Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Movie Preview

And now a little late but still packed full of enjoyment is my list of the top ten movies for Spring that I am most looking forward to. I love writing these articles as they get me so amped for the coming months and this spring/summer is packed full of some heavy hitters. For the purposes of this article I am defining the spring movie season as March-May. Thus Avengers gets a pass by not having to go head to head with bats.

10. Hunger Games - Gary Ross
Our humble leader wrote some great pieces of each of the three books, which you can enjoy here. I read the first one, and while enjoyable I just couldn't shake that Battle Royale did everything that book so much better. Having said that it's better than Twilight and I actually like Jennifer Lawrence, and event movies always have a certain amount of draw. What's most interesting is that the trailers show a world completely different than I pictured in my head.

9. John Carter - Andrew Stanton
Admittedly I've only read Tarzan, but the story has always intrigued me. Also I love Wall-e and absolutely have faith in Stanton. From what I hear this is a bit of a mixed bag, evidenced by its lackluster performance at the box office. I'm still into it, after all I'm a sci if geek and some say this manages to reach the epic scale necessary for such a story. On the other hand Kitsch wasn't my first choice for Gambit and I don't see him in this role either

8. Keyhole - Guy Maddin
Guy Maddin is a crazy crazy man. His movies are absurd and surreal and sometimes have a plot, usually it's somewhat incoherent. Looking forward to having my mind hole blown with this one or at least staring in disbelief.

7. The Intruders - Juan-Carlos Fresnadillo
Don't know a whole lot about this other than its the newest film from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the director of Intacto and 28 Weeks Later. With that I will go see anything he's doing. Here he appears to have Clive Owen in a variation on the haunted house theme(always a favorite of mine).

6. Dark Shadows - Tim Burton
I like Burton and Depp together. They have a relationship that you can feel onscreen. Now I'm not sure why they seem trapped in adaptation after adaptation but I can appreciate that they make it their own each time always with inconsistent results. The way it's looking they will never be able to capture the magic of Ed Wood or even Sleepy Hollow again. Their latest collaboration is a passion project for the two as the adapt an old tv show about a vampire returning to his home and the adventure that ensue. The trailers have left me less than enthused but it's still Depp and Burton and I continue to hope they will knock it out of the park again. They came close with Sweeney Todd, and as much as this looks to be more mediocrity, Depp as a vampire is just too awesome to ignore. Cautious about this one.

5. The Raid: Redemption - Gareth Evans
Heard about this one earlier this year as its been winning over audiences at every festival it's played. This looks to be one badass piece of cinematic action.

4. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson returns to live action after his brilliant foray into animation. Fantastic Mr. Fox and the animation fit his style perfectly an have us one of my favorite movies of te past few years. Anderson's signature whimsical style and quirky characters are in full effect here in this story of young lovers running away and the search that begins. I can't wait to see Ed Norton and Bruce Willis play in this wheel house.

3. Sound of Noise - Ola Simonsson
Oh my god my dreams have come true. I have been dying to see this since I heard about a few years ago and now thanks to the celluloid deities it finally has become available in the states. A group of Swedish musicians who becomes thieves and use music as a tool in their heists? I have no idea what I'm in for but google the trailer and you'll get a taste of jut how awesome this could be.

2. The Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard
Joss Whedon has the capability to just own spring, this time cowriter and coproducer for Goddard's film. This story of a mysterious cabin where shit hits the fan and then BAM genre gets thrown out the window and we get a delicious melange of celluloid amazeballs has me extremely excited. Everyone loves this movie and damn if I don't love me some Whedon. Dollhouse left me a little cold, but even that started to pick up steam before it got cancelled. C'mon Thor show us you really are a badass

1. The Avengers - Joss Whedon
This is for sure a Summer film, but like I said for the purposes of this article it falls in May and is therefore placed into the Spring section. Given that it doesn't have Bats to go up against this is absolutely number one. Hoping Whedon hits two home runs, I'd be lying if I said this one didn't scare me. Im pretty confident Cabin will blow me away, I want this to kill it so bad. Either way I've got faith in Whedon and am desperately looking forward to this.

So there you go I'm really excited about the diversity this spring seems to be offering. Summer is going to be a crazy one, and I absolutely can't wait.

Bence

One last thought - I'm just really confused with this career decision by Tarsem Singh.

Blu Review - The Last Temptation of Christ (Criterion)

With Easter right around the corner, I figured there's no better time than to take a look into (mostly the technical side of) Criterion's recent release of Martin Scorsese's controversial "The Last Temptation of Christ" on Blu-Ray. Easter is a important day for some, for others it's just an excuse to paint eggs with their kids, I think either side of that field can find something in this film, if they go in open minded. Jesus is one of the most mis-understood and often mis-quoted figures in all of history, as is this film, so let's dig in...
Personal Bias/Quasi Film-Review: If you've talked with me about film at all in the last 10+ years or so, you'll know my affinity for Scorsese's work, so keep that in mind in this review. I'm also a person of Christian faith (I don't use the term religion, as that's something entirely different, an explanation of which that's something for entirely different conversation) so I do enjoy seeing Biblical epics, though some might be surprised my liking of this film due to the controversy the crazy side of the right-wing stirred up during this picture's original release. They sort of try to make it like a "Christian" shouldn't like this film, and also judge it without seeing it. I originally saw a portion of it many years ago, before I knew who Scorsese was, I turned it on TV once, seeing a scene where Christ, on the cross, talked to a young girl. I thought, "well, this is strange." I watched it later on DVD with an open mind and it touched me a lot. I really enjoy the way the film tackles the temptations Jesus went through, his struggles as a man to understand his purpose and what exactly God is telling him. For Jesus to truly take on our sins and to truly deserve the right to exclaim "it is accomplished" on the cross, he HAS to understand what we all go through, he has to overcome it. I also like the relationship built between him and Judas (Harvey Keitel, one of my favorite underrated actors) and Jesus' mixture of self-doubt and confidence as he finds his place in his father's plan. The way it paints the differences between the ways Jews and Christians view Jesus, in fact the core difference of those two religions, is something so many glanced right over. It's one of the most uncompromising works of faith put to celluloid. Perhaps Scorsese's lost masterpiece...

I wanted to kill them for what they were doing to Mary...but I open up my mouth, and out comes love...

History Class: Real briefly, let's just say this is a controversial movie. Real controversial. If you thought Gibson's Passion of the Christ had some controversy, well, it didn't exactly lead to fires and destruction of old theaters in France, violent threats and people being injured. Crazy stuff. Most of them didn't even see the film, so they didn't realize it clearly states it's not a literal adaption of the Gospels, but based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis and delves into the study of battling our spiritual side with our human, flesh side. It's interesting that some of what I'll gently term as "douchebag Christians" will look at Jesus as "all man, all divine" as the Bible says, but after stating that, when digging into Jesus they like to just throw the man part of the window and ignore his doubts and temptations (which the Bible doesn't ignore, for those who actually take the time to read it) and look at just the divine part, and that's why this film pissed a lot of them off. It took Scorsese years to get it off the ground (having read it in the early 70's and always wanting to do a Biblical epic) and even when starting the project in 1983, it was cancelled due to early controversy and he ultimately made it for Universal a few years later on a much stricter budget. This is a bonus, as the tighter budget made the film more gritty and visceral, plus the casting changes were a plus: Willem Dafoe as Jesus and David Bowie as Pilate.

Aesthetically Speaking: On one hand, as per the norm, Criterion always goes above and beyond what most normal studio releases get. On the other hand, it's a bit disappointing as unlike
most (thought not all) blu-ray editions of Criterions that got new artwork and some more in-depth/updated booklets, we don't really get that here. I do like the simplistic yet powerful cover image, so I won't complain much. Unlike most Criterion's that get 30+ page booklets, we get little more than a leaflet here. It's been updated since the 2000 DVD, but the update mostly involves the writer slagging on Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which opinions on that film vary, but let's have a little more class when writing about someone's work for a major release. The inner insert on the cover is all black with the scene selections listed. I would have liked a still from the film in there too, but hey, as I said, better than most releases.
The menu, like all Criterion's, and ironically, Universal (being the studio that originally produced Temptation and licensed it to Criterion) Blu-rays, the menu is the same generic layout just with the background video/audio from the specific film. While it's lazy on Universal's part, I do understand Criterion's want to make these releases feel as part of a series, a collection if you will (hence, Criterion Collection - brain wrinklier!) and they are nice, clean menu's that are more than easy to navigate through.

Aesthetics & Packaging: 3.5/5

Visually Speaking: The film is presented in a 1.86:1 aspect ratio, so while there are black bars the top and bottom o the screen, they are much smaller than films presented in 1.85:1 or especially 2.35:1. According to the booklet editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Scorsese's secret weapon for decades) and the film's original DP Michael Ballhaus (a Scorsese favorite, having throughout the years shot After Hours, The Color of Money, GoodFellas, The Age of Innocence, Gangs of New York and The Departed for the director) oversaw the transfer and color correction of the final master for the blu-ray. They used a 35mm inter positive (no mention of doing 4K scans of the film) and used a Spirit Datacine to not use heavy DNR (digital noise reduction), but to clean up dirt and debris, scratches or warps, mediate film flicker, ect. I'm sure a LITTLE DNR was used to make it more of a fine-grain, but this transfer was really well done. The colorists did a great job of holding the film to the original somewhat soft, lower-saturated look intended it to be. Just as the 2000 Criterion DVD was a massive upgrade over the laser-disc, this is a REALLY massive upgrade in terms of quality of image. The film isn't an overly sharp film, but as I said, it was a shot a bit soft as part of artistic look and design. So why it's not a demo-disc in the form of say The Dark Knight or Criterion's release of The Thin Red Line, the source never really meant it to be, but this a fantastic transfer of what that source provides. Can't complain at all.
One of the biggest plusses Blu-Ray has over DVD is using intraframe (as in, literally a separate frame for every frame) codecs instead of GOP (group of picture) codecs full of macro blocking. It makes a world of difference in faster cut or fast moving scenes, such as here where Jesus decides to turn the temple upside down, stupid money changers!

Overall: 5/5
You know JJ's mind's turning at the thought of the lens-flare possibilities of his own Biblical epic, 'The Last Temptation to Shoot Anamorphic Flares'

The Sound: Likewise, the booklet states that they went back to the original six-track magnetic audio masters to clean up and create this new, uncompressed 5.1 mix. Using Pro-Tools HD they cleaned up unwanted clicks and hisses and hums and anything else that was detrimental to a as perfect as possible audio mix. The DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix is such a pleasure though, dialogue is crisp with depth, and the unique score Peter Gabriel did for this film can truly be appreciated and felt now. Scenes where the audio does strange things - like where John the
Baptists asks Jesus if he's the messiah and the chanting around him completely vanishes, and all we hear is the sound of the water creek and Jesus' voice, or when Jesus is walking with the little girl (Satan! oops, spoiler) in front of the crucifixion scene and all you can hear is their voices and no background noise - have even more impact now, especially when they first start or when audio goes back to normal.

Overall: 5/5

A/V Bitrates: Being such a long film, at 163 minutes, it was nice to see an AVC-encoded nitrate of 30Mbps on the video. The uncompressed audio track is quite the revelation, as it should coming in at 4.450Mbps (the DVD was 480Kbps!) at 24-bit and 28kHz.

Bonus Goodies: Like the aesthetics and packing, on one hand it's more than a normal studio
release would have been for a film such as this, but it would have been nice to get more of an upgrade than just porting new HD-masters of the old DVD bonus stuff over...

Audio Commentary - with Martin Scorsese, Willem Dafoe, credited screenwriter Paul Schrader and uncredited (due to WGA rules) screenwriter Jay Cocks. This was originally recorded in 1997, and still stands as one of the finer audio commentaries you can hear. Very well edited and pieced together, and very interesting and informative. Some folks forget it was Criterion's laserdisc releases that first really took advantage of that format and brought to light the ideas of bonus material and audio commentaries.

On Location in Morocco - Scorsese himself shot some handheld VHS footage of the filming. While I have no idea why they transcoded and uprezzed this to HD (just a higher SD bitrate would have been fine) but this is a fun 15 minutes. You see a bit of the serious side and light side, both to Scorsese making a film, and making a film in general.
Costume Designs - Some sketches by the costume designer
Peter Gabriel Interview - Recorded in 1996, Gabriel talks in general about coming up with the score, first meeting Scorsese and more. Doesn't overstay it's welcome at 13 minutes.
Stills and Research - Production & Publicity Stills, also some Scorsese drawings.
Leaflet Booklet - Mentioned in the aesthetics section of this review.

Bonus Overall: 3.5/5

Overall: Despite not getting the complete upgrade and overhaul in the aesthetics and bonus department some Blu Criterion releases have, the title more than makes up for it in what bonus material it does provide and especially the upgrade in the video and audio department. This is a must have for any hardcore Scorsese fans, film buffs looking to see some of the most controversial films of all-time, and those who enjoy Biblical epics or well acted period pieces.

The Nice Price: Deep discount had an amazing pre-sale on this, with a coupon, that brought it in under $15, unfortunately that is gone now, and right now look to spent $25-30 on this anywhere, including Manny's blessed Amazon. Luckily, Criterion's don't depreciate much in value, and skyrocket in value if they happen to go out of print...

More Blu-Ray Screen Grabs:
Taken from Sony BD Player into Avid Media Composer at 1080P
Blogger Re-Sizes images to well below 1920x1080
All images under fair use for Discussion, Critique and Review

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is That a New Lease on Life I Spy on Your Face, Richard Cheney?



You all know I enjoy a good Cheney story as much as the next bloke but his latest exploit is stuck in my craw. No, no, he is not spitting venom towards former colleagues (breath a sigh of relief, Dirk Kempthorne), it seems that the man who placed sixth in an Oswald Cobblepot contest was given a new ticker.

I am little perplexed by this development. Did UNOS' policy simply disappear when Cheney hopped on the list twenty months ago? What next the lifelong alcoholic receiving a liver or the heroin addict awarded new valve? True, Cheney played by the proverbial rules but who fell asleep at the ethical wheel? I know that if I were in the position of authority to bestow organs (and thus life) then I would pick the gent with the twenty-five year history of multiple heart attacks (five) and congenital heart failure.

This will most likely come across as a bad monologue from Jay Leno or a person who is not a fan of anything remotely Conservative but it seems like a waste of a perfectly good organ. After all, a heart transplant provides up to fifteen years after the operation and everyone knows the most enjoyable part of life is the years seventy-one through eighty-six. Make them count, Dick. I best see pictures of you cliff diving, synchronized swimming, bungee jumping and riding a unicycle and not appearing on Fox News or Meet the Press. All in all, it seems a little odd to complete this operation on the "ceiling" of prospective candidates... Then again, life is wasted on the young.

Weekly Wish List Memories of Weeks Past

Sorry guys and girls, real life has been a bit hectic lately. No excuse though here are many releases that warrant your time.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within - Jose Padhila
This might be the release I'm most excited about. Padhila has been given the reins for the new Robocop film, as such I immediately checked out his film Elite Squad, which is an insanely badass film about ...well an elite police force. This is the sequel to that an explores the corruption we began to see at the end of the first film. Word is this film is even better than part one and that alone has me dying to see it.

Anatomy of Murder - Otto Preminger
Jimmy Stewart stars in this brilliant film that at the time was quite controversial for its frank depictions and conversation of sex and violence. Criterion has done it again.

Hugo - Martin Scorsese
Really happy this won the awards it did. Great film from one of the legends of modern cinema, here are my original thoughts.

Justice League: Doom - Lauren Montgomery
It'd be hard to top Batman: Year One but these DC Universe have been giving us quality animation for a long time now. Really excited to check this out especially with Conroy and Fillion returning. This is from the Tower of Babel storyline in the comics where Batman devises contingency plans to take out the Justice League in case they went rogue. This is of course falls into the wrong hands and well I can't wait to see how this plays out in this adaptation.

The Muppets - James Bobin
Awesomely non cynical approach to family film. Segal and co. Craft a wonderful film that will absolutely fit in with the greatest of the muppet films. Here's my original thoughts.

Wizards - Ralph Bakshi
Post apocalyptic cartoon about a war between wizard brothers. Social commentary on the battle between nature and industrialization? Bakshi animating from Vaughn Bode inspiration? This film is all sorts of badass and everyone I show it to loves it. Thanks dad for this one. A must see and like Elite Squad one of the top three releases on here for me.

Battle Royale Collection - Kinji Fukasaku
Brilliant. The first one is a mind blowing piece of awesome cinema that everyone should watch. It's tale of a world run amuck by youth and thus a class is selected to go to an island and battle to the death as punishment not only predates Hunger Games it surpasses it in every way. This is ultra violence with a purpose. Now....the second one I haven't seen but I hear it pales in comparison, either way this is the first time on blu ray and the first time I can get ahold of it without using my region free player. Just might the release of the first half of the year.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Tomas Alfredson
Impeccably crafted movie. So excited for Alfredson's career. Here's my original thoughts. And for you Hawk... They actually released the BBC version on blu as well.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - David Fincher
I liked this movie quite a bit but like I said I would prefer Fincher to spend his time elsewhere. Now this is still a beautifully shot wonderfully produced mystery with some all star performances, but I put this frankly because Fincher makes good DVD/Blu releases. The documentaries and special features are always intriguing and really dive deep into his process way better than any thrown together EPK.

Look there were a ton of releases and I'm sorry I didn't find time for you George, by here are my choices for the past SEVERAL weeks.


Bence

One last thought - the main actor from Versus directs and stars in this absurdist take on the yakuza cyborg genre. You either love Versus or you don't, that should give you an idea of the wheelhouse you're playing in with this film.

Winter Movie UPDATE Chronicle

I really don't care for found footage films. My biggest gripe is that it seems rather illogical that people would carry a camera around the whole time and it always has to include some poorly written metaphor about the relation between camera and reality. Before any of you naysayers out there jump up in arms I liked Cloverfield, Blair Witch was effective the first time but boy has that aged. Paranormal Activity? I've only seen the first one and to me it has a nice sense of fun through it but ultimately tiresome in its reliance on jump scares. I haven't bothered to watch the other two but from trailers and word of mouth they seem to be more of the same. But I get it found footage is cheap and you can get away with little known actors, so the studios are eating them up. I have to say the moment I hear that Fox is going to reboot Paranormal Activity we have a serious problem. Alright, well that leads us to Chronicle, a found footage film detailing the exploits of three young boys who discover a glowing rock and develop telekinesis and the adventures that follow. This is the exception to the rule, Trank and Landis have made a fun and engaging super hero film that acts as a great origin story clearly inspired by the comics these two read growing up. Thanks to some solid performances and great focus on character the film excels despite the jumps in logic that the medium demands.

First and foremost the "found footage" aspect of the film is its biggest downfall. The film easily could have worked as a straightforward film, and all that talk of the camera creating a more intimate story is ridiculous. They explain how the camera follows these guys around once they learn to fly, but honestly it's the hardest pill to swallow In the film, and sadly in a solid script from Landis he can't help but put in a quick speech about the camera creating a boundary between the main character and reality. I also highly doubt that when shit goes down, Dane Dehaan would keep concentrating on keeping the camera airborne.

Besides that the film is solid and easily one of the few entries into this genre worth checking out. This is in no small part due to the outstanding performances from the lead actors. The three young men each do a great job at playing some basic archetypes and bringing the right amount of sincerity and freshness to the roles. The angsty teen is about as cookie cutter as you can get but Dehaan fills his role with such raw emotion and wonder that when he begins to evolve his powers we feel every bit of excitement and every bit of sadness. Michael B. Jordan does a great job as the popular kid that is friends with everyone. His charisma flows off the screen and you can see why he would be running for class president.

The story beats are pretty obvious, and they follow a fairly routine origin story as the boys did their powers, practice their powers, and then ultimately tragedy begins to rear its ugly head. It's all very transparent, but Trank makes sure we have fun the whole time. We are there with the boys learning to fly and experiencing each fall and each success. And the to close it out Trank gives us a throw down to be remembered as two boys at the peak of their power battle it out across the city leaving plenty of destruction in their wake. He's done such a good job at developing these characters that even though we see where they're going, you can't help but wish for the film to take a different turn. Great debut, that shows u the potential of a new talent emerging. I hope whatever it is Trank does next ditches the found footage, whether it be FF or not.

Bence

One last thought - I know you all hate the Tim Story one, and with good cause, but you really need to track down this gem here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Patrick's Day tradition: Flogging Molly (and more) in concert...

Just as many have the St. Patrick's Day tradition of mistaking St. Patrick for an Irishman, my long-standing St. Patrick's day tradition is to see the Flogging Molly headlined Green 17 Tour every year. Why we're lucky enough to get the Irish-folkie-punk-rockers every year? Well, remember that little alt-rock radio station 103.9? Once known as the Edge then the X that is no longer with us? Well, they gave a big boost to Molly years ago helping them go from simple LA bar band with a cult following to what they are know. The band looks at AZ as a place that helped them get going and respects that, this was their 8th year playing St. Patrick's Day in AZ.

The Venue: Tempe Beach Park (formerly known as Hell)
I suppose it's time for me to "get over it," as even though I've been going to these Flogging Molly St. Patrick's Day bashes long enough to remember the good ol' days at Mesa Amphitheatre, they've know been here at Tempe Beach Park longer than they ever were there. I love Tempe, it has some great places to see concerts (many dive-bar type locales) but I'm still not the biggest fan of Tempe Beach Park. It's colder and windier, I like a more traditional amphitheater set-up, and while it being located there means it's more popular (we had a larger St. Patrick's Day bash than Boston, believe it or not) it also means it's more "douchebag" friendly.

I actually do enjoy the "music fest" style atmosphere though, and enjoyed it much more than say, 2008 when Manny and I dubbed this place "Hell." It's not that bad, there were a lot of cool people this year, and the vendors were great. Can't complain about eating some pizza on a nearby hill with Lady-Hawk while watching the Brazilian Billy Idol...

Band ONE: Brothers of Brazil (aka Brazilian Billy Idol)
This was a hit and miss affair. I think the worst thing is the band tried to move their mostly stripped down percussion sound more-so punk rock than it needed to be, I suppose thinking that's what the crowd wanted, and so it didn't translate as well live. "Paparazzi" is a perfect example of this happening. They were already hit and miss for me as far as their songs, so then doing that live didn't always work. I was also disappointed they didn't play "I Hate the Beatles," but they still nevertheless brought smiles to my face. Sometimes for a decent song, sometimes because the lead man looks like a Brazilian Billy Idol.
Highlight of the Night: Just seeing a band from Brazil is a pretty cool thing. Even though (as I mentioned earlier) it didn't translate as well live, I enjoyed their "Brothers of Brazil" self-titled tune. That and hearing the lead man occasionally tell "F**k you" to various well known people.
2.5/5

Band TWO: Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss
So low she rose, up like the sun...so low she rose, up like the sun, bringing my newness to bloom
A surprise for sure, as they were an enjoyable, low key, 30-minute set to sit through. You may know Zander from the Circle Jerks, but anyhow it was just the two of them. So the production wasn't as full as the album, but it worked live in an even more-stripped down way. They had funny in-between song banter and continued to keep the punkers attention. It was surprising being this type of crowd that this early in the show so many folks were paying attention to the band more than their beer or merch/vendor lines, but it just goes to show: If you have an interesting sound, some good songs and those Levon Helm raspy-eqsue vocals, you can get folks to listen.
Highlight of the Night: Not sure which song was my favorite, probably "So Low She Rose." Also enjoyed "Song about Songs" and "Retablo" a lot. A surprise addition to the show.
3.75/5

Band THREE: Suedehead (aka Welcome to 1999 Bad-Ska Band)
The worst part of these Green 17 tours can be the opening bands, this is by far the best line-up I've ever seen at a Molly show, though this band took the cake for the worst. They were boring, repetitive, and too often sounded more like a wannabe bad-ska band from the glory days of 1999. I'm sure some people enjoyed it, but then again I'm sure some people enjoy going to the dentist or giving blood.
Highlight of the Night: The moment they walked off the stage.
1/5

There must have been technical difficulties, between sets started taking longer at this point. This girl flashed us all just seconds later...no joke...
Then more time then and this one joined in...and about a dozen more. Stay classy, ladies!

Band FOUR: Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (aka Doug Hopkins-lite)
I love the Tempe sound, I love the Tempe bands. I like Roger Clyne a lot, this isn't my first time seeing him either. However, I will say this, he always works better as an opener rather than the main focus of the show. Seeing him in the 30-45 minute range seems to work just about perfect, anything more would be overkill. I think Clyne probably had a bittersweet feeling when Doug Hopkins killed himself in Decembe of 1993. Sad that his friend died, happy that he no longer had to compete with him. No matter how hard he tries, his riffs just don't match up, and his lyrics never quite capture the sweet mixture of pop and melancholy that Hopkins could. Clyne's best known song, from his Refreshments days, is probably "Banditos," and it pales with a lesser Hopkins track like "Southbound Train." I'm not dogging him, but as fun as Clyne can be, he'll always be the B-Version of the Tempe sound, behind the Gin Blossoms and Pistoleros. The only other thing that annoyed me about the show was his constant "see you in Mexico!" and "ppppeeeerrrrffeeecccctoooo!"'s he kept shouting out after every song. It's cool you have a benefit concert coming up in Mexico that you do ever year, Rog, but let's be honest, 98% of us aren't going to it. But then he'd launch into a good tune like "Heaven on a Paper Plate" and I'd forget all about it.
Highlight of the Night: During "Bandito's" someone rocket launched a neon glow-stick from way back in the crowd onto the stage, mid-solo Clyne catches it with one hand and launched it right back out. That was pretty cool. I probably dogged on him too much in the review, but Clyne put on a good show, maybe went 5-minutes too long for my taste, but it was good.
3/5

FINAL Band: Flogging Molly
"How many years have we been doing this Arizona? Ah, it's St. Patrick's Day...or as we like to call it, every Saturday Night..."
Pics from FM set courtesy of the Phoenix New Times
In the early days of these St. Patrick's Day shows, Flogging Molly would usually hit the stage at 8 or so, and you'd be in your car no later than 10:30 or so, ready to go somewhere else to finish the night. Tonight however, Molly didn't hit the stage until just before 10, to the sound of Johnny Cash doing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Despite the time, they came out and still put on a two-hour show. This one all in all was quite worth the money, which is nice.

At this point I've seen Flogging Molly enough live, and I've seen enough other bands live, to know they are without a doubt one of the top-5 best live bands in the world. Their songs are good on record, but transcend live in a way that's hard to describe. Their mixture of traditional Irish music and folk with rock and punk rock SHOULDN'T work, it should only result in far too many people on-stage. But it does work, it always works. They mix hyped up songs that get the crowd - both drunk and sober - going like no other, and can still break it down into a slower acoustic number like "The Sun Never Shines on Closed Doors" and the crowd still sings along as into it as when they hopped around like jackrabbits to "Drunken Lullabies" or "What's Left of the Flag."

The worst part of the early years shows I saw, was by year three, the set lists dragged a bit, knowing they only had three albums to choose from. Then Float came out and I didn't really dig it, so even the new additions didn't add much. However, their newest, Speed of Darkness is a really solid album, it mixes the maturity Float tried to have but doesn't feel forced, it's not their best album, but a solid entry into the canon. They did play a couple Float songs, and while they've actually grown on me a bit, but still as Dave King sang "No Don't, Don't sink the Boat..." I sang "no Don't, Don't sing from Float..." I thought I might get some dirty looks, but on one side I had the drunk lesbians who were acting like it was a ska show, someone with a "My name is Pat McCrotch" hat on in front of me, and a group of hipsters literally just taking pictures of each other with their DSLR's to the left of me. Interesting crowd indeed. A mosh pit started up right nearby but I didn't have to punch anyone, sadly. I did give two tools a death glare, they were just talking smack about everyone, I gave them one look and the quietly got up and left though.

All in all though, a fantastic show, the best I've seen from the band since '06. The usual highlights were indeed highlights, as was Dennis Casey's long, drawn out crazy hump the guitar and break two guitars solo during the bridge of "Black Friday Rule." It was also nice to hear King throw in a lot newer banter between songs than previous years. The encore rose above for me, as one song into it King says "We'd like to do a song by the greatest songwriter who ever lived. He wrote this in 1964 and it could have been written next year, it's still so relevant." They went into my man Bob Dylan's "The Times they are a-Changin'," in pure Flogging Molly style, and it worked it's socks off. I could have used a little "Another Bag of Bricks," but hey, it was a 23-song setlist that had little else to complain over.

Highlight of the Night: Dancing like a douche with Lady-Hawk was my highlight of the set, song-wise, it was the pure thrill of hearing Flogging Molly, one of my favorite bands of more recent eras, cover my all-time favorite artist. Very cool guys.
5/5 (Molly's first 5/5 for me since the St. Patrick's Day 2006 Green 17 Tour show)

Then it was off to Corleone's, watching a drunk girl from the show drop her pizza and ask for another slice and then mad we got our order before she got her re-do. Ah, Corleone's, a St. Patrick's Day Tradition and highlight of the night in itself...

The Flogging Molly Setlist...
1. Drunken Lullabies
2. Requiem for a Dying Song
3. Speed of Darkness
4. Revolution
5. Life in a Tenement Square
6. Whistles the Wind
7. Saints & Sinners
8. The Likes of You Again
9. Swagger
10. The Power's Out
11. The Son Never Shines (on Closed Doors)
12. A Prayer for Me in Silence (Bridget on lead vocals)
13. Float
14. Black Friday Rule (long bridge with crazy Dennis Casey solo)
15. Oliver Boy (All of our Boys)
16. Rebels of the Sacred Heart
17. Devil's Dance Floor
18. If I Ever Leave this World Alive
19. What's Left of the Flag
20. Seven Deadly Sins
(Encore)
21. The Worst Day Since Yesterday
22. The Times They are a-Changin' (Bob Dylan cover)
23. Salty Dog