Thursday, September 29, 2011

In the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Rooney



So I’ve been your friendly neighborhood columnist here at PORTEmaus for several months now. And I have to say, aside from the numerous restraining orders I’ve had to take out against the numerous 50+ year old groupies I’ve accumulated as a result of my peabody-esque entries, It’s been an amazing experience. You see, initially I was just your average columnist with an opinion. That is until I attempted to classify my position here. That’s when it hit me. And I coined quite possibly the best phrase of all time.....with the word PORTEmaus in it:

“I’m the Andy Rooney of this PORTEmaus sh*t!”

It wasn’t long before I was getting calls from the CBS cafeteria about a tab that was getting completely out of hand. Calls from “Bushy Brows Weekly” wanting to award me with the “Bushy Brow Lifetime Achievement Award”. And of course the women. Let’s just say I now have to avoid Post Offices, bank lobbies, and supermarket pharmacies as to not create a menopausal mob.

Anyhow, if you get your news from Yahoo like this reporter, you’ve probably heard:



Yeah. The Roonski is calling it quits. While he didn’t cite a reason from what I could gather, I would think this could be health related. If that’s the case, I would say retiring is sealing his fate. Why you ask? A wise man once said:

“The good die young.....but Pricks live FOREVER!” -Lewis Black

“That’s why every day you should go in your front yard and scream at the children in your neighborhood ‘Get out of here you little shits!!’ and it will be better than taking vitamins!”

Without Andy’s long established creative outlet to bitch about the mundane events of life he will slowly become less angry and thus slowly slip away.

But then again, maybe he’s earned his ‘final ride into the sunset’. In either case, I want to thank the man whom I’ve watched since a child complain about dumb shit and somehow always made my dad chuckle. Maybe that what inspires me to do what I do. Make Gonzi Supreme Sr. Chuckle.

Thanks Andy. Thanks Pop. And no Mrs. Thompson...I will not come and live under your bosom and quote Mr. Rooney on command.

Another DVD from the Year Punk Broke...

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. More 90's Punk

In a sequel of sorts to this weeks "New Tune Tuesday," I'll be looking at a recent release that surely would have been featured in a "NTT" during my hiatus, and also fits right in with the 'Nevermind'/Nirvana 1991 archival releases from earlier this week. Sometime in the near future, in response to a couple requests, I will hopefully have a chance to look deeper at the Nirvana 'Nevermind' deluxe box. For now, the "Mostly Non-Film Critique DVD Review" of the recent 20th anniversary release of Dave Markey's film that, by covering bands like Sonic Youth (want more on them? Or at least on band leader Thurston Moore? check out THIS old NTT) and Nirvana just before the fall of 1991, found the perfect timing to give Generation X it's 'Don't Look Back'....

'Sonic Youth in 1991: The Year that Punk Broke'
"'91 is the year that Punk finally breaks through to the consciousness of global society. Modern punk as featured in Elle magazine. Motley Crue singing "Anarchy in the UK" in a European arena in front of 100,000 screaming people. one of the most sickenly candy-ass versions you'll ever hear of it, but hey, it is the song itself."
~Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore sarcasm comes through at a pre festival show lunch~

Every generation deserves it's 'Don't Look Back,' it's generation defining rock documentary. There's a reason why 'Don't Look Back' is continued inspiration for filmmakers doing this sort of tour film, mixing in live performance footage with behind the scenes cinema verite fly on the wall look at the lives of rock stars. It's a great film, and it defined it's star and was perfect timing, right before Dylan went from the most respected songwriter of his generation to huge rock star. "Woodstock," "Gimme Shelter," "The Last Waltz," they all did it. Captured the right moments, at impeccible timing. 'The Year Punk Broke' did that as well, catching Sonic Youth and some up and coming punk rock bands, one small one called Nirvana, doing a festival tour BEFORE the days of festival tours like Lallapalooza. It was fun then, when it was just the "college scene" music. Right before alternative rock was born, the hair and glam rock died and Generation X was THE scene.

"You guys were really...neat"
~Kurt Cobain as Kevin Costner to Sonic Youth after their set~

The film, shot on super-8mm film by Dave Markey, has a handheld quality that felt strange when it came out, and drew some criticism. This was due to the very rigid and stable camera work of MTV and VH1 productions and music videos of the time, shaky cam and constant search for focus in shallow depth of field wasn't a music video fad yet, believe it or not. Now, all these years later, it helps give it an edge in staying relevant in it's shooting style, as well as goes right along echoing with the slight chaos of punk rock scene it was documenting. First and foremost is the music, and it's the core of the film. We get glimpses into the festivals and the shows, or at least performances from them, complete might I had, mainly from Sonic Youth and Nirvana but also Dinosaur Jr, Gumball and the Ramones even. In fact there's a touching moment when the festival circuit finally leads the group(s) to a festival show where they get to play on the same bill as the Ramones. One second Thurston Moore is his usual sarcastic self driving by yelling out he's Joey of the Ramones, but then you see him at a lunch table (with a "Sonic Youth" ID label on it) and he looks over and sees the table that's been set and labeled for "The Ramones" and he mentions how psyched he is to play with them. The film never strays too far away from it's central character, the band Sonic Youth, and they get around 8 full performances shown in the film. Nirvana is second with 5 and you see their growth as a group in this period where they were starting to leave pure hardcore grunge to a more alternative rock sound. Early on in the film (the film takes place across two weeks of festivals) we see songs like "Negative Creep" and "Endless Nameless" but near the end we're treated to "Polly" and an early, pre-mutlti-platinum version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." A truly must-see time capsule. Also, seeing girl punkers Babes in Toyland do one number is a nice treat and near the end we see The Ramones playing "Commando." On one hand it's a shame they were only on one festival of this tour, but then again, it makes their appearance near the end more special, almost a passing of the torch if you will.
Besides the music, you get the backstage: the good and the bad and the boring, and that's what makes it so fun. The road can be a boring place even for a group of 20-something punk rockers, and at one point we find a bored Kim Gordon dryly exclaiming "I'm aching for some fun." You see that side of the road and the way they tried to deal with it. A vast majority of the in-between song shenanigans come from Thurston Moore, as he consistently tries to make things funny and entertaining. Even if that means grabbing the microphone from the camera and doing an interview at a "Wurst stand" (the film takes place across Europe) or talking to two young pre-teen girls about their favorite music, even though they can't understand a word he says (again, the film takes place across the festival scene in Europe). The film IS a Sonic Youth film primarily, and you have to give it to Dave Markey on this. When he got to the editing stage Nirvana had become the biggest band in the world suddenly, and he didn't use this rare footage of them to take a different path with his film and try and grab their coattails, he even debated on putting the version of "Teen Spirit" in the film, but while the bands presence on the tour is undeniable (I mean Moore wears a Nirvana shirt for most of the film - Cobain wears a SY one often), he continually pushes the focus back to Sonic Youth. Whether that means another live performance of the band, or it means backstage footage of Gordon asking how "the fat corporate guys" got in the front row at the last show as the band joking at how much money they'll each get when they decide to break up after their road manager takes his slice off the top. By the way, the number is decided at between $200 to $2,000

Kim Gordon: "I think you could use some mascara"
Kurt Cobain: "I think I agree"

Nirvana is though, a big part of the film, one of the reasons a title like 'The Year Punk Broke' is both truthful and sarcastic. As I mentioned earlier, you see the band in the middle of it's sound evolution and also in evolution as a band as well. Here they, the most lauded band in punk and college circles from a growing Seattle scene, were not really famous yet. They were however getting some recognition getting to be the main act underneath Sonic Youth, a big stepping stone to the 'Nevermind' hysteria that would soon break out. This lack of fame shows, in a good way. Kurt Cobain is seen on stage doing the things his reputation affords him: on his back playing guitar, breaking his guitar, running full speed into the drum kit, that's fine, that's punk, that's Cobain on-stage. But it's the behind the scene footage that shows the Kurt most like to pretend never existed: Here on film he's like a little kid trying to jump in the camera every chance he can. You see him come backstage to meet with Sonic Youth after a festival performance, he has himself introduced by a road manager as Kevin Costner and saying how great they were before shaking up a bottle of champagne and spraying on anyone not smart enough to run away. You see him dragged around by his feet as he lays on his back behind the scenes as he's labeled "a player," you catch a glimpse of him enjoying Babes in Toyland set from the side of the stage. At one point, before their set, Kim Gordon of SY puts on lipstick on Dave Grohl and Kurt as Krist Novaselic thinks of the most absurd name possible to right in magic marker on the back of a Doctor's coat Kurt is planning to wear on-stage. Even the beginning of the film, with Moore doing his white rapper alter-ego as the credits play, shows Kurt dancing around like a little kid who's been forced to sit down too long. It's interesting to see Cobain before the fame, when he had fun, when he was ALLOWED to have fun. Courtney Love shows up backstage at one point, and you gotta say, that girl's a attention grabbing train wreck no matter what year it is.

All in all it's a great rock doc, some of the editing is dated, as is some of the dialogue (one fans chant on capitalism especially) but at the same time, it's part of the 90's time capsule feel. I'll also say this, I'm not usually into blondes, and maybe it's the fact she can strap on a bass guitar, or maybe it's the short dresses she wore on-stage, but Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon was a 90's-era fox in her time.
The Numbers: Video - 4/5 About as good as a MPEG-2 GOP compressed DVD sourced from what was originally super-8mm film can look. While it's not 16mm, I'd still rather take the 8mm look than a video "MTV" look for rock documentaries.
Audio - 4/5 Behind the scenes stuff comes out pretty well, and the music performances are loud. As they should be.
Bonus - 4/5 You get the 40 minute "outtake" film '(This is Known as) the Blues Scale' which features more live performances from Sonic Youth and Nirvana, as well as more behind the scenes stuff. You also get a Q&A that comes from the mid-2000's, a couple more separate outtakes and a trailer. Not bad.
Aesthetically Speaking - 4.5/5 Just as it should be the packaging is stylized as a out of date 90's looking punk poster. Plus it comes with a nice little booklet, can't complain, usually the studios opt for those inane slip cases over a nice booklet. Extra point just for that.

Available on: DVD

Any questions, comments or suggestions that wouldn't fit in the comment section for whatever reason, you can e-mail me at HAWKmaus@gmail.com Spam certainly welcomed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weekly Wish List 9/27 Another two weeks of cinematic joy.

I know I'm running late on this. Really late. My alter ego has been pretty busy at work(the one that actually yields a paycheck), plus on this side I've been preoccupied with some other projects for the site. Still, no excuse, without further ado here are my dvd picks from the past two weeks.


Bridesmaids - Paul Feig
The house of Apatow brings its first comedy with a female centric cast. Twincess and I watched this recently and I must say I had heard it was funny, but I was surprised at to how hilarious this movie is. Like any movie from the Apatow crowd, the film mixes plenty of raunchy gross out immature humor with a huge does of heart and sincerity. Kristen Wiig does a rather commendable job, with Melissa McCarthy really blowing everyone away.


Le Beau Serge - Claude Chabrol
Chabrol's first film and one of the first films of the French New Wave. It seems almost criminal to not watch this with Les Cousins, which features the same actors in flipped roles. Here we have a successful young man returning to his village to find his best friend who is an alcoholic who detests his life. Chabrol really mastered the art of the sophisticated thriller, examining human relationships and exploring the dark side in everyone. Its really amazing to see how it all began. If you enjoy this one be sure to check out Le Boucher as well.


The Phantom Carriage - Victor Sjostrom
I've never heard of this, but Criterion deemed it important for a nice release. Apparently this film inspired Bergman in a lot of ways. This is the tale of the last person to die at midnight, who is then tasked with taking all the souls to the afterlife. He is to do this for a year without rest. This is one of those movies that sounds like it will turn out to be an amazing discovery. I can't wait to check this one out, if any of you out there have seen it let me know what you think.


Ben-Hur - William Wyler
Simply put, no one makes epics anymore. Kubrick, Wyler, and Lean made masterpieces of cinema that managed to span extreme stretches of time while being completely engrossing the entire time. People try, but I don't think anyone has managed to capture that magic of film that an epic represents in this modern time. Here we have an insanely awesome collectors set full of features, but were really here to see that chariot race in HD right?


For me, this is what role I think of when I think of Heston. Really I shouldn't have to say anymore. This is Ben-Hur, a classic film that deserves to be watched by everyone.

Bence


One Last Thought - October is going to be coverage of the New York Film Festival, and a strong Horror focus. Twincess and I getting closer and closer to Halloween watch one horror movie a night. Those of you in the mood for something disturbing should check this out.

Who is to Say That The Copper State Does not Seek to Protect all from the Scourge of Involvement? Not This Gent.

What Arizona (henceforth known as The Copper State) makes up in mineral production, it lacks in tact politically. I have alluded (even though such things require no allusion to) to the backwards political nature that would make a Neanderthal blush. The case in point is the permission slip for wee bairn Funkowitz to watch President Obama's speech on education.

The speech (delivered yesterday) was recorded and will be shown today during first period. Thankfully, the school district understands the controversy inherent within the President's speech and thought of the children. For you see, nothing is more fiery than the topic of education.

Yet, this marks the third annual airing of the President's speaking on matters of education. You know the basic message of last years speech? According to the permission slip, President Obama "encouraged students to study hard, stay in school and take responsibility for their education."

Incendiary! What is he thinking, promoting proper education? The scoundrel! As I began frothing at the mouth having read this single piece of paper aimed at protecting the school from the complaints of (Conservative-minded) parents.

Lady Funkowitz then asked a great question, "would you opt wee bairn Funkowitz out from watching a speech about education delivered by George W. Bush?" The answer is a sincere, "no." For you see, educational policy affects everyone regardless if they come Conservative or Liberal households. While I do think that children in Kindergarten should be doing something more productive like reading the classics such as Hop on Pop, Curious George or The Grouchy Ladybug, it is kind of interesting to hear that some kids are getting exposed to American politics early in life... That is unless their parents opt them out. What a great thing to teach your children by the way, if you do not like or agree with something, simply ignore it and it might go away. To think, people wonder why partisan politics persist.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Network TV: Are these dreams a reality?

I miss you.


I wrote a piece earlier this year about the diminishing landscape of quality tv present on broadcast networks. You can read that here. Fox in an unprecedented move, slashed all but its steady mainstays. Every scripted show not bringing in strong numbers was sent to the scrap heap to join Lonestar, Kidnapped, and Drive. It would seem that the big four have realized how grim the horizon was looking for them, opting for strong overhauls of their scripted comedies and dramas. With Lost, 24, and Law & Order gone, along with the CSI franchise finally beginning to bleed viewers it's up in the air who is going to come in and save network tv from AMC and HBO. Modern Family two years ago is trying(quite successfully) to save the dying art of the family sitcom, while Glee(inconsistently) attempts to bring new genres to the forefront of American pop culture. That's only two shows and while shows like Community manage to give us creativity and laughs by the handful, it still fails to escape its niche audience.

So now we are here at the beginning of the Fall season. Shows are beginning to premiere and I wanted to take a look at a few of the high profile gambles that the networks are hoping become the next phenomenon. First up today I want to look at Terra Nova, the time travel and dinosaur family adventure drama from Steven Spielberg, and Person of Interest, the post 9/11 cloak and dagger procedural about a genius billionaire and his ex CIA operative as they utilize the lack of privacy in our modern age to track crimes before they happen from JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan.

Let's begin with Terra Nova. The future is a dystopian mega city a la Blade Runner, families are regulated to two kids and from what I could tell, everyone lived under fear of the police and government. Jason O'Mara gets locked away for having a third child and striking an officer, his wife breaks him out so they all can go to Terra Nova, a new colony 85 million years in the past which people can time travel to. Upon arriving there are huge centipedes, a whole batch of "others", and some dinosaurs for good measure, oh and some family strife.

All the stories of troubled production and delays and over priced this and that....seem to have creedence. The show is a mess of over ambition and poor storytelling. First off, I don't think the creators understood how to work in television, rather it seems like they were trying to make a movie. The pilot gives no sense as to what the show will be, aside from one expository conversation to the next were treated to mysteries that are thrown at our face. Constantly the dialogue is like this "what's that?" "Oh that's X its responsible for making Y happen....be sure not to tell Z he has a history with X" Repeat. When its not expository the dialogue lacks any sort of life and wit that would make this a truly compelling show.

The one saving grace was Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara, they bring some charisma and charm to an otherwise limp cast. I was afraid Lang was just going to be his character from Avatar again, but for now he seems to be on the right side. They are entertaining enough that they manage to sell their situations. The stuff with the dinosaurs is pretty incredible in terms of content, but I'm a sucker for dinos no matter what. The problem is half the time the dinos looks straight out of a video game. I could go on and on but you get the point. This is an expensive mess of a show that I want to enjoy but for now it just lives in its mediocrity. Hopefully this season can pull it in and give us a compelling story.

Person of Interest is a whole other story. This is a story of an ex CIA agent propositioned by a genius billionaire to help stop crimes before they occur. The story is a great commentary on the lack of privacy in the world as well as the necessity for protection and what it costs in terms of privacy as well as the role of responsibility. This is a great pilot that manages to introduce the concept and its main players without ever feeling forced. Why? Aside from the brilliant writing, its obvious the producers understood how television worked. Serialized programming needs to have a plan, and it also needs to not play its cards all at once.

The best example of this is Taraji P Henson. She is billed as third main, but here she is barely seen and has only a brief encounter with our hero. By the end of the episode we get an idea that she will be investigating him, but not much more. We know there will be more to her character but rather than spelling out her whole arc to us the producers give us just enough to speculate on at the water cooler the next day.

Alright back to the show. The pilot keeps the paranoia pretty high by all involved, even cutting to the various security cameras and microphones that are always watching and listening. This begs the question of who is really on the other side and do they have are best interest at heart. A theme that is perfectly represented in the main crux of the show as the names Ben Linus gets are simply numbers, he does not know if they are the victim or perpetrator. As of now Ben Linus seems to have good intentions, but he is kept mysterious and vague throughout. Caviezel obviously lost the love of his life, but this is only shown in brief cuts, a story which I'm sure will develop over time. Again this is TV done right, the A story is the driving force of the episode while the B story deals with the overall mythology of the show. Not to mention the action in the show is top notch, Caviezel brings his Jason Bourne out as he dispatches the bad guys with simplicity and believability.

My vote for best show of the fall so far.

Bence


One last thought - spoiler alert I will be back looking at two female centric shows as a companion piece hopefully up later this week.

Put Another Log on the Fire of Crazy That is PETA

Sports like most things here in the Copper State is slightly backwards. The city continues to bask in their World Series glory from a decade ago and well since Kurt Warner left, the Cardinals have returned being subpar. The former of these professional sports teams, The Diamondbacks are quietly making a strong push into the post season. Last Friday, Lady Funkowitz and I went to watch them clinch the division against the San Francisco Giants.

Pablo Sandoval: Owner of worst moniker in sports

While we were at this game, some walking stick was wearing a panda head hat, which lead me to exclaim "what's all this then?" After googling it, it turns out one of the Giants (Pablo Sandoval) has the nickname of "Kung Fu Panda" and thus explains the panda hat. While, an altogether ridiculous nickname, I was pointed towards a far more ridiculous news story involving PETA.

I bet this really pissed PETA off

It seems that during last year's World Series, People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals were outraged at fans showing their spirit for the Panda by wearing "decapitated panda heads." For those keeping score, this is where it becomes a Muckraker post. Upon reading this article, I was left exasperated by the sheer stupidity of their position. I did not know that these hat seemingly made of felt and fake fur, can't forget the googly eyes were actually made from the scalps of poached Pandas.

While, I am a card carrying lefty and supporter of animal rights, however, I cannot (in good conscience) support such stupidity. Seriously, way to sound like a crazy homeless person on a street corner. Positions such as this are like multiple practices fire alarms in a week... Such things reduce preparedness or in this case, reduce the interest or support of the public for your cause. Way to go... Stick to what you do best, splashing wealthy women wearing fur with paint. Let the youths enjoy their felt Panda hats or risk losing your relevance within America society.

New Tune Tuesday 9.27.11: Nevermind, it's just Nirvana, Johnny Winter, Wilco, Blink 182...

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things: New Tune Tuesday 9.27.11

Ah, New Tune Tuesday, it's been a while. Though there has been a few good released in the time I've been out gallopanting around town with a camera, we haven't missed a lot. Couldn't miss this week though, as there some good new (and old-new) ear bud that make a trip to your favorite record store more than worthwhile...

I'll set the scene for you, it's fall 1993 and a band opens up their tour for their newest album here in Phoenix. Somehow this band is big news because this is on the news, with a brief clip from the show and an interview with the lead singer, who's horsey voice gone from the show, basically says he has nothing to say. My Mom talks about how this guy can't sing and how playing that music just ruins your voice and isn't good. I didn't care at that moment that my Mom went to a respected college getting a degree in music, but from that clip I heard, I knew she was wrong. But I didn't think anymore of it, I was after all, too young to really obsessive over a band or songwriter.

Fast forward a few of years. She's tall and slender, dresses cool, talks cool and hey, her legs go on for what seems like miles. More importantly? The t-shirt she's wearing, it's a naked baby in a pool chasing a dollar bill. My ticket in with this girl, I knew it then, was figuring out what that t-shirt was all about. So I dug up every Nirvana release I could that weekend at (the now defunct) Warehouse Music store. I came into class that next Monday a whiz kid on the band, and am so excited to talk about their debut album, 'Bleach.' It was of course then I found out she never heard of that album, didn't care it was their first album, in reality, all she cared about was the album 'Nevermind,' cause hey, it was on the radio and sold millions and was so hip! At least I ultimately ended up with Lady Hawk out of the deal, she likes 'In Utero' better than 'Nevermind,' talk about original!

Oh well, if it wasn't for that shallow bimbo I never would have had my teen angst years and the rest of my 90's fueled by the muddy banks of the Wishkah. I also wouldn't have been so excited for today...

RELEASE OF THE WEEK (9.27.11): Nirvana 'Live at the Paramount' Blu-Ray
"So like 2% of you people are dressed in costumes, which personally I think is very lame...unless you're all supposed to be punk rockers..."
~Dave Grohl before "Floyd the Barber"~
(note: 'Live at Paramount' was a Halloween concert)

What's that you say at home, "the new tune tuesday release of the week is a...blu ray?" That's right, friends, so get over it. Yes, to you in the corner, even more so than the super deluxe expanded Biblically sized 20th anniversary of 'Nevermind,' but I'll get to that soon enough...

So you may remember, when I first talked about this now released batch of Nirvana 'Nevermind' 20th anniversary goodies back in June (in THIS New Tune Tuesday) I ventured a guess on what the "DVD" of the 4-CD/1-DVD package would be, I guess that it would be the Halloween 1991 "homecoming show" from the Paramount theatre in Washington. Thankfully I was right. I also mentioned it was professionally filmed (as in, shot on 16mm film) and so that it could make a better quality release than even "Live at Reading." I was right again as DGC and Universal released this blu ray heavily marketed as "the only Nirvana concert shot on film" and so thus "the only Nirvana concert available in HD." Indeed, this thing looks beautiful. To me, when it comes to a concert, there's no better look than 16mm film. It gives you a deep depth of field that's need for most shots, yet still gives DOF control when needed for those close in shots, and it just picks up the lighting beautifully. Indeed, Nirvana never has, and unfortunately never will get the chance to, look better than this 'Live at Paramount' blu ray release.

While the DVD edition packaged within the afore-mentioned super duper exclusive deluxe 'Nevermind' set has a few bonus music videos and easter eggs, the blu ray is a little more bare-bones. It does give you the option of viewing the film in it's original 1:37:1 full frame aspect ratio (in essence, 4:3 for you kiddies at home) that the film captured. It also offers a 16:9 cropped in widescreen (much like netflix and most HD stations do to 2:35 framed films) to give a faux-widescreen feel. 1:37:1 is certainly the way to go, as you don't get any crop, all the film shot is there to be seen. It's a wonderful transfer with absolutely NO crop, even in the corners you get just a BIT of rounded edge from the film negative, you still see an occasional piece of small hair in the film gate, letting you know they didn't do any excessive noise reduction. The AVC encoded bit rate stays pretty constant in the upper 20mbps range and the audio is absolutely killer encoded from 96Khz/24-bit in a variety of choices.

The concert itself? Probably the closest any of these video releases come to showing what a Nirvana show as like on most given nights. If you've checked out the DVD on the 'With the Lights Out' box set or the 'Live! Tonight! Sold out!' DVD, you've seen a few glimpses of this show, but it's best seen in it's entirety. The band opens up with (one of their favorite songs to cover) an excellent version of the Vaselines "Jesus Don't Want me for a Sunbeam" and they move through a 19-song set that features 'Nevermind' almost in it's entirety, some of the best tracks of their previous LP, 'Bleach,' such as "About a Girl" and "School," as well as one of my favorite songs off of that record, their cover of "Love Buzz." Theres also a little glimpse into the future with "Rape Me." While they mostly go from song to song, there is some in between song chatter here and there and Cobain opens up the show, before even playing a song, by wishing everyone a "happy halloween."

For those that don't know, this was a homecoming show for the boys, not just for being back in the state of Washington, but being back in the US. They had been abroad touring, hearing about their new record 'Nevermind' absolutely exploding back home, but it really wasn't until they got back they realized just what the "Smells like Teen Spirit" single was doing for them. So in some ways, this is the last time you'd ever see Nirvana like this. Soon after they were the biggest band in the world, Cobain was struggling with his newfound "boy genius," "voice of a generation" fame and some of the fun would certainly die for the trio. This is Nirvana before they were the headliners at some of the biggest festivals around, before Cobain suddenly decided 'Nevermind' wasn't a good record because it "wasn't punk enough." This is when they were, simply put, the best (not biggest) band in the world and certainly the best band since the Replacements. We're lucky to have this piece of musical history in such fantastic quality, both on the audio and video side of things.
The Numbers: Video - 4.5/5 Beautifully filmed on 16mm film in controlled lighting, I'm so glad they give us the option to watch the "4:3" un-cropped film. Nice bitrate too.
Audio - 5/5 Fantastic mix from the soundboard with little audience interference.
Bonus - 0/5 If you're in this for the bonus material, pick up the deluxe 'Nevermind' box, that DVD is the only one with bonus material.
Aesthetically Speaking - 4.5/5 Beautiful bluish (and slightly grainy) screen grab of all three members on the cover, a nice mini-booklet with pictures and scans of posters (man, Nirvana, Mudhoney and Bikini Kill at one show? those were the days) and a nice picture of Cobain playing guitar on his knees for the inner sleeve case cover. The Disc is a Halloween take on the classic Nirvana "smiley face" logo. Good package.

Available on: Blu Ray, DVD, Special DVD with 'Nevermind' Deluxe Box, iTunes
Note: Until December, the Blu Ray is exclusive to Best Buy

Other Notable released (9.27.11)
So it's really Nirvana week, as we also have multiple version of the 20th Anniversary of their classic 'Nevermind' out. Let's break them down quickly:
  • 1CD - Re-mastered album only
  • 2CD- Re-Mastered album, B-Sides, Smart Studio Sessions, Boombox rehearsals, BBC sessions
  • 4LP - Pretty much the 2CD version in vinyl form with some lovely packaging.
  • 4CD/1DVD - All of the 2CD set plus the original Butch Vig mixes of the album, the full Paramount concert on CD as well as the concert on DVD, this one with a few bonuses. oh, and a Deluxe hardbound book. There's only 10,000 of these in the US, my number is 3,822 BTW.
So let's get this out of the way, don't buy the 1CD. All you get is the album "remastered," and by remastered they mean victim of the "loudness war." Don't know what I'm talking about? Google it, read into it. You'll see why so many music fans have moved away from harshly mixed CD's and back to the warmth of vinyl. However, honestly, you probably won't notice, but still, I wish the record companies would allow US to turn up the volume on our own. So you're left with the 2CD and the big box, so the question is, is the box worth the extra $60/70? Well, it depends on what kind of fan you are really. This set isn't the be all end all trip to the moon some hoped for, that is clear. But the original Vig mixed album is certainly interesting, as it certainly takes off some of the finished albums polish while leaving all the power, and then the book itself is really fantastically put together, but after seeing it a couple times, is it going to end up on your shelf never to be seen again? I guess that depends on you. Also, where's the, Vig quoted "REM gone punk," outtake "Song in D?" This SHOULD have everything, right? All in all, it is a good set with some great additions, but these few questions and the loudness war leave my favorite Nirvana release of the day to indeed be the 'Live at Paramount' blu ray.
Available on: Way too many editions, CD, Vinyl, iTunes
'The Whole Love,' Wilco
Don't expect a whole lot of growth on this self-released Wilco album. If you've heard 'Sky Blue Sky' or 'Wilco - the Album' it's more of the same as far as tone and style, but that isn't to say that's a bad thing. The record is another solid release from the group, and it is more daring overall than 'Wilco the Album,' certainly better lyrically, and while it's not 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,' it's another solid album from the group.
Available on: CD, Deluxe 2CD, Vinyl and mp3
'Roots,' Johnny Winter
Winter is really a national treasure, despite the drugs and hard living Winter is still going strong. Despite his health leaving him to have to sit down the entire time, the show I saw back in 2009 was certainly one of the best shows that year. 'Roots' is aptly titled, as it's Winter playing versions of the songs that were the root of his career and style. Produced by Paul Nelson (a great axe player in his own right) it also has some other guests such as Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, Warren Haynes and Winter's brother Edgar. Winter is a true legend and we're lucky to still have him around...
Available on: CD, Vinyl
'Neighborhoods,' Blind 182
What's that? Am I suddenly back as a freshman in high school?! Yes, friends, Blink 182 is back and...they haven't grown as artists as all. If what you want is a bunch of guys in their late 30's doing a slightly less youthful angst version of what they've always done, this is for you. I'm not ripping that, you know what you're going to get, or at least what you probably want to get, and you get it. Still, Blink 182 will always be the band that in high school a kid I once knew named JM used his knowledge of how to play their songs on guitar to get girls to come back with him to his house after school to "hang out" and listen to him play. Yes, Blink 182 and the immature elements of high school, sort of like peanut butter and jelly I suppose.
Available on: CD, Deluxe Version, Clean Version, mp3

Monday, September 26, 2011

Movie Night Special Edition: New York Film Festival PREVIEW


I am less than a week out from going to my very first film festival. I hope it is the first of many, next year I plan on getting to Fantastic Fest(which is going on right now) as well as coming back to NYFF. SXSW looks like it will have to wait another year due to some scheduling conflicts. To say I am excited is a gross understatement. This has been something I have wanted to do since my love of film started back in high school, and to be so close to experiencing two weeks of intense cinematic injection its always on my mind. Twincess is the one who made this happen, and I am ever so grateful to her supporting my passion. Film is such an important part of my life that this milestone means so much to me and to be able to share my first experience with her makes it that much more valuable of an experience. Now I wish all of you could come and enjoy the various cinematic gems(well I suppose quality will be determined after viewing) so I am offering up my alternative list to my schedule at the New York Film Festival, along with some brief thoughts on the film. Enjoy and if you manage to check these films out then leave a comment below and let me know.

Miss Bala - Gerardo Naranjo

This is the first film I will be seeing and the one that Twincess will come and see with me. Naranjo is poised to be the next big thing coming out of Mexico. Mexico has some amazing talent, having given us Cuaron and Inarritu in the past decade. This film has already been chosen as the official entry from Mexico for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Naranjo doesn't have a long list of films. I suggest you check out I'm Gonna Explode, which is his previous film. You see the seeds of greatness being planted in that film, and to hear that Miss Bala is the film where he comes into his own makes me so excited. I'm Gonna Explode will give you a tease of this new talent and then hopefully you all will have a chance to check out Miss Bala soon.

A Dangerous Method - David Cronenberg

Third collaboration with Viggo and part 1 of Fassbender's double header at the NYFF. This film chronicles the relation between Freud and Jung and the manner in which their two styles began creating a distance between them and the patient in the middle of it all.

I love Cronenberg, and if you haven't experienced this master of adult drama and sci fi then you owe it to yourself to begin a journey into the weird and absurdly sensual. Any of his films would be great, but as an alternative to this tale of two scientists beginning as colleagues and ending up adversaries I suggest Dead Ringers. Arguably his best movie, this is a tale of twin surgeons played to perfection by Jeremy Irons. Their descent into madness as their experimentation in human anatomy goes way too far, a true masterpiece of the thriller genre and everything De Palma wishes he could do.

Le Havre - Aki Kaurismaki

This is a story of a defeated older man and a boy refugee that gives spark to this man's twilight. Featuring New Wave legend Jean Pierre Leaud?...I am extremely excited to see this.

Kaurismaki has a great set out under the "eclipse" label from criterion. He is known for his deadpan, subtle comedies that probe everyday life in France. He has been compared to Renoir, and while that praise is a bit extreme, the witty and tragically comic view on France is surely inspired by the master of Poetic Realism. I've only seen one other film by Kaurismaki, but anything from this set would be a great alternative.

Melancholia - Lars Von Trier

The end of the world as only a true nihilist like Trier could make. This is Trier bringing the suffering of humanity and placing a family's struggles against the backdrop of impending doom. Supposedly a career defining performance for Dunst. I'm always open minded, but I can't picture Dunst being anything but "ok."

Trier has a controversial library to choose, I can't think of a single film of his that doesn't split people down the middle. In a way I think that's pretty impressive. He manages to make films the generate strong emotional responses either positive or negative. Just look at Manny's views on Anti-Christ. Stylistically, this film seems to contain the same stark and crisp cinematography that he used in Anti Christ, but for my alternative I suggest The Idiots. This was made during his foray into Dogme 95, and tells the story of a group of people who live together in the country and attempt to find clarity and happiness through pretending to have severe mental retardation. If the premise doesn't give it away the film shows this makeshift family as it struggles to stay together given their ridiculous lifestyle.

Shame - Steve McQueen

Fassbender part 2, and the second collaboration with McQueen. Fassbender plays a sex addict in New York whose life is turned upside down when his estranged sister comes to live with him. Early Oscar talk for Fassbender has this movie shooting up in hype the past few weeks. McQueen is carving out a great career so far and has found a perfect partner with Fassbender.

What other alternative could there be but the pairs last collaboration Hunger. Fassbender plays an IRA prison inmate who goes on a hunger strike in order to raise awareness about poor conditions. That plot description does nothing to explain the raw brutality that is Hunger. McQueen has crafted a challenging experience for the viewer, not because of gore or shock, but because of how real the pain seen on screen is and how horrible these situations are. This is a prison film unlike any I've ever seen, it is not about gangs inside or living in fear of being attacked by other inmates. These are men living in their own filth and fighting back the only way they can. Fassbender gives a fearless performance going through hell for a cause. McQueen's centerpiece to the film is a simple two shot in which Fassbender speaks to a priest before the strike begins. It is a ballsy far from entertaining piece in which two actors get to shine. Great alternative and the beginning of a great( I hope) relationship between director and actor.

The Student - Santiago Mitre

A political thriller set in the university system in Argentina as a student gets involved with campus activists and radical teacher. Mitre is primarily a screenwriter and this is first foray into feature directing. As such I don't have a strong recommendation for this one. As an alternative I say take a look at Nine Queens. This is an Argentinian thriller that tells the tale of two conmen trying to pull off a con featuring a stolen set of rare stamps. Throughout the film we are taking through the culture of Argentina as we see the way crime weaves its way into society.

The Skin I Live In - Pedro Almodovar

The first collaboration between Almodovar and Banderas in over a decade. This time they dance around horror and scifi as Banderas is a surgeon who is pioneering new techniques in skin grafting, hiding the fact that he's secretly been testing his theories on a young lady he's kept as a prisoner in his mansion. I'm sure the whole thing will have a sharp wit and some strong sexual overtones. Almodovar is the master at comedy and emotional drama with healthy dose of sex thrown in.

While Talk to Her is by far my favorite of his films, I am going to suggest you take a look at Tie Me Up Tie Me Down, which is his last work with Banderas. Banderas plays a mental patient recently escaped, who kidnaps a porn star trying to be a serious actress only to hold her hostage and attempt to make her love him. This is a twisted hilarious take on the romantic comedy as Almodovar plays up the humor and absurdity of modern love with great enthusiasm. Not his best work, but Almodovar is always better than normal Hollywood fare.

The Artist - Michel Hazanivicius

Teaming up again with Jean Dujardin, this time making an homage the silent movie era. Dujardin is a star of the silent movie, fearing his fire will fade as the talkies take over. His accidental meeting of a young dancer, causes her career to take off as his fame diminishes more and more. The film has garnered raves at every festival its been at and Dujardin is said to be a contender in the best actor race.

Hazanivicius is best known for his OSS 117 movies, in which Dujardin plays a bumbling secret agent. Much like The Artist, these films pay homage to a classic genre, this time the super spy genre. Part James Bond, part Danger Diabolik, the OSS movies are smart and fun. Hazanivicius obviously loves cinema and you can say how well he is versed on the spy genre, so I can only imagine the type of passion he brings to silent film with The Artist. Watching the OSS films you can see just how charming Dujardin can be, he puts so much energy into each scene giving a very phsyical performance and constantly wearing a huge smile across his face. The OSS movies are great entertainment especially if you like the spy genre, they are silly and harmless and a great introduction to the type of tone Hazanivicius works with. The Artist seems to have taken that care free and energetic tone, and tones down the farce a bit to create a true silent film that works as its own, as well as an homage to the classics.

Policeman - Nadav Lapid

First time feature about a group of elite police men and young anarchists. The film is being honored for showing both sides of the story and making a strong statement about the ever growing gap in social class. I'm going to be honest here, this is the one in which I have no idea what to expect. With no trailer to give me a sense of the film all I have is the description. With that I would suggest you check out Elite Squad by Jose Padhilla.

Padhilla is the guy who is going to be bringing us Robocop(word is he wants Fassbender to step into the shoes of Burroughs), he also has recently released the third part to his Elite Squad series. These films tell the store of (gasp) an Elite Squad of police in Rio de Janeiro, as two new idealist recruits join up and quickly find out that corruption runs deep in this dangerous city. Different part of the world, but both seem to deal with police and questioning who's really in the wrong? or if there is even anyone right?


That's it for my suggestions to create your own New York Film Festival. Hope you have fun going through these films, and you can be sure I will be updating you as I begin my first film festival experience. I can't wait to report back to you with my thoughts on these films.

Bence

One last thought - try as I might, I couldn't get into Carnage, or The Descendants...I'm still excited.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Preview UPDATE Drive

Contagion was a great way to start off the fall season, and I am back with a review of Refn's newest film and first of many collaborations with man of the hour Ryan Gosling. Drive is a brutal, sophisticated and overwhelmingly cool movie about trying to do what's right and the dark places we go to fix mistakes we've made.

Gosling is the nameless hero of the story and he brings all the quiet intensity that he's known for. There is so much soul behind his eyes, that you know with a glance that this isn't a man you want to mess with. His performance is pretty minimal when it comes to dialogue and Gosling does an astounding job with such a monotone delivery that the moment his voice begins to shake at a key point in the film it carries so much emotional weight. I think Gosling is an extremely talented actor with a decent range, this is much more in line with his early work in The Believer and I can't wait to see what he does in the political thriller with Clooney next month.

The whole cast turns in great supporting roles. Everyone in the film seems destined for tragedy, and they all are trying their best to escape the ever looming darkness. Mulligan is a simple role, but she gives her character enough sadness under the surface that we can see how worried she is when her husband comes home. She alread knows that him out of the picture is the only way she can live the life she wants with her son. Oscar Isaacs has a small role as the returning husband, being dragged back into one more heist despite his sincere desire to go straight for his family. Cranston does his thing as a mentor of sorts to Gosling, attemping to make some honest cash in the racing circuit. But Brooks is the real star of the supporting cast. He is terrifying, and once you see what he's capable of you see he is really the only true competition for Gosling. The guy moves through the film with ease and like every other character(except Perlman, who's content chewing away) he doesn't want to lead a dishonest life, but that's what his life is. He kills with such ease you know he's done it for years, and he's tired of it. He is absolutely not happy the choices he has to make to fix the problems in his life. Brooks is always great, but I have never seen him do a performance like this.

Aside from the great performances Refn directs this film with so much power and style. THIS is a great example of style being used to further the narrative, it is never distracting or overbearing. Rather it blends seamlessly with the film, he uses deep focus and three shots to reinforce the various relationships in the film. Its an old fashioned technique that Hollywood seems to all but forgotten. I guarantee you Ratner cares not about his mise en scene.

I want to look at a brief scene which is a pivotal point in the film where Gosling turns to look at the camera and shit is about to hit the fan. Light flashes across his face, then he backs Away and his face becomes covered in shadows, thus begins a journey to the dark side in order to protect Mulligan. She spends the whole film in playful colors and soft light, even after this point above the only time where Gosling steps out of the shadows is when he's near her. The whole effect is subtle, but it adds so much to the film and the mystique of his character.

This is not a guns blazing action film. This is a stylish, rough, brutal and smart crime drama. This is a great example of modern tragedy as everyone gets pulled into situations they didn't want. No one in the film is innocent, but everyone is trying to run away. Gosling spends the film being the best at getting away from the scene and fixing up cars so he could do that. It's a successful metaphor that could be analyzed in great detail. I don't want to go too much further into the film, because it is such a joy to see the film unfold. Refn has added another great film to his career. This is an exciting talent that if he continues down this road he will be an amazing force in cinema.

Bence

One last thought - Christina Hendricks is in the film....I know Refn loves her, he has stated that she is the only actress he would consider if he ends up getting the Wonder Womam gig....the way he treats her here though....damn.