Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Bangles (redux)

It was recently brought to my attention that the N=D post about The Bangles has been one of the most viewed posts.  It reminded me that based on my rediscovery, I decided to dig a little deeper and obtained a copy of their first self-titled EP (which i didn't know existed at the time) on IRS records.

It's a short EP and features bassist Annette Zalinkas.  The thing about the Bangles is that they were so steeped in the 60's and that really came across in their songwriting and in their choice of covers.  Was it a result of sounding similar to their influences or do they really just own other groups songs?  It's hard to tell but not having heard many of the original versions it's often difficult for me to identify which songs they wrote and which they didn't.

The Real World & Mary Street are the highlights.  I know they always had issues with Susanna Hoffs being considered the lead vocalist but they're really at their best with her up on the microphone.  Her voice cuts through with originality whereas the other 3 had more plain jane voices.  They should've just dealt with it because Susanna's voice gave them an identity.  Their rambunctious take on "How is the Air Up There" is pretty great as well.   Very raw and indie pop with good sense of melodies.  Much like their major label follow up album "All Over the Place".  At times you can see how they would benefit from the helping hand of a producer or outside writers but they were a really fantastic jangly pop band.  And  you can't really review the Bangles without mentioning their superb use of vocal harmonies. So there you have it,  vocal harmonies.   Lyrically I have to ignore what's being said because the corniness makes me queasy and the production on the album is a little off (ie the mix seems all wrong) but they achieve what many indie bands that came after them tried so hard to attain.  And once again I leave a big......too bad about all that major label fuckery that followed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heavy Metal 2000

Like a lot of people in my age range I saw Heavy Metal as a child (in my case at 6 years old) when it came on HBO.  It probably is one of the things that drew me towards post-apocalyptic sci-fi & comic books.  So I knew about Heavy Metal 2000 when it came out & I wanted to see it, but heard nothing but lackluster reviews.  Even seeing that it was available for free streaming for a couple of years on the internet, I still didn’t bother to check it out.  I don’t really know why I finally decided to click play on it.  Anyway, the bottom line is, this sucks compared to the original for sure & maybe it just sucks all together.  The animation quality is sub-par compared to the original (or at least compared to my memories of the original) & the music that is all over the film (just like in the original) doesn’t really fit in.  Also while I remember the original having a lot of nudity & sexuality in it, somehow this one feels less natural & more exploitive (a funny idea when dealing with a cartoon I know).  I think part of what makes this one really lacking is that the original is seven short stories & this one is a story that could’ve been awesome framed as one of seven stories, but doesn’t work as an hour & a half on it’s own.  I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hard on it.  I suppose I’m going to have to re-watch the original at some point & I hope I am not terribly disappointed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Total Recall 2070

This television series came out back in 1999 & to be honest I hadn’t heard much about it other than it was somehow linked to Blade Runner.  Recently I’ve been kinda getting into Philip K. Dick & I stumbled across this playing for free on Hulu.

So it’s named after Total Recall, which doesn’t even really make a lot of sense as the movie came out back in 1990 & I’m sure doesn’t have the cult status of Blade Runner which this is closer related to in pretty much every way.  It’s a story about a beat cop in a world where corporations have more power than the government, people routinely get memories implanted or erased, & the current slave class of androids is rising to true sentience & intelligence.  I’m not going to say this is a great show in the same way I would something like Breaking Bad, but it is better than most sci-fi shows (I’ll give a nod to the recent Battlestar Galactica franchise & my always beloved Doctor Who) in that it doesn’t devolve into just an action show even given that it is in essence a cop show like Law & Order.  Also even though it clearly ends able to be continued it does resolve a lot of the plots it brings up a lot better than most television series.  So it’s not for everybody, maybe it’s only for hardcore geeks, but you could definitely fall to sleep watching worse programs & I liked it despite it’s occasional over-acting & semi-predictable plots.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Graphic Witness – Four Wordless Graphic Novels

So those of you reading this blog lately know I’ve been reading through some of the ultra-early graphic novels.  So when I found out about this book with works by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, & Laurence Hyde I was pretty stoked to get a taste of the work of some other folks working in silent woodcut novels.  I was especially excited by Masereel who more or less seems to be where the long form wordless graphic novel starts.  Masereel interestingly has the most primitive style & while it looks cool I felt the piece in here (The Passion of a Man) really took a lot of imagination on the part of the reader to turn it into a narrative.  I felt the same way about the amount of imagination required to make a cohesive story out of Patri’s White Collar & Wild Pilgrimage is not Ward’s strongest piece.  Hyde’s Southern Cross is unquestionably the most successful as far as being sequential art in here, even though the story it tells about the US taking over an island in the south Pacific may be the least interesting one.  In the end I’m really glad this book wasn’t the first I read about this type of book or I would have abandoned the genre without ever having read Ward’s Gods’ Man & I’m a bit confused why this book exists not having used the most critically acclaimed pieces by Ward & Masereel as the introductory samples of their work.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gods' Man, Madman's Drum, & Wild Pilgrimage by Lynd Ward

So researching about proto-graphic novels led me to Lynd Ward, who I’d never heard of despite this collection having blurbs about him from Will Eisner & Robert Crumb & an extensive introduction from Art Spiegelman.  That said, the artwork feels familiar, that I have been exposed to it somewhere along the way, maybe in a history of printmaking course.
Ward’s work is silent woodcuts.  Collections of a hundred images (one per page) with no narrative text to help you know what’s going on.  All of them feel claustrophobic, conspiratory, & vaguely Kafka-esque.  Strangely, his first from 1929, Gods’ Man, seems his best; I think in part because the storyline (an artist selling his soul) is well known enough to follow without words.  Madman’s Drum I don’t understand what’s going on really; I can tell it’s an attempt to tell a more complicated story with more characters, but so much so that it could work as images only (I certainly feel it doesn’t here).  Wild Pilgrimage has a Metropolis dystopian escape vibe & it has an interesting experiment with dream sequences being printed in a different color than the reality portions, however you only know that if you read commentary as there isn’t a clue to that within the book itself.  In the end I’d say all of Lynd Ward’s art is phenomenal, but Gods’ Man really is both an important step in sequential art & a well-told story worth checking out.

It Rhymes with Lust by Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, & Matt Baker

I found out about this book around 2002.  A graphic novel from 1939 pre-dating modern graphic novels by 30 years.  Of course how could I track such an item down?  Much less at a price I’d be willing to pay.  As luck would have it, Dark Horse reprinted this in 2007 & that’s the version I ended up with.  It’s 120 pages at a time when comic stories were typically under ten pages, which is fairly fascinating to have a story ten times the standard length.  The afterward explains the book was in response to GIs getting hooked on comics in WWII & trying to do something slightly more sophisticated targeted to that audience.
It Rhymes with Lust is a crime story of political corruption like you might find in a number of movies & books from the era.  It has photo-realistic art & the panel layout is simple & easy to follow.  My main complaint would be some of the word balloons would have made more sense as though balloons.  It’s not mind-blowing today, but it probably is worth checking out for it’s historical importance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst

So recently I’ve been trying to look at some of the proto-graphic novels.  The graphic novel as it is today more or less starts in the late 1970s with A Contract With God by Will Eisner & Sabre by Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy, but there were a number of books 50 or so years earlier that broke the mold of illustrated books not for children.  One of which is Une semaine de bonté from 1934.  I was vaguely familiar with Max Ernst previously & some of the images in this book I’d seen before.  But the idea that this is a narrative in anyway & a precursor to graphic novels I would say is false.  It’s a book of 182 collages built around different themes with all the source material being woodcuts.  It’s hard for me to look at collages & not think of them as adolescent &, I think especially these days with so many folks cutting & pasting things together using Photoshop, I’ve let go of thinking of it as art & collage only becomes interesting to me when I can see the physical piece with bits of cut paper & texture to it rather than a flat image.  There’s nothing wrong with this book, it’s worth looking at.  The surreal imagery of floors cut away & replaced with water & people’s heads cut out & replaced by lions & chickens is fun, but it doesn’t really do anything for me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

So I was interested in this movie when it came out.  I kinda like Brad Pitt & the story sounds interesting enough (& I'm actually surprised I didn't read the Fitzgerald short story somewhere along the way) & it had a director known for decent cinematography (David Fincher (Fight Club)).  It had an Oscar buzz from the critics before it hit the theaters, but everyone I knew who went to see it gave it a bad review.  So I more or less forgot about it.  Then it randomly appeared on TV, so I put it on while I worked on paperwork.
This movie breaks my general rule of movies needing to be under two hours; but strangely that's not one of the issues I have with it, in fact if it were shorter it would have effected the tone & emotional impact of the film.  It feels mainly like a blend of Forest Gump & The Notebook with a touch of Amelie thrown in.  The plot of a man born old & growing younger strangely has little to do with what the movie's about.  It's more or less a tragic love story & that's fine.  I can understand someone loving or hating or simply dismissing it in much the same way they would Gump or The Notebook, but I'd put it above those for visual appeal if nothing else.  It is worth noting that the transition bits flashing forward to reading a diary are clumsily done & destroy the suspension of belief I feel a movie should have.  I also think it's interesting that it seems every lifelong tragic love story I can think of seems to take place in the american south; what is that about?  Anyway, in the end, if you like the other films mentioned in the review, check it out, but if you think Fincher & Pitt are teaming up again & it's going to be Fight Club you will be pretty disappointed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone

I never really had an interest in this Harry Potter stuff.  Which I guess is weird because I am into british stuff & teen culture things.  They just looked long & boring to me & unlike The Lord of the Rings movies (which were also long & boring) I had no vested interest from my childhood.  But the past few weeks I’ve been assembling CDs because I saved a couple hundred bucks by assembling them at home.  Which means hours more of monotonous work than I normally have.  So one night nothing I wanted to watch was on TV & the first Harry Potter movie was on & people say “the first one is actually good” so I thought I could handle it while doing other work.

Well, I don’t get it.  I mean there are a lot of things in it that I routinely complain about in movies – too long, too many characters, no characters I care about – but beyond that I just don’t understand anyone over twelve being attracted to it.  For one thing it is not set up as a movie, it’s set up as 30 minute episodes bundled into a movie like some of the GI Joe cartoons & it really just doesn’t work for me.  I mean, clearly my time would’ve been better spent listening to the first Stooges record six times in a row (which would have been about as long as the movie).  & why are you going to title something “& the Sorcerer’s Stone” when the sorcerer’s stone doesn’t appear in the thing & could be replaced by any other made up object to use as a plot device (maybe the whole series works like that, I’m not going to bother to find out).  What scares me is some people I know that like this franchise say the first movie is better than the first book.  I just don’t understand the way things work.  More people should follow Clint Eastwood’s advice; “It’s just as much work to make a bad movie as a good movie; so you may as well make a good one.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Metallica - Live Shit: Binge & Purge

Ok so this isn’t really a review of the entire box set.  Truth be told I’ve hated everything the’ve done since 1989.  To me that’s about the time they stopped being influenced by the “new wave of british heavy metal” and started down the sad road of blues rock.  But there was an inclusion of a 1989 Professionally shot concert in this box set that I had always wanted to see.   This was the same year I saw Metallica do a proper concert @ the Frankfurt mesthalle.  Prior to that I had only seen them do a brief set during a Monster of Rock performance where they were promoting the 5.98 EP and introducing the world to their new bass player Jason Newsted.  

So yeah somebody I knew bought the box set and so I got the opportunity to finally check it out. Once again this review can fit both FCO & the N=D blogs,  let's start.  

A couple of things I noticed while watching: 1.) at one point Metallica was actually a good band and this was either the pinnacle or the trailing off period, I’m still undecided on this since I never saw them during the Cliff Days except for via the horrible bootleg videos on the Cliff’em All vhs and 2.)  James Hetfield used to have a different voice than he does now.   It used to be sort of growly and metallic sounding and now it’s sort of clear and whiney.  Maybe the big influence Danzig had on the band (including the Justice era look) pushed them down that bluesy, clear voiced Hetfield people such as myself have grown to hate on.   Things I recall about the concert I went to in 89 and this video didn’t mesh.  Jason Newsted gets two bass solos and a lot of liberties on the microphone, including an entire verse of ‘Whiplash’.  Hammet’s guitar solos are really sloppy here as well.  I’m not sure if that’s always the case or not but while not downright bad, the solos are kind of rough spots on this video (besides Newsted on the mica microphone that is).  Granted most of the songs from Justice sort of bring the performance down because they are too long, part of Metallica’s rebellion against playing 3 minute pop songs but they make up for it with great execution of some songs from Kill em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, as well as some covers like Last Caress and Budgie’s Bread Fan.    All in all if you liked Metallica this is a great reminder of how horrible they are now and maybe somebody could convince Hetfield to ditch the others and go solo and it’s a fun watch if you were ever a fan of theirs.  The quick editing gets a bit annoying though…so be warned.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dreams With Sharp Teeth (The Harlan Ellison Documentary)

So I’m a bit of a fan of Harlan Ellison both as a writer & an intriguing personality, so I actually heard of this movie before it came out.  But the odds of me knowing the one weekend it would be in a local theater & then making it to it aren’t so hot.  & of course I’m not on Netflix & haven’t rented a movie since 2001, so the odds of stumbling on a movie are pretty low.  But I was at a buddy’s house & this was on Netflix streaming so the magic of me seeing it happens.

Normally I watch a movie while working on something; but at a friend’s house, that seems a little rude.  So I guess maybe it wasn’t my typical personal movie watching experience & made me probably have higher standards, but this wasn’t too engaging to me.  I generally like documentaries & I like hearing Harlan Ellison rant randomly on various YouTube clips, but this just didn’t cut it.  Documentaries (to me) are supposed to make boring things intriguing &/or reveal how intriguing & confusing things work & for me this did neither.  Maybe because I already have plenty of general Ellison knowledge & a lot of the interview clips that make up the film I’d seen in their full forms (which I’d suggest as more interesting than the movie), but this didn’t seem to reveal too many new things.  I wasn’t given any new sacred knowledge about how Ellison’s brain works.  I mean listening to Ellison talk on re-run is still better than most things, but I think if you watched 90 minutes of interview clips with him you would get some more enlightenment than from the movie.  I’ll put a couple of things not in the movie below for you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wrestler

So I finally saw this movie.  As most of you know I don’t really seek out movies most of the time & though I wanted to see this movie based on the stars & director, I never got around to it.  So yeah, it’s a great movie.  It’s undeniable.  I also feel like I might never want to see it again.  I feel like it hits me a little too close to home.  A guy that’s a washed up has been at what he loves to do is dying from complications of it & after a few months of retirement he decides he’d rather die doing what he loves than stay alive.  Also it’s not portrayed that he’s a super good guy or a super bad guy, just a regular dude in the end with good & bad traits – so who we are instead of who we want to be.  So anyway, it’s a good movie & it’s fucking depressing & I’m not at a happy enough point in my life where I can appreciate it like I would have 15 years ago.  So if you want to see a good movie that’s depressing, check this one out; if you want a bad movie or a good time – stay away.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Less Than Zero

This is another post that fits both the Nostalgia &  Finally Checking blogs.   This movie “Less than Zero”, although I’ve seen bits here and there over time, I have never actually watched in it’s entirety.  I did however listen the hell out of the soundtrack though,  well not the entire soundtrack but a few choice selections and since it was on I decided to tough it out. 
Things kick off at a High School Graduation and reminded me just how many movies from the 80’s incorporated them into their plotlines, too many to count.  After a bit of backstory of one guy off to college and his girl and best bud staying behind to cheat on him and develop drug habits, which is told via flashback (which I’m told is lazy writing) as he’s returning home for the first time in maybe three years.  The movie immediately dives into what seems like 30 minutes of dance party sequence in various locations.  I think in those thirty minutes I heard a bit of pretty much every song on the soundtrack except maybe two or three and it wasn’t as good as I thought it had been.  The songs I liked, I still like but those other tracks that I used to skip over – Poison covering Kiss, Aerosmith covering something else and some soul R&B track were painful as was the constant bombardment of music, I was craving for a bit of silence and this made me appreciate the more recent trend of little to no music in movies.  From there the movie is basically about trying to save their friend Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) from his drug addiction.  The thing is the guy that came back doesn’t really care, he’s more about trying to get into his ex-girl’s pants and his ex-girl is more into doing lines than to help her current bf so she enlisted the help of her ex-bf to do that for her.  Before long the plot involves Julian’s dealer forcing him into male prostitution to pay back his debt.  Once Julian’s two friends realize they ought to help their friend,  it’s too late. He dies and the movie is over.  cue Mr. Orbinson.  Also dead.  Singing a song about life fading away la la la la.         
Now, Mr. Downey’s character is the only one that goes through any sort of devolpment in this movie but like most drug addicts, he has a weakness and keeps going back and then he dies before he could really do anything about it.  There’s a hint of the woman seeing a bit of her self in Julian and deciding to dump a vile of coke down the drain but mostly she’s unchanged.   The lead character apparently did his changing by going off to college before the movie got started.  There’s a lot of dialogue in this movie that’s very cliché and corny and it’s shot and edited like a student film, I don’t recall what the reception to this movie was when it came out but in my living room the reviews were bad.  The only saving grace was the soundtrack.  Slayer – In A Gadda Da Vida, Public Enemy – Bring the Noise, Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter, Glenn Danzig & The Power and Fury Orchestra – You & Me (less than zero) & Roy Orbison – Life Fades Away.  Honourable Mention: LL Cool J – Goin Back To Cali.
I don’t think so.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Space Battleship Yamato (2010) Live Action

First you should watch this youtube.  It's the theme song for the English version of Space Battleship Yamato cartoon called "Star Blazers" for the western world.  The lyrics give a basic overview of the plot line and the live action film 2010 is surprisingly accurate to it, even down to the character's haircuts.

When I was a kid, I used to watch this whenever it came on, so when I somehow became aware that a new live action version was in the works I knew I would want to see it.   And on a recent intercontinental flight, I finally got that opportunity.  Now you can watch the trailer which unfortunately incorporates some Aerosmith.

This film is basically what every Hollywood Sci-Fi space adventure movie that came out such as the recent Star Trek, Star Wars movies should have been.  While it had it's shortcomings it stayed fairly faithful to the source material, didn't get too bogged down in bloated storylines and didn't get sidelined by a romance or too obvious conspiracy.  Basically humans are dying and they get a ray of hope in the form of a message from another world.  So with their last star ship they set off on a mission to save the world and humanity from extinction.  Everything moves toward that goal and the relationships between the characters don't get in the way.  The action sequences could have been a bit more elaborate in my opinion but other than that it's a well  executed Sci-Fi Adventure Flick.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"I Think We're Alone Now" - DVD

 I had heard about this documentary a few years ago and was interested in checking it out but it looked like it could be really bad or really funny and then other things come up and life goes on without a viewing.  Well, it finally caught up with me last week and I have to say it’s neither of those things I expected it to be.  It’s more like a combination of the two but not enough of either to support a full-length film on.  
The documentary focuses on two overly fanatic Tiffany fans, hence the title, which was one of 80’s teen-pop star Tiffany’s hits (a cover song but what 80’s pop stars wrote their own hits anyways?).  The primary focus is Jeff Turner, a bonafide stalker with news clippings and restraining orders to prove it.  He’s middle aged, a conspiracy theorist, suffers from aspergers and delusional among a wide variety of other character flaws that are only touched on.  The movie gets to know him a bit better than the other character, meeting his step-dad and his friends (the real ones) and his pastor.  All of them proclaim he’s harmless but I’m sure it’s because they aren’t the one's whom had him show up unexpectedly with a samurai sword.  Tiffany on the other hand has gotten restraining orders against him, although she seems to not really freak out when he shows up at her Playboy magazine signing or after show autograph sessions.  Besides his Tiffany obsession, he doesn’t seem too different than the crazy guy you meet at the bus or at select coffeeshop.  Very kind, very willing to talk your ear off about things you don’t care about and where apparently the aspergers kicks in and renders him unable to gauge your interest or willingness to listen.

The other primary character in “I Think You’re Alone Now” is Kelly McCormick.  She/He is described as intersexed, how that differs from being a hermaphrodite, I don’t know.  However, she lived as a he throughout high school and then switched over to being a she after.  She looks like a tranny, and I'm sure she/he's gotten a lot of grief in life as a result.  While Jeff is sort of a sad character in the pathetic category.  Kelly is sort of a sad character in the tragic category.  Raised by his mother as a girl, then the weekend at dad’s as a boy.  The hardships of being an alcoholic intersexed person, hard on her luck.  To make matters worse, she suffers an almost fatal bike/automobile collision that’s left her with a speech impediment and resulted in an extreme desire and belief that she and pop-star Tiffany are destined for one another.  To the point that she's legitimately upset that Tiffany has married.   Sort of sad yes?  She’s moved on with her life and drinks less and spends a lot of time training for a marathon which I’m not sure if she even participates but running is something she seems to think she excels at.  She even gives a demonstration and it’s here that Kelly comes across as Napoleon Dynamite talking about his Numchuck skills.   

The documentary seems to watch these two in a manner that seems more like poking your buddy in the ribs to chuckle at the freaks, which I think is ultimately why this movie failed at being more than just an oddity.  Both characters are willing to open up but the film suffers from not digging deep enough. Unfortunately, I find it hard to believe they made this documentary without using any of Tiffany’s music as well, not even for the credits.  I’m sure it was due to licensing and the inability of the filmmakers to pay for it but it would’ve added to the overall viewing experience.   Instead it seems like they just had their buddy write the score on a keyboard .   

The one interesting thing about this documentary is when the two super fans meet and share a hotel room in vegas.  Immediately Turner tries to exert his authority over Kelly as the closer friend to the former pop-idol and tries to out do Kelly at every turn.   I don’t if she’s buying all that he’s selling but it appears that way.   There’s a point where if she was still a drunk she probably would’ve snapped and attacked Jeff but we’re a polite and boring society as is demonstrated here and by Tiffany when she meets Jeff a few more times and by the fact that the filmmakers faded to the next shot just when things started to get interesting.  All in all I can’t say this is a horrible movie because it’s amusing to watch but it’s definitely not good.   Once you get past the chuckle-worthy premise and realize that there’s nothing going on here except gawking at the freaks and having a laugh at their expense, it seems to grow tiresome.

In the end both characters are ready to move on.  Kelly is willing to accept that she and Tiffany wouldn't be together and is open to other possibilities in her life and Jeff has moved on to get restraining orders from Alyssa Milano.  Which must be a huge weight lifted from Tiffany's and her family's shoulder.  Especially if they've seen this movie and have seen that the only reason Kelly hadn't slaughtered her family was because she wasn't financially capable of doing so.


Sunday, March 6, 2011


In a way, I've never heard of Love but also in a way I've been hearing them all along.  So many bands have covered their songs and I just wasn't aware. I mean i've seen their name/logo places but had always assumed it was some beatley thing.  I'm a bit disappointed it took me this long to actually discover this band.  I mean I'm not in love (no pun) with everything here but the basic early tracks are all great in a good time, sing-a-long with some heart jams.  The too loud driving bass lines carry these songs with jangly guitars strumming behind Arthur Lee's vocals which ranges between shouting, singing and crooning and any assortment of the three but always remaining catchy and memorable.  I can hear his voice in both Chuck Mosley and Angelo Moore, two other influential LA bands (from another era).    I'm usually not one to pick up Best Ofs  but the price was right and I was taking a risk considering I was purchasing a CD based on a cover version, which more and more I find is how I discover bands these days.  "Seven & Seven Is" in my opinion is the stand out track here, I mean there were other more interesting musically but the rawness and punkiness of this track kicks it ahead of most of the other tracks on this collection.   "Seven & Seven Is", "My Little Red Book" & "Can't Explain" are probably my favourites and represent what I like most about Love but the flipside is that there are a quite a few of those easy listening crooners on this collection.  They're not bad songs but I would rather listen to the version of this band that kicks you in the grill with a hard hitting yet melodic and catchy tune, than what winds up sounding like early 90's Cardigans or a ska-less Specials, funny I know to compare them to the bands that came after and were probably influenced by Love but that's the way it goes when you're writing for a blog called "Finally Checking it Out".    These songs also remind me of back in the day when the room was just as important as the instruments in recording, despite the re-mastering job you get a definite sense of space in these songs.  I'll just end this review here instead of rambling on how pleasantly surprised I am with this band.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Armored Trooper VOTOMS

I don’t know if this precisely qualifies for Finally Checking It Out.  On the one hand it came out in 1983 as part of the giant robot craze, on the other hand I only just found out about it.  I did an album & comic about giant robot pilots a while ago, so it got me re-interested in the genre & it’s early roots.
Now I’m not sure I can 100% say, “This is good,” but I can 100% say, “I liked it.”  It’s 52 episodes plus some specials & it’s subtitles so I couldn’t multi-task while watching it & I feel it was worth the 30 hours I invested in it.  I think by the end of the first episode, you know whether you are going to want to watch the whole thing or not.  The plot is paced X-Files style with each episode solving a little bit of mystery while discovering more things that you don’t know.  Spoilers below as I actually discuss the show.
The series opens at the end of a hundred year galactic war.  The two sides are indistinguishable from each other; they look the same, use the same war machines (15 foot tall piloted robots (VOTOMS – Vertical One-man Tank for Offensive Maneuvers)), neither side knows/cares why the war began, & in one of the spin-offs they reveal they both have the same religion.  The hero of the series, Chirico, has been in the special forces & is serving on one last mission after the cease-fire.  The mission is of course illegal & centered around stealing jijirium (seems like a cross between uranium & diamonds) & kidnap a girl who is actually an experimental war machine.  Chirico is meant to be killed at the end of the mission, but his survival sets him up as the fall guy & Chirico spends the whole series trying to evade the authorities & the first half trying to find out who/what the girl is & make her his girlfriend.  It ends up the girl is engineered to be a “perfect soldier” with heightened reflexes & healing abilities & all that jazz.  The first of her kind, but her meeting with Chirico during the kidnapping corrupted her programming so they make a male perfect soldier to be her brother/lover.  When Chirico beats the perfect soldier mate in battle, the evidence starts to point to Chirico as a perfect soldier himself & the question is, who made him?  Which is where this series starts to get really weird.  It ends up the hundred year war was orchestrated by a god that rules the galaxy.  He made the war because adversity & difficulty cause personal & biological evolution (is this based on Ayn Rand or Nazism? I guess they’re the same anyway!).  The weird crap that Chirico has been going through his whole life has been orchestrated to test if he’s worthy to be the replacement for Galaxy God because he’s the next step in evolution.  Chirico tells the weakened god he’ll take his place, but pulls the old switcharoo at the last minute & just kills Galaxy God instead.  Meanwhile the authorities are even more after Chirico than ever.  Chirico decides the galaxy isn’t ready for him & his lady friend, so they get frozen in a capsule together left drifting in space & the series end (though some spin-off stuff picks up the story from there).
This cartoon is from the early 1980s & does have the animation quality of that era (which I actually like) & they do occasionally do some recycling tricks (using the same five second clip here & there to get episodes done in time) & all of the incidental music from the whole series might add up to ten minutes.  But I’m okay with the recycling, I find it an interesting concept for a way to build narrative & it’s a shame it’s not acceptable more places.  VOTOMS is still looked at as “the most realistic giant robot cartoon” (funny idea in itself) & I feel it is better than any of the other’s that I’ve seen because it doesn’t get too complicated with having too many characters or weird politics to follow & it has a decent amount of action with well placed comedic bits to alleviate tension (& thus allow building of tension).  I can only think that I’d be a better person today if I’d grown up watching this with Robotech, Galaxy Rangers, & Thundarr.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Queensryche: Operation: Mindcrime II

A few weeks ago I reviewed Operation: Mindcrime on Nostalgia Equals Distortion.  To be honest I had no idea this sequel existed until I was trying to get a copy of the original to review.  A sequel to a rock opera 18 years & 7 albums later?  Weird idea.  Strangely the album takes place 18 years after the original album with the lead character (Nikki) who went to a hospital in the first Mindcrime (after murdering politicians & killing his girlfriend & having a mental breakdown) getting out of jail.  The story is darker than the original.  I guess when you get out of prison for murdering politicians & members of religious orders, it’s hard to get your life restarted; so the guy falls in with drugs (he’s a drug addict recruited as a revolutionary soldier in the original) & goes on a hunt for the leader of the revolution from the first album (Doctor X) who is now just a random wealthy businessman (I guess we all lose our ideals somewhere along the way).  After killing him he really starts to miss his nun girlfriend that he’d killed 18 years ago & her ghost appears & tells him to kill himself, which he does.  Then the dead ghost lovers chat about how the only time they were happy was together.  Pretty bleak, even by my standards.

Granted this doesn’t have the nostalgia aspect of the original for me, but this album just doesn’t seem as good.  There don’t seem to be any songs strong enough to stand alone on this & the music suffers for the story telling.  The blaring 1980s keyboards are gone, but I guess I actually kind of miss them.  I mean, I am not really that into Queensryche or the type of heavy metal they make, but that genre was doing more interesting things in the 1980s than it was 20 years after that.  In the 1980s theatrical glam-metal was still a bit experimental as far as figuring out what was allowed in the genre.  Maybe because at the time trying to be pop bands rather than cater to a particular demographic.  I guess that’s true with all genres of music.  It starts off as just music or as pop music or rock & then it gets pigeonholed until the good bands in the genre have their legacy obliterated by imitators.  & of course unfortunately if a band stays around long enough, it ends up that they are a bit of a parody of themselves playing it safe.  Bands like Kiss or Aerosmith come to mind, together for 40 years with clearly most everything of value in the first half of their career.  So maybe this was Queensryche trying to go back to their roots & kickstart something, which I guess could be condoned; or maybe they were trying to update their ideas to sound more 2005, which is just a bad idea.

Also I’m not sure this is a story that needed to be told.  I think one of the things that really makes the story of Mindcrime work is it starts & ends a bit in the middle of things without trying to straighten every detail.  I don’t like the idea of telling all the details.  I don’t need to know what happened after Nikki went into the hospital & I don’t need to know how the stage was set for the revolution (if they ever do a prequel album).  Leaving things open-ended leaves space for interaction & play in the listeners mind.  It leaves space for conversation (either actual or mental) about the art.  This ends with everyone dead & nothing to say.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Road (movie)

So people recommended The Road to me back when the book first came out (I didn’t read it because I didn’t want it influencing a Zombie Kisses plotline I was working on).  Then they recommended the movie to me when it came out.  But I’m generally not a fan of modern movies (I think the last time I rented a movie was in 2002 & I’m not on Netflix, which probably says something about me) so I didn’t bother checking it out.

For some reason Showtime was on for free this weekend & the only movie that I had any interest in was this one.  Well, I’m glad I was multi-tasking for this movie because it was pretty hard to get through.  Now I suppose most people would say it’s hard to get through because of the bleak content, but to me it was more the unbelievability of the child actor (or maybe that of the role).  I haven’t seen too many child actors that I’ve been impressed by & something that stars a kid in a major dramatic role needs a kid who nails it.  But I think part of the problem is that the way it’s presented that this kid has led his whole life after the apocalypse, yet he acts as if he was suddenly placed into it from today (or maybe more like a kid from the 1920s really as I don’t think there’s any illusion that most kids today aren’t worried about following a moral compass).  Kids are resilient.  If the apocalypse comes, they aren’t going to have the big problems adjusting that us stupid adults will.  They’ll be the ones to pull the triggers without a question.  I mean, maybe the story this is supposed to be telling is that the father is raising the boy to be a relic of the past in morality while the father’s own sense of right & wrong spirals out of control, but nothing happened to make me think this from seeing the movie; it’s just what I think would be a more interesting version of the story.  But I suppose the more interesting story I’m talking about is the movie version of Road to Perdition (which also suffered from a non-stellar child actor).

But watching this & knowing how popular the book & movie are makes me wonder, has the end of the world jumped the shark?  Does Two & A Half Men have episodes about life after the apocalypse now?  & what does that say about me as someone who has a fascination with surviving the apocalypse?

Does this movie live up to the hype?  Not for me.  I’d rather watch Panic in the Year Zero again or maybe see a TV mini-series of Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon.
Powered by Blogger.

  © Blogger template 'Darken' by 2008

Back to TOP