Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy Failed to Live Up to the Hype

Marvels latest film Guardians of the Galaxy was a jumbled overload of characters which when combined with a basic plotline left me wanting more.  After all the hype surrounding this film, I was anxious to finally see it.  Of the countless characters, worlds, gods, and ships that get tossed around my favorite character inronically ended up being the one I was most skeptical about from the first time I saw the trailer, the raccoon.  But we’ll get to that.  The film centers on Peter Quill, AKA Star Lord who is abducted in 1988 by a group of space pirates.  Years later we find Quill exploring an alien world and recovering a mysterious orb which he intends to sell.  The orb is sought after by the evil Ronan, a member of the Kree who is working with a galactic super being named Thanos in an attempt to destroy planets.  After Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora is sent to intercept Quill, the two end up colliding with a pair of bounty hunters, the genetically modified raccoon Rocket and his towering humanoid tree Groot.  The whole group is promptly arrested and imprisoned where after meeting the final member of their  band of misfit toys, they decide to work together in an attempt to sell the orb and take down Ronan in the process.  The film had plenty of laugh out loud moments as the viewer sympathizes with the awkward fish out of water character of Star Lord who is portrayed by Parks and Recreations Chris Pratt.  However, the movie couldn’t quite decide which demographic it wanted to cater to which was a detrement to the acting and story.  The visual effects were out of this world, not to be cliché and there was plently to keep your eyes busy between epic space battles, daring escapes, countless large explosions and plenty of different colored aliens.  Still, despite its successes I was looking for more from a film many hailed as the best Marvel movie yet.  As this was clearly just the start of a new franchise which will see this awkward gang going on more adventures, I’ll just have to wait and see if its follow up trumps this new addition to the Marvel family.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Today, More Than Any Other Day...Is the BEST Day to Listen to Ought

I realized recently that I never reviewed my #2 pick for the top albums of 2014 and that is something that needs rectifying because the release is one of a kind and sounds NOTHING like any other music coming out these years.  I say years and not days because it is truly one of the most unique musical experiences I’ve had in a long time.  More than Any Other Day by Canadian alt-punk band Ought is stunningly imaginative and incorporates a diverse range of vocal and instrumental influences to craft a musical style which defies categorization.  The albums eight tracks are almost all over five minutes long allowing for compositions which change tempo, volume, and style several times throughout while allowing for the disassembling of traditional song structure in favor of an artistic, often spoken and chunky aesthetic that devolves into captivating guitar solos and steady rhythm sections.  Lead in track “Pleasant Heart” starts things off with a steady guitar driven tune which crashes into atonal static and feedback at the 3 minute mark before picking up at the end.  Title track “Today, More Than Any Other Day” is my favorite on the album.  Starting off slow and steady with a simple drum beat and casually plucked discordant guitar strings, the songs breaks open with a burst of energy at the 2:00 mark as lead singer Tim Beeler repeats “We’re sinking deeper…” pulling in the listener before launching into a David Byrne style vocal explosion of clearly stated lyrics which state simple positive exclamations like “Today! More than any other day, I am excited to stare into the eyes of the old man sitting across from me on the train and say, everything is going to be ok”  With a chorus of “Today, together, today, together, today, together, we’re OK” its hard not to jump up and down and smile during this song as you’re filled with positive energy.  The chunky, base driven “Habit” comes next and sees more Byrne style vocals as the song starts out as more of a spoken word piece.  Matt May’s keyboards come through heavily on  “The Weather Song” which sounds the poppiest of all the tracks with a fantastic chorus of “I! Just wanna revel in your lies”.  Slow and haunting  “Forgiveness” sounds straight out of Sunday Mass and takes several minutes to build up slowly with discordant feedback  before the first word is even spoken.  The song ends up recalling Pavement with a slower temp.  “Around Again” brings the keyboards back into the rhythm section in a big way as a smooth baseline keeps everything on track before  the song closes it’s last few minutes with a sharply repeated set of chords and Beeler repeating “We have reached the intermission, we can ask him all our questions….like are we there yet? Or are we lost forever?”  You’re left with an uncomfortable feeling while accepting that that song just reached new levels of ingenuity and thought provoking lyricism.  “Clarity” follows the one aspect of form which can be said applies to most of Ought’s songs in which a slow beginning gives way to a loud and more traditional song structure towards the end with the singer yelling “Did you get what you wanted?!”  Closing track “Gemini” finishes with another spoken word style banger with Beeler stating “I retain the right…” followed by a series of feelings and actions accompanied by chaotic guitar and drums alongside Ben Stidworthy’s steady bass lines which drive Ought’s explosions of expression.  At the end, “Gemini” sounds like Beeler’s last breath as he finishes an already strong album with a powerful and pulse driving closer which ends so abruptly it leaves you begging for more.  Luckily, Ought responded to that feeling and delivered an equally impressive follow up months later with Once More With Feeling.  Check out both albums, I promise they’re unlike anything you’ve heard.

Today's Playlist

1. Forward - Free Pizza
2. Drown (demo) - Hunters
3. Sick Mind - King Tuff
4. Displaced - Paths
5. Battle of Evermore - Led Zeppelin
6. Worriers - Worriers
7. Back Where I Belong - Rancid
8. Out of Vogue - Middle Class
9. Old Timers - Stymie
10. These Times They Are a-Changin' - Bob Dylan

A Dame to Kill For Can't Stand Up to 2005's Sin CIty

After watching Frank Miller’s follow up to 2005’s out of this world Sin City, an adaptation of one of Miller’s graphic novels, it became clear why it suffered in the box office.  Despite its all-star cast and breathtaking effects and imagery, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For didn’t deliver the kind of cohesive plot line that made its predecessor such a successful film.  With several storylines in play, some of which take place before the events of the first film and several which take place after, the timeline is not just hard to follow, it’s non-existent.  The film is really just a series of vignettes from the world of Sin City incorporating characters already established in the first film nearly ten years ago.  There are three core plotlines to follow with one unifying factor, the character of Marv played by Mickey Rourke.  The first is simple and clear cut.  Formally called “Just Another Saturday Night” the film starts with Marv awaking from unconsciousness surrounded by a car wreck and several dead frat boys.  He retraces his steps to figure out what happened and crosses paths with several of our other characters at Kadie’s Saloon, a central location which acts as a hub for several plot lines.  The meat of the movie comes in the form of its two central plotlines, “The Long Bad Night” parts one and two which sees new comer Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a cocky gambler named Johnny who gets the better of evil crime lord Senator Roark, the father of the yellow villain dispatched by Detective Hartigan in the original film.  In between parts one and two of “The Long Bad Night” we get the title sequence “A Dame to Kill For” which sees the return of several characters including Gail, Miho and the other girls of Old Town as well as Dwight McCarthy.  Dwight’s character was one of the best in the original film and to get a little more back story was exciting.  However, Josh Brolin’s portrayal of the character couldn’t stand up to the phenomenal performance by Clive Owen who played him in the 2005 film.  We learn about his relationship with temptress Ava (played by Eva Green) and the results of said relationship which turn out to be less than favorable for Dwight and Marv who he drags in to the scenario for help.  The film closes with a seemingly random storyline which takes place years after the events of the first film and finds Jessica Alba’s Nancy Callahan plagued with guilt over the suicide of her beloved Detective Hartigan as a result of the violence of the Roark family.  This whole story seemed forced and more of an excuse to give Bruce Willis a strange cameo as the ghost of Hartigan who helps Nancy inadvertently in her quest for vengeance.  Did you follow all that?  For the die-hard Frank Miller fan, the film probably makes more sense.  But to the average movie goer, it is a jumbled mix of short stories loosely intertwined and masquerading as a cohesive story which it is not.  That being said, I definitely believe the film is worth checking out.  The visuals are as stunning as the first film and the acting is top notch.