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Monthly Archives: January 2012

It seems like Liam Neeson is everywhere these days. Already famous for his roles as Oskar Schindler, Qui-Gon Jin, and Ra’s al Ghul, Neeson gained even more exposure as an action hero after 2008’s surprise hit Taken. Since then, the Irish born act has appeared in similar action packed movies like Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, and Unknown. As thrilling as these movies may be, they aren’t exactly good (I couldn’t even finish Clash of the Titans). I was afraid that The Grey might fall into absurdity like the rest of those films, but fortunately I was mistaken.

The Grey is the story of a lonely man named John Ottway. He is a contract hunter whose job is to protect oil workers from the Alaskan wildlife (i.e. wolves). We are first introduced to Ottway in the middle of a suicide attempt. Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, we hear the howl of a wolf, and obviously Ottway has a change of heart.

The next day our hero and the rest of the workers embark on a flight back to civilization. Everyone knows that the plane crash is coming because we know its a survival movie. What I wasn’t expecting was just how realistic the plane crash scene would be. As someone who is already afraid of flying, this scene was definitely powerful. This plane crash makes those from Castaway and Lost seem tame in comparison.

Once on the ground, the cat and mouse game begins. A couple weeks ago I saw Neeson appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where they discussed the film. Jimmy remarked, “It’s like Jaws with wolves.” While this is certainly an oversimplification, it does illustrate how and why the wolves are so frightening. Like with Jaws, the fear in The Grey is built around what we don’t see. It’s all about creating moments of great tension. Much like the famous shark, we really don’t see much of the wolves on camera. Between those moments of great tension and action, The Grey contains important scenes of human struggle and heartbreak. It also showcases Liam Neeson’s exemplary talent as an actor, especially during a scene in which he describes to a mortally wounded companion what dying feels like.

I keep asking myself, “Is The Grey an action movie reaching for some depth, or is it a deep movie disguised as an action movie?” The more I think about it, and the way the film ends, the more I lean towards the latter. This isn’t just a dumb action movie. The Grey asks fundamental questions about existence like, “What is fear?”, “What is the nature of death?” and “Who should you believe it, God or yourself?”. What I enjoyed about this movie was that it leaves us with more questions than answers.

My advice is to see this movie now while it’s still in theaters. You need the big sound of a theater to get the full effect of the plane crash and the wolves. Watching it on DVD just won’t be the same. Also, make sure you stay after the credits! Although brief, this short final scene tells us a great deal.

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I’ve realized that the quality of an album has nothing to do with the quality of that band’s next album (Blood Sugar Sex Magik/One Hot Minute,  Houses of the Holy/Physical Graffiti…).  Thus I understand that it is hard to predict how an upcoming album will sound without actually having heard those songs before.  I will not make any such assumptions, but rather provide a list of bands who are supposed to be releasing new material this year.  Will any of the following be good?  No guarantees.

Note: Some bands have not yet titled there albums or provided a release date, though all are said to be released this year.

Bands whose album we’d be a lot more excited for if this was 1996:

Pearl Jam

Alice in Chains

Green Day

Smashing Pumpkins

Soundgarden

Soul Asylum

New albums I won’t buy, but will legitimately try to see the artist live:

Galactic, Carnivale Electricos (2/21/2012)

Rodrigo y Gabriela, Area 52 (1/24/2012)

Andrew Bird, Break it Yourself (3/6/2012) 

Geezers who will be releasing music this year, so look out for potential tour dates in which they play their old songs:

Paul McCartney, Kisses on the Bottom (2/7/2012)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Wrecking Ball (3/6/2012)

Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth (2/7/2012)

Black Sabbath

Potentially sexy album covers:

Paul McCartney, Kisses on the Bottom (I mean with a title like that…)

Fiona Apple

Carrie Underwood

Ingrid Michaelson, Human Again (1/24/2012)

Kellie Pickler, 100 Proof, (1/24/2012)

Bret Micheals, Get Your Rock On

Worth Mentioning:

Regina Spektor, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (May 2012)

Smith Westerns

The Mars Volta, Noctourniquet (3/27/2012)

Lambchop, Mr. M (2/21/2012)

Gift of Gab, Next Logical Progression (3/27/2012)

Too good to be true?:

                          

Jukebox the Ghost (supposed to be released this spring)

Ben Folds Five (reunited)

John Frusciante (rumored, though as of yet no word from the man himself)

Your eyes do not deceive you. The above picture shows Ben Folds, Robert Sledge, and Darren Jessee in a recording studio together. Big news out yesterday, courtesy of Twitter (the only legitimate source for real news). According to Mr. Ben Folds:

It’s happening fo sho – Day 1 in studio with Robert and Darren through March

That gives our three reunited heroes a solid two months in the studio to work their magic. According to a brief follow-up tweet by Folds, the album will be a “spring release.” This story just keeps getting better and better. Not only is the new Ben Folds Five album actually happening, but it’s happening rather quickly.

They next thing we need to start praying for is an extensive Ben Folds Five tour. Ben usually tours to promote each new album, so it would be more surprising if there wasn’t a tour.

For more updates on this developing story, I strong encourage you to follow @BenFolds on Twitter. Not only did Ben give us written confirmation of the reunion, but he also posted visual proof, as seen in the above picture.

Chris Farraday seems like just a normal guy with a normal family. We slowly learn that our hero has a shady past involving smuggling, but now he’s on the straight-and-narrow. However, a smuggling job gone wrong results in Farraday’s brother-in-law owing a lot of many to some dangerous people. To help protect his family, Farraday is forced to return to his criminal past and complete one last job.  It might sound like Gone in 60 Seconds on the surface, but Contraband has a key element which takes it to the next level– Mark Wahlberg. Without his style and charisma, Contraband would be a dull movie with an rehashed plot. But, the movie features Mr. Wahlberg doing what he does best– kicking ass. “You think you’re the only guy with a gun?”

Aside from Wahlberg, the other performances in this movie are underwhelming. Kate Beckinsale is far too attractive to be believable as a working-class soccer mom. Giovanni Ribisi was alright as bad guy Tim Briggs, but his squeaky sort-of-Cajun accent didn’t work for me. I tried to ignore the parallels between Contraband and Gone in 60 Seconds, but every time I saw Ribisi, I was reminded of the similarities.

The cinematography in this film did a great deal to enhance the storytelling. Wide environmental shots of New Orleans and Panama City helped in creating a specific feeling of atmosphere and authenticity– unlike the artificial feeling of a Hollywood soundstage that plagues countless action movies. Most of the dialogue is framed by shaky cameras and alternating focus which creates an effect of disorder and unrest. Everything about this movie is designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Plot points build and build, making the audience ask, “What else can go wrong for this guy?”

Many film critics have been making a big deal about product placement in this movie, specifically in regards to the use of Schlitz beer. Personally, I wasn’t even aware this beer existed, so I didn’t even notice the product placement. However, what did bother me was the focus on the Ford F-150 Raptor. It’s a weird-looking pick up truck and sticks out like a soar thumb. It doesn’t even make sense that the character would drive a brand new truck like this. The film crosses the line during a scene where the truck is backing up and we zoom in on the Raptor’s on-board camera which helps the driver park (What a convenient feature!). I definitely felt like I was being force-fed a commercial.

Overall, I’d recommend this movie because it delivers what it promises. If you’re looking for a fun and exciting movie, go see Contraband. If you’re looking for intellectual stimulation, stay home and watch Jeopardy.

The best television programming of 2012 will no doubt be March Madness, perhaps only to be outdone by the MLB season.  I’ll save commentary on either for a more appropriate time, should the gracious editor-in-chief of this esteemed website allow for it.  For now I’ll address what I believe to be the only non-sports programming and TV art form worth my regular viewership.  I talk, of course, of the sitcom.

Workaholics– Season 3

For those of you unaware of this supremely funny show, Comedy Central’s Workaholics follows the domestic and occupational lives of three men who not only share a home, but also a cubicle.  The show has been renewed for a third season which I hope will begin this spring (Season 1: 10 episodes in spring 2011, Season 2: 10 episodes in fall 2011) and shows no signs of slowing.  The main characters, much like those of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, are far too self-involved and disillusioned to leave room for the sappiness, romance and sentimentality that has plagued The Office and will too soon kill (dare I say it?) Parks and Recreation.  I’ll borrow a phrase from the show’s character Adam to simply describe the essence of the show as, “tight butt-hole.”

30 Rock– Season 6

30 Rock has returned after a brief hiatus.  Huzah!  The show is hilarious and its return to NBC’s Thursday night lineup is definitely welcome.  Need I say more?  But don’t take it from me, check out this ultra enticing promo for season 6!

Last night, 1/19/12 I went to see Dr. Acula, a Long Island based deathcore band at the Webster Theater in Hartford.  If any of you know me well at all or hang out with me, then you’ll know that I can’t seem to stop talking about Dr. Acula and they are the only music that ever plays in my car unless someone else takes control of the stereo.

This was the group’s second to last show before they make their way into Canada to begin their “Deal With Hell” tour.  Also billed on this tour are the groups Alcatraz 1962 and Legion.  The group of people that I went with were overly excited for this particular show because in March, my band, Apostasy, is going to open for Dr. Acula when their tour comes to a close in Poughkeepsie, NY; so we really wanted to get a feel for what a Dr. Acula show was all about.

Once I arrived, I scanned the merch booth for what I was going to spend all of my money on later in the night and quickly made my way to the bar for the opening acts.  There are several windows in the bar next to the Webster Underground so you can still see and hear the bands who are performing while you are drinking and trying not to get hit in the face from the rowdy kids watching their friends play.  During these opening acts I was scanning around the area for members of Dr. Acula getting excited like a little kid in a candy store whenever I would see one of them and point the member out to all of my friends.  Bill Graffeo, guitarist and last remaining original member from the early days of the band saw me wearing a Dr. Acula hat at the bar and came over to chat with me and my friends.  We had a good conversation about music, entering the studio, guitar tone, Red Bull, and that my band will be able to join them on their tour in just under two months.  He left and came back again an hour or so later to rejoin us; this really meant a lot to me and showed how real they are and care about their fans.

The time finally came for Dr. Acula’s set to begin and they came out to the Breakfast Machine song from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. The group is really known for comedic samples and things like this so I found it very fitting.  This introduction carried into “Party 2.0” which also features samples from Pee-Wee Herman movies.  The second song of the set was “Fire Crotch (The Venereal Van Ride)” which is about women who tend to screw men over.  The group features two lead vocalists and whenever one of them was not singing they would put the microphone in front of me and my friends to drunkenly yell all of the words.  This created a very fun environment with everyone jumping over my back to shout out whatever words they knew.  They also played “Slampig”, a song about women whom they think very little of, “Welcome to Camp Nightmare” which is a nod to older Dr. Acula songs with titles taken from Goosebumps books (when the group first formed, all of their songs had Goosebumps titles), and  “Cocaine Avalanche” which doesn’t really need much of an explanation.  I hassled the band much of the night to play some old songs and their second to last song was my favorite by the group, “Shocker on Shock Street” from their first album. The last song of the night was, as to be expected, their big single  “Who You Gonna Call?!” and did not disappoint.

The set was much shorter than we had all hoped because it was snowing pretty badly at the time and they probably really wanted to get on the road. Overall it was one of the most fun shows I had ever been to.  As my friends and I had discussed prior to their set, it seemed to be a rarity for us to see a band in concert during our peak interest in them. And if at all possible, it made me even more excited to have the opportunity to play with my favorite band in less than two months time.

If you’re looking for something to watch on a Thursday night, I highly recommend Archer on FX. This animated comedy follows the adventures of Sterling Archer, a secret agent who works for a security organization called ISIS, which is run by his mother. The show seems to ask the question, “If James Bond lived in the real world, he would be a total jerk, right?” Consequently, our hero is a narcissistic, womanizing, alcoholic, mama’s boy.

A good deal of the comedy stems from Archer’s messed up relationship with his mother, Malory Archer, played by Jessica Walter. You might recognize the voice from her role as Lucille Bluth from the beloved Arrested Development. If you loved that show, then you’ll like Archer because Walter essentially plays the same manipulative maternal character, and she’s great at it. Another recognizable voice comes from Chris Parnell as the pathetic Cyril Figgis (he’s the accountant in an office full of secret agents). Although he was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for 8 years, Parnell never managed to make his mark with any notable characters. I firmly believe his role as Cyril is what he’ll be remembered for.

Archer certainly has a style of its own. Visually, the animation is simple, but has a retro motif similar to that of Mad Men. Even though Archer takes place during modern day, the offices of ISIS look almost identical to the offices of Sterling Cooper. But don’t let the clean animation fool you– this show is dirty. Think James Bond meets South Park. The style of humor is definitely not for everyone, but if you like toilet humor, comedic bloodshed, and thick sarcasm, then Archer just might be the show for you. If you’d like to catch up, Season 1 is currently available for streaming on Netflix. If not, Season 3 premieres tonight, Thursday, January 19, at 10 p.m. on FX.