Friday, December 28, 2007

The Reminder

The Reminder

Feist brings the total package when it comes to Canadian rock chicks. With a gritty sound, unique vocals, and songs packed with raw emotion, her album The Reminder goes down as one of the top albums of the year. Not to be compared to another female Canadian singer who sang Ironic in the 90's, Feist is in a league of her own. In an era where great female rockers are practically extinct, she comes in and drops a much needed album. The Reminder truly reminds us there is great music out there waiting to be found.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen (DVD)

When hearing the name "Pacino", what is the first thing that comes to mind? Probably the words Mafia, Scarface, and crime to name a few. Well you had to assume it was only a matter of time before Al Pacino was recruited to star in a movie about a Vegas hotel heist. It's practically mandated in Hollywood that either Pacino or DeNiro star in films like these. (Could we possibly see Bobby DeNiro in Oceans Fourteen?) This time around, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and their gang are back in Ocean's Thirteen, the third film in the Ocean's series. The motivation for the heist this time is to hurt the pride of a shady hotel owner named Willy Bank (Al Pacino). It seems that Willy is quite the perfectionist in running his hotels, and with his new hotel called The Bank opening up, he is intent on winning a Five Diamond Award. That's where Danny Ocean (Clooney) and crew try and sabotage the hotel's grand opening, denying Bank the pleasure of getting another award. Why would Ocean's gang go to such trouble doing all this? Because in the beginning of the film, Bank cheated Ocean's friend Reuben Tishkoff out of a deal and also threatened to have him thrown off a rooftop. All of this drama wound up giving Reuben a heart attack. That would be all the fuel that Ocean needed to get revenge on Bank. The fun in watching this film is the tactics they used in sabotaging The Bank's grand opening. For example, I can't recall ever seeing a group of people actually pull off a mock earthquake to shake up a hotel. That is just one of the many clever, yet funny scenarios throughout Ocean's Thirteen. Overall, a great film where the "bad guys" are the heroes at the end of it all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

It's hard to imagine that this is the same guy who had a cameo in Chasing Amy and starred in Good Will Hunting. Now Matt Damon is playing a CIA assassin. You never know where Hollywood can take you.

In case you didn't know, The Bourne Identity is out on DVD. Within the past month, there have been some great DVD's released. There's Live Free Or Die Hard, Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, and now The Bourne Ultimatum.

I haven't watched the previous films in the Bourne series, but it didn't matter. The fast paced action along with a real smart plot outweighed any minor details that I didn't get. Although now I'm going back to the beginning to trace my steps and catch up with the story. Speaking of tracing your steps, Matt Damon did an awesome job playing an amnesiac Jason Bourne trying to find his identity. Any skeptic of Matt's work as an actor should check out his role here.

This is a film that combines explosive action along with a smart story that snatches your attention from the opening scene. Be sure to pay attention to every little detail, because by the end of the film, your head will be spinning as everything ties together. I will say this. If you like surprises, then you won't be disappointed. The special effects are nothing short of amazing as you are taken on a wild ride to places like Russia, Spain, Morocco, and New York City.

Now, since this is the DVD version, I have to mention the extras. Watching the behind the scenes on the DVD made me appreciate the film more. Within the special features, you get a glimpse of how much hard work went into creating the effects, and in filming at high profile locations such as London and NYC. This is not one of those movies which takes place in NYC but is filmed in Toronto. No, this was filmed right in the heart of the city. Living next to NYC, I can attest that traffic there is bad enough without having a car chase scene shutting down parts of 7th Avenue. Learning that they had to get permission from the Mayor's office to shut down the street while filming, I have to admit that is quite a feat! Not to mention that there were probably more than a few pissed off New Yorkers. But in the end, it's all for the good of the movie. And trust me, after seeing some of the film's car chases, that work definitely paid off!

So I guess the question after seeing the film is, "Will there be another?" We'll just have to wait and see. Until then, I'm making it a point to start from the first film in the series, and work my way back up to this one.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Silent Years are playing Santa

Ho Ho Ho! Whether you've been naughty or nice this year, The Silent Years want to give YOU a free download of their self-titled debut album. Take advantage of it now before the offer ends on December 26th.


And here's a video for their song "Someone To Keep Us Warm"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

State Radio

State Radio
Year Of The Crow

Personally, I'm not a big fan of musicians with political agendas. By that, I mean music that ONLY has the agenda of convincing you to conform to their way of thinking. Now, I didn't say I was against artists expressing themselves and their worldview through songs. How could you not help but do that through art? I'm talking about artists that are more concerned with politics than making good art. Before I'm misunderstood, let me clarify some things. It's nice to see when artists use their inflated bank accounts to help others instead of blowing it on crystal meth and bling-bling. Let's face it though. Sometimes, mixing politics and art could be career suicide.

There are a few socially conscious artists that stand out though. I think of artists like Rage Against The Machine or Bono from U2. Even if you don't agree with their political stances, they grab your attention with songs that combine great sounds along with passion for what they're singing about. Another one I can add to that list is State Radio. On their new album Year Of The Crow, State Radio combines the political awareness of RATM with the ska/punk sound of Sublime. Coming from Massachusettes, they create an album full of raw sounds led by a singer who sings straight-up ragamuffin style. With song titles such as Guantanamo, CIA, and Sudan, I think it's self explanatory that current social issues are on their mind. Personally, I love reggae, ska, and punk. And to find a band that can mesh all three styles and have depth in their lyrics is rare. As far as agendas go, I think Chad Stokes from the band summed it up well:

“The ultimate goal of State Radio is to have people consider what I’m saying as they enjoy the music we create. I’m not looking to alienate anyone, but I hope I can enlighten some people.”

And that's echoed loud and clear on Year Of The Crow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Live Free Or Die Hard

We’re given so many choices each day- paper or plastic, regular or decaf, widescreen or full. With the release of Live Free or Die Hard on DVD, you get the option of rated or unrated. I made my choice last night to go with the unrated.

All I can say is, “DAMN”.

What a freaking ride that was.

Bruce Willis is back again as John McClane, for the fourth time. Not only is Bruce old enough to be a grandfather, but he can still pull off the indestructible John McClane with style. Thanks Bruce for giving younger guys like me inspiration.

This one doesn't waste any time in bringing in the action. Just the roll of the credits, a brief argument between John and his daughter, and then, BAM! The fun begins.

There's much tension in this episode. While the previous episode dealt with a threat to the city of New York, Live Free or Die Hard deals with a national threat. Apparently, some computer hackers are threatening to literally shut down the country and cause all hell to break loose. And McClane, doing what he does best, indirectly gets involved and is now responsible for saving the day. What a guy!

As with every Die Hard film, there’s always something new to be learned. Here are a few from this release:

- How to use a fire hydrant to knock a guy out of a helicopter who’s shooting at you
- How to launch a car in the air to blow up a helicopter
- How to survive in a tunnel when a car is flipping in the air about to crush you
- And how to survive being shot at by a military fighter jet on the highway

You never know when those lessons may come in handy.

I never thought I'd live to see the day where Kevin Smith (a.k.a. Silent Bob from Clerks) stars in a Die Hard film. His cameo is hilarious as he plays a cyber-geek named Warlock whose services are needed to help save the country.

As much as this is a great action flick, I believe it says something to where we place our security. And what happens when what seemed so secure (technology) is taken over by the wrong people? As much as technology advances and we rely on it for our daily lives, it also gives a glimpse of how that can all change in a split second.

One of the benefits of having the special edition DVD is all the extra features. And one feature that stood out the most to me was the interview between Kevin Smith and Bruce Willis. It was funny and informational as they chatted about how Bruce really felt about the other Die Hard films, and a lot of other info regarding Live Free or Die Hard.

Live Free or Die Hard resurrected the legacy of the Die Hard films at just the right time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Blood - Kevin Max

The Blood
Kevin Max

Just before 2007 comes to an end, Kevin Max brings us a new album called The Blood. I know this is something he's wanted to put out for some time. This one is not your typical K-Max album though, because, well it's a Gospel album. But before you roll your eyes and think this is another white boy trying to get down and sing some old spirituals, read this from his press release:

"I later began to understand the power of rock and roll....the depth of the blues and the harmony of R&B.....Led Zeppelin and The Beatles made sense after understanding the basics of gospel music....Elvis Presley understood that power and transformed it into rock and roll right before the world's this day i hear the influence of Gospel music in the swagger of Morrissey's voice, in the intonations of Kanye West and the passion of U2... if i could make anyone understand my reasons for this undertaking i would tell them this; Gospel music has the power to make one understand the need for Christ and His power over death."

If Elvis and Johnny Cash did it, why not K-Max?

The actual release date for this is Dec. 26th. I was able to listen to an advanced copy of the album and it is something worth checking out. It's pretty bold when an artist who leans more toward alternative rock puts out a Gospel album. Anyway, if you have ever heard Kevin's distinct vocals, try and picture him belting out some old, stripped down, gospel tracks. And with all the guest appearances on the album, it's his vocals that dominate each song. I am not familiar at all with gospel music, but am aware of the deep roots it has in our culture. But there was still a lot about it that I was unaware of. Like, I never even knew Prince did a gospel song called The Cross, which Kevin also covers on here. Overall, this is a nice album by an artist who continues to be intriguing and unexpected.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix

“What's life without a little risk?”
-Sirius Black

And risk is something that Harry would have to do to survive in Order Of The Phoenix.

2007 was a good year for the Harry Potter franchise. The Order of the Phoenix was released on the big screen, Deathly Hallows' anticipated book release in July was unlike anything I've ever seen, and Dumbledore came out of the closet. Now, to remind us how fast time flies from summer to winter, Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix is being released on DVD! It seemed like last week I was watching this in the theater.

Things are not the same at Hogwarts anymore. With the threat of Voldemort’s return, Harry and his friends really have to learn to defend themselves. Unfortunately, they have no one to show them self defense since there have been certain “laws” made in school that prohibits everything other than breathing. You've probably seen the tag on the promotional posters that says "The Rebellion Begins". And a necessary rebellion it is for Harry and the rest of his crew. With the new legalistic structure at Hogwarts (courtesy of the character Dolores Umbridge, a.k.a. Super Bitch), they have to risk in order to survive- risk the threat of being kicked out of school for practicing self-defense on their own, and also risk their lives in standing up and facing the evil threat of the Dark Lord. As with every Harry Potter episode, there are strong themes in the story. There's the theme of how fear can distort your mind, how power in the wrong hands can be used for corruption, and how taking matters in your own hands when no one else is around to help you is sometimes necessary. This is a pivotal episode in the HP series because since Goblet Of Fire, it gets more serious and darker with the Dark Lord’s return and the death of certain characters becoming more frequent. Like the other films, the acting was great- from the students, to the professors, to Dumbledore, and the Death Eaters. It took a few viewings of episodes 3 and 4 to get used to Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. But by Order Of The Phoenix, he really seems like Dumbledore incarnate. After viewing this, I can’t help but get excited thinking about the next release to come on the screen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.