Friday, February 29, 2008

Sorry, Sean.

Dear Readers,
In regards to my 2008 Oscar Review, I wish to issue this retraction. My cousin Sean is not - I repeat: IS NOT - in love with Ellen Page, the Academy Award-nominated star of Juno. He doesn't even like her at all. In fact, he hates her stinkin' guts. He thinks she smells like pee.

Happy now, Sean?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stupid Democrats

Dear Democratic Presidential Hopefuls,
(Not you, Gravel)

Hilary Clinton's camp posted this picture today of Barak Obama (from his trip to Kenya - his father's homeland - 2 years ago) on the Drudge Report website. In the photo, he is seen wearing traditional African garb. And now, Obama's camp has slamed Clinton, calling this move "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering".

I DON'T GET YOU PEOPLE!

Hillary, why post the photo at all?

Barak, what's the big freakin' deal? How is this "fear-mongering"?

BOTH OF YOU: stop listening to your goddamned ADVISORS and act for yourselves!

This photo is not racist nor offensive in any way to anyone but the most bigoted, hateful and moronic people in the country, and for either camp to insinuate that it somehow is... it's just ridiculous and CHILDISH! It's INSULTING to ME - a democrat whom you are supposed to be representing! To insinuate that I, or anyone remotely like me, would have our votes swayed by this photo... as thought it MEANS something... means ANYTHING! How dare you both?!?!

I'm HALF YOUR AGE and even I think this is just the most basic, juvenile and immature attitude an adult can have. If you really think this is going to sway votes, you should consider that your reactions to such lunacy is indeed the bigger problem.

One of you is, most likely, about to be PRESIDENT! START ACTING LIKE ONE!

Jeez!

Love,
Mike

STAR WARS (according to a 3-year old)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

2008 OSCARS

Ha ha! I was right! No Country For Old Men was the Best Picture at this year's Oscars.

Not to mention that it won Best Direction (Joel & Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay (also by the Coens from the book by Cormac McCarthy), and Best Supporting Actor in Javier Bardem.

The Best Actor award went, quite deservingly, to Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (which also won Best Cinematography). Basically, whenever this guy gets nominated, he wins. He just RARELY makes a movie, making his presence at the Oscars kind of an elusive thing, so everyone in the Academy gets all excited and he automatically wins. That, and he is amazing in all of his roles.

Best Supporting Actress went to a relatively unknown young woman, Marion Cotillard, for her performance in La Vie En Rose, a film I'd not heard about before the Oscars, but after seeing how many categories it was nominated for (and winning another for Achievement in Make-Up... sorry Norbit), I'm thinking I should check it out.

I was a bit upset by Tilda Swinton's win for Best Actress in Michael Clayton. It was a decent movie and I liked her role, but it certainly didn't seem exceptional. Now, Cate Blanchet as Bob Dylan? THAT'S exceptional! It would have been cool to see a woman win "Best Actress" for playing a man. And how about Saoirse Ronan from Atonement? That kid was astonishing! She was my favorite part of that movie! (That, and the Original Score which took home the Oscar in that category.) And Amy Ryan was pretty great, too, in Gone, Baby Gone. I just think Swinton beat out some REALLY stiff competition. Good for her, I guess.

Kudos to Brad Bird (and you, Josh!) for his Best Animated Feature win for Rattatouille, and to the first-timer Diablo Cody for her Best Original Screenplay award for Juno - reminiscent of Sophia Coppola's win for Lost In Translation in 2004, only without the "Foot-In-The-Door" Father advantage.

More hi-fives for The Bourne Ultimatum, which took home 3 Oscars (Sound Design, Sound Mixing and Editing), The Golden Compass (Visual Effects), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Costume Design) and Sweeney Todd (Art Direction).

There were other Oscars given out to other films that I didn't see, so I won't bother to get into those. And the Oscars had some predictably boring parts, like the musical numbers, mostly from that lame little Disney flick "Enchanted", and about a million commercials. But I liked the montages, especially the "Tribute To Binoculars and Telescopes" and the "Tribute to Bad Dreams" - thank you, John Stewart.

Speaking of Stewart, he was hilarious. I hope he hosts a lot of the future Oscars. Some his his best lines of the night include:

"Usually when we see a black or female president, a meteor is about to strike the Statue of Liberty! 'How will we know it's the future?!?!'"

"It's great to see Norbit being represented at The Oscars - Too often, The Academy ignores movies that aren't good."

"There are already two pregnant women here, but the night is young and Jack (Nickolson) is here, so we'll re-tally at the end of the night."

And after putting on-screen the pictures of the pregnant actresses in attendance, "And the Baby goes to.... (opens a sealed envelope)... ANGELINA JOLEE! Of course, she can't be here tonight because it's impossible to find seventeen babysitters on Oscar night."

"The best part of that song was watching Hal Holbrook in the aisle doing the Cabbage-Patch. Helen Murin, you got served!"

So, in addition to La Vie En Rose, I will also have to be checking out The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, American Gangster, and The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford.

Well, that about sums up the 80th Annual Academy Awards. I think it was a great year for movies and a pretty good awards show. Apologies to my cousin who is, no doubt, crying "Why!? WHY!?" into his pillow right now, but don't worry, Sean - at least she'll still be hosting SNL this week!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TRAFFIC SCHOOL - THE MOVIE!

Currently in Pre-pre-PRE Production

Directed by Michael Wood
Executive Producer Katie McCarthy
Story by Brad Lytle

PLOT OUTLINE
by Brad Lytle

So the movie is about a bad-ass cop (Mac Strong), who stops at nothing to catch criminals, which sometimes includes breaking major traffic laws and causing damage.  Unfortunately for Mac, that often happens when pursuing very minor criminals like shoplifters and jaywalkers. So the chief of police decides to give him a creative punishment.

Under the logic that the best way to master something is to teach it, he makes Mac teach the 8-week city traffic school. It might also help Mac get some people skills. The traffic school has a mix of teenagers (think goth, jock, nerd), some foreigners, and some people who are trying to regain their license (like a felon, a trucker, a biker, perhaps a smarmy business man). Finally, the class includes Mac's daughter, whom Mac hardly knows.

Through the course of the movie, Mac teaches his students about prudent driving, though each student is weak in some domain (e.g., the nerd sucks at parrell parking, the biker can't help his lead foot), and he learns to relate to his students and finally with his daughter (hilarity ensues).

The the movie climaxes when it turns out one of the students (not the business man who always seemed like a bad guy, but rather it turns out the Jock was only pretending to be a Jock) got himself into the class to gain access to the building behind the school - a vault. Mac discovers the dastardly plan but attributes it to the businessman. So the bad guy is able to escape and take Mac's daughter hostage in some hot little sports car. Mac and the class pursue while obeying all the laws (the nerd who never quite mastered parallel parking must do so to make a road block, and had the biker sped like he usually did he would have been out of sight of the bad guy going along the highway).

Needless to say the movie ends when Mac rescues his daughter and she apologizes for whatever and they hug.


PENDING CAST (According to Brad):

BIG BUDGET LIST
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Mac)
Jessica Simpson (Daughter)
Zooey Dashenel (Goth Chick)
Jason Long (nerd)
Luke Wilson (businessman)

LOW-BUDGET LIST
Minka Kelly (Daughter)
Jensen Ackles (Jock/Villain)
Victor Garber (Businessman)

Mike Wants Revenge


Maybe you 2 or 3 people who read my blog once a month or so can help me with this.

I have this roommate who is a complete asshole. He insists on playing his music at ALL the wrong times, and it wouldn't be so bad if:

A) It were decent music, but no - it's gotta be 12-minute-minimum Techno tracks on "repeat" with unbelievably repetitive hooks, no personality, and from where I'm listening, only a bumping bass sound like this: "Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud" .... and so on.

B) He wore headphones - but he refuses.

C) I could do anything about it! I've complained to him on multiples of occasions only to get doors slammed in my face or yelled back at and called "a whiney bitch" (because he's a white boy who thinks he's from "da streets", ya know. I almost knocked his teeth out).

D) The Landlords, whom I've had to bring into this on several occasions, would actually enforce the rules of the contract that both the homeboy and myself signed upon residential ingress, stating, "No one shall disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the house" (or something to that affect), of which I declare that HE is in direct violation. But, no. They just basically said, "Eh - what're you gonna do? If you don't like it, you should probably just move out."

But I can't move out. I have very little money, I can't find any place that's very much better anywhere near my job up here in North County, I can't afford a rental truck and I'm sick of bugging people to help me move - which I've had to do twice in the past 9 months.

So I just want to get back at this Grade-A bastard for being such a disruptive prick. He slams doors, stomps everywhere, shouts whenever he talks, bangs pots and pans in the kitchen like he owns the damned place... he must be half deaf or something - every other word out of his mouth is "Wha?".

I hate him so much.

I need a clever way to get back at him without getting myself in any trouble that would cause me to be kicked out of the house. I need to find a way to end his freedom to do whatever the fuck he wants and get some silence in the house, as opposed to him being allowed to make that noise ALL GOD DAMNED NIGHT - LITERALLY!

I'm sick of yelling at him and getting my blood all boiled, and having to resign to wearing ear plugs most hours of the day. I want it to end and I have no idea where the house's fuse box could be, so that's out. (Besides, he could fix that too easily.) I can't resort to any forced entry or vandalism, as that would most likely lead to be being booted out. I don't want to just blast my own music back at him because, as I've tried it before, that doesn't really get the point across to this moron.

Please! Help me think of a way to drive him insane!!!!!!

Thanks

Sunday, February 17, 2008

LOST - Deleted Scene

Ok, so no recaps anymore, cause no one seems to care. But this should be more interesting.

In my research of this new and awesome episode - "The Economist" - I've discovered that there was one deleted scene to which someone out there had access, and leaked only after the episode had aired. I'm going to post his transcription of the scene here:



The Fence Scene
From "The Economist"

Miles, Kate, and Sayid arrive at the perimeter fence on their way to the barracks.

MILES
What is this?

SAYID
A Security fence. When activated, the pylons
emit a high pitch frequency that will kill anyone
who passes through it. We used a tree to climb...

MILES raises his hand towards Sayid. He seems to hear something.

MILES
SHHHHHHHHH!!!

SAYID stops and watches MILES as he scans the surroundings, listening intently.

SAYID (Sarcastic)
I'm sorry, are we supposed to be
hearing something?

A beat passes and MILES is suddenly aware that SAYID had spoken to him.

MILES
I'm sorry, what?

KATE is examining the control panel.

KATE
Maybe I can shut it off.

SAYID joins her, bending over to examine the panel.

SAYID
And, how might you do that?

KATE
I saw Juliet do it once.

SAYID (Doubtful)
Without the code?

ANGLE ON MILES. He continues to scan with a slight twitch, similar to when we saw him reading the boys room in Confirmed Dead. Suddenly he walks through the pylons and turns towards an astonished KATE and SAYID.

MILES
Hey, I don't think its on.

KATE
And how did you know that?

MILES
Lucky guess.

MILES turns and walks away. SAYID and KATE exchange puzzled glances and proceed after him.


Boo ya!

Theories?

KNUFFELTJE KNUFFEL

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dun-du-ddun-dahhhhh!

Spongebob goes HOLLYWOOD!












Top Ten Films of 2007


Well, actually, it's just MY FAVORITE films of 2007.

And it was a good year!

This list will obviously have to exclude the films I didn't get to see - and there were several I wanted to see and never did, like Michael Clayton, Juno, Into The Wild, Charlie Wilson's War, American Gangster and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

I should also mention that some films I did see regrettably didn't fit into the Top Ten, so... Honorable Mention goes to I Am Legend, Superbad and Knocked Up.

But there was a Top Ten.

So here we go.

#10 - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
(dir. Tim Burton; Star. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman and Sasha Baron Cohen)

The only musical to make the list - and the only one I saw all year - this was one of Tim Burton's best, most brutally stark films. A remake of the Broadway Musical by Stephen Sondheim, this film proved once and for all the vocal abilities of Depp and (especially) Baron Cohen. The sights and sounds in this film are striking and powerful, the story is timeless and the tunes are classic.

(Favorite scene: "Try Pirelli's Miracle Elixir! That'll do the trick, sir! True, sir, true!")

#9 - Gone Baby Gone
(dir. Ben Affleck; star. Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan)

Holy Appleboxes, Batman! The kid can DIRECT! And the younger kid can ACT!

That's right, the Brothers Affleck turn out to be a powerhouse in this amazing crime drama with an ending you truly don't see coming. Michelle Monaghan goes from her role as the hot High School girl in Superbad to this mature, loyal wife/partner of Casey Affleck - a young private eye team asked to supplement the police investigation of the suspected kidnapping of a local little girl in the projects of Boston.

Ed Harris steals the show in one of his several scenes and makes for an unforgettable performance, and Morgan Freeman is his usual awesome self. But opening eyes was the performance of newcomer Amy Ryan, who's role as the deadbeat mother of the missing child brought on critical acclaim.

(Favorite Scene: Ed Harris' angry rant at Affleck about an old case becomes a lesson on his philosophy on life.)

#8 - The Simpsons Movie
(dir. David Silverman; Star. everybody)

If you didn't see this film on opening night, you missed out on a piece of history. The crowd was IN to it!

This film was 10 years in the making and underwent over 140 re-writes, a number that is virtually unheard of in the world of professional screenwriting. But when you have 10 of the best writers of television's biggest phenomenon ever working together, that's what you get.

Starring all the usual suspects, the story puts Springfield in epic peril and - wouldn't you know it? - The Family Simpson is the only squad who can save it. In a brilliant move by the producers, the main villain, Russ Cargill, wasn't voiced by a major Hollywood action star or other A-list celebrity (as the show seems to do every week on TV these days), but by the man who has voiced some of the absolute BEST characters since the show's inception - Albert Brooks.

(Favorite scene: Bart's naked skateboard stunts.)

#7 - Beowulf
(dir. Robert Zemeckis, Star. Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, and Crispin Glover)

A marvel of cinematic 3-D animation technology, this film was an experience! Great performances in the classic style of the ancient epic Norse mythology (Talk about a super hero movie!) played well in Zemeckis' grandiose visual style. I also loved be able to choose where I wanted to focus my attention, as (only in 3-D) all depths on-screen were in focus, but once you looked at one plane, others went blurry, just as in 3-dimensional reality. The gift here is the choice of which story to watch. (Favorite Scene: an aging Beowulf dislocates his shoulder to be able to rip the heart out of a dragon. Now THAT'S cinema!)

#6 - Hot Fuzz
(dir. Edgar Wright; star. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Roger Moore)

In a vaccuum, it's hard to tell what exactly was so special about the break-out film from the writing/producing team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Shawn of the Dead. But with the addition of Hot Fuzz to the list, we're able to draw a lot of comparisons and see exactly what these guys are so great at doing.

No film this year cracked the comedy code like this British dream team. Set-ups and pay-offs so perfectly executed, gags that you never knew were gags until they slapped you in the face, and all while paying homage to their favorite action flicks from across the pond.
(Favorite scene: "Yarp.")


#5 - Grindhouse
(dir. Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino; star. Rose McGowen, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Poitier, Michael Parks, Zoë Bell)

Okay, I know this is two films, but it was screened as a double feature in an age where the whole concept is extinct. And that's just the idea.

Every time Tarantino or Rodriguez makes a movie, it's a big deal. (I even caught The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D!) So when they get together, you know it's gonna be something amazing, and Grindhouse didn't disappoint.

Rodriguez's Planet Terror makes the most of the long gone "exploitation" genre while still telling a great action/horror story. The characters and dialogue are amazingly unique, the twists and plot points are solid (for this kind of flick), and everything is way over the top - just as it should be. Toss in Rodriguez's money-saving skills with a green-screen and BOOM! McGowen's sportin' wood! (And later, a rocket-launching machine gun.)

After a few faux-prevues (Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the S.S., Edgar Wright's hilarious Don't, and Eli Roth's disgustingly disturbing Thanksgiving), Quentin busts in with his ode to the car-flick genre, Death Proof, about the now-legendary Kurt Russell as the marauding "Stuntman Mike" (who uses his stunt car as a deadly weapon) and his run-in with the wrong group of gals.

The fact that a guy my age was being treated to purposely-damaged film reels and honorably imitated exploitation in an era where guys my age (I say "guys" as most women probably aren't into this film) have almost no memory of such ancient traditions made this an unforgettable theater-going experience. (Favorite scene: Zoë Bell clings for dear life on the hood of the 1971 Dodge Charger - the "Vanishing Point Car" - while Stuntman Mike attempts to shorten her ride.)

#4 - Atonement
(dir. Joe Wright; star. James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai)

With such an ambiguous title, it was hard for this film to gain momentum among the populous, but time - and possibly the 2008 Oscars - will elevate it to it's proper status.

Not only is Atonement the best love story of the year, but the drama of rich people is rarely more interesting. The structure and editing (as well as the musical score) of the first act of this film is incredibly engaging and keeps us hooked as the characters are swept away into World War II, and on through their ultimate fates. The final act gives us a very odd sense of closure and was the biggest upset of the show, but in no way detracted from the amazing film as a whole.

(Favorite scene: The long take of McAvoy's arrival at the beach during WW2. Incredible!)

#3 - 3:10 To Yuma
(dir. James Mangold; star. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Logan Lerman, Ben Foster, Vinessa Shaw, Luke Wilson)

The Western is back! But it's got a train to catch...

This remake of the 50-year old film of the same name is unanimously superior to its predecessor. Ben Wade (Crowe) is the leader of a gang of bad dudes, and the town needs a hero to get him to the 3:10 train to Yuma so he can keep his appointment with the hangman. The adventure, of course, is in the journey - and our modest, reluctant but brave hero Dan Evans (Bale) is forced to take the job. Getting Wade to the train station proves to be a deadly feat, and Evans' son (Lerman) learns a lesson about the Good and the Evil within Man.

The pacing, direction and dialogue of this film - as well as the spot-on production design - make this an instant classic in the now-all-but-deceased Western genre. And Ben Wade ranks up there with the baddest of the baddies, next to all the "Frank"s of the old days.

(Favorite scene: Don't insult Ben Wade and then fall asleep near him - even if he is shackled.)

#2 - There Will Be Blood
(dir. Paul Thomas Anderson; star. Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano)

As I stated in my review in an older post, this film has the ability to leave the viewer with a strange aftertaste. But, the mark of a great story, this film is unforgettable.

The Citizen Kane-story of the oil industry, Blood clashes multi-dimensional, mysterious characters against a barren landscape and a people emaciated with the harsh lifestyle of the homesteaders of the early 20th Century. Even when you can't tell where the story is going, you never want the ride to end. That's when you know your author, Cinema-wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson, is a true artist. I simply can't explain or identify the source of this film's power.

(Favorite scene: "I... drink.... your... MILKSHAKE!")

AND FINALLY......

#1 - No Country For Old Men
(dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, star. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin)

This is the kind of film every filmmaker - secretly or openly - wants to make. It's the kind of film that reminds us why we treasure the art of cinema above almost all others.

After a few recent duds, the brilliant Coen Brothers out-do themselves and top off a would-be bloody trilogy (with Blood Simple (1984) and Fargo (1996)) with a film whose tag lines include "You Can't Stop What's Coming" and "There Are No Clean Getaways" - which barely alludes to the powerful undertones of this narrative.

With an almost inaudible score, and intense performances from some of the best actors out there today, The Coens have created a little immortal piece of cinematic mythos. No Country ends on an ambiguous note and seems to subversively suggest the inevitability of death and evil. There are no heroes, but a clear villain prevails, and in a post-9/11 world, we feel right at home here.

My relationship with this film has only just begun, so trying to explain why it's brilliant is moot as it may take years to fully appreciate a film which I have, to date, only seen once.

(Favorite scene: Brolin waits in a hotel room for danger to find him. And it does.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rock N' Roll Hindsight, Pt. 1

My apologies to a band I never appreciated when I should have.

This week: R.E.M.
Ya know, you grow up with them - they're just kinda all around and you take them for granted. And then, when you get older, and modern music starts to suck a lot more, you miss what you once took for granted and give them some credit for what apparently was a pretty difficult feat.

After 20 years, R.E.M. is still hard at work making good new music, but only in my mid-20's did I really start to pay attention. Here's a little homage to a band that, although they may never be as great as they were, still don't suck.

Let's consider the greats: "Losing My Religion", "Stand" and "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"

How about: "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" or "The One I Love"? And maybe my favorite, "Radio Song"!

Even after they made a great guest spot on The Simpsons in 2001, I still didn't really give them their due credit.

But looking back, I miss Michael Stipe as "Captain Scrummy" on Nickelodeon's short-lived The Adventures of Pete and Pete (possibly the best show that channel ever produced, but Salute Your Shorts is up there).

And I miss seeing their horrifically lame, yet warm-and-fuzzy, happy-g0-lucky video for "Shiny Happy People" - remember? With the B-52s! And the old dude pedaling a stationary bike to make the background rotate?? Who the hell needs THIS crappy decade when we had the early 90s!?!?!


Hell, they were good enough for 'Weird Al' to parody... in a POLKA, no less! Not to mention 3 Grammys, endless nominations, 6 Rolling Stone covers, and over 70 million records sold! They've been doing something right all along.


And now, they're putting out some new stuff. I just downloaded (legally, from good ol' iTunes!) their new single, "Supernatural Superserious" - from their forthcoming (thirteenth?) studio album Accelerate - and it's ain't half bad!

I just wish you apologize to Mike and the boys for my negligence. I should have been a conscious fan all along, but now I will be. Sorry for the delay. I've got my Orange Crush.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mrs. Elizabeth Kucinich

By the way... really? Wow.

Battle Royale

Click it!

2 New Albums

Okay kids, now, I know you're busy "buying" up the latest single in MP3 (or even AAC!) formats, getting your music 3 minutes and 44 seconds at a time, and that's not always a bad thing. But anthropologists in the greater Los Angeles, California area have recently discovered that popular music once came recorded into packages that contained upwards of 10 to 12 songs at a time!

These "Long Play Albums" once came in the form of physical discs, be they vinyl "records" (or what the youth of that time called an "LP" or "Album") or later in the 20th Century, smaller plastic discs which held the information digitally, much as a predecessor to today's modern hard disk drives. These were called Compact Discs, or "C.D."s.

You can still purchase these resolute albums in a few major shopping outlets, such as Target, Wal-Mart or Best Buy. (NOTE: These are actual geographical locations which reside outside of your home or workplace and purchasing said discs requires traveling there by use of motor vehicle or other mode of transportation.)

Anyhoo... a couple new albums came out this month by a couple of artists I happen to like, so I thought I'd give a short review.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First, Sheryl Crow's new album - Detours - is her first album since 2005's disastrous Wildflower (although I liked the singles, "I Know Why" and "Good is Good") and is being critically acclaimed as her best album to date or at least since her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. Perhaps the latter comparison can be attributed to the fact that Detours and the 1993 debut (15 years ago!) share a common producer - Bill Bottrell - a fact that cannot be said about any of her albums between then and now.

But more impressive, and what makes this album shine with personality, is what Ms. Crow has been through in those 3 short years: a very public break-up with fiancee/cycling champion Lance Armstrong (about which she sings in the musical equivalent to a bawl session, "Diamond Ring"), a victorious battle with breast cancer ("Make It All Go Away (Radiation Song)"), and becoming a mother to her adopted son, Wyatt ("Lullaby for Wyatt" - I'm assuming, here). But this album is also very politically charged, an aspect highlighted by her recent run-in with Karl Rove, when she impressed upon the then-White House advisor about her concerns about the Bush administration's response to the threat of global warming. In classic Satanic-style, Rove is reported to have breathed fire to Crow: "I don't work for you," He shot at her. "I work for the American people!" (What? Is Crow Canadian or something?) Apparently, this was enough to motivate the Hybrid-car-commercial-song-to-be, "Gasoline" - a futuristic fairy tale ("Way back in the year of 2017...") of how America and the U.K. gained their independence from oil through riots, protests and irony ("When the Government turned its back on the farmer-man, what I hear/is that they dragged the pumps out of the ground with a big, vintage John Deere"). But it's the groovy, classic R&B-style "Now That You're Gone" that comes as a surprise to hear as the track that the woman herself dedicates to Mr. Rove. ("Now that you're gone, I can breathe.")

There are, however, a few tracks I could skip over - "Drunk With the Thought Of You" and "Out Of Our Heads" come to mind. But there are also a few pop-rocky tracks that scream 'Classic Crow' - "Rise Up" and "Motivation".

And the first four tracks alone make this album worth it's production value - "God Bless This Mess" is a vintage, Arlo Guthrie/Bob Dylan-style folk song for today's issues and acts like a Shakespearian chorus setting the political tone of the rest of the album. As for the first couple singles: "Shine Over Babylon" is a bluesy, moody meditation on the State of the Union, and the happy-go-lucky attitude (toward the rebuilding of New Orleans?) in "Love Is Free" is annoyingly catchy. And perhaps my favorite track, "Peace Be Upon Us" is a poppy prayer cum proclamation with an awesome East Indian influence and a great sing-along chorus.

It may take a few spins to really get properly introduced to this album, but it does seem to come alive with the reckless abandon that all great rock albums have. "I didn't feel that fear I've always felt," Crow says in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. "That fear of, 'What if I can't write another song? What if the songs I write are crap?' None of that." As is true with any art form, once Crow was able to get out of her own way, shut off her critical-thinking left-brain and just create, the result was something of which she could certainly be proud.

Not a masterpiece, but I liked it. I give this album 3.5 stars (out of 5).
(STAR STAR STAR ST...)

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And now, let's hear from Mr. Lenny Kravitz.

It Is Time For A Love Revolution - or so Lenny proclaims on the title track, "Love Revolution" from his eighth album of new material in 16 years.

Freshly returned from his several-month-long vacation in the jungles of Brazil, Lenny is back with a great new album. It's hard to review this collection piece-by-piece, as it does play much better as a whole. The singles won't be flying off of this album, (of course, that didn't stop "I'll be Waiting" and "Bring It On" from being released before the album itself hit store shelves,) but even if the sounds here are a bit bit derivative of his usual style, that's not a bad thing.

Love Revolution features a few tracks that are blatantly influenced by the great rock of years-gone-by. The single "Bring It On" has a heavy Led Zeppelin feel and Lenny does his best Jimmy Page impression here - not too shabby! "Love Love Love" often sounds like something you'd hear on an early Red Hot Chili Peppers album, "Will You Marry Me" borrows - nay, steals - heavily from the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, and "Dancin' Till Dawn" sounds like a late 70s-era Rolling Stones "Miss You"-style groove.

But Lenny still finds time to appreciate his own classic sound, as in the case of the aforementioned single, "I'll Be Waiting." Not unlike 1993's "Believe", Lenny demonstrates here that the Rock Ballad still has it's place in modern music. He's not above bringing you wayyy down with the teary ode to a missing father, "A Long Sad Goodbye", and he'll also get political on yo ass with the sarcastically up-beat "Back In Vietnam."

Unfortunately but per usual for Lenny, there are some filler tracks, like "If You Want It", "I Love The Rain" and "This Moment Is All There Is". Not terrible, just lacking any real personality.

But Lenny has done worse - and like Crow'sDetours, Kravitz's It Is Time For A Love Revolution feels fresh and free of over-production. Big on art, small on fluff.

Lenny get's 3 stars for this one.

Friday, February 8, 2008

LOST 4.2 - Confirmed Dead

NEW EPISODE LAST NIGHT!

For a FULL RECAP - CLICK HERE.

Here's a VERY watered-down recap.



After watching flash-back footage of a deep-sea rover discovering the wreckage of flight 815 at the bottom of the ocean, we met four new characters - Daniel Faraday, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis and Frank Lupidus.

These four have been sent to the island as a task force, lead by the now-deceased Naomi, and commissioned by the mysterious Matthew Abaddon (we can only assume at this point that that's his name).

What is their purpose here on the island?

In the end, it is revealed that they're looking for Ben Linus, which leads many viewers to hypothesize that they are here to do the bidding of the original Dharma Initiative, a group that hasn't inhabited the island since "The Purge" lead by Ben and a group of natives many years ago.

Here's some cool stuff about this episode.


1. While all of this island drama has been going down, the rest of the world was subject to the news that the wreckage of Oceanic flight 815 was discovered by the Christiane I in the Sunda Trench, which is located off of the coast of Bali. The reporter says "Oceanic Flight 815 did, in fact, crash at sea," but says the discovery does not offer any sense of closure. All of the passengers are "confirmed dead."

2. The Christian I is the salvage ship from the story in the Alternate-Reality Game at "Find815.com", where Sam Thomas - a man whose fiancee, Sonya, was a flight attendant aboard 815 when it crashed - sneaks aboard the aforementioned ship which is searching for remains of the Black Rock, receives mysterious clues that lead him to a set of coordinates where the wreckage is found.

3. Daniel Faraday's character is named after Michael Faraday (September 22, 1791 – August 25, 1867), an English physicist who researched electromagnetism. Michael Faraday's discoveries led to the development of Faraday cages, an enclosure used to block outside radio and electromagnetic waves. James Clerk Maxwell (as in, the MAXWELL GROUP - see Find815.com) took the work of Faraday, and others, and consolidated it with a set of equations that form the basis of modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. This triumph of 19th century physics led inevitably, in combination with the mathematics of Minkowski (as in the new as-of-yet-unseen but often-heard character "George Minkowski"), and others, to Einstein's formulation of the special theory of relativity.

4. Miles Straume is a spiritualist who seems able to speak to the dead and removes spirits from locations for a fee. It is believed by "Ghost Hunters" that spirits and other paranormal apparitions can be sensed by changes in electromagnetic fields. Miles brings a device with him when on the job which could be a small, portable electron-magnet.

5. Charlotte's full name is Charlotte Staples Lewis - a clear reference to Clive Staples Lewis (or C.S. Lewis), the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, among many other books.

6. In her flashback, Charlotte discovers the remains of a polar bear wearing a Dharma (Hydra) collar in the deserts of Tunisia. This seems to suggest space-time travel, which was alluded to in this post-season 3 Dharma film.

7. Locke reveals that a taller Walt has given him instructions. We've also seen, in past episodes, Jack's dead father Christian Sheppard appear to the Losties. Does this, coupled with the addition of a Ghost-hunter on the island, point to the possibility of Walt being dead?

8. Ben reveals that he has "a man" on the freighter who knows all about this expedition. There's much speculation about who it could be, but hopefully it's not someone new. Could it be forever-young Richard Alpert? Or perhaps even Michael?

9.
Jin and Sun were mysteriously missing from this episode, as was Desmond.

10. Locke reveals that he's only alive after Ben's gunshout to his side because he's missing a kidney. The Island works in mysterious ways.

11. Frank Lupidus indicates that he lost control of the helicopter after it was struck by lightning. The name Lapidus may be a reference to the movie Sleeper, in which one character says "Then I would talk like Mr. Lapidus, who got hit by lightning." Sleeper is about a man who wakes up after being frozen in liquid nitrogen for 200 years. "Lapidus," literally translated from Hebrew, means "candles," or "torches."

12. The Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 Hotline Number 1-888-548-0034 is seen on Frank's television. Calling this number results in an automated message, not a human operator as seen on the show.

13. The tail number on the helicopter that lands on the island is N842M. 8 & 42!

14. A poster for the fictional band 'Dirt Spigot' can be seen in the room Miles works in. In the episode Fire + Water, the director of the Butties Diapers commercial says that he actually wanted Dirt Spigot for the ad instead of Driveshaft.

15. Daniel Faraday says that the light on the island doesn't seem to disperse quite right, pointing to the effects of electromagnetic activity on light rays.


As action-packed and revealing as this episode was, it also raised many questios, such as:

About the Wreckage


* Is the plane really a fake?
* Whose body was found in the Sunda Trench and identified as Seth Norris?
* Where did the wreckage in the ocean come from?
* Why was the wreckage near Bali, which is far away from Sydney, LA, or Fiji?


About Ben

* Why are they searching for Ben?
* Who is Ben's "man on their boat"?
* Why did Ben announce he had a man on the boat in front of Charlotte Lewis?


About the Freighties

* Who is bankrolling the mission?
* When did the meeting between Matthew and Naomi take place?
* How were Daniel, Miles, Charlotte, Frank and Naomi selected for the operation?
* Why did the Freighter team bring gas masks?
* Why couldn't Minkowski come to the phone?
* Why did Daniel, Miles, Charlotte, Frank, and Naomi know anything about 815 survivors?
* If the freighter team was looking for Ben Linus, why did Naomi say she was looking for Desmond?


Daniel

* Why was Daniel so upset when he learned flight 815 had been found?
* Why does Naomi refer to Daniel as a "head case"?
* Who is the woman in Daniel's flashback and why was her identity withheld?


Miles

* What was the machine Miles was using in the bedroom?
* If the machine is necessary for him to communicate with the dead, why didn't he need it on the island to communicate with Naomi?
* Does he truly have the ability to communicate with deceased persons or is he a con artist?
* What are the objectives of having a medium on the team?
* In his flashback, how did Miles know to look for "it"?
* As each of the other flashbacks show a connection to the island, do Mrs. Gardener or her son have a connection as well?


Charlotte


* Why was Charlotte wearing a bullet-proof vest?
* Why is Charlotte disbelieving of the recovery of flight 815?
* Why was she looking for, and not surprised by, the fossilized polar bear with the DHARMA tag?
* Who sent her to Tunisia?
* Why did she seem to know exactly where the DHARMA collar was buried?


Other


* How did the polar bear get to Tunisia?
* When was the wreckage found in the Sunda Trench?
* Why was Frank Lapidus replaced as pilot of flight 815?
* Who is Abbadon working for?
* Why did Naomi think there would be survivors of flight 815 on the Island?
o Why does Abbadon insist that there aren't?
* Why doesn't sunlight scatter on the island as Daniel says it should?
* Given the reaction that the helicopter people gave Juliet, how will they react to Desmond?
* Why did Naomi have a picture of Desmond if they were looking for Ben?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

F#@K CLOVERFIELD!

Perhaps you didn't hear about this amazing, in-depth documentary by filmmaker Morgan King. I had the honor of being interviewed for this film and I think it's important to get this information out into the public.

Click the picture to watch the short film.

BUSTED!

I got a speeding ticket on my way to work this morning. 38 in a 25. A School Zone, no less! I know, you don't have to tell me - I'm a terrible human being. But I was just cruising along minding my own business, successfully avoiding collision with any minors when I see a dark, shadowy figure in the road up ahead.

As it turns out, the "dark shadow" was really a leather biker jacket worn by one of Vista's Finest, and he was standing in the middle of the road pointing something at me, and then flagging me to pull over for speeding - a fact to which I was totally oblivious until the guy shoved the radar gun (which still had a digital "38" flashing on it) in my face to prove his point.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but as much as I know that speeding is against the law, isn't there some kind of law about standing in the middle of the street? I mean, cops aren't supposed to be ABOVE the law, right? And I know I'm getting technical because I'm pissed that I got caught, but... really? I mean, tit-for-tat, just for argument's sake... isn't that jay-walking? Isn't THAT a ticket-able offense?

Again, I know I got caught, I'm happy to pay the fine and take the point on my record, and I'm glad the cops are cracking down on speeders like myself around the schools. I totally support that. Just asking a technical question here.

Deputy Schwartz, I definitely await your comments. And anyone else who has an opinon on this, please weigh in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

MEEDLY-MEEDLY-MEEEE!!!!


These are a few of my favorite guitar solos of all time.

This list purposely excludes people like Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani, cause they just solo like crazy all the time and I can't pick any that particularly stand out for me. This list also excludes the crazy metal dudes who can play eight bazillion notes per second and do ridiculously complicated things. This list leans more toward the drama of rock music and highlights my favorite pieces as they exist within the framework of the entire song, how they build to the crescendo and how they release back into a chorus or bridge or whatever.

This list was hard to make, but in the end I was able to come up with 10 songs with incredible solos that can't be matched. So here they are, in no particular order.




1. Van Halen - You Really Got Me (solo begins at 1:22)
“Oh, nooo! NOOOO!”
When the young band covered this Kinks song on their first album in 1978, they cranked it up to eleven and Eddie just ramped up to a really violent-but-cool solo. I love the opening bending notes. A classic solo. This one leaves an open wound.

2. Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love (solo at 1:19)
This is a great, poppy, rockabilly solo, well structured and perfectly executed by Brian May. It's short, simple and to the point, yet still catchy and pleasing to the ear. It's everything a good solo should be.

3. Billy Idol - Rebel Yell (solo at 2:28)
Steve Stevens is a genius! I love this guy for a few reasons, but mainly I love his ability to make an electric guitar sound like something else - for example, in this song: a machine gun, or in Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana", a police siren.

4. Dire Straits - The Sultans of Swing (solos at 3:28 and 4:58)
Mark Knopfler has always had an amazing understanding of the guitar and even on his band's first album, he had the skills to show up even the best gunslingers on the block. The outro solo is fast-paced and always on the money, and again, the drama of the tune is enhanced by this piece. I love the moments where Knopfler decides not to play a note – it makes things more interesting.

5. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (solo at 5:56)
I know, I know. But it’s awesome and you know it.

6. Stone Temple Pilots – Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart (Solo at 1:50)
I never realized how awesome this solo by Dean DeLeo was until I played it on Hard on Guitar Hero 2. Now I love it. It has a bunch of really cool riffs all thrown into a really groovy little break. I wish it stood out more on the original song like it does in the video game.

7. Journey – Lights (solo at 2:03)
Much like the “Crazy Little Thing” solo, this one by Neal Schon is just classic rock and roll with an 80’s flare for the dramatic. Neal’s always been a greatly under appreciated guitarist hidden behind Steve Perry’s giant shnoz. Give him some credit – check out his work.

8. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Runnin’ Down A Dream (Solo at 3:00)
Petty and the boys rocked the Super Bowl earlier this week, and reminded America why they were such a big hit back in the day. As they played this song, and the lights flashed, confetti sparkled and the cameras swung all around, we got a few shots of Mike Campbell tearing it up like an old pro. I’ve always loved the jangle of this guy’s sound – even when it’s messy, it’s perfect.

9. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (solos at 2:04 and 4:32)
David Gilmour has a great tone, and this has to be one (or two) of his finest pieces of work. He has a way of hitting a natural note and holding it until it naturally starts ringing a harmonic octave higher. It’s beautiful.

10. Michael Jackson – Give In To Me (solos at 2:17 and 3:27)
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but listen to the song. It’s really moody and bluesy and Slash brings it to life in a way no one else ever could. His solo is harsh yet smooth and purposeful. With MJ’s showmanship, Slash has room to let those notes dance and sway with grit and swagger. He’s the fire burning in the background while Mike’s vocals melt in the foreground. It’s a great marriage of sounds.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Celeb Sighting: Mr. A-Z

So I was having lunch by myself today down at a little Mexican place near downtown San Diego called El Indo and I saw this guy who looked kinda familiar. I knew he looked like someone famous, but I couldn't place him right away. I knew he was a musician, not only from memory but the guy and the girl he was with were talking with him about "a tour" and guitars or something. So I tried to think about where I'd seen him, but instead my mind started playing a song and for a few moments I didn't even really notice, but then I thought - "Wait! What's that song? Is that the answer?"

Actually, it wasn't so much the answer as it was "The Remedy" - a song by...

TADA!

JASON MRAZ!

He was decked out in scrubby clothes, an unshaven face, a knit cap of some sort over his even scruffier head of hair and was wearing sunglasses indoors. Looked like he was hiding a little but flying casual.

If I were a bigger fan of his and knew more of his music I may have said something, but I didn't. Upon my return home, I looked up his tour schedule online to see if he might be here on tour, but it seems he's not on tour right now at all and in fact has a "home studio" here in San Diego, so - based on all of that, I'm pretty sure it was him. That made it a less than boring day.

LOST - Season 4, Episode 1

Last night, the premiere of LOST's fourth season aired and although everyone was pleased, we were all left wanting a helluva lot more!



We were treated to the second Flash Forward - a very new story device in the series that leaves us not only wondering about the details of the past, but now the future, too. We now know that (along with Jack and Kate) Hurley returns to the mainland, where he gets arrested and tossed back in the nut-house after visions of the deceased Charlie haunt him. While there, a mysterious man calling himself Matthew Abbadon and claiming to be an attorney for Oceanic Airlines, offers Hurley a better accommodations than the hospital he's in now, but when Hurley asks for identification, the man can't provide any and pushes to ask, "Are they still alive?" Hurley freaks and the man exits quickly. Later, Hurley has anouther encounter with Charlie, who says, "I am dead, but I'm also here," and slaps Hurley to prove that he's real. Whether Charlie is only in his head or not, Hurley is impressed upon that "They need you."

Spliced in with these scenes is the "present" island drama, which continued as the Losties prepared to meet with the offshore freighter. Everyone is saddened by the news of Charlie's ultimate fate - especially Hurley and Claire. Hurley eventually gets separated from the group and wanders upon Jacob's house. Inside he sees Christian Sheppard sitting in the rocking chair, and then someone jumps up into view (only an eye, really) which sends Hurley running and screaming. Locke finds him laying on his back in the jungle and helps him reunite with the group.

Once there, the Jack tries to tell everyone how they're going to find the freighter people, but some believe that the new visitors spell certain doom. They split into two groups just before Jack and Kate meet a stranger who parachutes onto the island in a similar fashion as the late and mysterious Naomi.

A cool episode, for sure, but as I said it left us with more questions than answers.

For example:
* What has happened to Hurley's money?
* Why did Naomi cover for the survivors?
* Who is Naomi's sister?
* Who are the other three people in the "Oceanic Six"?
* Why does Hurley deny that he knows Ana Lucia?
* What is Christian Shepard doing in Jacob's cabin?
* What was the meaning of Hurley's vision of Charlie?
* Who needs Hurley's help, according to Charlie?
**What is the "something" Charlie wants Hurley to do?
* How can one of the other patients in the mental hospital see Charlie?
* What did Jack mean when he asked Hurley if he was "going to tell"?
**What are they hiding, and why?
* Why didn't Desmond go with "Locke's Team"?
* Why does Hurley later regret having gone with Locke?
* If Hurley went with Locke, how does he end up home with Jack?
* Has Locke's bullet wound healed?
* Who is Matthew Abbadon?
**Who is the "they" he asks Hurley about and are "they" alive?
**What are Matthew Abbadon's motives behind his offer to move Hugo to a different institute?
* Where is Leonard Simms?

If you have any opinions as to the answers of these questions, post them here!

See ya next week!