Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Simpsons Movie














After starting out as a huge Simpson’s fan in the early 90’s, I eventually gave up following the show around 1994. Nothing against it, just different changes in life provided less time for me to keep up with TV. Fast forward to 2008 where we now have The Simpsons Movie on DVD. I must say, after watching it I realized what I've been missing all this time. I remembered what it was about this show that had me hooked, even as far back as their guest appearances on Fox's Tracy Ullman Show. I had a good time laughing my ass off watching this film poke fun of everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger, to fundamentalist Christians, and extreme environmentalists. Chances are you might even find something about yourself to laugh about in this film. So what’s different between the movie and the regular show on TV? Nothing really, except for the fact that there’s more they can get away with on the film than on regular TV. Things like Homer and Marge about to get it on in the bedroom, or Bart’s infamous nude skateboarding scene. Other than that, this is about 90 minutes worth of the brilliant comedy that made the show famous.

And before anyone gets a chance to bash it, saying it's only an extended TV episode, the writers already beat you to the punch. In the intro to the film, Homer, while watching Itchy and Scratchy in the theater says, "I can't believe we're paying to see something we can see on TV for free! If you ask me, everyone in this theater is a big sucker!"

Oh! I can't forget to mention the debut of Spider-pig (AKA Harry Plopper), whose presence adds more laughs to this already hilarious film.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dub Trio













Another Sound Is Dying
Dub Trio

Yesterday, an album was released. The name of the band? Dub Trio. Who are they? A band from Brooklyn. Is it an album worth checking out? Absolutely. Why? Well I thought you'd never ask.

It seems these days that everyone is trying to do something "different". In fact there's so many people trying to make music that sounds "different", that it has become the norm. So what's been deemed as "normal" in the past is really what's "different" now. You following along? Good. So anyway, about Dub Trio. Defying conventional rules on how a typical album should be, these guys really jam to create mind-bending sounds. And man, they could jam! They do it by throwing different musical styles in a blender and cranking it on high until the shit starts flying everywhere. As the title says "Another Sound Is Dying". And before rebirth, there has to be some sort of death. Well what "dies" with this band is music that's predictable. And what gets "resurrected" is a sonic experiment that'll blow your mind.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cloverfield thoughts













Note to JJ Abrams: Make more movies, QUICK!

As the credits rolled after watching Cloverfield in the theater, I was thinking, "Why aren't more movies made like this??" And I'm not focusing so much on the realistic camcorder style of filming (although that did play a major part), but the fact that the answers weren't spoon fed to you. In fact, you're still left with a bunch of unanswered questions after the film ends. But you know what? That's what made it great for me! The only thing you can do for the unanswered questions is to visit in your mind any subtle clues the film may have provided. And as much as I tried to bring back anything to form an answer, I couldn't. Whether it was about the monster's origin, or any other detail, nothing was provided easily. And that's cool. In my humble opinion, I think we've been too easily satisfied with formulaic stories that are wrapped up nice and tidy at the end. And there is a place for those types of films. But they seem to have been the majority for a while. Films like this and 28 Days Later leave you with a grim, realistic feeling, even days after watching. It's the type of story that you wind up thinking, "If something like that ever happened, we're fucked."

With something like this, you confront an extreme type of fear. Unrealistic? Yes. But facing this kind of fear can actually do some good. I'll end with a quote by J.J. Abrams:

“We live in a time of great fear. Having a movie that is about something as outlandish as a massive creature attacking your city allows people to process and experience that fear in a way that is incredibly entertaining and incredibly safe. I want to have that experience myself – to go to a movie that’s about something larger-than-life and hyper-real, and ‘Cloverfield’ certainly is.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D Volume 1













I just got done reading through Vampire Hunter D Volume 1. I have to admit, I am continually amazed at the quality of art that's put out by the Japanese. Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably noticed the Anime craze that has swept Western culture. And with good reason it has. Anime has strecthed the limits in how far you can go in creating good animation. Now I am not a die hard Anime fan, but I have a great appreciation for it. When Anime first started making waves in American entertainment, there were two titles that made an impression on me. They were Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D. Vampire Hunter D really satisfied my appetite for a good vampire story, along with it's cutting edge animation. Now, DMP (Digital Manga Publishing) has released Volume 1 in it's book version of this amazing story. The mysterious figure known as "D" comes alive in this book, just as he did when he kicked vampire ass in the show. Along with the great line of vampire hunters we have been introduced to in books and films, this messianic character "D" comes to redeem a group of people oppressed of savage vampires. And with the detailed illustration and engaging story in this book, "D" takes us on a wild journey through this classic vampire story.

Now the wait is on for Volume 2...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Kingdom













Movies like this are hard to watch. Not because it's a bad movie. No, it's far from that. It's because it hits so close to home, considering the times we live in. After 9/11, and now the Iraq war, tensions between the US and Middle East have risen. We live in sensitive times and this movie tackles a sensitive issue. The Kingdom presents a fictional (but very realistic) account of US citizens living in Saudi attacked by terrorists. In the film, a US housing complex in Saudi Arabia gets bombed by Muslim terrorists. So, a team of FBI agents that includes Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman (yes, that Jason Bateman) are sent to Saudi to investigate the catastrophe. During their investigation, the agents face a huge obstacle because they get very minimal support from the Saudis. With the exception of a loyal Saudi appointed to help them, they are outnumbered and extremely out of place conducting their investigation in this foreign country.

Get ready to have your emotions rocked if you plan on seeing this film. There are some real intense themes here that are hard to swallow. It's a given that since it covers the topic of terrorism that it'll shake you up. Along with that, there is enough explosive action to keep you on the edge of your seat. What's great is that the serious tone of the film isn't dumbed down by the action scenes. They just spice it up a bit. The first part of the film builds up the tension as the agents aggresively work to find the terrorists responsible for the massacre. Then the explosive action kicks in during a very memorable scene on a highway, which leads to a huge shoot-out, a kidnapping, some car chasing, another round of intense shoot-outs, and a shocking and unexpected twist ending.

Most films usually have some sort of conflict that gets resolved in the end, leaving everyone happy. But in The Kingdom, it ends on a very chilling note. What makes it so chilling is that it honestly reflects a very dark reality of our world. You'll just have to see for yourself.

Monster Insurance?

I bet Geico can't compete with an offer like this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reset EP












Reset EP
Mute Math

I'm gonna take you back on this one...

Before the reputation for putting on electrifying live shows, before the video for Typical on MTV or the live performance done backwards on Jimmy Kimmel, there was the Reset EP. Technically, this was Mute Math's first "official" CD put out by Word Records, before the infamous lawsuit. After the smoke cleared from the legal issues, their self titled debut album Mute Math was released under Warner Bros. But up until then, all fans could get their hands on was this EP. If you had it, you would have already known some of the songs like Control, Reset, and Plan B by the time the debut album was released.

If you just stumbled upon this band after hearing a buzz about their shows, or from the Jimmy Kimmel performance, then there's some tracks on here that you probably haven't heard. If, by chance you went to a recent concert of theirs, you might have heard them play Peculiar People. As to why this didn't make it on their debut album, I have no idea. This reggae influenced track is one of the highlights of the band's song catalog so far. And the only CD you can get it on is this EP. Also, another little gem you can only find here is the track Progress. To sum it up, if you just found out about this band and like what you heard, this EP takes you back to when the buzz started to form about this band called Mute Math.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sunshine













Stop for a moment and try to imagine hearing the following news.

The sun is about to burn out.

Pretty scary thought. What would the consequences be? Can we do anything about it?

Sunshine explores this wild scenario. In the year 2057, a team is sent on a mission to revive the dying sun. Mankind's only hope lies in the hands of this crew. While on the way to complete their mission, they hit a "bump in the road", so to speak. Without revealing any spoilers, let's just say something happens which slightly alters their route, and presents a MAJOR conflict for them. Just as you would expect from director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later), in Sunshine he creates a thought provoking and thrilling ride to the sun. Again, Mr. Boyle deals with the possibility of human extinction in his films, just like 28 Days Later. Except this time we're not dealing with zombie-like beings. This time it's do or die as the crew has to complete their mission and save humanity by reviving the sun. As you can imagine, this film carries much tension to go along with the journey. And that tension is acted out perfectly by the actors chosen such as Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, and Chris Evans. The special effects are amazing as they portray realistically how a journey to the sun would be like. This film also tackles a lot of issues. For example, when decisions are being made for the greater good, at whose expense do we try and accomplish it? And how can you deal with extreme guilt after you've made a mistake that has severe consequences?

This movie will open your eyes, play with your emotions, and have you holding your breath during the climatic ending.

The DVD is out today (1/8/2008), and I highly recommend it. The DVD contains enough extras to keep you busy for a week. And the movie itself is good enough to have you thinking about it for days.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Apartment 1303













I remember the days when we were satisfied with cheesy camp horror flicks.

Those days are long gone.

Now, it seems that Japanese horror is at the forefront of the genre. One main element of these films is they have a psychological aspect that so many other horror films lack. Now, the list of J-Horror films keeps growing. Another title to add to that list is Apartment 1303. Following in the tradition of The Ring and The Grudge, Apartment 1303 brings the same psychological terror that the Japanese films have a reputation for. This one is about (you guessed it) a haunted apartment. But it doesn't stop at just a typical "haunted house" film. There's a horrifying secret as to why the apartment is haunted, as well as family tension with the main character Mariko and her mom. The journey by Mariko to uncover the mystery of Apartment 1303 is what carries this film. One thing that always gets me in these movies is WHY does the person insist on staying in a place they know is haunted?? I would have gotten the hell out right away. But then, the film would be cut way too short if that happened! And since Mariko lost her sister tragically when she lived in 1303, she's determined to figure out why all the apartment's previous residents died tragically. If you're looking for your typical blood and guts horror film with a shallow plot, then this isn't your film. The smart plot and terrifying scenes that come out of nowhere separate this from those type of films. What I noticed about this is how improved the creepy sound effects are compared to other films such as Ju-On (The Grudge), and so on.

After seeing this, you may want to check the history of an apartment before moving in.


Friday, January 04, 2008

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007













Finally, a book that's perfect for someone with A.D.D. Or if your interests fly all over the place, you'll enjoy this too. Don't like following books chapter by chapter? No problem! With The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, you can just open to any random page and indulge yourself without worrying about missing key details. Because there are none! If you didn't notice, the title is The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, which means there's no specific theme. You might find yourself reading a letter from Conan O'Brien to a graduating class. Or, just open to the intro written by Sufjan Stevens to find out why it took him so long to learn how to read. This best part of this is not knowing what you'll find next. I guess the consistent thing in this book is that most writings are thought provoking or down right hilarious as each was carefully selected by a team of microbiologists. I'm kidding about the microbiologists part. But they were selected by Dave Eggers, who apparently knows how to find good writings.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

American Gangster













American Gangster
Jay-Z

Jay-Z proves himself to be the "Michael Jordan of rap" on American Gangster, his second album since his return from "retirement". The themes here are inspired by the Denzel Washington film with the same title. Just as movies like The Godfather and Scarface portray the intimate details of gangster life, Jay's crafty lyricism take you on a journey through the life of a hustler. It shows the riches and fame that come with such a life, but by the time you reach the songs "Success" and "Fallin'", you realize that in a life of crime, you eventually reap what you sow. Check out these lines from Success:

I use to give a shit, now I don't give a shit more
Truth be told I had more fun when I was piss poor
I'm pissed off, and this success song is about
a bunch a ni**as acting like bitches with big mouths
All this stress, all I got is this big house
Couple of cars, I don't bring half of them shits out
All of this ace of spade I drank just to piss out
I mean I like the taste coulda saved myself 6 hours


And the point is driven home even more on Fallin':

I know I shouldnt've did that
I know its gon' come right back
I know its gon' destroy everything I made
Its probably gon' get ya boy sent away
But this game I play, ain't no way to fix it
Its inevitable -

Now you're
(FALLING)
When you should've scaled back,
Now you're
(FALLING)
Right into they lap
Falling, they applaud and they screamin' at the screen
"Damn, you fucked up!" like your favorite movie scene
Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, Casino
You seen what that last run did to DeNiro
When he can't beat the odds, can't cheat the cards
Can't blow too hard, life's a deck of cards
Now you're tumbling, its humbling, you're falling, you're mumbling
Under your breath like you knew this day was coming


Great beats and hard hitting lyrics make this one a memorable rap album. And also a reminder that in a life of crime, you eventually get fucked at the end.