Monday, October 31, 2005

Recommended DVD: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Directed by: Tim Burton Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder

Tim Burton has had quite a year. This summer's remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the season's biggest hits. Even despite it's main-stream success, Tim Burton fans are still devoted to the more gothic painterly style of Burton's earlier works such as the original Batman, and Beetlejuice. This fall saw another Burton film, the stop-motion film Corpse Bride which I reviewed in an earlier column. This of course was harkening back to the success of the Nightmare Before Christmas. Even though his work has been very diverse and prolific, his work still carries his own distinct identity.

...and his films always suffer from the same problem, in my opinion. And that is a lack of depth in the story-telling. On more than one film I have noticed what seems to be a shortage of story elements. The films have great first act plots, but when it comes time to develop the characters - and more specifically, the plot, his movies fall short, and left me feeling short-changed. (I think specifically of the stories of Sleepy Hollow and Corpse Bride both had plots that had great concepts, but failed to develop them.

Still, Burton has his moments. Not only is Scissorhands a moment, but I believe it is his greatest film to date. It is certainly the defining film of his career.

This film falls cleanly into his earlier work, more in line with Sleepy Hollow, than his latter body, the likes of Big Fish. Relying heavily on every day items and conventions to create eerie and unsettling circumstances. One of the main characters is an Avon lady - unsettling enough in itself.
The film does not feel it necessary to explain the origins of Edward except to say that he was created by a mysterious inventor (played by Vincent Price) who died before completing Edward, leaving him with scissors for hands. Upon one of her rounds as Avon representative, Peg (played by Diane Wiest) decides to take the lone Edward home to live with her and her family. It doesn't take long for all of the neighbors to learn of the new visitor, and Edward soon makes his niche in town by cuttinng topiary and women's haircuts. Invariably though, due to jealousy and misunderstanding (nothing like a leather-clad freak wandering around town to raise questions) he is driven back to his isolated existence, having captured the affection of the young Winona Ryder. This movie is entirely engrossing - not in any small part because of the assortment of colorful characters, but even at the age of 27, Johnny Depp was achieving impressive characterizations that still amaze and mezmorize. It is odd to think after seeing this film that he has taken so long to rise to super-stardom.

I highly recommend this film. It is shoved into the horror film catergory, but alike Saw, this film has less in common with that genre than you would think. This film does have the freakish and unsettling character of Edward Scissorhands whom is always startling out of place with his surroundings, but this film is about a poor person who can not find a home.
Four and out of Five


Sunday, October 30, 2005

A view of my room here in Cleveland. . .

DVD Recommendation: Saw (2004)
Directed by: James Wan Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell and Danny Glover

This was a movie that I was not expecting to enjoy. Part of the recent surplus of horror cinema, I expected this film to be nothing more than a mindless slasher film, capitalizing on the audience's insatiable appetite for gore.

I was quite wrong! This film is less like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more like Silence of the Lambs.
A plot that starts out as a typical physo-thriller as the two central characters wake up finding themselves chained to opposite walls of a bathroom. As the plot unfolds, the killer's movites are similar to other killers - wanting to punish wrong doers for their sins and transgressions, and making them realize the error of their ways. The victims can escape, if they're willing to do unspeakable acts to themselves or other innocent victims which surround them. In this case, one character is left with a saw sharp enough to cut through bone, but not sharp enough to cut through the chains that hold him captive. To escape, he must....well, just look at the DVD cover.

There are several good twists throughout this movie which kept me engrossed and entertained. There was good lore built up around the villianous character. Even though this was the first appearance of "Jigsaw," you were easily drawn into the imagery and mythos surrounding this killer.

I would highly recommend this movie for those who enjoy a good thriller/scare. Here's hoping it's sequel (in theatres now) lives up to the family name.

Four out of five.
Cows! There be Cows afoot!

This past week saw the arrival of two baby cows at my home in MN. Their names are Ivory and Ebony, although I don't know what the difference is, since they're both cow-colored.
We are not permitted to become friendly with the cows, because after all - they are going to be hamburger in a year! Yummy! And various dilectable cuts of steak that I've never had! We're all going to get spoiled on excellent steak cuts...who's going to want the normal stuff then?

Anyway, for you animal lovers out there, here they are... see how cute? Yeah, we're gonna kill 'em! Ha ha!

Apparently they eat like horses. Little baby horses. We'd eat those too...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ever notice the emerging body of male singer/song-writers on the market these days?
Look at an average morning of music videos, and you'll notice an interesting trend - the return of the simplistic dude-and-a-keyboard genre.
What's up with this?
I'm inclined to believe that somewhere along the line, all of the market analysis that these record labels do showed that a goodly percentage of us people who are not ghetto rockers were getting a little left-out by the urban take-over of the popular radio waves.
So is this the industry's answer? I'm not necesssarily complaining, mind you. Most of this music has been far more interesting and valid than most of the mindless hip-hop music bombarding the air waves. It has to be. A song featuring just piano and voice can't exist only on I, IV, V chords and remain interesting.
But quickly, a list of a few of the artists who have come to the light in the spirit of this new trend: Aqualung, Jamie Kallum, Gavin DeGraw, Keane, and John Legend. I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting, but hopefully you all will recognize at least one of those people so that you can understand my drift.

Many of these artists are being released on jazz albums or being touted as "jazz artists or vocalists" which is truer to the spirit of their music than "rock artist" and for the moment, their music is more engaging to a musician's ear than most stuff on the air waves. Their musical instincts won't let them get away with tedium, repetition, and their musical heroes and idols prompt them to probe more complex and interesting musical routes. Good for the listener.

Now let us not forget that these boys are all part of the American music machine, however, so it would be foolish of us to assume that these artists entire albums are gems - more than likely, there are the few songs on the radio that we see, and then there's eight songs of filler on the rest of the album. Sad, but true.

Not really an opinion piece this time - just interesting, don't you think? Check out Jamie Cullum's "Get Your Way" for a really fun song. Really harkening back to an older, grander era in song-writing and arranging. The horn parts are great.

All for now. Back on the road...


...Kickin' Butt on Mario Kart Double Dash...

Now accepting all challengers! I've been getting some practice in with the good pixelated Nintendo characters that we all know and love - of course Mario and Luigi, (as pictured here) but my personal favorite are the winged turtle and little shroom-boy. No, I'm sorry, I don't know their real names. I guess I'm not that into the lore. They're not Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong or King Koopa. That's all I know...

...And what else do I know?! That I could kick your butt! Ha ha! Just wait till we get to the Rainbow Road (or the gay pride parade as its otherwise known as.) Or Baby Park - that's a good course too.

Okay, I'm really tired. I gots to go to bed.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Announcing the Most Annoying Thing I've Heard in Recent History...

I have no idea how this idea ever became as big a hit as it is, but it just helps me to lament the poor taste of modern-day young ears. It started out as some ring tone or something, but it only takes 0.005 of a second for me to convulse in disgust when I hear this stupid "crazy frog" song. I want to shoot someone through the eye.

I'm not violent at all.


Friday, October 21, 2005

A studio outing a few years ago to Cedar Point Amusement Park. My green sleeve is at the furthest-most right of the photo. But the expression on Chuck's face is what really makes this photo.... Kevin seems to be having a good time, and then there's Chuck.
P.S. This is an awesome coaster...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Meet New-Wave French Pop Recording Artist April March

Usually I could begin a paragraph like this because I recently saw or heard the performer in concert. Today is a little different.

Today, I babysat for the recording artist April March. Of course she uses a stage name, so to her two sons Pierot and Lusian, she is mommy. To her husband she is something else. To me, she is an enigma.

I baby-sat for seven hours today. This is a duty usually carried by my friend Kevin, but he has gone to Florida for the weekend (just in time for Wilma) so they needed someone else to cover for a few days. I was happy to oblige for now, although I realize that this is something I could never consider doing full-time like Kevin does. It leaves you no time left over for anything else. Not only socializing, but also for practicing. It would be hard to forward a career as a musician when you spend all of your time caring for another musician's children.

This woman has quite an amazing career...not only is she quite a prominent French recording artist, but before she began all of her work as a musician, she also was an animator for the original Ren and Stimpy cartoons. Remember back in the day? This was probably 10 -15 years ago, but still exceedingly awesome, none the less. And now she is here in Cleveland (for no apparent reason,) and her husband is a concert promoter who is coordinating a big concert in honor of Sam Cooke which includes the likes of Gavin McGraw, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Costello. Just a normal, average American family...

Their walls are covered by the wildest assortment of photographs, paintings (most of which she did) and posters. My favorite was a candid photo of Isaac Hayes in his home office. Seconded only by a letter from the federal patent office (I'm not sure what for) which had President Andrew Jackson's signature on it.

And while I was there this afternoon, she got a call from someone at the Cartoon Network about helping to develop some characters for a new television show.

And I cooked organic macaroni and cheese for Pierot.

By the way, the picture which is her latest album cover, does not look a whole lot like her. Make-up goes along way. Not that she's unbecoming, it's just quite a glamourized image. At home she's a normal mom. Sort of. She spent most of the day at her laptop listening to music while I tended to Pierot in the back room. So she was actually home all day. I think she just didn't want to be too worried about the kids if she had other work to do. Go figure.

In any event, I must convince myself to make something useful happen tonight. I was out of the house all day, and this is my first free self-time. My inclination is to sit and relax, but I don't think I should allow myself to do that.

Who shall win? Nobody knows...


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The White Stripes Announce Newest Single from "Get Behind Me Satan"

The cover for the CD single, (pictured here) is different than two versions of 7" vinyl, each of which pictures similar elements of a bicycle, either Jack or Meg and a racoon. Does this have antyhing to do with anything? Who knows...

The single for this release is the Denial Twist which I enjoy much more than their last single, My Doorbell. The B-side on this single is In the Shelter of Your Arms although on two different vinyl versions, the B-side is different. So there are three different potential versions of the single to be released in mid-November.

Does this sound like a suspicious marketing ploy? Only slightly...


Sunday, October 16, 2005

This marks the end of an exceptionally busy week...

...This is why you haven't heard much of me here of recent.

My apologies.

I don't know how long this will last either, simply because I am thoroughly exhausted right now. I played a gig which lasted ALL day today. I got up at five AM and didn't get home until 9:30. It has been a looong day.

I played at Parkside Church this morning, playing in an orchestra for the special occasion of Keith Getty providing the special music. His forte is music arranging, so he had music for a string orchestra plus all of the normal drums, basses and guitars to bang away with us. It is enjoyable while the music is going, but the whole day ends up being very very long.
So I played in both their morning and evening services, and during the afternoon, I went to my friends' apartment. It was the first time I'd seen them both since they got married this summer, so it was great to see their new apartment and their two kittens. Plus she cooked green chili chicken enchaladas for lunch! It was quite yummy.

Sadly the paycheck from this won't come for another week or so. It can never come too soon.

This next week shouldn't be so busy, but we are actually on the verge of our fall break! Alot of people are taking off for home or trips, but my first stint with the Toledo Symphony begins during the break, so I won't be able to go anywhere. Hopefully out to see my aunt, at least...

In any event, I must get some sleep. Two hours wasn't quite enough for last night. It's a good thing I just had some sushi. I'm sure that's a great late-night snack.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Movie Review: A History of Violence
Directed by: David Cronenberg Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris

Seldom does a movie come along that critics hail as "one of the year's very best" or talking about how "other movies will have to sweat bullets to match the thrills and subversive wit"
So when it does, one decides that they had better go see it, especially when they're a film-addict like myself.

When I first saw the preview for this film, I went through my normal reaction "ooh, that looks good, but it's probably really going to stink." Because history has taught me that the best parts of a film are always in the previews. So it's relatively smaller precentage of the time when a film actually lives up to expectations. Why is this? We'll have to save that for another time...

So upon hearing that this film was receiving very positive buzz, I grabbed my friend Jackswillydilly and headed to the theatre, expected to be drawn into a film of intrigue and mystery as we learned why Viggo Mortensen is (as Ed Harris' character puts it) "so good at killing people." Yes, indeed, why?

Let me first tell you what I thought the plot summary of this movie would be:

Viggo Mortensen's character (Tom Stall,) a small-town family man runs a diner and all is well with the universe until Tom foils a potential heist on his restaurant. His bravery attracts nation-wide media attention, and he is recognized by Philadelphia Mafia boss, played by Ed Harris. Ed Harris comes to pay his respects (i.e. kill) to "Johnny." Eventually Tom ends up killing Ed Harris and his cronies as well. My thought was that throughout this movie, Tom Stall would be revealed as a military operative, or something equally enthralling, allowing us to watch the violent deaths while still celebrating Tom's heroism. He kills only bad men. It's not the most original idea, but its not the story, its how you tell it. After killing all the bad men, he returns home to his wife and family to resume his quiet life, and his family would tearfully welcome him home. Fade out.

What really happens:

Tom Stall runs his diner, and brutally kills two men who attempt to rob him. When we start to wonder why Tom is so good at killing people, it turns out, that used to be Tom's living - a hitman for the mob. And it's not even as cool as it sounds. Tom just walks around and twists of arms, bashes in noses and shoots people through the top of their heads. And those were just the first few murders.

Am I supposed to laugh this much during a film? I usually don't laugh this much during comedies.

There was so much wrong with this film, it's hard to know where to start. The script itself was such a horrible display of re-heated cliches. It would seem that the screenwriters sifted through reject scripts from various slasher films, and assembled their own script, page by page. For being "small-town" Indiana, everyone in it seemed horribly out of place, as though they were uncomfortably cue-carding their way through scenes of rural simplicity. Having seen the previews, we know there's more to Viggo than meets the eyes, but I didn't know they were going to telegraph it during the whole film.
Another of the most unbelievable and outlandish parts of this film was the relationship between Tom and his wife, who is the second most important character in the film. Not only did they look out of place in Hollywood's version of Small Town, but their intimate life is apparently something the filmmakers decided we all needed to take part in. This was akward enough for the film, but the unbelievable circumstances under which their romantic encounters took place bordered on ludicrous. (Think cheerleader outfits and comically close camera shots of various armpits.) The other encounter ends up more like a rape than anything else. What in the world does this have to do with the film?!

One of my favorite funny scenes of this film deals with the local high school bully whose the nemesis of Tom's oldest son. After catching the bully's pop fly during phys ed class, the bully has it out for Tom's son in the most comic of manners, glaring daggers and grinding his teeth as hard as he possibly can. I'm not sure I'd call this "razor-sharp wit" Mr. Cronenberg. It's not exactly wit if you smack us in the face with it, is it?

Ed Harris, a fine actor, seemed to be a cardboard representation of a mob boss constructed from the left-overs of all the other B-grade mob films. He dies halfway through the film, and I'm sure he was happy about it.

As Tom Stall's character unfolds, we would hope there would be some valid explanation for his alter-ego and how he came to live in Buttcrack Indiana. But no. What they supply us with is a tossed-off dialogue between husband and wife about how Tom "killed" Jackie, and he "thought he was gone!" as though Tom were a real life Smeagol, who had easily disposed of the evil Gollum.
See, doesn't that make alot of sense?

Eventually, since everyone in America has heard about Tom's bravery, his older brother, a mob boss in Philly has him brought back to Philly to - what else? kill him for being such a jerk when he was younger. Ah, sibling rivalry. But it wouldn't make much sense to have our hero die now, so let's have Tom kill everyone in as violent a way as we can concoct, and then have him drive the 16 hours back to Indiana just in time for a luke-warm meatloaf dinner with mashed potatos and peas. And the little wavy-cut carrots. Those are yummy.

This is a horrible review. Disjointed, mispelled and half congealed. Thank goodness it's still ten times better than this film.

One out of Five
Announcing the Two Coolest Gift Ideas in 58 Years!!

Don't know what to get those hard-to-shop-for friends and relatives? Well, stop trying! Go out and buy something for yourself! Something you'd really enjoy! Nay, love even! Something which you have loved since childhood! Weren't a child then? Well, you felt like one anyway... Anyone could get me these for Christmas. That's all I really care about.

Introducing the Complete Works of the Late Twentieth Century's Greatest Cartoonists!!

Thanks to the foresight of the publishing house Andrews McMeel, we are allowed to posess the collected works of Bill Watterson and Gary Larson, creators of the imcomparable Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side (respectively)

Gary Larson's the Far Side ran for fourteen years in papers all across America, and his early retirement was a shock to his millions of avid readers. For a while our appetite was sustained by the yearly off-the-wall calender, but even this project met its demise a few years ago. We were left with only our previously released volumes of Far Side to keep us happy. Even though these books contain all of the previously pre-released material that you could find in other collections, its never looked so good! Leather bound with completely original paintings for the book covers and sleeve. And if you don't like the insides of the books, the complete set weighs in at nearly 17 pounds - perfect for a nice paperweight. A large paperweight.

Calvin and Hobbes captures so many moments of my childhood memories; eating tomato soup and reading the collections - trying not to get soup all over the pages and failing. I remember Calvin's childhood being so much of what I wish mine was. (Apologies to my mother.) His imagination fueled possibility for me. Watterson's drawing style was captivating and yet whimsical. It was never rigid, but was always fluid and naturalistic, inviting you in to partake in the world of six year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. How much simpler and innocent can a concept become? And yet its possibilities were endless.
Just like his characters, Bill Watterson's imagination for what a comic strip could be pushed the boundries of the establishment, and he continually voiced his malcontent at the restrictions placed on the size and shape of his work. He won major victories for himself and other comic artists who called the news page home, but the syndicate pressure took such a toll that it led to Watterson's year-long sabatical, and eventual retirement at the age of thirty-eight, only a decade into his career.
America has not been able to say good-bye to Calvin and Hobbes though. His work has re-surfaced and been re-cultivated in new ways, including an art exhibit at Ohio State University featuring fifty of Watterson's Sunday strips. This complete collection, like Larson's Far Side collection has all been previously availble in previous collections, but never all at once, and never so handsomely. Again leather-bound, these books are intended for the long haul, and come in a similarly decorated sleeve featuring classic images from Calvin and Hobbes.

These represent not only the true art form that can be achieved (not only visual artistry, but also story-telling) by the rarely-recognized cartoonist. They also represent the faults in a system that no longer allows for any range of creative expression. If you look at the page of comics in any newspaper today, you will find a rare example of a talented cartoonist who is not only creative and entertaining visually, but also creative and entertaining with their humor. The syndicates who license and distribute these cartoonists work, like so many other businesses, strangle creativity and artistic license for the convenience of a quick dollar. Here are two artists who simply got fed up with the process, and took a higher road in maintaining the integrity and validity of their work, and gracefully bowed out.

A note on the humor of these artists: Unlike so many strips today which focus on political satire, social commentary or observational ramblings, these two minds chose an avenue seldom traveled by contemporary artists: escapism. Whether it was Larson's turning the screws one notch too tight on the lucridity of modern life and it's pitfalls, or Watterson's six year-old innocence which was untouched by the cares or worries of the world, they both afforded us an opportunity to escape from our world and into theirs, which often times appeals much more to my mind than the existence I have. I believe this is only a part of why their work will remain timeless and be considered and studied by future generations.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Thoughts on Good Night and Good Luck

This movie, a limited release now, and probably depending on its popularity in those cities, may see nation-wide release. This George Clooney-directed film tells the story of the journalists who attempted to bring down Senator McCarthy during the height of the red scare during the 1960's.

To me this film is suspiciously timed. Over the past year or so we have heard incessant festering over the various partisan standings of one news group or another. One claims to be right-winged, another left, but all hoping that we'll swallow the notion that they're "fair and impartial." Anyone who does believe this is rather gullible. I can't help but believe that this film panders to the later.

What better vehicle could there be to bolster the news giants' credibility than a film recalling the golden age of the news giants' power. How many times have the stories of Woodward and Bernstein been told? The brave and courageous reporters who risked it all to expose the corruption of the White House. We see the same spirit of valor and patriotism promoted with this film, suggesting that this group of six journalists attempted to selflessly expose the injustices of the American government to it's citizens. As true as a story as this may be, again, I say the timing of this project is suspicious.

At a time when America has never had more choices in where to get their news information from, we are less and less turning to the giant news organizations like CBS, NBC or ABC, let alone the news-only channels such as CNN. The networks realize this, and wish to reclaim and relive their glory days when theirs was the only voice in news information.
Now with the accessability of news blogs available to anyone who would search them out, anyone in the world can receive news straight from the front lines of any international affair.
But you can argue there is no journalistic integrity in these small blogs or news channels. They don't have the prestige or reputation that the old news organizations have! But sadly we've seen the credibilty and impartiality of these news empires crumble during the last few years as their desire to position politically outweighed their integrity in choosing what to report.

I personally see this film as a death throe from an industry that is built and supported not only by the old news giants, but also by Hollywood - and it's an industry that knows its impact is so diminished now that it must rely on heroes that are long since gone to try and garnish any kind of loyalty.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Recollections of Toys (Childhood and Beyond)

Toys are very important to me. Anyone who knows me now knows that I treasure that which amuses me probably alot more than that which benefits me in any profound way. But whatever. I'll live longer.

Toys have always been really important to me. I can recall exact toys that I played with (I won't recall the age at which I played with those toys, because that could be embarassing) in which house I played with them, and in which room or in which pile of dirt or mud those toys had the fortune of calling home.

What is pictured here is one of my earlier memories of a electronic horse that would loll it's passenger back and forth. Pretty simple. Classic. This particular horse is definitely much older than I, but it is one of the last remaining vestiges of my early childhood days. This horse is kept at a Benjamin Franklin's. Probably only a few people know what I'm talking about when I say that name. They were sort of an anything and everything store for towns whose population had not crested 10,000. They were the female compatriot to the Pamida. There was a sizeable second floor consisting of fabrics, clothing patterns and everything else seamstresses would need to equip themselves. But in the basement... in the basement there used to be one of the most magical assemblages of toys! Toys that no one else had! Toys that no one thought kids should have! Toys that had long since stopped being made, but had found their way to the shelves of this tiny store in Minnesota. And every once in a while, my siblings and I would get to bring something home from this store. These were always amongst the best toys.
This is because they were real toys. Not like the cheap knock-offs you found at Kmart and elsewhere. If you bought a toy pistol (as I was very fond of) at Kmart, it would be plastic, weigh about 5 oz. and would break soon after you got it home. This led you on a never-ending crusade to find real, tough toy guns and weapons with which you might destroy all foes, imaginary or otherwise. The best not-cheap toy guns came from Benjamin Franklin. These guns were made of heavy plastic, perhaps even metal (if you were lucky) and felt very significant in your hand. There was sense of empowerment there, even for a six year old.

The concept of a "real" toy, or at least a plaything which had (in my mind) an added element of realism reached to the horse toy above. The horse was a glossy plastic - not very convincing at all, but what always made me run to it and clambor on it's back was the saddle! Why this saddle was as good as real! It was made of leather, now worn my so many years' worth of childrens butts, and the clincher- it had a metal horn, fasteners and stirrups. If anything contained metal, it was professional quality.

There is one toy I loved and adored for the short while I had it, and to this day, I still wonder where it disappeared to.
Staying in the spirit of this moment, it was, of course, a gun. But this was no pistol. No mere handgun! This was a fully-automatic sub-machine gun! Capable of decimating the oncoming hordes of invading Germans with a simple tug at it's plastic trigger.
Okay, this gun WAS plastic, but this was the heavy-duty sort of plastic I mentioned earlier. You had no fear of playing with this gun. It could take the abuse.
It was bought from Benjamin Franklin's sidewalk sale during the "Crazy Days" promotions for all of the local businesses. All of the downtown stores lined the closed-off street with tables and put out hundreds of grey bins, displaying their wares. I had recently had a birthday and had my grandma's $10 birthday money burning a hole in my anxious shorts. My dad and I went down to the "Crazy" madness and I found myself looking through the bins in front of Benjamin Franklin and coming across a small collection of toy firearms. Such delight! A small child's delirium is only compounded when he realizes he actually has the money to buy his shiny new trinket! Such was my excitement, I didn't even make it home before playing with it. My dad and I sat down on the curb, and I watched as he un-twisted and un-screwed the gun from it's constraints.

Thus began an era of unprecedented make-believe. Wooden guns and imagination will take you part of the way, but with a good piece of hardware, the benefit is tremendous. It's more like having a side-kick along who always wants to play exactly the way you do. And the side-kick shoots bullets.
One day, as my make-believe plans demanded, I found myself climbing the tree in our front yard, side-kick firearm in tow. At some moment, I got into an argument with my older brother, and who's fault it was is now beyond my memory, but the gun slipped from my lap and fell to the sidewalk, where the tip of it's barrel shattered. I remember holding my brother solely responsible. And then being sent to my room for my temper tantrum.
The tip was glued back together, but it's glory was only a shadow of its former self. It was still played with a great deal, but my child-self could never see too far beyond the gobs of glue.

Sometime soon after this, during the course of one of my games, the gun disappeared somewhere from which it never returned. We have since moved from that home, and I now live in another state, so I know the chances of finding this wonderful toy are nonexistant, but in the back of my mind, I wonder if one day I will open up my closet and find it propped up against the back, or inside my dishwasher between the glasses, or in a trash can, where I'll be able to rescue it at the last moment from certain destruction at the hands of the trash collector. Maybe a more realistic idea would be to find the same toy for sale some day in another Benjamin Franklin, and the whole story can be played out again. Except this time a 23 year-old wielding a toy gun may not elicit the same innocently-happy reactions from passer-byers.

Gigantic Fruit Threatens Small Neighborhood. Passing Motorists Amused at their Helpless Plight.
What happens when gene splicing meets stupidity

Driving down the road one day on my way back from a delicious Sunday brunch of Chinese cuisine, motorist Jackswillydilly (name changed to prevent the innocent from being drug into this) and passenger T. (because he doesn't know any better) were suddenly struck by the presence of a road-side object that demanded our keenest of attention.

It emerges slowly at first...nothing more than a gigantic blob of orange on the horizon, apparently camped out on the front lawn of some unsuspecting homeowner; perhaps completely without the resident's knowledge! These things can happen anywhere. Is someone having a used car sale?

We grow closer and realize that this gigantic beast of harvest has surrounded this poor house and its residents! At first we thought it might be a benevolent gourd, but no. Its intent was malicious. This is a deadly pumpkin, with the consumption of all who venture near its only motivation for existence.

As we grow near you can see it's vicious features - the blood-thirsty eyes and gap-toothed sneer reveal the blackness of its soul. Perhaps it feels it can conceal itself behind inanimate objects such as pickup trucks and telephone poles, but we sincerely hope that the citizen walking along the street realizes his/her iminent peril and soon makes his/her escape to safety. As behemoth as they can seem, these giant beasts can strike quickly and without provocation.

As we come in even closer, risking our own well-being, you can see the creature attempting to conceal itself behind the local plantlife and obstructions, possibly hoping we will not notice its existence and will venture close enough to it's open maw for it to make a snap at us. This unfortunate creature will have no such opportunity with us. The safty of Jackswillydilly and myself are paramount in my mind. We will venture no closer. At least for a while. For this moment in time, our curiosity satiated, we resume our travels, praying that the dear citizens trapped inside the house find means of a quick escape. Perhaps through a basement window, as long as the beast's well-known companions the Cabbage Patch Kids haven't set up camp behind their house.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Recently discovered/re-discovered music

Silage - Vegas Car Chasers (1998)

California-formed trio Silage was a short-lived ensemble that popped into the scene around the same time as Jars of Clay. The signed to the major label Sub*lime and made two full-length releases. Vegas Car Chasers was their last project.

In many ways this album was before its time. Silage's sound combines rap with metal with funky rhythms and bass lines, a style popularized today by such bands as Crazy Town and Limp Bizkit. Their song-writing is fun and amusing, with constantly unexpected turns and changing colors.

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

This marked the height of David Bowie's success during the 70's heyday of glam-rock. The song-writing on this album is remarkable. At times hard rock, at other times soulful ballad. The title track is a mixture of heavy-handed guitar riffs with a yearning melody, while the song "John, it's only Dancing" shows off Bowie's abilities to tell a detailed story through song.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Mars Volta: The Weirdest Thing Since Tur-Duc-En

Every once in a great while, a group comes along and does something so entirely unique and original, it seems to bend the very rules of physics around itself, rewriting history and making the us mere mortals quake in the shadow of such God-given genius.

Far more commonly, a group comes along who is intelligent enough and creative enough to combine that which was into something new and intriguing. Such is the case with the Mars Volta, a terrifically enigmatic ensemble culled from the ashes of the rock band At the Drive-In, headed by guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (right) and vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala (the other.)
Their names go along way in laying the foundation for their mystique. The second part of their mystique is largely built out of human hair. Both of these gentlemen grow copious amounts.

To the music! That's what we're here for, after all... Correlations are drawn relatively frequently between the Mars Volta and Led Zeppelin, not only for certain stylistic elements, but by the power combination of both bands' lead singers and guitarists. With Led Zeppelin, the other two may have been overshandowed, but left their indelable mark; with the Mars Volta, it's hard to even find a photograph of anyone else in this band besides Omar and Cedric.

Then there's the musical similarities: Cedric Bixler Zavala has one of the best rock voices I've heard in a while. At times sweet and seductive, he can at a moments notice leap into the stratosphere and shatter glass seemingly effortlessly. Much of the time Cedric's words are obscured, but it doesn't matter. It is far more important to listen to the textures he creates using his voice than it is to discern what the heck these guys are talking about. (That harkens back to the enigmatic statement. When you can understand their lyrics, you can't.)
Omar Rodriguez's guitar playing does have alot of recollections of Jimmy Page; he is quite fond of building rock-heavy riffs and sitting on them throughout the length of a song, allowing the world to turn around his axis. At other moments, Omar will begin shredding guitar, and won't stop playing for a good solid five or six minutes, completely seperate and oblivious to what the rest of the Volta is doing. Bottom line: some of the most creative yet classic guitar playing I've heard in a while. Make room at the top for Mr. Rodriguez-Lopez.

So what's it sound like?
Okay, we've covered the Led Zeppelin impressions/influences, so other work that comes to mind is the complexity and layering you would find in Radiohead plus the vocal techniques of Rush mixed with the testicular fortitude of Guns 'n Roses and topped off with a healthy portion of latin salsa and merengue, just to keep things interesting.

Check them out. I own their latest, Frances the Mute and listen through it quite easily, especially since it has a track-less ideal to it, with good amounts of nothing but ambient noise to lull us into the world of the Mars Voltans.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Movie Review/DVD Preview: Kingdom of Heaven
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson

Following the recent traditions of gigantic epic films, I present to you Kingdom of Heaven, an over-blown, elephantine behemoth of a movie that collapse under the weight of its own gravitas.

The premise: Son (Bloom) is seperated from his father (Neeson) at youth, and sets up shop as a blacksmith where his father, now a knight on his way to the Crusades comes to convince him to return with him to battle and become a knight. Son agrees, and the two venture to the middle east, while father is killed en route. Son makes it to Jerusalem and wrests control of Jerusalem from the hands of the Turks with the help of the leper king, only to have the Turks return with an immense army and kick the ever-living daylights out of them. Sounds uplifting, no?

The only reason I write this now is because I see that it is coming out on DVD, and despite the rather ravishing previews for the DVD and the starpower of Orlando Bloom, I warn all to stay away from this film.
This movie begins every sort of worn-out idiom you could imagine for this sort of film. The jilted son that does not love his father, only to run to him after his wife is murdered, blah blah blah. The heroic yet tragically conflicted father returns to seek his son's forgiveness and give him a sword that he might smight down his enemies, only to discover that his son lives at peace with the quaint villagers in the armpit of France.

Once we arrive in Jerusalem, what to we find, except that the evil invading European christian knights are horrible stewards, are corrupt and treat the locals poorly. Contrast this with the righteous muslim Turks who have rightful claim to the lands where the invading knights are living. Such a cock-eyed view of the motives and truths behind the crusades is taken in this film, it is hard to imagine why they ever took place.
Enter: our hero. Orlando Bloom enters into this arrid desert with pure motives, and prospers. Inevitably, however, he is called upon to go to war for his king (whom is the most intriguing character of the film,) and goes on to conquer victorioiusly.
Eventually the final showdown between the surrounded crusaders and the turkish hordes come, and Orlando Bloom negotiates for the safe passage of all within the city in exchange for the city itself. So, in essence, Orlando Bloom looses the war, and yet is viewed as a hero because he saved the lives of his men. Say wha...? I'm not quite sure of the moral of this story. Except that there's nothing worth dying for, apparently. At least when you're as beautiful as Orlando Bloom there isn't.

The performances in this film are adequte. Liam Neeson's role in this film is surprisingly small, seeing as how he dies less than halfway through this film. Is it only me, or have we been seeing Mr. Neeson play the same role in films for the past year or so? (Think Batman Begins.) Orlando Bloom is relatively chill in this film, and seems rather distant.

Over all, I'd rather this film two out of five


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stolen Entries from Cookie Monster's Diary

These selected entries have been reproduced in their entirity, and have been left unedited. This blog is not responsible for the content of the following.


Today me go to Hoopers store to buy - what else? Cookies. Yummy cookies. I had craving for rum raisin cookie, but Hooper did not have rum raisin. I ask him if he had oatmeal chocolate chip. No, said Hooper. No oatmeal chocolate chip.
Cookie Monster getting frustrated! Googley-eyed monster needs sustainance! What kind of cookie does Mr. Hooper have? Only peanut butter.
Stupid peanut butter.
This is going to be a bad day.


Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie
Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie Milk.


It been awhile since Cookie Monster write in diary. Sorry. Cookie Monster had to go away for awhile. The nice people at the hospital say Cookie Monster all better now! But they say I have to change my name. My name is now Alistair. Alistair C. Monster. But now, the C stand for... C stands for...C is for...for...C is


Okay. NOW doctor say Alistair all better. He say last time was his fault. It okay though, I no mind. I don't use my emotions as excuse for binge-eating. Doctor says I don't like my mommy. Sorry mommy. And sorry cookies, Alistair no need you no more. Now Alistair only eat good things! Crunchy things. Like bananas. And soft squishy things, like carrots. Me allowed to eat raisins still. Like raisins from yummy, me no say that word.


I really hate that Big Bird.


I go to dentist today to have teeth checked out. He say I have cavities. He says I no take care of teeth. Not true! I would brush my teeth if toothbrush wasn't so tasty. say I need 45 cavities. Is that alot? He tells me no more sweet foods. Boy have I been hearing that alot recently...


Dear Diary,
This is day 17 of what the news calls the great cookie war. Me not sure what they talk about. I am here in Hooper's store. Hooper is dead. I killed him with his own cash drawer about four days ago. He ran out of cookies. No one runs out of cookies while Cookie Monster is here! (Oh yes, I also kill doctor who change name to Alistair. He poop head.


The kind police officers let me have my diary in prison! I have been here for a while now. Judge calls it "cookie jail" but I no see no cookies in here. Telly and Oscar come and visit every once in a while, but the visits are fewer and fewer. You gotta be tough. You gotta be tough in the big house, man. . .

These journal entries were discovered left atop a simple grave in Connecticut where the head stone said "here lies Alistair C. Muenster; he has paid his debt to society. If he comes back, tell him his dry-cleaning is ready to be picked up." No one is quite sure of what to make of these documents, but it does lighten the suspicion of murder charges brought against Mr. Snuffleupagus after Cookie Monster's disappearance.

Bestest albums 2

Okay I'm back...for more, that is! Bwahahaha!
So here it is: more of the rest of the best with none of the less. Er. Lesser. That's what I meant to say. Really. Anyway, back to the list. . .

Jars of Clay - Jars of Clay (1995) and Much Afraid (1997)

This one was obviously a tough decision, and it didn't seem appropriate to list Jars of Clay albums twice, since the decision seemed to be between one or the other. Their first album, (Jars of Clay) started out as a school recording project and ended up being a great collection of songs. Their sophomore album I feel only improved their polish and technique. So which of these would I recommend? I don't think I could promote one over the other.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle (1990)

I know there are several great CCR albums (amongst my favorite are "Green River" and "Cosmo's Factory.") Still, this is just a great compliation of CCR's greatest hits in one location. This album is crammed full of their biggest hits from their earliest days to their last, and really lets you see why CCR was such a great band. Key Tracks: Aside from all of their own original tunnes, I really dig their eleven-minute version of "Heard it Through the Grapevine."

Nirvana - In Utero (1993)

This was Nirvana's final studio album. The follow-up to their break-through "Nevermind" it was often overshadowed and derided for it's more introverted style. The songs here are much more personal and introspective, not so much geared for the populace's ear, but more the sort of song that Kurt Cobain wanted to write. It wasn't even a year later that Kurt Cobain commited suicide, adding more poignacy and meaning to this collection of work. Key track: "Heart-Shaped Box"

Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti (1975)

Regarded often as Led Zeppelin's last great album, this was their sixth full-length studio work. This album actually ended up being a double LP set, which makes it the longest in the Zeppelin's repertoire. By this time the monster that was Led Zeppelin was world-reknowned for their concerts and recordings, and this represents the height of their swagger and bravado in full oozing-lava glory. Key tracks: "In My Time of Dying" and "Kashmir"

Led Zeppelin - IV (1971)

The remarkable thing you'll note if you compare the lists to each other is now Led Zeppelin's first album was released in '69. Two years later, they were already releasing their fourth. This prolific time in the band's history showed them only improving with age. Many regard this as The Led's finest album, but I personally find it a bit over exposed (what with the no.1 rated rock song of all time "Stairway to Heaven" being on this album.) But it is a work a careful listen, none the less. Key tracks: "Black Dog" and "When the Levee Breaks"

The Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)

Probably the newest album on this list, this is the Black Keys' third full length album. By this point, the Keys have built up great street cred, remaining true to their roots, and building a fan base by fine-tuning their craft via live shows all over America and abroad. I wasn't sure this would be an album I would like, since they stray further away from the straight-forward blues tunes that I felll in love with them for in favor of a more personalized song-writing style, but I haven't been able to stop listening to it! Well done boys. Key track: "10 am automatic"
Some of my All-Time Top-Ten Best-Ever Record Albums. Some of them.

This could be an enduring project as I continually discover new stuff. But here's the stuff that's been here for a while that I still listen all the way through.

White Stripes - Elephant (2001)
Contains the best guitar playing in the last thirty years. The best rock song-writing in a while. And more heavy rock attitude than we've seen in a while. And all while recalling song styles that are over 75 years old. Key track: Too many, but for starters, try "Ball and Biscuit"

The Newsboys - Step Up to the Microphone (1998)
Here (in my humble opinion) is where the Newsboys hit their creative peak. John James left the band and drummer Peter Furler took over vocals for this album. The song-writing is appropriately hard-edged and fun loving at times, while reverent and praise-worthy at others. Key track: "Woo hoo"

Led Zeppelin - I (1969)
This was Led Zeppelin's freshman project. Before this, they were known only by the notoriety of guitarist Jimmy Page, who was coming off of his stint with the Yardbirds. This album captures the energy and raw talent of this lineup, from Jimmy Page's riffing to Robert Plant's howling vocals to James Bonham's "hammer of the gods" drumming. Key track: "Good Times Bad Times"

Delirius? - Mezzamorphisis (1999)
This collection from the extremely talented UK group Delirius? Every song here has moments of real beauty. The production is phenomenal. These songs are all pre-cursors to the explosion we've seen in the melancholic emo-rock music of Coldplay and their followers. Come see it from the beginning. Key track: "Follow"

Radiohead - Amnesiac (2001)
Radiohead's fifth album may not be critically regarded as their finest, but for me, this is when I discovered the group, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Radiohead's aproach to their sound hasn't changed drastically since their smash-hit "Ok Computer" so the sonic language is familiar, but I feel their song-writing is better than in Kid A and demonstrates a wider range of sonic capabilities. Key track: "Pullk/Pull Revolving Door"

Okay, I gotta go practice now, so I'll have to conclude this later. . .


Monday, October 03, 2005

Movie Review: The Corpse Bride
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Christopher Lee

For some, twelve years has been far too long a time between Burton's foray into this film style, considering how easy it was to fall in love with his vivid and distinct storytelling in this unconventional medium. I think it is safe to say that this movie will not disappoint the loyal fan.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a stylized follow-up to 1993's blockbuster the Nightmare Before Christmas, a film that was praised not only for the beautiful and creative visual style that blended traditional stop-motion animation with CGI to create a visually vivid world, but also for it's clever and inventive storyline.

Virtually no element of Nightmare's recipe was touched for the Bride. This new film is complete with all of the ghoulish, spidery-legged, outlandish colored, obtusely shaped characters that became instantly associated with Nightmare. Tim Burton has a certain penchant for a romanticized vision of the after-life. Or at least an affinity for making us feel slightly ill at ease with his vision of this life. (Think Edward Scissorhands or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)
His trademark style is amongst the most distinctive in Hollywood, and it is a project such as this where Burton is able to stretch his creative muscles exactly the way he wants to; in a time and place where you are not held to any laws of nature or physics.
Right from the first frame you are enraptured by the visual style. Even more amazing to think is that these are actual three-dimensional puppets that are pain-stakingly photographed to create such a fluid movement of character.

The most interesting thing for me to talk about here are the creative concepts behind each character. If a character is evil in the film, every part of the puppet from his eyelids to his toenails tells us about his character. Extremes in height and width - all of contributes to giving us information about the character. In this limitless universe, Tim Burton is able to stretch things beyond the point of reality, stressing certain attributes of different characters, leaving less to be accomplished by the script and actors.

The acting in this film is quite decent. Of course Johnny Depp is so absorbed into a role that you wouldn't even recognize his voice, which I rarely ever thought about. (When I did, it was to remind myself that it was Johnny Depp's voice I was hearing, even if I didn't recognize it.) Helena Bonham Carter does a beautiful job, but again I realize how little work was left for the actors to do after the world was already built at the hands of the puppeteers.

My greatest complaint with this film lies with the story itself. The plot is rather uncreative and unimaginative. Chances are Burton and co. are planning that we'll spend so much time looking at the images, that we won't notice much else. But if you do notice the story, you'll notice a pretty straight-foward plot that ends up feeling rather obvious and worn-out. The beauty of Nightmare Before Christmas was that its plot was incredibly imaginative and creative. Compared to this, Bride ends up feeling incredibly unoriginal.

I would rate this film 3 and a half out of 5.


A Guilty Pleasure Revealed...

So I must confess something to you, O haven of cyberspace, of whom no one ever visits or reads. You won't tell anyone, right?

I once had a conversation about guitly pleasures. Thos candy-coated goodness that we allowed ourselves to indulge in, even though we know it wasn't the best available. All of you Britney fans know what I'm talking about. You guys disgust me.
So the light was turned on me. What kinds of things did I have lurking in the shadows that shouldn't see the light of day? At least for 23 year old male? And I'm quite pleased to say, everyone that was at this conversation met with approval at my choice of books, music and movies.

For the most part.

The only thing I was able to come up with at the time was a Limp Bizkit album I owned that I knew was gosh-awful, but I didn't care. Somehow it sounded good to me.
I have since traded away said piece of faulted music, and was presuming my life to be close to perfect now, since I couldn't find any embarassing choices of entertainment whatsoever. All men envied me, all women desired me. It was a beautiful thing.

And then I caught myself popping a DVD into the player yesterday.
I flipped the case over and was shocked. I reeled back in horror. But not so far as to step on my collection of amigo-approved CDs and DVDs.
There was a pattern here I wasn't too proud of!
I considered it. I pondered it. And then I realized I had a problem. An affinity. I felt like calling an AA group of some kind.

I announce it only to you dear Internet, knowing that no one else will read this. (Could this be an attempt to boost my hits?!)
So here it is:

I enjoy John Cusack films.

Now to the layperson wandering by this statement, they may not regard this as exceptionally weird or embarassing, but please, I invite you to probe further. . .
Consider the films that John Cusack has done. Yes, he's a fairly versatile actor who has appeared in many different varieties of film including romantic comedy (America's Sweethearts) action, (Con Air) and thriller, (Identity) but it is one of these genres where he is best known. And that is the Romantic/Comedy.

Yes, now the reality begins to sink in, doesn't it?

I know, it's disturbing to think about, but please, dear Internet, I beg you not to judge prematurely. Hear me out.
Other friends I have know of my rants on precisely this subject. I'll speak about how I have John Cusack and his movies and how he makes these "wussy" movies about "wussy" men and their problems and generally dealing with them like a "wussy."
But the truth of it is: I empathize and identify with Mr. Cusack's plight. The way his character is repeatedly thrown into similar circumstances in any romantic-comedy movie he's in I recognize in my own life and go through the emotional throes with him, taking part in his sadness and joys, hoping that he'll get the girl he wants, even if he doesn't know who that is.

So why am I ever opposed to John Cusack? The wise Internet asks. Well, it's two-fold: On one hand, I empathize with him and realize his struggles as my own, and don't want to watch them played out in front of me. It's uncomfortable. On the other, I see the way all of the beautiful women swoon over the "sensitive emotional" type and I'm sitting there feeling quite jealous of a ficticious screen character. I know, silly, but it's true. I can be sensitive and emotional! I'm just not going to bear it out in front of everyone. If you really think about it, would anyone really want that?

So here in the private confines of the all-hearing Internet I confide. Thanks for being there buddy. I'm gonna go watch High Fidelity now and watch John count down his top-five all-time worst break-ups ever. We'll laugh, we'll learn, we'll love. And someday, John Cusack will be mine.


(Is this what happens when you blog while sitting on the toilet? Betcha all wanted to hear that! Ha ha! You can't un-read it!)

I had a dream last night. . .

I dreamt that I (under some sort of dire circumstances) had t go on and play the drums for Meg at a White Stripes gig. So it was me and Jack White on stage, hopefully wailing away. Thankfully, considering Meg White's elementary drum technique, I was able to keep up with Jack, banging away at what I thought was a pretty similar rhythm to what Meg would have done.

And, as is typical in my dreams, we are never on a solid, easily identifiable location. We seemed to be performing on some sort of balcony overlooking a large restaurant, yet the balcony had as much space behind us as it did ahead of us, at varying different levels.

Afterwards I was able to hang out with Jack and Meg (who was still there for some reason) and we hung out for a while. I seem to remember that we got along quite marvelously, which is how I hoped it would be.

There was no mention of a repeat performance.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Welcome to the newest member of my family!

It's a baby...thing. Okay, it's not a baby. But I call it my baby! I even cradle it to sleep at night. Sing it lullabyes and pet it softly.

Ladies and Gentlemen: it's my new computer!

ta da!

(Gasps of disbelief. Shock! Horror! Unthinkable! Unfathomable! Unthathonkable!)

I know what you're thinking: how could he possibly get any cooler?!
Well, try this:
for free!
Yes, you heard me correctly... Because of Apple's release of their new iPod Nano, they are eliminating their stock of iPod Minis. Clever, huh? Makes you wonder what happened to the iPod Micro doesn't it? Skipped right over it.

On a more vaild note, the circumstances were evaluated, and I really felt that it was time to step in the arena of mobile technology. The idea of having access to my files and the internet regardless of what state or city I am in is becoming more important. Also, the growing availability of wireless internet, (both at school and now, up here at the house) means that the wonders of wireless internet are mine to explore while sitting on my couch in my underwear.
And now, since the homeowners I live with have returned from one of their myriad of travels and will be here for a while, my use of the computer (where I started this lovely blog) will be severely reduced, which would mean that none of you would hear from me again! Now isn't that sad? Of course it is.

Now here's the best part! I got it on clearence!! So it was several hundred off of the normal price, plus my student discount, plus the free ipod plus a big rebate on the printer-scanner-copier combo. . . needless to say, it was a monumentous day for consumerism. The bargain gods are rejoicing.

Now go away. I have much to explore on this cool little toy. . .

A rant on Star Wars to come soon. Won't that be fun...

My Rant on the Matrix Trilogy
(Everyone brace yourselves...)

How can a film trilogy that begins in such a revolutionary, mind-bending way end up in the deepest corners of cliche and recycled plot twists?

Let us first pay homage to the first of the Matrix films. Released in 1999, virtually as an unkown film project, it went on to be one of the year's top at the box office.
With a plot the perfect balance of tradition and revolution, the Matrix spawned a legion of imitators both in style and content; everyone trying to either pull off the science-fiction story elements (the decent Equilibrium) or it's revolutionary style of cinematography. (The "bullet-time" effect mimicked in countless movies not excluding Shrek.)
To me, this is the sign of a milestone in film history. It is seldom that a film comes along that spawns so many imitators.

So how do you top a film that has not only mind-bending special effects, but also mind-bending plot, twirling science, philosophy and emotion in a colorful whirl? A plot that engages not only the audience not only on a physical basis of emotion, but on a spiritual level as well.

The answer: You can't.

Other times have arisen when a filmmaker is in the position to make a sequel to a film, and it has the expectations and potential to be great, but the majority of the time, it fails miserably. Why? Honestly, I believe they try too hard.

After introducing a plot that consists of giant robots using humans for batteries, and feeding real-world images into our brains via a broad-band connection to our cranium, how much further can you explore this idea, when you've already introduced a hero with seemingly unlimited capabilities?

The Wachowski Brothers' script begins to fall apart on them during Reloaded when various characters visit the Oracle, and dialogue descends into confusing mumbo-jumbo that does not have a point or purpose, except to confuse the heck out of it's audience, hoping we won't notice. Perhaps, the Wachowskis thought that everyone was coming to the film just to see all of the cool fighting and special effects. Unfortunately for the Brothers, a good number of us came to see how the universe of the Matrix would unfold, and we were confused, and disappointed.

Alot of advantages can be held by the second chapter of a trilogy. It is the time when the plot and characters really become embroiled in their circumstances, and when our relationship with the characters deepens. Sadly, Reloaded ends up playing off as a carnival side-show, with all of it's greatest moments being about slam-whiz-bang action filmmaking, without any of the legitimate substance that the first film had.

But hey, it's all prelude to act three, right?

Revolutions begins with Neo trapped in a coma-type trance, forsaken in some subway terminal, (probably in Brooklyn) and trying to get his way back to the Matrix to help his friends. Agent Smith, the chief antagonist in the first Matrix film returns as a rogue computer program eating the Matrix from the inside. This leads to the ultimate show-down between Neo and Agent Smith. It is our Apocalpyse. With really cool clothes and kung fu.
So many things begin to go wrong with this film. It would appear that Andy and Larry Wachowski used up their creativity in creating the Matrix universe, and saved none to sustain us through the journey.

- Fight scenes begin to feel old and programmed, with all of the beautiful choreography and stunt work that we've come to expect, but it begins to feel expected and rehearsed.
- The musical score begins to play like the worst-of from an early ninties romance. The lush strings rise and fall from crescendo appropriately to the various dramatic throes. The menacing motifs poke through as evil lurks on screen. The original Matrix soundtrack was incredibly popular as a stand-alone product because of it's (again) original blend of orchestral scores and heavy metal thrashing. By the third film, we're all too accustomed to what we're going to be hearing.
- The cinematography, while familiar and comforting, is almost dictating. The Wachowskis were very vocal of their "comic" style of shooting, using the space on frame the same way a comic artist would in arranging their character elements. When we reach points in the story that are primarily dialogue-driven however, the directors seem to go on vacation, and leave the scenes to play out with a dull thud.
- And let us say nothing of the nauseating level of cliches that infects the final film. Every dramatic turn plays like a bad punchline, with the audience beating the movie to the point, and wishing for it to hurry along and catch up. Things seem to move in slow-motion, allowing us time to seep in the gravity of the great and wonderous circumstance in which the characters find themselves, (and in which we are supposed to be thoroughly absorbed) but it ends up making the viewer impatient and wondering if now's a good time to slip out to visit the bathroom.
(Will a hand always make the sound of popping knuckles when you ball up your fist? Apparently so...)
- Drawn out segments that border on deathly. The best example of this I can think of is the final battle in the last few minutes of Revolutions. Of course we are meant to be looking forward to this confrontation, but how many times can you make a blurry exchange of blows interesting? The Wachowskis try again and again, and each time getting a little more complex with the special effects, until finally they realized that simple might be more effective. Too little, too late. The death blow ends up as an anti-climax.

And what does our hero do after giving his life for all of the other subterranean dwellers? he's carried off on the tendrils of a machine looking rather similar to a certain crucified figure...that probably wasn't intentional though. Although the vocal Kyrie chant at that exact moment makes you wonder...

This could go on forever, but I think I'll end now while this thing seems to have a little cohesive structure. You get my point, I'm sure. A brilliant beginning stretched out into eight hours of a washed-out imitation. . .of itself.

That's gotta be a first.