Friday, November 09, 2007

War Movies have lost some of their appeal recently...

Watching Crimson Tide the other day I realized how many holes in the understanding of military procedure and process filmmakers are required to have in order to make an entertaining film.

Films like Top Gun, Behind Enemy Lines, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State (while almost exclusively directed by Tony Scott or starring Gene Hackman) were huge blockbuster hits in their day on the big screen, and enjoy an avid following amongst film fans.

However, they all lack a decidedly fundamental element of military protocol: military discipline.
Having a taste of the training and expectations that soldiers and seamen will undergo before being placed in a live combat situation makes these films seem ludicrous.
Soldiers, acting under the stress of combat, get into fistfights in the chow hall, cowboy pilots launch footballs off of the carrier deck and buzz the control tower at the air field.

Such behavior is beyond comprehension in a live combat situation. To have troops that would so willingly abandon all discipline and bearing "because they are stressed" would mean a comical and disastrous wartime scenario anytime our soldiers were deployed overseas.

So while these films are fun to watch, if I have to watch one more sonar operator screaming into his headset to "dive! dive!" I might have to pitch the TV out of the window.

On another note:

Filmmaker James Cameron (most famous for his Titanic debacle) may take a place of honor as one of the worst dialogue writers of the last 25 years. George Lucas remains the king of this mountain, but Cameron's insipid scenes in films like Aliens and the Abyss make you wonder what cave Cameron was living in to think that these were normal human interactions.

(Aside: Cameron's marines in the film Aliens are another perfect example of the ridiculous over-ripe commando-type character that lampoons the warrior type. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it weren't for Bill Paxton's character, who has an IQ just above wet lettuce.)

So James Cameron and Tony Scott: I salute you and laugh at you simultaneously. You have made some great blockbuster films which are fun to watch, and help us to believe that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are founding fathers of America's cinematic vision of heroism.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Album Review: Radiohead In Rainbows

It seems an eternity has passed since 2003's Hail to the Thief.
In many senses, an eternity has passed. Hail was Radiohead's last album under the band's obligation to Capitol Records, the end of a musical treasure trove consisting of six albums which just so happen to include OK Computer, Amnesiac and Kid A.

So once the need for deadlines passed, Radiohead decided to take its time in crafting its latest album, the relaxed, colorful and- should I say it? - optimistic songs that make up In Rainbows.

A huge amount has been said about the band's strategy in releasing their album to the public via its website, where fans could pay any amount they chose to download the album. Anywhere from one cent to one million dollars was acceptable, but one could assume a donation of around ten dollars would be considered a fair trade for the tunes.
Unsubstantiated reports suggest that within the first month of downloads, Radiohead's album shot past 1.2 million albums "sold" which is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is certainly this white-hot product is sending all money earned directly back to the band, rather than into some record label's pockets. Fans are happy, band is happy. Everybody wins.

But what about the album?

Ever since the release of 1997's OK Computer, Radiohead has been plagued by the public's demand for a second revolutionary album, (perhaps expecting the same vision and ground-breaking music making that the Beatles achieved.) All of their subsequent albums, while well-received and analyzed endlessly amongst musical circles, the greater listening public was waiting told of Radiohead's next great achievement.

Unfortunately for the faceless masses, this may be an album that never reaches them.

In Rainbows contains some of the most beautiful songs I've heard recently, however they are hardly ground-breaking in their technique or execution. Rather, it is a return to story-telling, inventive instrumental playing and cozy production, making an album best enjoyed through headphones rather than blasted through your home stereo.

The album's lead-off track, Down is the New Up is reminiscent of Radiohead's politically charged past, but rather than outrage and turmoil, (2+2=5) there is a certain anxious resignation. Other songs such as House of Cards start off with lyrics like "I don't want to be your friend. I just want to be your lover" suggest a far more tangible, cuddly Radiohead than we've ever seen. The time signature for this song is even in a standard 4-beat pattern, (as opposed to previous albums using 11/4 or 15/8.)

All in all, this is some of the most enjoyable, beautiful music I've heard recently. Its not the Radiohead we've known from the past, but like the album artwork, it's a more colorful, blurred vision of what lies ahead.

The Triumphal Return of the HIVES!

It's been a few years (and a lot of world-wide touring) since 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives and I am pleased to announce the return of Sweden's greatest export: the Hives!

Receiving some early attention due to a Foot Locker commercial, the Hives' first single off of the Black and White Album has been released, along with six other songs via iTunes for American audiences. The album was released in mid-October for European fans, but America will have to wait another two weeks before it is unleashed here.

But despite these setbacks, using the miracle and mystery of the internet, I have gotten my grubby paws on a few of the tracks.

We wait with baited breath for the rest of this release.
Much of the frenetic, proto-punk 2:00 approach to songwriting has given way to a restrained, tight-lipped sort of ideal which has the band savagely beating their instruments in strict tempos, following the energetic lead of their deranged lead man, Screamin' Pelm Almqvist.

Fans of their earlier albums will certainly love this third international release.

Now to just catch them live...