015)

Everyone has heard of Jack White, and the majority are familiar with his most successful foray into the world of rock music as half of the powerful duo The White Stipes in the early aughts.  Fewer people are familiar with some of his side projects, including the roots rock fueled Dead Weather whose third album Dodge and Burn was finally released this year.  White takes a back seat to the other three members and takes on multiple duties playing both guitar and drums as well as providing vocals on some tracks.  If you’ve ever questioned White’s musical flexibility and prowess, look no further than The Dead Weather.

23 Live Sex Acts – Against Me! (2015)

Against Me! is no doubt one of my favorite “modern” punk bands.  They’ve never sacrificed their genuine love and appreciation for the genre while still taking classic sounds and transforming them for a new generation of punks.  This album which compiles live tracks that span the bands career and were recorded at a variety of venues is a MUST LISTEN for fans of the band, or punk music in general.    After coming out as transgender, singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gable) defied the musical landscape of which she was a part and became a beacon of hope for women and LGBTQ supporters in a scene which has been largely unaccepting in the past.  In that way, she reminded us all of what the genre is really about.

1989 – Ryan Adams (2015)

Ryan Adams is certainly an anomaly.  Having performed songs which span a wide array of genres, the singer songwriter decided to descend into the world of pop music for his latest release.  The album is a track by track cover of Taylor Swifts critically acclaimed album “1989”, albeit with a much harsher tone.  The country fueled alternative rock interpretations of Swifts songs highlight almost every genre Adam’s has been associated with in the past and in that sense, covering Swifts songs seems almost too easy for the 40 year old rocker.  Released to widely positive reviews, this is an album for fans of so many kinds of music and may be just what Swift haters need to acknowledge the young songwriters talents.

Beyond the Pale – Jim Gaffigan (2006)

While not a music album, I felt it important to highlight Hoopla’s variety of comedy albums which are interfiled with their music selection.  Nearly a decade old, Jim Gaffigan’s Beyond the Pale was the comedians sixth to date and certainly one of his funniest.  In the dry, soft, often sarcastic tone which has come to define the comedian’s sets, Gaffigan offers insights into a wide array of topics including hot pockets, vegetarians, and heaven.  If you’re not familiar with him, this is a fantastic intro to his catalog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today's Playlist

1. My Mother Tells Me - Haybaby
2. Skin - Pinkwash
3. Rocket Man - Elton John
4. I Don't Care - Grave Ideas
5. Parenthetical Press Kit - ESH the Monolith
6. Rudderless - The Lemonheads
7. Green Eyes - Coldplay
8. Pop Punk Mutiny - Arm Candy
9. Better Bet - Gravel
10. Perfect Love - Radio Control

Hoopla Highlights - Movies

Hoopla is set to launch here at the DFL on October 19th!  There are SO MANY amazing films to see and with no holds or waiting, you can watch wherever you want, whenever you want.  Below is a small sampling of the large selection of movies in all genres that will be available to all DFL library card holders.  Next week I'll profile some of the incredible music selection available just before we go live.  Time to get excited!


Nominated for several Academy Awards, this incredible true story about a mothers half century long search for her adopted son will make you laugh and pull at your heartstrings all at once.  Judy Dench and Steve Coogan have a magical chemistry and provide us with a film that transcends the medium.

Django Unchained

This Quentin Tarantino directed “Western” stars Jamie Foxx as escaped slave Django who enters into an agreement with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz in an attempt to rescue his wife from the clutches of an evil slaveholder named Calvin Candie.  The supporting roles by Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio are stupendous and the films storyline is both unique, refreshing, and action packed.  Tatantino’s style is easily recognizable and makes the 2 hour+ timeline fly by.  You find yourself anxiously awaiting the next turn of events throughout each and every scene; truly a cinematic triumph.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The life of Nelson Mandela is a difficult one to portray.  His story was one marred by tragedy and wrongful persecution.  And yet his triumph is an uplifting ray of hope amidst so much suffering.  Idris Elba’s portrayal of the South African president before, during and after the horrors of apartheid is an incredible achievement.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

This heist movie gone rogue has achieved a level of cult success since its initial release in 1998 and has an intriguing and unqiue plot which keeps you guessing up until the very end.  While the sheer number of characters and complex storyline leave you confused at times, all is made clear by the films climax.  The movie feels like a dirty, British version of any number of more mainstream crime films albeit with a grittier aesthetic.  Jason Statham is in his element, long before he was the heartthrob with an accent in The Italian Job.

Return to the Wild

The story of Christopher McCandless is one of tragedy and inspiration.  It’s a tale of life itself and what it means to be alive.  This documentary film examines the popular book “Into the Wild” which tells the tale of the young McCandless’ trek into the Alaskan wilderness and subsequent death from starvation.  With new interviews, letters, and personal accounts, the film sheds new light on the life of a young man who in the words of Henry David Thoreau, just wanted trek into the woods and live deliberately.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mad Max Fury Road Was a Major Disappointment

Let me just say that if I ran Barter Town, I wouldn’t trade half a dirt clod for the abomination that is the Mad Max reboot Fury Road.  Before we break down all the things this movie did wrong, I just wanted to make that clear.  Let’s get the one positive thing straight up front; the movie’s effects were great and the post-apocalyptic vehicles they constructed were indeed, very cool and a great homage to 1981’s The Road Warrior.  But the nice comments stop there. 
The film was completely devoid of plot, dialogue, and subtext. It was essentially one, long (two hour!!) continuous car chase.  I wish that was an exaggeration.  Tom Hardy’s rendition of Mel Gibson’s titular character was appalling.  He came across more like an escaped, mumbling convict with brain damage than the heroic waste lander with a devastating past I was hoping for.  While his past is checkered as evidenced by random flashbacks he has of some traumatic experience and a girl whom we assume Max couldn’t save, the details end there.  We never get any background or context or explanation of what these visions represent. 
On top of that, Charlize Theron’s character has some sort of standing with the evil warlord who runs a solitary, desolate community by controlling the only water source for miles, but we don’t ever find out what their relationship is.  He allows her to drive his massive war vehicle full of water to trade for fuel and bullets (a very important duty) despite the fact that she has admittedly tried to defy him in the past.  On this particular run (the one which takes up the entirety of the film) she decides to attempt to rescue the young women who essentially serve as the warlords baby factories.  Upon the discovery of her treachery he sets out with all of his forces to safely apprehend his "wives" and kill Theron.  After initially being captured by the evil, mutated(?) army of the warlord, Max manages to break free during the beginnings of the chase and join up with Theron’s motley crew of blond, scantily clad escapees. Once the rulers of Bullet Town and Gas Town (two places we never get to see or learn about) realize their water has been high jacked, they also set out in pursuit of the war rig and now ladies and gentlemen the plot is set.  Explosions, screaming, shooting, and lots of fire are all that follows with a disappointing climax and even more far-fetched conclusion. 
What I’m saying is, and I can’t make this clear enough, don’t go in to this film thinking that it’s anything more than a glorified car chase.  Hardy Tom Hardy’s Mad Max has approximately 15 lines, most of which are grunted and mumbled in an indiscernible slurry that dribbles out of his always concerned looking visage beneath an annoying and permanently furrowed brow.  He is essentially a cave man!! 
If you were a fan of the original films which have since become cult classics and arguably made Mel Gibson’s early career and turned him into the 80’s action star he became, than you will be so incredibly disappointed with this film.  I was so excited when I heard of this movie last year and was anxiously awaiting a new chapter in the story of Mad Max but what I got was a ridiculously extended PORTION of a complete movie; a chunk of what could have been a well-developed, well-acted sci-fi powerhouse. Now I’m left wishing I could go back to the before time, to the long long ago when I hadn’t wasted two hours of my life watching this atrocious excuse of a reboot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Song's From This Morning

1. I Was a Teenage Anarchist - Against Me!
2. I Can't Keep the Tears from Falling - Nude Beach
3. Get Over It - OK Go
4. Creep - Radiohead
5. Mad World - Tears for Fears
6. If You Could Only See - Tonic
7. Pizza Day - Aquabats
8. Adam's Song - Blink 182
9. Nu Punk - Ovlov
10. Casper (1995) - Speedy Ortiz

Hoopla is Coming to the DFL!!!

So for those who don't know, there is a TON of music and movies right here for your listening and viewing pleasure at the Duxbury Free Library.  But is there some obscure band from the 80's we don't have?  Some classic flick which we don't stock?  Odds are that has it among its tens of thousands of titles which will soon be available to YOU courtesy of the DFL.  Hoopla is a service similar to Zinio or Freegal which libraries can subscribe to and it allows for a set number of checkouts each month per patron.  They have books, audiobooks, graphic novels, music, movies and TV shows.  Each month you'll be able to check out 6-8 of any or all of these digital items.  No waiting, no holds, no late fees.  When your time is up, the item gets automatically returned and at the end of the month your checkouts get reset so you can take out EVEN MORE.  You can watch, read, or listen on you computer, tablet, OR phone with an internet connection and you can even download the music/audio you rent (temporarily) so you can listen free of WiFi.  Stay tuned for more updates and look for Hoopla to be available to every DFL card holder sometime in October!  In the meantime, check out all the amazing titles they have to offer below and start planning your first checkouts today.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fall Movie Preview!!

      The Summer is such an awful time for movies.  With all the kids on Summer vacation, the warmest months of the year have historically been reserved for the big blockbusters which sacrifice filmography and subtlety for explosions and big budget, instantly forgettable garbage.  But the Fall is always the harbinger of good things to come as directors and producers look ahead to the Academy Awards in just a few shorts months.  Now is the time to head to the theater and this year has some truly exciting flicks to get in line for.  From Johnny Depp's portrayal of Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, to Ellen Page's powerful lesbian rights film Freeheld there is something for everyone and plenty in between.  I'm very excited to see Matt Damon in The Martian AND Hugh Jackman at the helm in the new Neverland film Pan.  Of course there is yet another Steve Jobs biopic coming out, this time with Michael Fassbender in the titular role and Tom Hanks is back on the big screen in a spy thriller that looks A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Last but not least, let us not forget that STAR WARS comes out in December!!!!  So excited. PLUS new James Bond AND new Hunger Games?!  What isn't coming out this season?!  Check out Rolling Stone's list below and read about all these films and MORE as we all get excited to overpay for popcorn and sit next to a bunch of people we don't know just to say we saw it first.

RS Fall Movie Preview!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ted and I are BACK with another episode of our podcast where we discuss the movies and music we experienced over the summer.  Films we loved (Ex-Machina, Kingsman), films we hated (Jupiter Ascending, Mission Impossible 4) and music we saw live (Pile, Tim McGraw, J. Cole).  We also talk about music festivals and rumors of a new Northeast festival in talks for next year PLUS what we're looking forward to in the coming months (Ted's going to see Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky!).  Keep an eye out for more in the coming weeks and check out this episode below!

Music and Movies with Mike and Ted - What We Did Over the Summer

Friday, September 4, 2015

Songs From This Morning

1. TV - Colleen Green
2. Listed MIA - Rancid
3. Over the Hills and Far Away - Led Zeppelin
4. Hey Baby - No Doubt
5. M&M's - Blink 182
6. Running with the Devil - Van Halen
7. Rock and Roll Community College - Ben Katzman's Degreaser
8. Who's Gonna Be My Babe? - Free Pizza
9. Jungle Love - Ex Breathers
10. Sangwich - Gnarwhal

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Colleen Green Just Get's It...And You Should Listen

Some people may say my tastes are limited; that I only review rock and alternative bands (and the like).  However, in today’s music landscape it’s near impossible to find decent rock and roll and thus I feel it is my responsibility to share my findings.  Namely, bands and artists writing and performing KILLER rock music and not getting the attention they deserve.  This is a perfect way to describe Boston ex-pat Colleen Green who now calls sunny LA home.  Green’s 2015 LP I Want To Grow Up perfectly captures the anxiety, fear, and excitement everyone in their 20’s goes through as they leave college and school behind and realize that it is time to get serious (just not too serious). 
The record, which is out on Hardly Art and is the third full length for Green shows tremendous artistic and lyrical growth as she explores a multitude of millennial themes and feelings.  The album opens with the titular track “I Want to Grow Up” in which Green sings “sick of being young, sick of being dumb” over a fuzzy, distorted alt riff and her simple drum machine back beat.  Colleen’s drum machine is a staple of her sound and though she has graduated to bringing a drummer on tour with her, the drum machine on her records contributes heavily to her lo-fi aesthetic.  “Wild One” brings her vocals to the forefront and makes you realize, this girl can sing!  Poppier than the first track, “Wild One” gives way to “TV” one of my favorites on the album.  A chunky riff and faster tempo give the song a pop punk feel a la Blink 182 and you suddenly realize why she covered the bands classic hit “M&M’s” years ago.  She sings “TV is my friend, and it has been, with me every day…from an early age” something millennials who grew up with Nickelodeon feel all too well.  “Pay Attention” brings things back to a pop leaning sound with a dance beat that gets your feet moving and smoothly transitions into the darker, 80’s tinged “Deeper than Love” as Green leaves behind the 90’s for the sounds of her birth decade. 
A highlight of the album is back to back tracks “Things That Are Bad for Me” part I and II.  The first sees Green happily singing “I’ve gotta stop doing things that are bad for me” as she adopts the mentality we all have as we try to grow up and be more mature.  No more late nights, no more partying every weekend, eating healthier, all things everyone must come face to face with.  However, part two is the contradiction.  Adopting a significantly heavier sound (the heaviest on the album) Green employs a driving, tonal riff and steady beat as she talks about how anxiety and a little voice inside her head make her keep doing things that she KNOWS are bad for her and yet she can’t seem to stop.  Something everyone in their 20’s can relate to. 
The following track “Some People” brings love back as the central theme as Green sings of envying those around her who find love so easily while she sits in a loveless, relationship void.  Here we see the themes from “TV” showing up again towards the end of the album.  The idea of loneliness, lack of a love life, and all this depressing negativity while still feeling like it’s time to be an adult and be mature is ever present throughout each song.  The album closes with a bang and a breeze.  “Grind My Teeth” is the punkiest on the album and brings to mind Southern California punk gods The Descendents.  The album then finishes calmly with the positive, uplifting indie pop of “Whatever I Want” which sees Green realizing that despite all the negativity and contradictions associated with growing up, the best part of being an adult is the freedom of being able to do whatever you want. 
Colleen Green has hit the nail on the head when it comes to getting older.  Often times you’re caught up in a whirlwind of confusion and mostly feel like you’re just faking your way through each day/month/year.  Luckily for the rest of us, Green is here to put our minds at ease and let us know we’re not alone.

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

Apple Music Enters the Streaming Game

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. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This Morning's Music

1. Linger - The Cranberries
2. Wedding - Funeral Advantage
3. Green Eyes - Coldplay
4. It's Nice - Screaming Females
5. Roll Over - The Spirit of the Beehive

Theory of Everything Was Perfect

It almost doesn’t feel right to try and condense a film as powerful as The Theory of Everything into a blog post.  The film, which is far and away one of the most emotionally resonant and deeply moving films I’ve ever seen, was an absolutely stunning portrayal of one of the greatest minds to ever walk this earth.  Directed by James Marsh, the biopic does more than show the genius of Stephen Hawking.  It shows the deep rooted power of love and its ability to help human beings defy insurmountable odds.
When most people hear the name Stephen Hawking, they immediately think of the genius in a wheelchair with some disease who speaks through a computer; that generic, emotionless, monotone which has become synonymous with the famed physicist.  But Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the man behind the voice and the chair transcended acting in a way rarely seen.  He WAS Stephen Hawking.  His anger and frustration is perceptible as he slowly slips into complete paralysis.  And yet, Redmayne is able to show the man within the body, never losing his sense of humor and conveying loss, hatred and jealousy through his unresponsive visage.
Beginning in the early 1960’s, a young Stephen Hawking is in the prime of his life and pursuing a PhD in Physics at the University of Cambridge.  While there two life changing milestones confront Hawking nearly back to back.  The first is meeting the love of his life, literature student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones); the second is his soul crushing diagnosis with ALS.  Hawking learns he has an estimated two years to live while his muscles slowly deteriorate into useless masses.  Jane, whom he tries to persuade to leave, opts to stick it out and make Stephen’s remaining time on this planet as happy and comfortable as possible.  Despite everything, Hawking completes his PhD, marries Jane and even has children as he continuously defies the odds which were so abruptly stacked against him.
The film is as much the story of Jane Hawking as it is her husbands.  The struggles she endures and her unwavering support year after year is both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.  Their relationship is one rooted in hope and built entirely on their love for one another.  Over the course of Hawking’s life Jane remains one of the few people who sees Stephen for who he was before the disease decimated his body leaving only his mind intact.  She continues to be the constant reminder that there is a normal man trapped inside his shell, which only serves to make the films climax all the more powerful. 
This is a film that EVERYONE needs to see.  It shows us the almost unimaginable power of hope and love against a backdrop of suffering and emotional hardship.  It reaffirms how lucky each and everyone one of us are and teaches us to not take our lives for granted.  In this way, we are humbled to watch a man accomplish so much in the face of such odds.  It allows for a level of self-reflection often not present in film.  Much like Hawking’s brilliant theories on time and the universe, the film is perfection. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Unbroken is Powerfully Motivational and Inspiring

        “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand was one of those books that EVERYONE read.  People couldn’t speak highly enough about this story of perseverance, determination, and heart.  Many hailed it as one of the best WWII stories ever told.  Thus, when the movie was announced people were anxious for a film which lived up to the emotional weight of the book.  I myself never read the novel, so I went in with fresh eyes.                
        Directed by Angelina Jolie, the film tells the story of Olympic runner Louis “Louie” Zamperini who spends 47 days adrift in the pacific aboard a small life raft after his bomber breaks down midflight and the crew is forced to ditch the plane.  Louie is eventually picked up by the Japanese and spends the remainder of the war in various POW camps.  Many critics felt the film didn’t live up to its full potential.  Most believed Jolie bit off more than she could chew and the opportunity for one of the greatest war films of a generation was lost.  Now again, I can’t speak to how accurately the movie represented the book but
I can say that I thought it was a stunning war film.  Starting off with Zamperini in the midst of a dangerous bombing mission, flashbacks show us a troubled boy who rose from a seemingly meaningless life to one of glory and greatness eventually running in the 1936 Olympics in Germany.  The film does a terrific job of showing how far someone can push themselves if they are determined to survive and succeed.  The hardship suffered by Louie over the course of his time at sea and eventual internment is beyond motivational.  The pain, hopelessness, and degradation he faces at the hands of his Japanese captors is unbearable to even conceive of.  And yet throughout it all he remains positive and committed to making it home one day.  His staunch determination is matched only by his love of others and his willingness to take the pain if it means keeping his co captives out of harm’s way.  A rivalry develops between Louie and a young Japanese officer in charge of the camp nicknamed “The Bird” who reminds him of the Japanese Olympians he encountered years before.  Now under very different circumstances, The Bird does everything in his power to break Zamperini’s spirit.  Despite coming so close to death on multiple occasions Louie is able to persevere.
        Near the start of the film, just after Louie gets on the train bound for the Olympics his older brother reminds him that a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of greatness.  This ends up being central to the film, always popping back up in your mind as you witness the horrors encountered by both Louie and the other prisoners.  In this way Louie’s running ends up being analogous to his experiences in that if you push yourself beyond what you thought capable, you can make it through anything.  Overall, I found the film to be not only uplifting but inspirational in a way I haven’t encountered in some time.  The critics can say what they will, but I think Unbroken will be considered one of the better war dramas of the 2010’s, no question.

New Podcast is Up!

Our 6th podcast is up on the Soundcloud!  For this episode we discuss musical genres and how they affect what we listen to.  We discuss whether or not you can take generic genre's like "Indie" at face value and if artists should reserve the right to call themselves what they feel best represents their art.  We dip briefly into the movie realm with a minor bit on actors getting typecast but stick to the tunes for this one primarily.  Check it out and let us know your opinion in the comments!!

What genre is that artist??

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another Playlist!!

1. Life - Modern Hut
2. Black Books - Salem Wolves
3. Circle One - The Germs
4. Giant Steps - John Coltrane
5. Green Eyes - Coldplay
6. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
7. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 - The Flaming Lips
8. Waiting for a Girl Like You - Foreigner
9. Region of Fire - JEFF the Brotherhood
10. Carnival - Bikini Kill

Whiplash Was a Violently Emotional Film

        Everyone I spoke to about the musical drama Whiplash had nothing but good things to say about the film.  That is was brilliantly acted, deeply emotional, and all around captivating in its intensity were just a few of the glowing remarks I’d heard about this seemingly random film which gained momentum after its premier at Sundance and eventually won several academy awards including a nom for Best Picture.           
       Based on the high school experiences of director Damien Chazelle, the films protagonist Andrew Neiman played by Miles Teller aspires to be one of the best jazz drummers of all time.  Idolizing the greats like Buddy Rich, Miles’ entire life revolves around his drum kit.  After Terrence Fletcher, an infamous teacher and conductor overhears Andrew practicing, he invites him to join his prestigious jazz band made up of the best musicians at the school.  Starting as alternate drummer, Andrew moves up and down the proverbial ladder jumping from core to alternate several times as he struggles to live up to the ridiculously high expectations of Fletcher who is constantly verbally and physically abusive.  J.K. Simmons deserved the Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor without a doubt.  His anger and rage is palpable and the response it evokes in the viewer is at times unsettling.  The way he treats his students is unacceptable, but it’s done in the interest of pushing the few who have the potential to become legends to the limits.  While you sympathize with Andrew has he struggles to be the best and to impress Fletcher, you can’t help but feel that the two were meant to work with each other.  Andrew wants history to remember him alongside his idols like Rich, and Fletcher is the kind of person who will help him achieve that.  After they have a falling out, Fletcher and Andrew meet at a jazz club where Fletcher explains his methodology by stating that the worst thing anyone can ever say to someone is “good job” implying that it only convinces the person to not push themselves further and the only way to become great is to never stop pushing yourself to be better. 
      While I agree the acting was top of the line and the drumming is other worldly, I wanted a little more from the film.  Andrew’s love interest is barely even relevant and felt like a wasted storyline.  The same goes for his father.  We find out almost nothing about Andrew’s past and his absent mother and while his father fills the roll of emotional support system, their relationship with each other is barely touched on leaving you feeling like the possibility for added emotional weight was missed.  The film clearly intended to focus solely on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher so the other “half storylines” feel unnecessary.  In the end if you like jazz music, Whiplash was a good movie.  If you like drumming, it was a superb movie.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Montage of Heck Lives Up to the Hype

                The day finally arrived.  Monday May 4th, the much anticipated and widely acclaimed Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck premiered on HBO.  Named for a violently sporadic and twisted mixtape recorded by Cobain in 1988, the film garnered intensely positive reviews and as such, I was looking for a game changer.  A documentary which not only captured the man’s genius but also depicted the human element so often left out of Cobain and Nirvana documentaries in the past.  The film did not disappoint. 
               Consisting of hidden archival materials brought to the table for the first time by Cobain’s wife Courtney Love and daughter Francis Bean who was an executive producer, the film showed a side of Kurt which is often forgotten.  One that the history books gloss over with demented tales of drug abuse and emotional instability.  Segments of Cobain’s diaries juxtaposed over early demos of songs and haunting audio recorded by Cobain himself piece together a collage which showcases a man determined to be taken seriously, committed to feeling accepted, and above all else resolute in his need avoid humiliation. 
                Starting with home movies of the Cobain family in the early years, we see Kurt as a young and happy child sharing Christmas with family and always smiling.  Interviews with Cobain’s mother and father indicate a loving household, albeit one with a darker underside.  Kurt’s father Don wasn’t supportive of Kurt’s creativity and the verbal abuse he received from the man was something that stayed with him throughout his formative years.  After his parents’ divorce, Cobain spent much of his early adolescence moving around between homes of relatives and friends.  It wasn’t until Kurt found the Underground that he felt truly accepted and from there on out, he was in the fast lane. 
                The early Nirvana footage is top notch and high quality showcasing favorites like “Dive”, “School”, and “Floyd the Barber” performed in houses or small basement venues to crowds of people varying in size from two middle aged workers from down the street to 15 disillusioned punks.  The footage when interspersed with portions of Cobain’s notes and journals help provide detailed background into the enigmatic front man’s thought process and offer unique insight into the development of Nirvana.  From a montage of handwritten band names to scribbled lyrics, the viewer see’s the other side of the famed rock band.  It was something that grew organically over time, not a sudden outburst.  Kurt didn’t have a grand idea beyond playing music he found to be meaningful and trying to get famous.  Although as the world now knows, fame had a much darker side which only made itself clear to Kurt once it was too late, fueling his drug abuse and emotional insecurity. 
                The latter half of the film, besides dealing with the obvious fame of Nirvana through interview snippets and stadium concert footage shows Cobain in the privacy of his home.  Between arguments with Courtney half naked in the bathroom, discussions in bed, and playing with young Francis; each show a man who cared deeply for his family.  A man that was proud of his accomplishments and guilt stricken over his failures. 
                In the end, Cobain was exactly what he claimed to be, a loving father and husband who despite his vices wanted nothing more than to sacrifice his own happiness for theirs.  This is a film that any Cobain, Nirvana, or music enthusiast MUST see.  It toppled all that came before it and all that will come after through its genuine honesty and forthrightness.  It doesn’t attempt to gloss over the dark spots.  Rather, it highlights them in a way that depicts Cobain as a product of his environment, family, politics, sexuality, and mental state which when combined birthed the kind of authentic creativity that comes along only once in a generation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some Songs from Today's Playlist

1. Net Babes - Free Pizza
2. Hollow Bedroom - Waxahatchee
3. Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes
4. Schism - Tool
5. Look What Happened - Less Than Jake

Latest from Music and Movies with Mike and Ted

Check out the latest podcast with my partner in crime Ted Wahle as we interview local Duxbury up and coming rapper Jon Bartley.  We discuss his origins, inspirations, goals, and a whole slew of things relating to the experience of the independent musician in today's musical landscape.  Find his first two albums on Soundcloud and check out one of his tracks at the end of the interview.  IT'S CRAZY GOOD.

Movies and Music with Mike and Ted - Jon Bartley Interview