Friday, November 30, 2007

Armor For Sleep












Smile For Them
Armor For Sleep

So there is emo that's enjoyable! Now I hate to admit this, but I am NOT a fan of emo music, at all. A lot of it sounds the same and lacks real substance. Well I found a band that proved my stereotypes wrong (I still don't like emo though!). The first time I heard them was on the Transformers soundtrack. Didn't know much about them at all. Their name is Armor For Sleep. I guess they would be thrown in the emo category, but they're music is different than most of the other whiny emo bands that appeal to pre-teens. They also get extra cool points for being from my home state NJ. On their new album Smile For Them, they create an album using witty lyricism and catchy instrumentals all throughout. One example is on Williamsburg, where they sing tongue-in-cheek about the hipster mecca known as Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I got a real kick out of it when they sang:

Passed out, sleeping at your party
Dream of leaving in the morning
You will all die in Williamsburg
Too hip to even clean your nose out
Your grave is pulling at your pants now
You will all die in Williamsburg



Hold The Door is another standout track which takes a more serious note compared to Williamsburg. Overall, a nice album by these boys from NJ.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Songs












Christmas Songs
Jars Of Clay

Jars Of Clay seems intent on redefining themselves. They recently split from their previous record label, and now venture forth with their own label called "Gray Matters". Their latest release (and first put out by Gray Matters) is Christmas Songs. Now before you roll your eyes and think this is another mediocre album by a band looking to cash in during the holidays, think again. This one actually caught me by surprise with the different sounds they experimented with. On Christmas Songs, they put a twist on some traditional tunes as well as adding new material. One thing that really stood out to me was the darker vibe on O, Little Town Of Bethlehem, which worked really well. There's covers of other songs where they reconstruct the sound like on "Christmastime Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime". A great album to break in the holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Devil Came on Horseback












I'm pleased to introduce a guest reviewer here on Society's Elite, my longtime friend Bernard Johnson. Among other things, Bernard makes some mean mojitos, and due to his stature, gets offers to be security for certain Canadian rock bands. Now, he contributes his critique for The Devil Came on Horseback.


The Devil Came on Horseback

I've been a movie buff for most of my life now, big budget movies, small priced films, anime, and even some occasional indie films. But after reviewing this film, I can add documentary to the list. Most documentaries open the backstage for events or people that we never really knew much about. However, "The Devil Came on Horseback" opened the world's eyes to events and actions that most of the world knew nothing about. The images and the events that were witnessed by the narrator and photographer, U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, were that of pure horror and dismay. I would say that if the Marines keep producing men and women like this, those who can do this job and keep it together, then they're doing their jobs accordingly. He truly captures crimes against humanity in Darfur that would make one wonder what other dark parts of this planet do we not pay attention to, and to whom are they being done against. I would warn, that if you are of the faint of heart or produce waterworks by passing road kill on the highway, then stray away from this one. At the end of the film, Cpt. Steidle tries to get global attention for the cause, which was the saddest part of the film, because attention was needed to begin with. He accomplishes his goal, but not without opposition from all angles, including those from the third world hell who don't believe his stories or graphic pictures to go with them. As I turned my DVD player off, I couldn't help but wonder who were the real victims in this film, the poor people of Darfur or the people like me who get to even have a DVD player and go to bed with the promise to arise tomorrow.

-Bernard Johnson

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Painter (and his junk)

They cheered for the teacher
They cheered for the student
They cheered for the habitual sinners dressed in cheap denim
They cheered for the dancer, bouncer, and waitress too
And threw fake dollar bills on the table in the back

They opened their mouths to get a taste of fine liquor
And got the backwash of a mystery guest instead

And all they wanted was "The Dream"...

We chase cars to drive slower, and the toll booths are backed up...

Meanwhile we wait for... a story

The story of a painter
Who's a legend of old
Where he sells bits of wisdom, and junk...

Because in the wisdom lies junk, and in his junk lies wisdom...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer












Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I guess one good thing about not being a comic book fanatic, is that you can enjoy the movie version without nitpicking every little detail that was overlooked, inconsistencies in the story, blah blah blah. Usually, I’m the black sheep among other movie buffs I know when it comes to comic based films. While they can't seem to enjoy a film because of the frustration of it not living up to the comics, I can enjoy it without constantly comparing it to the stories.

With the Fantastic Four, I’ve always been familiar with the characters growing up, but didn’t know much about them other than what they looked like. So when I saw the original F4 when it came out in ’05, I actually (gasp!) enjoyed it! I know some people that would accuse me of lunacy for saying that. But yeah, I thought I got my money’s worth. The only issue I had was how fast the F4 finished off Dr. Doom. It seemed that just as the climax was reached in the film, they finished it too quickly. But hey, it was pretty good for an intro to the F4 characters on the big screen.

If you saw part one, you know that Dr. Doom wasn’t technically dead, so a sequel was inevitable. What threw me for a surprise was that another comic legend Silver Surfer would be included in the sequel. Personally, I thought they couldn’t have chosen a better character to fit in here. Rather than have a formulaic approach when making this film, where they could have had another round of F4 vs. Dr. Doom, they bring in Silver Surfer, which adds a twist to the plot. What makes this a little more intense than the original is that there’s a global threat with the character Galactus, who eats planets for meals. And he's on his way to Earth. The only thing that can stop him is Silver Surfer, who just happens work for him. So the F4 find themselves in a predicament, because not only do they have to worry about the return of Dr. Doom, they now have to prevent Galactus from eating our planet. And to do that, they have to convince Silver Surfer to stop him, which will take a lot more than begging.

So, who’s the real star in this movie? Silver Surfer or F4? I guess you’d have to say they’re equally important. Because while Silver Surfer is much more stronger than the F4, without them, there would be no hope as Earth would get devoured by Galactus. This sequel is definitely an improvement on the original, and a great introduction to the Silver Surfer.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows












This was an extremely important review I've been meaning to post, considering it's one of the best literary works of all time. I know, the book came out in July, and I was going to post on it in September. But, I'm just getting to it now. Actually, I can't take credit for this review, since my wife Mica is the one who so graciously provided it, along with her indepth knowledge about the world of Harry Potter. If you haven't read the book yet, I have to let you know there are spoilers ahead. Otherwise, read on...



Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

I had intentionally delayed reading The Deathly Hollows to avoid getting distracted by all the commotion during the book’s release. The final tome was going to reveal the end for Harry Potter and, thus, my long journey alongside him and his world. This was a big deal for me. Naturally, I wanted a clear head. But of course, the media coverage was nothing short of fierce. However, nothing was going to spoil it for me. I simply turned on the “see-no-potter, hear-no-potter” approach even if it temporarily turned me into a virtual zombie. Absolutely nothing spoiled it for me, well, except me of course, well, almost. I was already halfway through the book when I just couldn’t find the willpower to resist the gnawing temptation of knowing the end any longer that, with feigned reluctance and forced inattentiveness, I quickly turned to the last chapter and skimmed through. The forced reluctance worked. It was a marvelous thing, especially for someone (as in me) who has a horrible habit of jumping to the conclusion of any story I read. Blame it on ADD, which I’ve willingly diagnosed myself with. I just can’t handle the awful anticipation of discovering the end once the book’s in my hands. Anyway, all was safe, because I was “able to not remember” any significant context from zipping through the last pages that, while simultaneously guilt-ridden and relieved, I was able to return where I had left off and ride all the way through the chapters. The read was as exhilarating and intense as what a ride on a nimbus broomstick might be, because The Deathly Hollows is brimming with a bit more surprising twists, abrupt turns, and sudden dips and ascents, not to say that the previous six books didn’t have their own intensity.

I devoured the book slowly for about a couple of weeks. Now, taking that much time to cover any book that I’m fascinated with is rather unusual for my nature. In fact, it had only taken me a day or so to finish each of the previous six books since I was completely captivated by the Potter story right from the start. This time though, I don’t know if I just wanted to avoid the end because that would mean, well, the end, or if I just wanted to savor the grand finale, or, still, if that was all the time I could spare every night before I fell asleep. Nonetheless, my time to face the end came and I finally got my closure, like the multitude of others who had followed Harry’s journey since his birth.

One thing I was right about was Snape’s character not being the vile man he played prior the revelation in this book. This inkling started to simmer in my head after reading Order of the Phoenix, when Snape truly, however harshly, showed his desire for Harry to learn occlumency. My suspicion brewed further because Dumbledore’s support for it was so blatant, when he should have been wary of the severe danger he would be dropping Harry in by delivering him straight into Snape’s clutches. This hunch that Dumbledore and Snape were actually allies only intensified in The Half-blood Prince. The story began with Snape’s pledging his allegiance to Narcissa for her son’s sake. Again, that act was so blatant that it revealed something else that normally wouldn’t be obvious right away. (I suppose that real evil would be extremely cunning, careful, and subtle in carrying out its schemes.) Snape also clearly hesitated right before pointing his wand at Dumbledore and only actually called out the killing curse after Dumbledore had pleaded. At this point, I believed that Dumbledore and Snape had a bond that was going to be revealed in the final book. And it was. And I was so glad for it, despite the tragic way it was revealed, which was through Snape’s death. That bond and Harry’s realization that the only way to beat Voldemort at his own game is by facing death, which incidentally was the only thing Voldemort feared, were the main highlights of the story for me.

J.K. Rowling is nothing short of brilliant in conveying an enormous fantasy story on a very human level that people could actually relate to. The stories are timeless in quality with its fundamental themes of loyalty, friendship, courage, nature of good and evil, life and death, and ultimately love; and truly magical in its writing style which would make you laugh, cry, and ponder. And perhaps, The Deathly Hollows will only make you want to relive the journey all over again.

Winter Bed

Her mind left room for thoughts that impress
I left room for thoughts that undress
Star-crossed lovers doing a tango in Paris
My heart, her heart, together we were tightly knit
I dare to say, "Not me!"
And stare at my breath in the cold winter night, alone...
Shaken by the sudden chill of defeat...
Or is it victory?
I can't tell

The only clue left was the empty bed I slept in...

Polysics Or Die!!!! Vista












Polysics

As cynical as I am of Myspace and how trendy it seems, at least their record label has a potential gem on their hands. Introducing, the Polysics. Finally, a band that can take the craziness of Japanese culture, the style of certain 80’s artists (i.e. Devo, etc..), and the energy of Richard Simmons on speed, to create songs that give you a rare sonic experience. Mostly, the Japanese are known for their advanced technology, not really for cutting edge music. It’s rare that you see a Japanese artist break into the US music scene. But it would make sense if one did considering how influenced they are with American culture. Coming from Japan, the Polysics combine electronic, dance, rock, and any other audible noise that exists to make a deliciously catchy album. In most of the songs, they blurt out unintelligable phrases. Half the time I don’t know what they're saying, but who cares! This is not a band that provides philosophical wisdom in their music! Instead they make some real noise that appeals to the cynical American music afficianado that I am. Maybe we’ll start to see a trend in more out-of-the-box Japanese artists like this in the US.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Typical - Live at the G-Rock studio

Mute Math singing a stripped down version of Typical at G-Rock radio in Jersey. I'm used to seeing Paul jump off the piano when they play this song live. Doesn't look like there's much room in there to do that...


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Remedy













Remedy
David Crowder Band

There's more to him then the beard... or the hair... or his keytar. DCB's music is unique in that it's blatantly spiritual, but minus the "cheesiness factor" that comes from other similar artists. This band actually works to create music that's out-of-the-box. And their latest album Remedy definitely shows the progression they've made. Never afraid to experiment in the area of sound, DCB find a great balance in electronic and guitar driven songs led by Dave's trademark vocals. Listen closely in certain songs and you'll hear a subtle "blip" here and there, as if you were playing some old-school Nintendo game. Something else worth mentioning is that Ted Nugent (The Motor City Madman) lends his guitar skills by tearing it up on the song "We Won't Be Quiet". This is a good album to start with for anyone not familiar with their sound.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You can never get too much of a good thing...

Two albums that are worth mentioning again are Mute Math and Luna Halo. The Mute Math album I've had for over a year and a half and I still haven't gotten tired of the fucking thing yet. Utterly amazing, I must say. Luna Halo's album is another that I also find myself playing quite frequently. If my intuition is right (as it was when I knew in 2005 that Mute Math would eventually blow up), then these two bands have quite a ride ahead of them. Just wait and see.

Write

The wisdom of the old man told me, "Write"
I wrote...
Not on scrolls, not on decrees, not on walls inside the cell
I wrote...
Not with shallow words, not with platitudes
I just wrote...
The old man was RIGHT when he told me to WRITE

Monday, November 12, 2007

Everything Must Change












Everything Must Change
Brian McLaren

Start on page 77. That's what my advice would be to anyone reading the book. The first 76 pages almost bored me to death with the statistics, science facts, etc. Ok, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. But I can't lie. I almost fell asleep at certain parts, especially when I couldn't figure out if I was reading a biology or sociology book. (Snore)

I'm a bit disappointed becuase I like Brian McLaren's books. Some of the stuff he writes has me feeling like he can explain the jumbled thoughts in my head. But this one just didn't do it for me. No doubt, there are some valuable pieces of info to pick up in this. He covered some heavy topics dealing with the main social issues of our time. And he gets props, in my opinion, for speaking out on things that most people don't touch. It's just the way it was written was, well, boring. I can see where he was trying to go with this book, but I held my breath too many times waiting for it to kick in.

Maybe next time Brian.

Thursday, November 08, 2007












As the holidays are approaching, I'm reminded of why I love living in the NYC area. Apart from being the cultural mecca that it is, it's also one of the best places to be during the holidays. Sometimes I take it for granted since I practically lived here my whole life. Most people who are from the NYC area don't really "do" the tourist spots much. I even know people here who still haven't been to the Statue Of Liberty. Anyway, one thing that's awesome about NYC around the holidays is Rockefeller Center. Right next to the NBC studios, the tree at Rockefeller illuminates the center, and mobs of people try and get a glimpse of this massive attraction. It's cool to be among this crowd once in a while and just take in a breath of cold air while observing the scene.










As crazy as life was growing up, I have this memory of being taken as a kid to see Santa at Macy's. He definitely was better than the ones in the mall that had the beard you can pull off. No, this guy was the real deal. Anyway, with the weather getting colder and all the holiday buzz starting to fill the air, I was reminded of how I like the holidays around here, and the childlike feeling it brings.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Lifetime Of Secrets












The newest addition to Frank Warren's Postsecret books has been released. This one's called A Lifetime Of Secrets. Some of the confessions in here are hard to read. Not because they're so shocking (which some are), but because some of them hit so close to home. And I'm sure it's the same for anyone who reads this. What's different about the way this book is organized is that it starts with secrets (anonymously) submitted by young kids and teens, and works it's way all the way up to the older generation, hence the title A LIFETIME Of Secrets. Want to try and understand the baggage some kids are carrying? Flip through the first section of the book. Want to understand why your parents don't have it all together? Check out the confessions of some parents. Since the book covers the different age groups, it helps to understand other people more, as well as ourselves. You never know if some of the submissions are by people who made up their secrets. But since you can't tell, the words and images that stare at you on each page have something to say to our lives.

Polysics

With the right amount of practice, you too can learn to dance like this...

(This is off the hook)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Reversed Perspectives

"When you're a kid, you can't wait to grow up and be free from parental guidance. When you're older, you want to be a kid again..."

A picture that needs no explanation...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Planet Terror












When Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn came out in 1996, I watched it in the theater and realized it was the perfect combination of horror/comedy for a vampire film. And to make it better, it had Quentin Tarantino’s fingerprints in the story as well. I freaking loved it. So when I heard the terms “Rodriguez”, “Tarantino”, and “zombies” used in the same sentence describing the recent movie Planet Terror, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Planet Terror is part of a double feature named Grindhouse, which pays homage to cheesy, low budget films from the 70’s and 80’s.

Ok, first off, this movie is bloody as hell. A lot of the scenes are probably too gross for anyone with a weak stomach, but just enough for any horror fan, or if you're a mortuary student. I never knew blood could splatter in a movie as much as it did in this! In fact, it’s hilarious at how over-exaggerated the scenes are whenever someone is shot. Second, this movie is not to be taken seriously. This is made intentionally to come off as a low-budget horror film. And it seemed that Rodriguez went all out to give you the feeling of sitting in a cheap Grindhouse theater, complete with grainy picture, and even at one point, the film being stopped because the movie reel has “melted”! For someone who was too young for the original Grindhouse films, but who’s watched his fair share of B-movies, and experienced a movie reel melting in the theater (Pirates Of The Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest, Man I was pissed), I got a good laugh out of these small details.

As with most action or horror films, there’s always some type of hero. The heroine here is none other Charmed star and former Mrs. Marilyn Manson, Rose McGowan. She plays Cherry Darling, the machine-gun legged girl who helps save our world from flesh eating zombies. Just as George Clooney kicked some vampire ass in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Rose's character Cherry uses her leg to help wipe out the infestation of zombies. Cherry is an unlikely hero though. In the beginning, she’s an unhappy go-go dancer who quits that to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. On her way out of town she bumps into a guy named El Wray (who also kicks his share of zombie ass). Cherry seems frustrated with the cards that life has dealt her. And when talking about goals in life, she says, “That's the problem with goals, they become a thing you talk about instead of a thing you do." Well, Cherry Darling never did get to become that stand-up comedian. Instead she was destined to become something bigger. She helped save the world from zombies!

Along with Rose McGowan, there’s a diverse cast consisiting of Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin (yes, that guy from The Goonies), Quentin Tarantino, and even Fergie (who's character winds up becoming 'roadkill')!

Like I said, this is a horror movie not to be taken too seriously. But it’s seriously a zombie movie in it's own class.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Friday, November 02, 2007

Transformers - The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)
















Transformers - The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)

With the hype of latest Transformers movie, I figured this would be the best time to write about the animated movie from the 80's. Last year they released
Transformers - The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition) , which I just watched the other day. The Transformers played such a big part of my childhood. I watched all the shows and had most of the toys. I remember vividly seeing the ongoing battle between the Autobots and Decepticons and the tension between their leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron. With the animated version of the film, there was closure to their ongoing battle. Unfortunately, Optimus' fate didn't turn out so good as he was killed off in the beginning, traumatizing every childhood fan! But, all was not lost as the Autobots fought to the very end, with an unlikely hero named Hot Rod rising up to keep hope alive. It was awesome to be able to relive those childhood memories while seeing this animated version again. And as much as I liked the recent film, it didn't bring me back to my youth like this one did. On top of that, this DVD contains a bunch of extras, like Q&A sections with the producers. This is great for anyone looking to find out why the hell they killed off Optimus, as they answer this in some of the interviews on the DVD. If you never grew up watching the cartoon, but loved the latest movie, watch this one. It'll give you a glimpse of why this became such a phenomenon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Essential Jars of Clay












The Essential Jars of Clay

I guess greatest hits albums sometimes give you a better appreciation of an artist. If you're a die hard fan of a particular artist, then naturally you'll love their greatest hits compilation. Now I'm not a die hard fan of Jars Of Clay. In fact, up until their release of Good Monsters, I kept waiting for them to make some real noise. They had their breakthrough debut album when they released Flood, but they haven't made any big waves in the music scene since then. But something in me knew they had hidden guns just waiting to be pulled out, and they did just that with Good Monsters. I think at this point in time, with such a wide open field of music styles, it's the ideal moment for them to flex their skills. So in light of the Good Monsters album, and now The Essential Jars of Clay, I can appreciate their work more. Looking back on their older songs in light of their newer ones shows the potential they always had. The Essential Jars of Clay is basically a greatest hits album spanning their career from when Flood was released up until now. There's a couple tracks I was surprised that didn't make it (Show You Love for example). But it's a good compilation to cover the progress they made through the years.

* Funny observation: If you look on the right of the album cover, Steve Mason looks stoned out of his mind. Just thought I'd add that additional info. Haha...