Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Tune Tuesday: 5.31.11 Flogging Molly, Death Cab for Cutie & more…

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things: New Tune Tuesday 5.31.11

Well it’s been a while, Portemaus. Hopefully you enjoyed your holiday weekend. I was busy at the Phoenix Comicon, no not having anything to do with music, but showcasing some of my short films and enjoying all the perks that come with a “Professional Guest” pass. Which mainly means not having to stand in any lines. In a convention center filled with all things pop culture and cosplay girls all around, it was a good time was had by all indeed. It was my second year showcasing films at the convention, and I hope to be back in ’12.

While it’s disappointing to come back and find your writing for a place shilling it’s stuff on twitter, it is nice to come back after having to deal with last week and hearing over and over again of people shelling out money for a terrible album, to find this week is filled with a nice variety of solid music released. Nothing masterful, but a boatload of solid 3.5 star releases abound…

Release of the Week 5.31.11: Flogging Molly, ‘Speed of Darkness’

In this present stage of grace a poor man robbed me blind,
Though I offered him the cash, he said “Don’t insult my pride,”
To each their own, we’re just flesh and bone,
In this present state of grace I offer thee…

History Class: You can’t classify Flogging Molly as anything less than a bar band rags to riches story. Dublin born singer/songwriter Dave King would leave his homeland of Ireland (his “exiling” from Ireland and separation from home a theme he continually goes back to lyrically) found himself a lead-singer for a heavy metal band, Fastway, for a number of years before forming Katmandu who didn’t last nearly as long. Later in the 90’s, after turning down a gig to sing for the Jeff Beck group, Flogging Molly was formed and found itself doing an eclectic mix of punk rock and traditional irish/country/bluegrass/folk music which became a perfect, however unlikely, mixture for King’s rather poetic lyrical gifts. Starting out as a literal bar band playing more often than not Molly Malone’s (hence the name of the band) they ultimately put out a live album in 1997 entitled ‘Alive Behind the Green Door’ and found themselves releasing records on SideOneDummy by the time the new millennium was underway. Their first three records were all extremely well crafted, most notably 2002’s ‘Drunken Lullabies’ and 2004’s ‘Within a Mile of Home.’ However, the interesting dynamic is the difference between these studio recordings and their raucous, truly one of a kind live shows, which are rather highlighted in the double-CD set ‘Live at the Greek Theatre,’ which was released last year. In 2008, after an EP, a divorce for King (who then later married band member Bridget Regan) and a band documentary (the solid ‘Whiskey on a Sunday’) followed up their first three studio albums the band released ‘Float,’ which didn’t float my boat. I wouldn’t call it bad, but I didn’t think it was up to par with their other work. Some claimed I was being selfish thinking they shouldn’t grow up or grow as a group and leave behind their crazy drinking songs. However, on those first records, it was the deeper material I was attracted to over those drinking songs. No, it was the fact on ‘Float’ I thought the lyrics came across more forced rather than felt, and musically the album seemed to be, while amidst the band being tighter, rehash of stuff I had heard before. Still, ‘Float’ is worth a listen, even if I’d recommend their first three LPs over it. Heck, I’d recommend a live show of theirs over any of them…

The Album: Despite the opening number, “Speed of Darkness,” sounding more than a little like ‘Swagger’s’ “Devil’s Dance Floor,” it’s a solid way to open the album both musically (it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be influenced by yourself, though it can get repetitive) and lyrically (“my cup will be empty because you’ll never steal my youth”) doing what a Molly record should do, get you pumped. Most of the song were written in the post-apocalyptic land of Detroit, Michigan, and it shoes: the album continues ‘Float’s’ themes of being more serious and political writing wise, it’s more polished on that front, tackling economic woes pretty heavily. I won’t lie, the album has a couple stinkers, I think they get them out earlier on the album, which sets up for a more solid last 2/3 of the record. One thing they showcase in their growth as a group, and getting older in general, is the slower songs. Molly has done slow, even ballad type numbers before (“The Son Never Shines on Closed Doors,” “Whistles the Wind”) they always seemed a little afraid to just let them be, often infusing a slow beginning to an all out rock song (“What’s Left of the Flag”) or try to pump up the melody too much. Here they let them fall where they may, songs like “So Sail On,” “This Present stage of Grace” and “The Heart at Sea” showcase they have grown up some and aren’t afraid of seeming a little “soft” at times, which is okay. Also, Bridget Regan takes lead vocals on “A Prayer for me in Silence,” which is both nice to hear on record and something she’s done for years at live shows when they perform “Factory Girls,” which featured Lucinda Williams on the actual records female vocals. At the end of the day, or should I say at the end of the album, I feel this is a better release than ‘Float,’ however I’ll be honest, their first three records are still better, but it’s good to see their growth come this far. Musically, they really showcase more variety than they have in sometime.

Available on: CD, Deluxe Gatefold Vinyl, MP3. Also note: The iTunes release has a bonus track, acoustic version of “Saints & Sinners.”

Other Notable Releases this week (5/31):

My Morning Jacket – ‘Circuital’

It’s been a pretty good couple weeks for Jim James of My Morning Jacket, a couple weeks ago Rolling Stone named his version of “Goin’ to Acapulco” one of the top 10 Dylan covers of all-time, and now his band releases their new album. An album that almost couldn’t, no matter what it has, be worse than their 2008 release ‘Evil Urges.’ That’s right, while I like MMJ, I was highly critical of that release, and I think for good reason. Here they’re once again trying some new sounds, and it works better. From the (‘White Album’) Beatles-esque opening track “Victory Dance” it’s obvious that their ready to draw you in, James “speaking to you/ from all of heaven’s possibility.” James voice is a highly unique voice should be used more as an instrument, and it is here. Just listen to “Wonderful (the Way I feel)” or “Movin’ Away” for examples. I’m not super high on the album, but if you’re a fan, you should enjoy it and it’s Brit Pop rock influences, it’s use of reverb and steel guitar are also notable.

Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3. Note: iTunes release comes with a 4+ minute “documentary” video bonus.

Death Cab for Cutie – ‘Codes and Keys’

While I don't dislike Death Can, I've never found them the indie-darlings some do, or at least did circa 2005/6. The problem with genres like emo and indie pop rock is so much of it all sounds the same, when you have My Bloody Valentines mixer (Alan Moulder) handling your mixes, it’ll be your problem too. However, one thing is clear on this album, it’s not the dark, almost whiney album 2008’s ‘Narrow Stairs’ was. I guess that’s what getting to sleep with Zooey “I’ve had my career handed to me” Deschanel will get you.

Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3. Note: iTunes deluxe release comes with two bonus tracks (demo versions of “Portable television” and “Some Boys”) as well as a music video for “You are a Tourist.”

Eddie Vedder – ‘Ukulele Songs’

This could have been the WTF? Album of the year, but because he already did the soundtrack to ‘Into the Wild’ (which I won’t get into why it’s a bad movie or the idiots who idolize it’s antagonizing protagonist) it doesn’t seem to much of a stretch for Vedder. In fact most of these songs were actually written close to a decade ago and just never released. Also of note is Glen Hansard and Cat Power each add lead vocals to a track. I’m not sure why “Longing to Belong” is the lead single off of the LP, I would have gone for maybe “Sleeping by Myself” or “Light Today.” My real question: What happened to Vedder after 1994?

Available on: CD, MP3

Dave Matthews Band – ‘Live at Wrigley Field’

Are you one of those fans that jumped on a bandwagon that filled up so quickly in the mid-90’s it led not only to it being un-cool to like Dave Matthews, but to a cult like status to his actual fans? Well, this release, of hits, rarities and favorites old and new, is for you.
Available on: CD, MP3

Worth Seeking Out (5/31):

Rick Danko – ‘Tin Angel’ (import)

A third former member of the Band has a release this year. Of course, unlike Roberson and Helm, Danko passed away in 1999, and this two-disc import set details, in wonderful DAT recordings, some live shows at the Tin Angel just a month before he passed. Features classic Band material, heavy on songs Danko was lead vocal on or even wrote (“It Makes no Difference”) as well as Dylan material (including the song Danko came up with the melody for, “This Wheels on Fire”) and classic blues songs, with a talkative Danko in between numbers.

Available on: Import 2-CD set, MP3

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – ‘Couldn’t Stand the Weather’ (limited Hybrid SACD/DSD release)

If you’re a fan of one of the greatest guitarists whoever lived, you know this album. However, unless you have a pristine vinyl copy, you’re never going to hear it as good as you can on SACD, even if you have the remastered CD set with bonus tracks. Problem? You need an SACD player to have one, or at least know someone with one. Yet, that’s audiophile folks that are even rarer than the vinyl folks.

Available on: Hybrid SACD-DSD

In other Media: One of my all-time favorite films, as well as in my top-3 all-time westerns (celluloid awesome) of all time, Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” comes to blu ray this week. This isn’t just some everyday catalogue release either, with both a 5.1 lossless and original mono audio tracks, even more impressive is it’s video presentation, one of the finest representations of how good the era (early 1970’s) of film can look on blu. Plus, Claudia Cardinale in high definition? I’m so there….

Up and AT THEM!!!! The Simpsons take a shot at Hollywood

Episode: Radioactive Man

Writer: John Swartzwelder

Director: Susie Dietter

Chalkboard - Bewitched does not support Satanism....nice

Couch Gag - Xerox of family comes up from the couch and floats down....eh ok

Continuing on with our look back at 20+ years of fabulous Simpsons episodes, today we look at Radioactive Man, the story of huge Hollywood blockbuster adaptation of a popular comic book hero coming to film in Springfield. With the recent buzz about TDKR heating up and The Avengers beginning production I felt this was a great episode to look at.

you can totally see "nick" in the background

Putting the family drama to the side for a bit this episode takes a satirical look at the Hollywood studios and how they make their movies. While Bart and Milhouse are perusing the comic book store looking at such gems as "manboy" and "nick" which seems to feature a normal guy with a gaping hole in his chest, they strike up a conversation with Comic Book Guy and discover that a movie is being made from their favorite comic book. Watching Comic Book Guy search the internet using the old alt.xxxx message boards is still great even if the method is outdated it still rings true for the abundance of movie gossip/news sites.(note we don't claim to be a news site...merely opinions) I love that he gets connected to a wide web of nerds only to have someone hiding under the desk at a hollywod meeting overhear the news that Rainier Wolfcastle will be Radioactive Man. This is of course a representation of Hollywoods constant desire to cast big name actors in tentpole films even if the role is wrong for them(see Arnold as Mr Freeze who in NO iteration is a musclebound ex mr. universe....in fact that guy who played Bane in Schumachers Batman and Robin would've been a better fit)

This leads to a great side bit where Rainier, after being trained to speak English properly, has trouble uttering the phrase "Up and atom".

The show continues to satirize the moviemaking industry, from shoddy editors, to behind the scenes magic involving breaking walls for proper wiring, and of course the laziness of the teamsters. Two more things I want to touch on before I wrap this up. My favorite scene in the episode is where they are shooting in a chemical plant and Fallout Boy must save Radioactive Man from a wave of acid. The director yells out that the shot cost millions of dollars and that they only have one take since they are using real acid. Now for anyone who has seen behind the scenes extras on big budget movies knows this is relatively true. Aside from using real acid these big budget films have shots that cost exorbitant amounts of money and because of that they essentially only have one chance to get it right. This scene as we all know ends with Rainier being whisked away in the acid screaming the classic "My Eyes!...The goggles do nothing!"

The last thing I want to talk about is Milhouse. The producers of the Simpsons like to paint Milhouse as a little wimpy kid with no backbone for the majority of the series. Every once in awhile we see that Milhouse has his own opinions and desires like anyone else. Here he really shines, unhappy about being forced into acting he runs away from the production. He gives a long speech to Bart about how the real heroes are doctors and teachers and he feels so phony dressed up pretending to be a hero. They may be rare but when Milhouse shines he is a voice of reason not often heard outside of Lisa.


One last thought - do you know how long it took me to notice the Mickey Rooney joke about box office dominance spanning two decades?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Is Pixar ready to fall? I sincerely hope not.

So is it possible?...can the "Cars" series lose the best animated oscar twice in a row?

Pixar is quite possibly the most consistent studio around, constantly developing exceptional family fare that entertains people of all ages without dumbing down the intelligence for the masses. Their films are always on the short list of best films of the year, and have only lost the best animated oscar twice. Once from Monster's Inc and once from the first installment of Cars.

All of us here at PORTEmaus love the Pixar films and often debate back and forth about the best one....with Hawk in particular having some repressed childhood problems with the amazing amount of pathos infused into Up. One thing is consistent across the board and that is that Cars represents the low point for Pixar. I am definitely in that same boat, but being the on the low end from the geniuses at Pixar does not mean the film is bad. Once you start developing a library there is bound to be something at the bottom and something at the top, for instance here at PORTEmaus I have the honor of receiving the least amount of page views, with Hawk and Gonzi constantly busting out the gate with tons of traffic for each new post.

So before we go back to the original question I want to take a short trip through Pixar history. I am going to talk briefly about each film, quite briefly in particular about the Toy Story series as I have an article in the works dedicated to RC about his favorite series of films.
Here we go

Toy Story - it gave us Woody and Buzz. Beyond any other film on here this film gave us characters that will go down in history as classics right alongside Mickey and Donald. That kind of accomplishment doesn't happen to often at the house of Mouse anymore, you think Princess Tiana will be remembered in decade? Or even Rapunzel....maybe but Woody and Buzz are here to stay for good.

A Bug's Life - Pixar's second film was my favorite for a long time. This loose adaptation of Seven Samurai mixed with a comedy of errors never got the respect it deserved. From Kevin Spacey's awesomely evil Hopper to the "warriors" who in fact are simply actors the film really showed that Pixar was going to be a studio that developed complex stories that could still appeal on a wide range of demographics. Highlight for me is still Dennis Leary's ladybug with insecurities and frustrations about his race of insect.

Toy Story 2 - Still considered by some to be the best film Pixar has produced. This takes the toys on a rescue mission while beginning to lay the foundation of Andy outgrowing his toys. The themes get pretty deep as you have the Prospector fighting for them to live forever, while Buzz argues back what good is living if you can't enjoy it with those you love. Again could go on forever with this one but later.

Monsters Inc. - I still can't believe this lost to Shrek. Looking back Shrek is almost pandering in its over abundance of now dated pop culture references. Monsters Inc throws us into the fully realized world of monsters and gives us reasons for their terrifying nature. Its subtle themes of alternative energy sources still resonate just as strongly today as they did at the beginning of the millennium. Steve Buscemi definitely rocks as the bad guy here, but my favorite part is seeing each monster prep before going into their teleporting doors. Whether its growing claws, or scaring bunk beds or changing your color with backgrounds. Also the wink to Harryhausen is pretty awesome as well.

Finding Nemo - So anyone whos's been reading, or those who know me know I have some deep rooted parent issues. So this story of a father overcoming all of his own insecurities in order to save his only surviving son resonates pretty strongly with me. Plus the adventures he goes on underneath the sea are so amazing from hanging out with sea turtles to meeting some sharks who have given up eating fish, to having Ellen Degeneres as a forgetful partner on his journey. Then we have Nemo hanging out with a ragtag group of sealife led by an awesome scarred Willem Dafoe all trapped in an aquarium. This was the first time that Pixar really surprised me. I was unsure going in how much I would enjoy this fish tale, but being the behemoth that they are Pixar made another brilliant film with a universal story.

The Incredibles - My favorite Pixar film. How could it not be? One of the best super hero movies ever made, and its an original story by Simpsons alum Brad Bird. This story of superheros forced into domestication after Mr. Incredible saved the wrong guy is so layered with commentary on the American nuclear family it really is no surprise that Bird used to be on the Simpsons staff. Whereas most these days strive to make EVERY kid feel special, and that everyone is unique, Bird skewers that idea by asking why? Why does Dash have to hide his abilities, why can't he better at sports than everyone else? It never goes as far as saying "the truth is...not everyone is special" but it gets close and it definitely pursues this idea throughout the film. Even the main villain wants to be special so bad he fabricates abilities. In an argument with his mom where she says "everyone is special" Dash responds"that's just another way of saying no one is." Mr. Incredible then gets frustrated and begins yelling about celebrating mediocrity. Ultimately Bird's message becomes, its ok to actually be different and unique, because that is what truly makes you special. Oh yah and family that works together can achieve anything but that's a whole other article.

Cars - This tale of a hot shot city boy learning humility and respect by being stranded in a country town is just ok by Pixar standards. Maybe its the whole "country" vibe to everything but I've never spun this disc repeatedly like I have the others. The animation on the other hand is just as gorgeous as anything they've done. The opening scene looks fantastic and really shows off the quality of Blu Rays that Disney puts out. Like I said before its the low point for Pixar, but that doesn't make it a bad film. I'd put it alongside Kung Fu Panda and Monsters Vs Aliens. This also has the distinction of losing to Happy Feet.

Ratatouille - this story of finding your passion even if its not in your nature is another homerun by Bird. Here he tells the story of a rat named Remy who finds success by puppeting a young chef into greatness. Again dealing with family expectations and being forced to choose what's more important your passion or your family Bird brings weighty themes to another Pixar classic. On a sidenote the culinary aspects of the film were supposed somewhat overseen by Thomas Keller which for those in the know is awesome and lends some respectability to the "cooking" that's done in the film.

Wall-E - wow this and the next one really push the boundaries of the definition of family film. An apocalyptic tale of the wastefulness of American consumers and how our desire for laziness will ultimately lead to our downfall as a society is quite dark for children. The shining beacon of hope in this trash filled world is small optimistic robot named Wall-e who never stops working and finds treasures in the midst of everything we saw as trash. His love story with Eve probably ranks as the best romance that year. The opening 45 minutes are nearly free of dialogue and rank as some of the most brilliant animation put to film in recent years. Not my favorite, but close and quite possibly the "best" film Pixar has done.

Up - When a film can capture whimsy while still telling a complicated and endearing story I am always ready to pay attention. Up has the distinction of being the most unlikely of films. First off Pixar opens up the film with an amazing sequence chronicling the relationship of our hero and his wife, which is at once beautiful and quite possibly the most depressing and heartbreaking sequence I've seen. Never reaching the heights of Wall-e, this sequence takes a similar dialogue free approach and still lets the images tell you a story. Upon finishing we are presented with the unique hero of an old man using balloons to take him on the adventure him and his wife had always wanted. The film just sets off from their taking the plot in so many directions and giving us an adventure story of the highest caliber. I love this film with its optimistic message that its never too late to follow your dreams and that you are only capable of what you believe. Oh yah while the rest of my crew here enjoy the cynicism I happen to ride the glass half full train more often than not.

Toy Story 3 -sooo I mentioned in my first post here that this was a perfect film in an already perfect series of films. That definitely hasn't changed. Easily my favorite installment in the adventures of Woody and Buzz. Still perfect...still amazes me.

So back to our original question. Can Pixar lose with cars again? One of my main problems with the first one was Mater, mostly because I really can't stand Larry the Cable Guy and it's hard to distance that voice from him. This new film takes his character and Lightning on an international spy adventure. Sounds awesome but the idea that Mater is going to be even more prevalent worries me. Just looking back at the films of Pixar, they have done enough that they have earned my trust. The fact that there is a Toy Story short in front of the movie alone is enough for me to give it a try. Not since Nemo have I been as hesitant about one of their new films. I'll let you all know what happens in a few weeks, as I'm sure RC will be dying to see some cars go vroom vroom.


One last thought - Buzz doing the Flamenco is pretty amazing, also Wall-E's spork bit kills me everytime.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It is not on the Level as the Toy Story Sequels Then Again Nothing is...

Film Foray Cavalcade no. Siete: Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2

You know it is not summer without some sort of animated offering to the gods of adolescence. Mostly, I look forward to Pixar's releases because at the very least they will not demean the parents being dragged to see them. DreamWorks Animation though tends to be more miss than hit with me. The first Shrek was a great film that lost of its magic because of three horrible sequels... I cannot even watch it now. Madagascar was alright (Although Sacha Baron Cohen was hard to stomach) and Monsters Vs. Aliens was downright dreadful. With the exception of past films such as Antz, Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit feature, I tend to avoid DreamWorks Animation features (namely the computer animated ones) like the plague.

Yet, I was intrigued by the first Kung Fu Panda (still have not viewed it though) because of the opening sequence and the level of detail in the art direction department. Then How To Train Your Dragon was released and it kind of made me hopeful for the studio's future. Sequels can be tricky, you have to attempt to recapture the appeal of the original while not creating a carbon copy of it. From what I have read about the first (Yes, Yes I will watch it) and having seen the second, they appear to be different films from a story perspective.

However, the film tends to be very formulaic and it is a story that we have all seen before. Po (Jack Black) receives a flash about what happened to his family and is on a quest to find the truth of his origins (How he could be believe a goose was his father is beyond me). Standing the way of path is the evil Lord Shen (Gary Oldman who is wasted in this film) who threatens to destroy Kung Fu with a cannon (That will solve everything). Of course, it quickly becomes apparent that the murderer of the village of pandas including Po's parents was the same hater of Kung Fu (the dastard!). His motivation was a prophecy where he is defeated by a warrior of black and white (foreshadowing).

One cannot complain about the "look" of this film.

It is clear from once the plot gets underfoot where it is going to go, how it will happen and ultimately end (spoiler alert, trilogy). I suppose to counter this intuition, they overcompensated with art direction. All in all, Kung Fu Panda's use of non-computer generated animation was refreshing and look amazing much like its predecessor. The other drag of this film was that the voice cast did not seem too "into" being in the film. Overall, Kung Fu Panda 2 was a decent enough film that is better than many within DreamWorks computer generated catalogue.

Friday, May 27, 2011



No doubt Christopher Nolan and company will blow us all away with The Dark Knight Rises, Marvel is at the other end of comic book spectrum with quite possibly the most ambitious and risky film they have ever embarked upon. The Avengers will hopefully be huge from a money making perspective, but it carries with it the burden of a whole universe coming together to create one coherent narrative in which the biggest heroes must share the screen. Needless to say this could FAIL miserably or it could be one of the most successful films of all time. Much like my article on TDKR I want to take a look at what we know about the film, but unlike my other article I want to talk about what possibly could happen in this film based off the bits of information that have been shown to us in the existing Marvel films. So while my other article was based off of what we know for sure this is much more conjecture on my part.

To start with we have Joss Whedon at the helm. A fanboy favorite who sadly has never proven he can release a film or even launch a successful tv series outside of the Buffyverse. I'm excited to have Joss in control, he has a great grasp of ensemble pieces and knows how to make sure each character gets their due. Buffy, Angel, Firefly all managed large casts filled with fully realized characters. This is going to be a great help given the strong personalities of each of our heroes. Joss has done some great work with X-men and the Runaways so dealing with this kind of team dynamic is nothing new to him both on screen and in the written form. Now, up to this point Joss has always dealt with more or less his own creations, here he is dealing with the highest expectations of his career, an amount of pressure that could cause anyone to wallow in mediocrity. As long as Joss stays true to what has made him successful and not let the studio try and push him in whatever direction they feel like we should have a great movie on our hands.

This cast is ENORMOUS

first official production photo...I'd say it gives a good idea of who the main Avengers are.

We all know Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America are the big three of the Avengers. I'm not going to spend much time on them since you all have seen the movies/ are going to see the movies already. I want to talk about stuff we're not too sure of. The Hulk is the fourth founding member of the Avengers, and from that first production still it looks like he's going to be playing quite a large role in this film. I was pretty sad about Ed Norton being forced out of this role, since I thought he did amazing work in The Incredible Hulk, but Mark Ruffalo stepping in is a welcome addition. Here is what we can pull from the existing films. One, Stark has talked to General Ross about the Avengers helping out with the Hulk as seen at the end of Letterrier's film. Two, Dr. Selvig from Thor used to know Banner as he mentions having a run in with SHIELD after they found out about Banner's Gamma Ray projects and "took him." I'm going to infer from this that the Hulk is added to the team rather reluctantly.

you better do Norton proud buddy

It has been rumored that the Hulk was going to be an antagonist of sorts to the Avengers and I can fully see that happening at the beginning of the film, and the rest of the film being about the Hulk coming to terms with his powers and becoming a full fledged Avenger.

curious about this one...hopefully it works out

Maria Hill, Black Widow, Hawkeye, are all part of the Avengers as well. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said that Black Widow would be the only female Avenger. So Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill will most likely be at Sam Jackson's side for most of the film. This makes sense as Hill only recently has become a more active member of the Avengers in the fallout of SHIELD being dismantled. We all saw Scarlett own the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, when it came time for her to show us what Black Widow could do she delivered the goods. I hope she gets a little more screen time in full Black Widow mode than the one scene we saw in Iron Man.

We briefly saw Hawkeye at the SHIELD compound erected to protect Mjolnir. He was already an agent of SHIELD and seemed little more than their go to marksman. This seems to suggest that they are abandoning Hawkeye's past with the other side of the law. My guess is while creating the team Fury decides he needs some of his own men on the team rather than a bunch of superpowered gods and radioactive mutants and Hawkeye and Black Widow fill those roles.

I mentioned that Renner's cameo in Thor was relatively pointless especially for those who have no idea who Hawkeye is. What we do get in those few seconds is Renner fully embracing the cockiness of Hawkeye(or Barton as he's called here). He makes light of Thor dispatching the SHIELD operatives sent after him and makes a quick crack about not wanting to shoot him anymore because he's starting to like Thor. I've said it before and I'll say it again....Renner is perfect casting for Hawkeye. Anyone can play the cocky hotshot but Renner has real talent and can bring the heart and dedication that lies underneath Hawkeye's arrogant exterior.

I feel like Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson gets forgotten a lot of the time, but he really is the glue that binds this universe together. Gregg instills Coulson with this G-man for the modern age style that works so well against Jackson's intense and foreboding Nick Fury. He is Fury's ambassador of sorts and seems like it will be his task in the film to unite the Avengers for the first time. My guess is he will essentially act as peacekeeper between the team and be responsible for making sure they act as a team rather than bicker(which I'm positive will be a huge plot point of the film).

So that is roughly what we can gather about our team. We know that Cap is going to be frozen and thawed out to join the team so we will have that storyline in motion. We know that the Avengers will be somewhat affiliated with SHIELD so that places us more in the Ultimates universe than anything. Although the interpretations of Stark and Banner are definitely more in line with the typical Marvel Universe stories. So what about the villains?

Loki is back. This has been confirmed by Hiddleston himself and Skarsgaard who we last saw has been under the control of Loki. We know that it will probably have something to do with the cosmic cube. So does this mean the Red Skull will make an appearance, who we already know gets ahold of the cube in Captain America? I am going to guess not. Although I'm sure Weaving rocks as the Red Skull having an assortment of heroes AND an overabundance of villains seems quite a bit to handle in a two hour movie.

Besides recent rumors report that Loki uses the cube to bring the Skrulls to earth for some general havoc. This is exactly the kind of world wide disaster that would warrant uniting heroes of this caliber. The Skrulls are a race of shape shifting warrior aliens who more often than not are thorns in the sides of everyone in the Marvel universe. If this rumor pans out this could be quite the epic story which I'm sure results in Loki not being able to control the Skrulls and everything getting out of control. If not the Skrulls then what else could Loki have up his sleeve? The cosmic cube is pure power capable of doing almost anything, as such the possibilities are endless.

That's about all the information we have. I could keep going on and on with more hypothesis but those would really be shots in the dark. We do know that a howling commando Gabe Jones, played by Derek Luke in Captain America, will be in the film. Paul Bettany who seems obsessed with half assed action flicks will once again lend his voice to Jarvis. Gwyneth Paltrow has suggested she'd be up for it if it was only for a quick cameo.

Nothing to do now but sit and wait. Captain America is the last piece of the set up before we get The Avengers in 2012. Ill be back in a few weeks with a review for that as soon as I check it out. 2012 looks like it will be the culmination of years of work for both of the major universes. Let's hope they both deliver.

The Avengers

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One last thought - For how modern these Marvel movies have been...what if they throw in a cameo from Andrew Garfield or Hugh Jackman.....mind hole....BLOWN!

The Old Adage is True... Rules are Made to be Broken.

It seems that the mouse or Maus continues to grow at a breakneck pace. Hopefully, this does not conjure imagery of a rat king. Then again, the mascot is a mouse and they are quite different than their other rodent cousins. Anyway, digression aside... The month of May has been quite good for the site.

The previous records for April of most hits in a day (200) and in a month fell (693) (and quite quickly, I might add). Honestly, I had not expected it to happen the very next month but then again, who can plan for such occurrences? I have said it before, it is the support from visitors such as yourselves that is responsible for this continued growth. Without it, we are simple four talented gents who write articles that no one would read.

The question is where does PORTEmaus go from here? We have already established a beachhead on Facebook (Remember to click "like") and now we are campaigning in the other realms of social media like Twitter (Follow us! Yes, yes, I know the irony of such a decision.) For those hoping to reach anyone of us (Hawk, Gonzi, Bence or myself) with words of praise or derision... Feel free to email us. Thank you again... Super friends for the continued support.

Your humble servant,

Scorpio, You are Totally Mad or the Simpsons as a Conventional American Family

"You Only Move Twice," a Simpsons retrospective (or reminiscence) part Two:

Culturally speaking, it is difficult or nigh impossible to find a show that has altered the landscape that is the American family. George Bush (Senior not Junior) missed the point behind the Simpsons. Are they dysfunctional? Perhaps but then again what family is truly well adjusted? The appeal of the Simpsons besides the inherent wit and intelligence in the writing is that the viewer can relate to elements of this television family. You have the loving father but dimwitted father (Homer), the glue behind the family (Marge), the intelligent overachieving sibling (Lisa), the rascal or troublemaker (Bart) and the baby with a personality of her own (Maggie). There's is the life of the everyman, which we the mass live day in and day out.

With four hundred and eighty-six episodes to select from, there is many adventures of this family that reside deep within my heart but when pressed with the question, "which is your favorite episode?" The answer remains ever the same, "You Only Move Twice." Talk about clever, you know where the episode is going to go by the title alone (For those keeping score, it is a play on the Bond film, "You Only Live Twice). Couple it beginning with the funniest line/gag (Smithers annoyance to being offered a job... "What's wrong with this country? Can't a man walk down the street without being offered a job?") in the twenty-two year history of the show and you got yourself a stew going.

For those who missed this gem and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Smithers rebukes the Globex Corporation's offer of a job and they go to the next senior member of the nuclear plant, Homer Simpson. The Simpsons move to Cypress Creek, where Homer works for a supportive and altogether nice guy by the name of Hank Scorpio. In this environment, Homer flourishes for the first time in his life and shows glimpses of a positive self-esteem. The rest of the family however is far from happy, Marge turns to drinking wine because she has nothing to do, Lisa develops a nasty cause of allergies to everything in Cypress Creek and Bart is placed in a class with "arsonists and kids with mittens pinned to their jackets all year 'round." In short, the family would like to return to Springfield.

To which Homer replies ignorant to the fact that Hank Scorpio is a supervillain (forgot to mention that fact):
"We've got it great, here. And for the first time in my life, I'm actually good at
my job. My team is way ahead of the weather machine and germ warfare divisions."

This is where the episode reveals its ties to the Bond franchise including a great
sequence with Scorpio and Mr. Bont. However, the greatest part of this episode
me (by the way, the Bont/ Scorpio scene is timeless) is the fact that inside Homer
is with hopes and dreams (one of which is owning the Dallas Cowboys) that do not
include food and he is willing to risk that for the happiness of his family. This is
what families do, the sacrifice for the happiness of the collective, which in the end
illustrates that the Simpsons are a functional family (since this occurs in many
episodes). Take that former President Bush!

All sentiment aside, this episode has some of the most clever writing and intelligence
crammed into twenty-two minutes. Scorpio, revealed as a maniacal villain, after
exercising his "doomsday device," ends up controlling the East Coast. For his
role in Project Arcturus (which he probably does not understand), Homer is
rewarded with something that takes him closer to his dream but disappoints him...
The Denver Broncos ("You just do not understand football, Marge") Even
that reminds me of the dynamics behind a family. I alluded to it, the Simpsons has
been popular for so long is because they are reminiscent of everyone's family.

Honestly, it does not get any better than this episode for a whole host of reasons that
would ultimately bore you to hear
about. I smell a doctoral thesis for family
psychology coming on...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Simpsons is the Best Show Ever: #12 knows the the deadly secret behind tic tacs

The Simpsons is the greatest television show of our generation. Hands down no argument THIS IS FACT. I will fight this to the end. For any child of the 80s and 90s nothing reaches the cultural importance that The Simpsons has achieved. Aside from single handedly bringing respect back to animation in primetime it has proven to be the epitome of the modern American family more than any other show. It manages to be both topical and timeless with its tales of a a nuclear family dealing with dysfunction and the absurdity of modern life. Look a lot of my peers turn to Family Guy as "brilliant" and the show of our time. This is ridiculous. If you think Family Guy is funny that's fine, Macfarlane can definitely elicity some laughs but to say Family Guy is a better show than The Simpsons is just absurd. There is no way Family Guy has affected American culture the way The Simpsons has. Family Guy lacks the sincerity and heart that The Simpsons infuses in each episode along with its surreal adventures. Nonsequiturs are funny, but they do not make a brilliant show. Anyone can throw randomness at a screen and get something to hit. The Simpsons has developed characters that are so much more than "stupid father" or "awkward daughter." We have seen these characters for over twenty years and they have gone through heartache, joy, dealt with the loss of family members and loved ones, been reunited with long lost siblings, achieved lifelong dreams, and even journeyed into space as well as a brief journey into reality(thank you Hom3r)

This is my favorite show of all time. I still watch it every sunday, sure it may not be as good as it used to be BUT the past few seasons have been pretty great, most likely due to David Mirkin taking a stronger producer role lately(see seasons 5-6 for examples of Mirkin rocking it out as showrunner). As part of our new Idiot Box section I am going to be discussing various Simpsons episodes from the past twenty years. My blog brothers should be contributing as well. We here at PORTEmaus are dedicated to bringing you the best content around and when I think of sharing my passion with you all, few things rise as close as my love for The Simpsons. I'm sure my colleagues here feel the same. Feel free to comment and discuss your favorite episode. Believe there ARE plenty out there.

The first episode I am going to discus is Season 12 episode 6 "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes." In thinking of beginning this article I can't think of a better way to begin than with the episode where Homer starts a blog, runs out of content so he begins making stuff up and ends up being kidnapped and taken to the island from the show The Prisoner. This episode was written by the elusive John Swartzwelder and directed by Mark Kirkland.

Chalkboard - I will only provide a urine sample when asked.....kind of a meh chalkboard bit

Couch Gag - Santa's Little Helper doing the snoopy dance, the family walks in and looks confused....pretty funny...always cool to see someone doing the snoopy dance...there's another bit somewhere in the Simpsons universe where Milhouse plays the piano like Linus and everyone dances Peanuts style.

This episode first aired in December of 2000. Its crazy to see the depiction of the internet 11 years later. While its portrayal of people constantly regurgitating the same information over and over online is still apt, the after dark toasters floating in the background are all but extinct. After Homer does not get an email about the plant being closed, he decides its time to get a computer. He quickly creates a website which does not immediately get hits. I love how obsessed he is with his hit counter. Definitely something I can relate to. The picture of him on the couch lit only by his computer screen as Lisa begs him to go to bed is hilarious and all too close to home. Soon he realizes he can get hits online by posting about sleazy news. Again its amazing how topical this still is. Two of the most successful blogs are TMZ and PerezHilton which both specialize in celebrity gossip(but I'm sure you knew that). Like all episodes there are plenty of intelligent asides from which to talk about, like Kent Brockmans rant about real news being told by real reporters and not online bloggers(like I said...best show of our generation). The show really kicks it into high gear when it enters its third act and becomes a parody of the island from The Prisoner. Homer runs out of stories so he begins to create his own news and in his acts of yellow journalism irresponsibility catches the eye of the island and gets kidnapped for stumbling upon the truth about flu shots.

The Prisoner was a show starring Patrick McGoohan(who guests in this episode as #6) about an ex spy taken to the island for "something" he knows. The island on the show fully captures the "far out" 70's vibe that the original show had from the Flamingo with the bowler hat to the room in which number two interrogates Homer. There's even a quick joke about the number system in which Homer discovers he's number five and laughs at number six. I could go on and on, but perhaps my favorite joke about The Prisoner comes when Homer steals the boat from number six(which could have held both of them apparently) and security sends a bubble after him. In the original show the bubble was a security drone that was sent after anyone who dared to escape. Here in an amazing bit of logical deduction Homer pops the bubble with a fork resulting in the amazing exchange of "Why did you think a bubble would stop him?" "Shut up...THATS WHY!"

Definitely one of my favorite episodes and one that serves as a perfect jumping off point, what with its commentary on the internet as both an addictive and unreliable means of news, for this ongoing retrospective of The Simpsons. We hear at PORTEmaus have been enjoying some mild success in the past month, and its all due to you out there. So please keep reading, tell your friends and like I said feel free to comment down below I'd love to hear what YOU'RE favorite episodes are. I'll keep doing these articles for awhile...again there is plenty of material to choose from. So hopefully I won't run out of things to write about and end up on the island being gassed every two minutes.

Remember to like us on facebook or if you prefer you can follow us on the twitter @PORTEmaus


One last thought - The German stand in for Homer while he was on the island was awesome "I am a new tie wearing" should be said by everyone at least once a day.

Summer Preview UPDATE I still don't think you're the god of thunder, but you should be

The first official summer blockbuster has come. No I don't mean Fast Five....I'm going to be technical and say that that was a Spring film. I am talking about THOR!....if you remember this was number 7 on my summer preview list. I've always liked Thor but I would be lying if I said I followed his exploits with the dedication that I give to Green Lantern or Bats or X-men or even Spiderman. That said I do like the guy and in the hands of a great writer his comics rank with some of the best Marvel has to offer, but we're talking about the film today.

Unlike many detractors when I heard that Kenneth Branagh was taking control of the film I was ecstatic. His love of Shakespeare and costume fits perfectly with the world of Thor in which political structure and family betrayal play huge roles. I never understood how people didn't see the thematic similarities between Thor and Hamlet...which is regarded as one of Branagh's best film. Ok enough of that on to the film.

In short....this movie rocks. It is exactly what a superhero movie should be. Again this isn't The Dark Knight, but it is the comic perfectly brought to life, and I couldn't ask for anything more. Branagh strikes the perfect mix of action, drama and humor and takes us all on a fantastic two hour journey to Asgard and back. The story revolves around Thor, son of Odin, who is about to be crowned king when intruders come to Asgard. Headstrong Thor disobeys his father's wishes and goes to the intruder's homeland to start a war. Because of this he gets banished to earth and stripped of his powers. The rest of the story is Thor learning humility from Jane Foster, and back in Asgard Loki, Thor's scheming younger brother takes his chance at stealing the throne for himself.

I mentioned tone before and I want to stress just how well Branagh creates a film that entertains and stays true to the Marvel universe. I have a piece I'm working about the upcoming Avengers movie, but I will say this...this movie fits in perfectly with that universe. Throughout the film there are little hints at what's to come and not like the flashing light that was the shield in Iron Man 2, these pieces of information are just part of this world. Whether its referencing the Hulk or badmouthing Stark these are no longer big red flags showing you how clever the writers are, these are now the building blocks of a universe. One can fully imagine Thor speaking to Tony as warrior to warrior. I obviously haven't seen Captain America yet but I am more excited about that film now than ever.

There really is so much to talk about with this film. Whether its the set design or the costumes, or the action sequences which show the full power mjolnir, or the amount of humor that Branagh weaves in without it ever feeling trite. Rather than dive deep into all these I am going to talk about some of the characters and how well they come off onscreen, but before we do Portman is great as a foil to Thor but has overall relatively little to do. I love Skaarsgard and it looks like his role will end up playing a bigger role in this universe than you would think. Hopkins is perfect as Odin.

First off Hemsworth was born to play Thor. Anyone with any slight knowledge of Thor can see this within the first few scenes of the film. He's charming, arrogant, honorable, and caring all at once. Nuff said.

Hiddleston will get less attention but he is a PERFECT Loki. Loki was never a maniacal villain bent on destruction like say Green Goblin or Apocalypse. Loki is much more in the realm of Magneto, someone with a different worldview in search of power. Loki has always lived in Thor's shadow, and while Thor is the embodiment of strength Loki is a master of deception and wordplay. Hiddleston does a great job at keeping Loki sympathetic, who ultimately is just trying to impress his father. We see him constantly play both sides in order to further his search for power. I pride myself on being pretty observant when it comes to film and even I was surprised at one of Loki's betrayals close to the end of the film. Hopefully not only will wee see much more of Hemsworth as Thor, but Hiddleston's Loki as well in the upcoming Marvel films.

The last characters I want to talk about are Lady Sif and the warriors three. They were all but completely absent from the trailers, but have pretty big supporting roles in the film. I suppose you could say that they bring the comic relief but Branagh again does an amazing job at bringing the warriors three to life. Ray Stevenson and Josh Dallas definitely emerge as scene stealers. Ray Stevenson is Volstagg who has a healthy appetite and a big heart, here he manages to bring that big bumbling strength to the screen with superb energy. Dallas as Fandrall was probably my favorite character aside from the main cast. Dallas does his best Errol Flynn and brings Fandrall's smirk and charm to fruition. Seeing the warriors three in action we see just how unique each of the characters are, from Fandrall's constant grin to Volstagg's unstoppable force, and Hogun's subtle lethal warrior and Sif as the amazing acrobat. This kind of attention to detail is exactly why this movie works. Every character and moment is given the respect it deserves. Whether its the beauty of Asgard, to the Rainbow Bridge, even Rene Russo has a chance to show off her skills with a blade.

I mentioned before that this is the comic brought perfectly to life. Branagh does what comics do best and tell an amazing story that is entertaining and that you want to go and tell your friends about. Sometimes that's really all I want from a comic book movie. I would probably say X2 and Spiderman 2 still rank as my favorite Marvel movies, but this is a strong entry. Definitely above either of the Hulks and probably a step up from Iron Man although that could just be from me being excited that they were able to make a Thor movie successful. Very happy with the way Marvel is shaping up lately. Iron Man was great, 2 was underwhelming and the less said about Wolverine the better. Thor really knocks it out of the park, I'm hoping Captain America can do the same.

Remember to follow us on Facebook...and I believe an official announcement will come soon but be sure to check us out on twitter @PORTEmaus


One last thought - Hawkeye's cameo was relatively pointless...I'm excited to see more of Renner the little bit we see of him reinforces that he is perfect for the role.