27 December 2008

The Godfather


Every person on the planet has seen this movie before, except me. I will not accept any claims to the contrary. It's #2 or #3 on the imdb top films list, and most people probably think it deserves #1.

I thought it was okay.

I'm not really big on mob/gangster films. Yes, it was very well made apart from some rather obvious punch-pulling in a few fight scenes, and the acting was mostly stellar. Francis Ford Coppola was one of the greats. I don't really have many valid complaints other than it being overly long; I just wasn't that wowed by it.

I suppose most of its credibility is due to when it was made, and the calibre of the actors within it. I respect it for that. It was better than Goodfellas, another film of the genre and length; I recall it being mostly boring. This one didn't really bore me, but in keeping with the "meh" I got from it, it didn't really knock my socks off either.

I'm going to at least watch Part II, maybe III, just because they're the best movies ever. Yeah. However, now I kinda want to watch Reservoir Dogs again, although I didn't especially like it when I watched it the first time. Maybe this mob stuff is growing on me.

16 December 2008

Let the Right One In


To start this off, I'm going to say it's pretty much impossible to review this movie without sounding like a creep. I mean, for crying out loud, the main characters are a pale-skinned 12-year old swedish boy and an androgynous vampire appearing to be the same age in a semi-sensual relationship. What the heck, is this an anime?

With that out of the way, I can say that this film is great. The visuals are wonderful, the dialogue (although in Swedish) is touching, and the acting is believable even though the primary cast is composed of kids. Probably the biggest theme I got out of it is cold. Lots of cold. There's always snow everywhere, and you can just feel the snot dripping out of the main kid's nose and freezing on his face.

Of course the real main theme is... um... friendship I think. Friendship with androgynous vampires who like you because you have pent-up rage and want to kill people. Yeah, that's it.

One interesting thing I thought was the part of the vampire's familiar; you don't ever really find out much about him, only that he's devoted to the vampire (Eli). I have a feeling he's been with him/her for quite a long time, probably since childhood, in which case the vampire's befriending of the boy (whose name I have forgotten... aha, Oskar) is the changing of the guard, and has nothing to do with emotional attachment. That's the way it should be with vampires in my book.

The film sticks with pretty standard vampire lore. Sunlight burns, drinkin' the blood, necessity for invitations into buildings (I hate that one), agility, strength, etc. Neither silver or garlic came up at all. It's really creepy to see the little tyke leaping all over the place and climbing up walls. It's also creepy when he/she talks to Oscar with those big doe eyes and crusty-red covered mouth about love and rubik's cubes.

This isn't really a horror film. It has horror elements, but it's actually a drama/thriller deal I think, with something of an anti-heroic message. It's on or near the top of a lot of best-of-2008 lists, and I don't blame the writers of those lists for their selection.

Oh yeah, there's gonna be an American remake, of a sort. Like the near-universally-scorned Oldboy remake, it's going to be based on the original book and not the film, so it could be a lot different. I'll probably watch it, but I doubt it will hit the edginess levels found here.

The Amenta - N0N


Okay, I should really be doing schoolwork, but I'm in a writing mood and this CD has been sitting in my CD rack for over a month now. So, I'm going to write about it.

I blogged on The Amenta's debut album a while ago, hailing it as a metallic art. I still hold that it is, and I think it's better than the one I'm about to review. However, this one's still very good in a different way. I guess I'll do a track-by-track review here since I can't seem to get myself to do anything worth-while.

01 - On
The opening track is a short ambient intro that sounds kind of like an electronic device being turned on and spewing static and muffled voices amidst the band's trademark apocalyptic computer-noises. Not much to remark on other than it's great as an album starter.

02 - Junky
This one's pretty much along the same lines sound-wise as Occasus, with some new sounds as well; this is pretty much the way it is throughout the album. The basis is the same but they mix it up a lot more with new interesting bits. Lyrically, the song deals with an issue covered by Don Henley, Tool, and probably a hundred other artists: violence on television. It's probably closest Tool's Vicarious though, as it focuses on the viewer, the "media junky." It's very accusatory and doomish, painting a dismal picture of technology taking over our lives and desensitizing us. I think it's still a relevant message.

03 - Vermin
This is the first time I've read the lyrics for this song I think; from what I gather, it's another nihilism thing. Humanity is labeled as vermin, and we're all worthless flesh-heaps with no point or meaning. Religion is a meaningless construction and divinity is nothing. Woo. Like I've said before I don't really like this kind of prose. It's just defeatist. The sound is good, similar to the previous track.

04 - Entropy
Another instrumental/ambient track. This is a bit more structured, and there are some lyrics, but they're not included in the booklet for some reason; most of them are electronically garbled anyway. There's lots of static.

05 - Slave
This is the song that was released early, and by golly is it a good one. It's a tirade against politics, specifically a two-party system as far as I can see, as it repeats the word "binarial" several times. It calls politics "the new religion," and I think it's been established that The Amenta don't like religion very much. I like the sound a lot, it's got the whole pulsing onslaught thing going with bits of ambiance here and there. Apparently Nergal of Behemoth guests on the vocals, but I can't really make him out. The main vocalist's style is very similar.

05 - Whore
I don't really get what this one's about, it seems really similar to Vermin. The "binary" thing comes up again, I guess showing the simplicity of our meaningless lifestyles or something. This is actually a theme throughout the album. The binary thing I mean; the line "on/off/on/off" is repeated in a few songs, although not this one. It's a very technologically oriented thing, fitting for an industrial band.

06 - Spine
I think this one is about the absence of ambition. The last four lines pretty much sum it up:
There is no difference
But there is a choice
There is a shell
But there is no spine
It also hits on the whole "nothing ever changes" thing, hearkening back to Ecclesiastes. Pretty damn depressing just like the rest of the album, but again, powerful sound.

08 - Skin
Here's where it really starts to stray from the previous album. Female vocals! It's the very unknown Sir Alice, whose album entitled "?" I bought shortly after finding out who the sexy french voice belonged to. It's just spoken word, but it's powerful. The lyrics are much more visual than anything else they've written, actually painting a dismal picture of what I think is either a prostitute or a homeless woman. It's mostly ambient-ish, with metal bursts here and there in between more electronic stuff. It's really a nice piece of work.

09 - Dirt
Again, this track a major deviation from everything else they've ever done. Major chords! It almost sounds... happy! It reminds me a lot of Devin Townsend's work. The lyrics aren't much different though. The gist is that everything humanity does is meaningless and amounts to nothing in the end. I think Solomon was a nihilist because this is basically a a paraphrasing of Ecclesiastes. And yet, with the almost joyful intro, I think this song actually sounds like cleaning a slate, contrary to the title. There are some nice pseudo-exultory sounding bits and some more metal chugging, and of course the ambient stuff. This one might be my favorite track just because of the intro.

10 - Atrophy
1 minute and 48 seconds of slow electro-ambience. Lots of cool sounds. It gets a bit more metally near the end.

11 - Cancer
I think the lyrics are talking about conformity. There's talk of wax models and redundancy, and of course the meaningless absence of a point to everything. I'm beginning to sense a bit of cohesion to this album. Nothing entirely special to report about the sound.

12 - Rape
This one's a summary track with helpful advice. The nice guys of the band suggest continuing your pointless rotting existence glued to redundant technology and political figures! Well, I guess it's not so helpful. There's some kinda neat stuff in the listed lyrics, like a couple lines reading [word obscured] to signify the absence of anything real to look to for guidance. Of course the actual thing said is indecipherable, probably just a scream.
You want a saviour?
Try looking in the ad break.
You want redemption?
You want a meaning?
You want an answer?
The answer is
[word obscured]
So, in summary, the lyrics are dumb and go against everything I think I believe in. However, the music is kick-ass and I wish I could find more people in real life who enjoyed this sort of thing.

Dexter - Season 3


I blogged very briefly about this show in one of my first posts. In retrospect I should have written a lot more, since it was really awesome back then. Now, not so much.

The first two seasons were drop-dead fantastic, especially the first. The antagonists were clearly identified and given solidly appropriate background and motive. The acting on there parts was great. The stories were gripping. The action was exhilarating, and the tension often insurmountable. This time around each of these attributes was reduced by about half. The main antagonist, Miguel Estrada, is stupid. He thinks he's smart and once in a while does an inexplicably smart thing, but Dexter is a practiced serial killer. He should be able to see through this guy from the get-go. Okay, Dexter is flawed. We get it. Miguel still sucks. He's not likable. He's annoying; and yet Dexter sort of accepts him as a friend for a large part of the season just because the dude acts like he empathizes; Dexter should be able to spot an actor when he's constantly throwing up a façade of sanity. His motive isn't really identified until the last episode, and even then it isn't much of a revelation. It's just boring. They squeezed in a secondary antagonist that should have been expanded on, but in the end he seemed one-dimensional and peripheral, even though they left him for the "final battle."

Dexter's main thing (killing dudes) is largely neglected. This removes most of the tension and "edginess" that I love from the show. It's replaced with pretty boring friendship and marriage themes. Sure, they're trying to show that Dexter has to live through normal stuff like the rest of us, but it's just not entertaining. There isn't much action at all.

Okay, there were some good bits here and there, and overall most of the general quality found in the first two seasons is still there. It just took too long to get anywhere and was generally wishy-washy. That said, I enjoyed watching it because face it, Dexter is awesome.

My Name is Earl


This is a funny show. Probably not the funniest stuff I've ever seen, but it's pretty up there. The characters are great, although predictable. The situations aren't so predictable though. There's some wacky happenings indeed; a couple episodes ago a series of tornadoes blew a boat, a gun, and a bible (among various and sundry other things) around Camden county, causing the residents to adopt new religious beliefs in about 2 seconds flat several times over. Of course, the premise of the show is based on a sort of religion, that being the belief in karma. If you don't know what karma is then I suggest checking wikipedia.

Earl Hicky is a bad person. He's a thief, a liar, a cheat, an adulterer, and pretty dumb too. Not as dumb as his "simple" beloved brother Randy or his annoying ex-wife Joy, however, who persistently gum up Earl's plans, sometimes for the better (in alignment with karma's mysterious ways). One day, Earl wins a lot of money and summarily gets hit by a car, losing the money. While in the hospital, he watches an episode of whatever show Carson Daly hosts, and Carson explains karma. For some reason Earl figures this is why his life sucks; he does bad things, so it all bounces back to him. Thus, he swears to make up for all the bad things he's ever done, prompting karma to give him his money back; and so the show begins.

It's a very episodic show; there really isn't much of a major story arc aside from the main premise. Most episodes center around a single item on his list of bad things he did, and how he goes about making up for it. Some cover more than one item, and some don't cover any. They're always entertaining though. The acting isn't all that great, but it's a very unrealistic comedy, so that doesn't really matter. The characters are lovable and memorable. I really like it.

05 December 2008

Veronica Mars


I think I started watching this because it was mentioned in some Joss Whedon circles, although he doesn't have much to do with it other than guesting on one episode, as far as I know. Also Kristen Bell has been part of the increasingly awful Heroes since the second season. Heck, she's hot. That's probably why I checked it out.

The show is a basically a high-school/college drama where every episode involves the title character solving some mystery thing. For the first two seasons there were overarching mysteries that were ultimately solved in the finales, while in the third there were a few smaller ones. It's somewhat modeled after film noir of the private investigator variety. Veronica's dad is a PI who used to be the sheriff, so she basically just follows in his footsteps, helping out her friends, herself, or anybody who'll give her enough money to find out whether his or her significant other is screwing some pretty little thing.

The mysteries are usually pretty run-of-the-mill, but once in a while they can be interesting, although I can't really think of them right now. I think the bits I got the most enjoyment out of were those with guest stars, including the aforementioned Whedon, Kevin Smith, Lucy Lawless, and some more minor personalities that have popped up in some of my favorite shows.

Apparently there have been plans to make a movie, which would work since the third season just kind of ended with no major resolutions before it was canceled. However, it doesn't look like it's getting anywhere, and Bell is going to hit 30 in two years. She still looks young enough to be a college kid though, I think. She's certainly still a babe.

24 November 2008

True Blood


The first season ended last night, and I was pretty happy with the finale. It's been a very enjoyable show. It's a bit of an oddity in the vampiric drama, as it's more of a socio-political satire than anything. It's not full of the greatest acting, nor writing, but it has qualities that make it still a good show. These include an interesting take on vampires, and a bunch of hot girls on an HBO show.

The satire part of it uses vampires as another target for racism and bigotry. They still include other examples of this, with both black and gay (in one case both) characters going through the usual routines. Well, the blacks aren't really targets themselves but some think they are, thereby showing their own racist tendencies. However, the vampire is the most prominent oddity, as would be expected by the title. You've got lynchings, religious outrage, and all that jazz.

The vampires themselves are pretty cool. They have most of the traditional traits, like adversity to sunlight and silver, and of course the affinity for human blood. They differ in that garlic and crosses have no effect, and they don't necessarily sleep in coffins or hanging from rafters. They seem to be trying to keep most of the weird stuff in as much of a scientifically plausible context as possible, although this gets a bit hairy later on in the season. The main vamp, Bill, often tries to pass off vampiric weaknesses as fairy tales only to have them surface as truth later on (burning in sunlight, maybe some other stuff I forgot). A bit of a neat thing is that the vamps can move really fast when they want to. This was actually a development that occurred during the editing for the show, as they were trying to cut down on the length of some scenes. It looks cool and saves time. The retractable fangs kind of tick me off but I don't suppose it matters much.

It's a good show. I like Anna Paquin.

08 November 2008

Preacher


A friend of mine nagged me into reading this. It's been sort-of on my list for a while, but I finally got around to reading it. Like Sandman and Watchmen, it's held in high regard by a lot of people. It really is very good.

The main thing about this comic is it is extremely sacrilegious. It reduces all of the Christian spiritual figures (God, Satan, angels, etc.) to much less than lofty heights. It makes God out to be a self-serving ass-hole, and much of the heavenly host to be a bunch of morons. This is pretty different from anything I've ever read/seen before. It definitely worked; a lot of time it was quite funny.

Another important aspect is the violence. There is some gosh-darn gruesome stuff in this thing. Sometimes it seems there is scarce a page without a depiction of somebody's head being blown away. Again, sometimes this works out to be comedic.

Of course my favorite part of it (as usual) was the characterization. The characters were well defined and likable. One in particular, Cassidy the vampire, is fleshed out very well. Parts of his character are exposed throughout the story in a way that makes him the most believable vampire I've ever read. Great stuff.

Apparently there is currently a movie being planned, to be helmed by Sam Mendes. Sam did stuff like American Beauty and Road to Perdition, so I think he could pull it off well enough. Of course, it isn't definite yet. There's no script, and this story has gone through development hell on a number of projects before, so it might not actually happen. Considering the subject matter I wouldn't be surprised if it gets scrapped due to protests. I'll watch it if it happens though.

31 October 2008

Sandman


So... this is probably the comic I took the longest to finally check out, except for maybe Watchmen. It doesn't make much sense since I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman and this is pretty much his seminal work. I think the main reason I put it off so long is that it's a dang huge story. Something like 75 issues, most of them 25 pages long. Dang is it worth it.

It still took me a long time to read it. I started out borrowing the Absolute Edition from a friend, which was entirely amazing, but he had to take it back before I got half-way through the first volume because he had to move. So I managed to get it some other way. The version I got was not the Absolute Edition, so it wasn't quite as pretty and not always very high quality either, but it was still very enjoyable. Neil Gaiman is an excellent story-teller, and in this instance he's telling stories about stories about stories. So great. The cast of core characters is just brilliant. There's a whole lot of ancient lore weaved into it, like the Norse gods and faeries and whatnot, not unlike Gaiman's American Gods novel. That makes it especially interesting.

Possibly an even cooler thing is the tie-in with the rest of the DC universe. The Sandman character is actually sort-of based on an older DC character that I don't actually know much about. A few lesser-known characters pop up, and in one panel Batman and Clark Kent make a cameo. That was a real treat.

In essence, this is really a collection of stories, not just one. There were several that really stuck out to me. The one I remember the best is the story of the Emperor of the United States of America. That one really got me emotionally involved for some reason. Some immigrant, disillusioned by the so-called opportunity, is at his wit's end and begins to fall into the clutches of Despair, who challenges Dream (the Sandman) to keep him from her. He accepts the challenge and grants the man empirical rule of the country through a dream. Of course no one really accepts this rule except for him, but it keeps him going and makes him loved by many. In the end, Despair never gets him and he helps a lot of people. The ending really almost pulled some tears from my ducts.

So, it's a great thing. Anyone who hasn't read it should. Now I have to start reading the extensive collection of spin-offs.

23 October 2008

The Graduate


I first heard of this film in a documentary or some such about Dustin Hoffman quite a few years ago. I'm not sure why I saw it. I think it was after I saw Rain Man. I didn't think about it at all until a few days ago when it turned up in some lame list about movies where the protagonist's main goal is to get some tail, and they expend a lot of effort to get to that goal. I might include a link to that list later. I remembered that it's supposedly held in high esteem, so I checked out imdb to make sure and discovered I was right. So I watched it.

Great movie. It's really not what I expected. I knew about the MILF seductress thing, but that's about all I knew. I had no idea how much Simon & Garfunkel's music was intertwined with it all, and most of the plot was unknown to me at all. Dustin Hoffman was great; I can't really relate to a lot of it, but his performance did get across the emotional maelstrom that I'm sure most people have experienced quite well. A lot of it was funny, some profound, and a good amount pretty darn ridiculous. It's got the whole coming-of-age deal which is usually fun.

I think possibly the best part of it all was the music. It really gave me a new appreciation for Simon & Garfunkel; The Sounds of Silence is such a fantastic song. I need to listen to them more. A featured review of the film on imdb stressed the perfection of the music in the context of the characters, especially that particular song. A lot of the time Hoffman goes around oblivious to the sounds around him, seemingly shutting out all of the confusion.

I enjoyed it.

05 October 2008

Y: The Last Man

I just spent about 4 hours going through the second half of this series instead of working on a huge project that's pretty much due in a couple days. That should give an idea of how good it is. Tomorrow's gonna suck.

The story isn't really an original one. This dude Yorick is the last dude alive on Earth; that is to say the only male. Except for his monkey Ampersand, of course. For a reason that's never fully exposed throughout the 60 issues, every mammal possessing a Y-chromosome died simultaneously, leaving the women to clean up the bodies.

What I really liked about it, aside from the somewhat gratuitous lesbianism and occasional well-drawn nudity, was the core group of characters and their relationships. I suppose that's what pretty much everything is about though. Yorick himself was great; constantly spouting off pop-culture references all the time and rarely getting a response.

I don't really have a whole lot to say at this hour, so I guess I'll stop. Maybe I'll write more later.

Now is later. So, it really was a great read. Pretty long too. I'm a fan of post-apocalypse stuff so it was right up my proverbial alley. I think I like the fact that you never really really find out what definitely killed all the guys; instead you're given a whole bunch of possibilities to choose from. Being science-fiction, a lot of these choices are pretty out there, but fun to think about.

Okay I guess I still don't have much to say. It was good. I'll leave it at that. Read it.

08 September 2008

Procrastination Theater Part II: Semargl and Wolverine

A while ago I posted during a somewhat busy period of school in which I had no desire to do anything of substance, so I wrote a blog post about something or other. That time has come again. Well, it's not quite as busy now, but for some reason I feel like I'm putting stuff off anyway. So you get to read some lame reviews. Yay!

Semargl - Manifest

My last post was on an album that has become one of my favorite metal releases ever. This one was a favorite before that one (and still is). The Amenta hailed from Australia, these guys from the Ukraine. That's a neat thing really; extreme metal can come from pretty much anywhere. Just recently France has become something of a hotbed, producing acts like Gojira and Hacride. There are still a few holdout domains like those in the Middle East, but for the most part the black tide (not a reference to the new thrashy band that I hate for no reason) is encompassing the globe.

Anyway, this album is great. Genre-wise it's I guess what you'd call blackened-death metal, although I think it has more black qualities than death; not in any conventional sense, however. You won't find the walls of lo-fi distortion, symphonic keyboards, or raspy screeches of its roots. It mostly just retains the absolute animosity toward religion (specifically Christianity), and just an indescribable feeling of evil that is the primary tenet of black metal.

What sets this album apart from basically all other music in its genres is the extremely bouncy sound. The bass player seems to be taking lessons from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The distortion level of pretty much everything (except the vocals) is remarkably low, and the sound is well produced. It's all just really damned enjoyable.

The only thing I don't really care for is the supposed subject matter (I don't think they released the lyrics). The band is openly anti-Christian, and this album itself is a manifest of war against the religion, ergo the title. The words printed in the booklet are not the lyrics; instead they are the manifest itself, it seems. I haven't actually spent any time reading them since I don't think it's worth my time, but a brief glance made it look pretty serious. Anwhow, I just like the way the album sounds.

Here're some video samples.

Wolverine: Origin

I found this randomly and remembered that I had been wanting to read it. So I did.

It's really good.

It's not what I expected; I didn't think they'd start with his childhood; I don't know why. I think it's great how they make you expect one kid to turn into Wolverine and then make it some other kid instead. I haven't actually read any X-Men comic books, at least I don't think I have, but this seems like it's a lot better than I would expect from such things. There's a lot of emotion and drama. Kinda bleak really.

One thing I'm not entirely clear about is whether his claws were initially meant to be physically part of him or whether they were implanted with the adamantium; I had always assumed the latter, leaving his healing factor to be his only real mutation. It's cool this way anyhow.

28 August 2008

The Amenta - Occasus


I haven't posted about music in a while, mainly because I just listen to too much of it. I guess I'll just write when something hits me in a profound-ish way. This album does that. I've had a digital copy for quite a while now, maybe a year or so, but just got a physical version the other day while browsing through the used CDs at StereoShop. That was the first time I've been there, and I was impressed by the number of good albums I found there. I'll probably be heading back at some point; maybe when I get a car.

Anyway; Occasus can be pretty well defined as an industrial death metal album. There are also bits of black metal going on, but not strongly enough to merit inclusion in the genre labeling. The Amenta is one of those bands that likes to make themselves sound really serious and evil, not unlike Semargl, another favorite of mine of which I just ordered a record today. I'm pretty sure their main schtick is nihilism, i.e. the belief that nothing actually exists and that reality is a projection of our own minds. My introduction to nihilism was The Big Lebowski, so I don't really know a whole lot about it. Their lyrics don't seem to consentrate much on nihilism itself, although they do touch on it (especially on the track 'Nihil'). Most of the time they're just painting a big bleak picture of some sort of doom or something. References to gods or demons and whatnot all over the place. I don't really care all that much about the subject matter, and I didn't even know a single line from the lyrics until I bought the album.

The music is what's important. It's primarily a wall-of-sound deal with jackhammer drums and heavily distorted guitars, interspersed with creepy computer screeches and hums, and of course the vocalists deep grunt-growls all over the place. This album took quite a while to grow on me, probably because of the vocals really. They aren't all that great, but I think they fit the music nicely. This guy seems to have left the band though and their next album, n0n, is going to have a big ol' collection of established vocalists. You can hear one track from the album, 'Slave', on their myspace. Anyway I'm rambling.

It isn't all just in-your-face metal. There are several ambient passages, some in between songs and others in the middle of songs. I think they're really what make it special. Going from systematic pummeling to more randomly flowing apocolyptic noises really create an atmosphere that brings me back again and again. I think you can really call this a work of art; not something you can say for a lot of metal albums.

17 August 2008

Earth X


I actually haven't read many Marvel comics, but I've watched some X-Men and Spider-Man animated stuff and seen most of the movies. I have a pretty good grasp of a large number of the characters. This book makes me feel like I know nothing at all. I knew the Marvel universe was big, I just didn't know how massive and complicated it was. The complexity is due to many years of new ideas and recycled old ones. Earth X is an attempt to bring all of those crazy stories under one roof and give them a cohesive purpose; it largely succeeds.

Starring primarily Captain America, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic, the elastic man), and a character I'd not heard of called Machine Man or X-51, Earth X is about a time somewhere in the future when all the characters we know are old. For some reason every person on the planet has become a super-being/mutant/whatever. Most of the book is spend trying to figure out why this happened. In the course of events we find out why such beings and humans in general exist, and also that everyone is doomed. Of course this is averted for the time being but new developments arrive leaving a shadow of foreboding over the ending. This is the first of three books so it's there for a reason.

A lot of the time it all seemed pretty silly to me, just because the Marvel universe is not a cohesive thing; there's all sorts of crazy crap going on all the time and so many different things happen for different reasons. They sort of explained the reason for the variation but it seemed forced. However, in the end it all made a sort of sense, and had something close to the feel of the revelation at the end of Watchmen. I enjoyed it and I'll probably check out the other two at some point.

14 August 2008

Star Wars: Clone Wars (TV Series)


I had heard that this was good, but I avoided it because it's part of Lucass' prequel story which I loathe. However, it turns out that it is quite a bit better than those three steaming piles of dung.

It's set between Episodes II and III. As such, it deals with the a bunch of battles between the droid army and the clone army (hence the title). Of course the primary characters are Anakin and Obi-Wan. I think the best part of it all is how Anakin is less of a whiner and more of a bad-ass. In fact, everyone is more bad-ass; especially Mace Windu, who trashes battle droids with his fists. Overall, it just does a good job of reclaiming some of the spirit of the original films, as well as tapping into a little of the extended universe.

Being a cartoon it was a little cheesy, but the focus was hardly on humor. I'd say there was less humor in it than in any of the live-action films. Some parts got pretty darn dark. The dialogue was quite sparse most of the time, which I think is a good thing. They did tend to favor the use of old Star Wars catch-phrases a lot, i.e. "I've got a bad feeling about this." I think that one reared it's head at least three times.

The art style was a little bit too stylized for me to be completely happy with it, but I wouldn't say it made it any worse.

I've heard that the CGI continuation that's coming out soon follows in the footsteps of the prequels in that it is also crammed with feces. Too bad.

12 August 2008

The IT Crowd


Whilst reading Boing Boing for the last year or so I've noticed Cory Doctorow mention this show a few times. It seemed mildly interesting, but I didn't bother watching it. Just a couple weeks ago some guys at work started talking about it, so I decided to give it a shot. It's real fun.

I've liked British comedy since my introduction to Monty Python. This isn't quite as weird as that, and not as painful to watch as Fawlty Towers (not painful in a bad way). It is instead a very funny sitcom with pretty accessible jokes and likable, eccentric characters. I recognized two of the actors from Garth Merengi's Darkplace, which was a very fun show as well.

As the title suggests, the show is about some IT workers (Information Technology). The main cast consists of one mostly sane buffoon, a super-stereotypical nerd/shut-in, and a decidedly not-nerd female character who works as a personal relations manager for the IT department. There is also a recurring character who is a stereotypical goth (i.e. listens to Cradle of Filth, but I don't think anyone on the show has ever actually heard a note of them. Not that they're missing out or anything.) I think I like that one (Richmond) the most. He's just so ridiculous that you can't help but love him.

For a geek show there isn't really that much in the way of nerdery. I expected there to be a lot of in-jokes and pop culture references, but there really aren't many instances of either. It mostly concentrates on the social foibles of the characters and their extremely odd personalities. Anyway, great fun. Just 12 half-hour episodes so far, so it's really worth giving it a shot.

05 August 2008

Weeds

Another great Showtime show. Also another great drug-related show, with a somewhat similar premise to Breaking Bad. Nancy Botwin is a gorgeous soccer-mom turned marijuana dealer, instead of a terminal science teacher turned ecstasy cooker. It's not really a black comedy, mostly just a comedy I think. Lots of family issues and plot twists. I really like it.

The major attractions are obviously foxy Nancy herself, and the rather risky subject matter. The drug trade is put in almost a positive light. At least, Nancy seems to think it's alright. She won't do anything other than mary jane, but her moral compass is pretty weak beyond that.

All the characters are great; even the kids. They're not playing typical kids so I guess that helps. It's hard to get convincing kid actors.

I don't have a whole lot to say other than I'm really enjoying the show. I'm all caught up now, and the last episode was rather great because we got to see something previously hidden from view ;)

Starship Troopers 3


I watched this because a semi-favorable review popped up on Ain't it Cool News yesterday. I've seen the previous two films as well so I didn't expect much from this one; rightly so in many respects.

Like the first film, it's primarily a satire. Instead of just a mockery of the military, it also includes quite a bit of religion/Christianity bashing. It got a couple laughs out of me amidst the cringes of disgust. The horrible CGI and the shoddy acting made it mostly less than enjoyable.

However, I was pleased to see that somebody in the writer's corner had maybe actually read the book this time. There were several elements that were actually taken from the source material, like the mobile infantry suits and unappreciative locals. Overall the film is still nothing near an actual adaptation of the excellent book by Robert Heinlein. The director himself has admitted that he only read a couple chapters or so from the book for at least the first film. He got depressed and bored and gave up.

This is a direct-to-DVD release so I quality isn't something that should be expected anyway. It's mainly just good for a few laughs.

21 July 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight

This is probably going to be the most celebrated movie of the year. Heath Ledger's performance is spellbinding; so much in fact that the film almost ceases to be about Batman. If the title had been Joker: Why So Serious? I think it would have sold just as well. So far it's broken at least three box-office records. In fact it's dethroned two god-awful movies, Star Wars Ep. III and Spiderman III, so I'm all the more happy about it.

I wouldn't call this the best movie ever. However, it is most certainly the best 'super-hero' movie ever, and maybe the best comic/graphic novel adaptation of all time. It will probably keep this distinction for quite a while too; somehow I doubt Zack Snyder is going to do Watchmen justice.

Heath Ledger is dead. That is a horrific shame, not only for the simple fact that he no longer lives, but also because The Joker isn't killed in this film. It would have been utterly fantastic to bring him back for the third part of the trilogy. With him gone it's very doubtful that the man who laughs will have anything near a significant role. One idea I heard was that they should go the Killing Joke route and have Batman visit the clown in his cell only to find that it's an imposter, and never see him again. That might work.

I'm not going to go into the plot at all because this really is just something you have to see; reading about it is futile. So is writing about it really. I can't put into words the genius of the Joker. Seriously. The rest of the cast is great, but the gap between them and Ledger is enormous.

Go see it.

UPDATE: I saw it in IMAX last night. As other people have said, you don't really lose much in the standard show, but damn is it impressive in full glory. I loved having to actually turn my head to see different parts of the screen. Overhead shots almost made me feel like I was going to fall into it. Really cool.

18 July 2008

Breaking Bad


I heard if this show two days ago while discussing Mad Men with a friend. After looking it up on Wikipedia, my interest was piqued. Only 7 episodes were made due to the writers' strike so it wasn't a major detour from the other shows I'm watching.

The idea is that this guy White just found out that he has terminal lung cancer. This makes him rethink his life and financial situation, thinking about the family he will leave behind. As a chemistry teacher he has a good understanding of chemical processes, and turns to the drug trade to turn some quick cash. He makes methamphetamine. In order to get some money for it he has some run-ins with a bunch of colorful characters while hiding it all from his family, one member of which is a DEA officer.

The best part of it all is watching him change from a nerdy professor type to a badass skinhead. It's also fun how they work in chemistry all the time; it's like watching Bill Nye the Science Guy with a bit of black mixed in with the comedy. It was all so good I watched all 7 episodes back to back in pretty much one sitting. There's going to be a second season, and I will watch it.

Also, this is neat. Breaking Bad Nabs 4 Emmy Nominations

17 July 2008

Mad Men


Once again, my shallow self has led me in my viewing choices. I found out the the delectable Christina Hendricks, who played Saffron on Firefly for a few episodes, is in a new show on AMC called Mad Men. There has only been one season of 13 episodes so far, but a new season is planned.

This show is not similar to Firefly in any way. However, Christina's character is somewhat similar, in that she's a bit of a temptress. That wasn't the only thing that kept me going through all the episodes though. It's a good show. It's about a bunch of advertisers in the 60s, and their less-than-squeaky-clean lives. It doesn't portray the 60s as being innocent. It digs up all the issues that civil rights advancements and health concerns have been fighting since that time, like women's equality, smoking, heart disease, sexual harrassment, and all that jazz. Behind the main themes there is a pretty cool shady-past story for the main character, and a bunch of smokingly-hot babes.

I liked it.

05 July 2008

Bioshock

This game is great. I'm not sure it rivals Half Life, but it gets darn close if it doesn't. It might if I had read anything by Ayn Rand and had an appreciation for objectivism, a concept of which I still don't have a complete grasp. Apparently much of the game is based on it. Anyway; it's a fantastic take on a first-person-shooter with an actual message and moral issues. Amazing graphics, especially the water effects and stylized character models.

It's a spooky sort of game. It made me jump in my seat a few times when corpses decided that they were actually alive and wanted to kill me for my bodily fluids. Very dark and dirty. I guess you might call it an RPG in a sense, as it had several elements of the genre. You are playing the role of a specific character whose story is quite interesting, and there is a sort of leveling system via various vending machines that allow you to improve yourself and your weapons. That part was one of the most fun bits.

I got the PC version of course, seeing as I don't own any consoles. I just built a new computer and it handles it pretty great. I ordered a new cooler for the graphics card because it keeps freezing the system randomly, I assume due to overheating. I was disappointed to discover that the achievement system was left out of the PC version; something to do with it not having Windows Live. I don't see why that would matter.

I went through the first round mostly rescuing the little sisters. This route aligns with the human rights aspect of objectivism. Next round I'm doing hard mode and I plan on harvesting them all; the pursuit of selfish happiness.

UPDATE: Finished my second run last night. The ending was pretty badass; instead of a happy life with the little sisters, you become a warmongering evil and unleash the splicers on the landlubbers. There is apparently a third ending that doesn't differ much from this one except for the tone of the voiceover. I won't be going through it again for a while, but I'll probably try for that one when I do. There will be a PS3 release later this year with possibly improved graphics; hopefully some of those improvements will be available for the PC version as well.

There have been rumors that Bioshock II will be a prequel accounting the times before the downfall of Rapture. This makes a lot of sense since there really isn't much that could be done past the ending of the first one. It will probably be a 2009 release; I'm looking forward to it wholeheartedly.

23 June 2008

Metalocalypse: Dethklok Live

So I saw Dethklok last night. It was great. Brendon Small's gang of musicians, including Gene Hoglan of Death, Strapping Young Lad, and Zimmer's Hole (among others) tore it up.

The opening bands were Soilent Green and Chimaira. Soilent Green is apparently a metalcore/grindcore act and as such all of their stuff sounds pretty much the same. Don't get me wrong, I love grindcore; but coupled with the unnecessarily loud sound, this band's performance wasn't really that enjoyable. Just bass, guitar, drums and vocals, so they really couldn't pull off much of an interesting show.

Chimaira was a bit more fun, but got a few laughs out of me for their lyrics. "I HATE EVERYONE!" "NO REASON LEFT TO LIVE!" I suppose it really helped them since it kind of tied in with the comedy aspect of the tour. They played well.

Dethklok's show was obviously the highlight. There was a whole video portion, as expected since the band doesn't actually exist. Many of the animations were more brutal and perverse than anything that was shown on television, and it made it that much more awesome. The best bits, to me, were Murmaider and Go Into the Water. Probably just because I knew them the best. To be honest I don't really listen to the album much, but the live show definitely made the music a lot more entertaining. Brendon Small did a few segments of talking in the voices from the show, which was great. He's one talented dude.

15 June 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I've been meaning to get into this show for quite a while. A year or two ago I was catching bits of reruns before class in the morning, and some of it seemed like something I could get into; however a lot of it also seemed really cheesy. Both of those observations have proven to be valid; but the cheese factor really doesn't matter at all.

Buffy is first and foremost a comedy. It is then a horror show and a soap opera. The comedy part is really what makes it, and I suppose the soap opera aspect drags a lot of people into it; I can't say it doesn't have an effect on me. The horror appeals to my nerdiness, but really that's the worst part of the show. The makeup and effects can be pretty awful combined with the tv-grade stunts and whatnot. However, like most horror, it adds to the comedy.

There have been three or four episodes so far that were completely awesome because of the comedy; one involved nightmares coming true, and another candy that made all of the grown-ups turn into teenagers (emotionally). The situations that arose from those premises were absolutely hilarious. I'm only in the 3rd season right now so I'm hoping there will be more episodes of their caliber.

And then we have one of the biggest attractions, the girls. There are some major babes on this show. Buffy and Willow are the big ones, along with Cordelia and, to a lesser degree, Faith. Eliza Dushku is going to be the star of Whedon's new show Dollhouse, which I'm looking forward to quite a bit. The man really knows how to pick 'em.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this. I'll most likely watch Angel too, although that won't be quite as fun without Buffy in every episode.

06 June 2008

IWrestledABearOnce

Off the hook this shit is.



They've only put out a 6 song EP so far, but it rules.
Myspazz

18 May 2008

The Wire


So. I suck at blogging. Oh well.

I haven't posted in a while, although there have been several cases where I had something worth writing about. Now however, I have something that I have to write about. The Wire is (was) possibly the greatest show ever to grace a television screen. I know I mentioned that Dexter was the king here, but I'm sure many people have made similar claims under similar ignorance.

I started watching the show about a month ago, I think. I went through all 5 seasons. There were several days where I just couldn't stop watching. That is the mark of a good show.

As for a summary, Wikipedia is a better source than I, but I'll throw some sentences out there. The Wire is about a few people in the Baltimore police department and their quests for doing their jobs. The main idea of the show is to showcase the corruption and evil and blah blah blah. Where the show shines, however, is in the storytelling and characterization through stellar acting. The show takes the hardest criminals and makes them seem like people. Every time someone dies, be they a "good" or "bad" guy, you feel it. You miss them.

It was a great show throughout, but the 5th season kind of lost me, and the reason for that was that they lost focus on the storytelling and concentrated on the dirt. The big side-story was about the media and the corruption in it, which is pretty damn obvious to everyone already I think. It was boring. The end was alright, seeing the ass-holes squirm and all; but I think a lot of the characters lost their souls.

However. Altogether this was one of the best viewing experiences I've ever had. I hope I can find something to top this, because pretty much everything from here on out is going to look like crap.

13 April 2008

The Office (UK)


Okay. I'm obviously not British and therefore do not understand a lot of this show. That might be why I think it pales in comparison to the US copy. It also could be because the US version had a good base to go off of and expanded to create a much better show. Anyway, this wasn't bad, and I understand why it was popular.

However. Far and wide I keep hearing people say that the US version is a mediocre imitation of greatness. That's bollocks. Steve Carell's character kicks Gervais' ass. I consistently laughed at his antics while Gervais only got a smile here and there and maybe one or two laughs out of the 12 episodes.

The main difference between the two shows is that the original is a lot more depressing. I suppose some people might see this as a good thing; but this is comedy. Comedy is supposed to make you feel good, at least the way I see it. Sure, a trademark of both versions is the cringe humor, but at least the US version usually ended each episode on a positive note.

I suppose one of the underlying reasons I didn't like it as much could be that the receptionist character (Dawn) has an ugly mug. Call me a chauvinist, because I am. I think Jenna Fischer is a babe.

I think the best part of the whole show was the end where the boss got fired. He deserved it. However, it wasn't funny.

UPDATE: I just watched the Christmas special that I had forgotten to watch before. It was probably the best part of the show. There was some good humor and it ended happy.

11 April 2008

Avsky - Malignant


I normally only review stuff that has made at least a marginal impression on me, and this only kind-of has. However, it's the first black metal album that I've actually bought so I figure I might as well write about it.

It was really quite an impulse buy. I saw an article on Blabbermouth about a track that was released from this album before the album release and checked it out. I think it was the first track. I thought it was pretty good, and I felt like buying something I guess.

So it arrived yesterday, and I've listened through it a few times now. There isn't really that much special about it. It's definitely not bad, although the vocals try to emulate the lo-fi black metal style of yore that I don't really like much at all. The instrumentation is pretty solid. At times the beat reminds me of (possibly) my favorite BM album ever, Manifest by Semargl. A sort of machine-like crushing power.

I don't listen to that much BM. My favorites of the genre are the previously mentioned Semargl, along with Emperor, Anaal Nathrakh, Immortal, Deathspell Omega, and maybe Gorgoroth. Ulver used to be BM but I don't like their output from that period, as it was in the lo-fi style. Much too grating.

This album has a slightly grating quality, but not enough to make me ignore it. The lyrics are pretty nasty, as is expected with "tr00" BM. Not needlessly gory or anything like death metal but more of a savage hatred toward inferiority, in line with what I know about Satanism, which isn't much. Lyrics are only given for two of the eight tracks though (unlike Anaal Nathrakh who don't release any of their lyrics).

I think I could grow to enjoy this, but there really isn't that much going on to go crazy about.

07 April 2008

The Office (US)


Pretty much everyone I know has seen this show. I've been meaning to check it out for quite a while. So, after seeing a few mentions of it on a forum, I finally nabbed season 1. From the first episode I've been hooked.

It's a comedy, and a very ridiculous one. Steve Carell, who I have known best for his role as Brick in Anchorman, plays an office manager with pretty much every quirk in the book. His main schtick is that he's an aspiring comedian (a very bad one). Sometimes his antics are almost too much for me; they make me feel awkward. It's not the kind of comedy I usually like. However, the characters in this show are just too lovable, and more often than not the jokes have me reeling.

So, after finishing the first season (which was basically a pilot, only 6 22 minute episodes), I am eager to keep watching.

UPDATE: So I've seen it all now. I even finished watching all the pre-strike episodes about 15 minutes before the new one aired today. I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable shows I've ever seen. I have seen better for sure, but there are elements of this show that just pull you in so tightly that it's completely impossible to drag yourself away from it.

I'll be moving on to the original UK version as soon as I can. From what I've heard, it's supposed to be better than the U.S. one, but that might just be the same old "it came first, I'm better than you" attitude. I do not doubt that it will be excellent though.

02 April 2008

Battlestar Galactica (2004 series)


I've only seen a short segment of one episode of the original series, so I can't speak for that, but this new show is damn great.

Of course, I can't really call it "new" as it's been around for about 4 years now. I guess this blog is living up to its name.

Anyway, I just finished every episode/miniseries/movie that has been put out for this reimaginging so far (except the webisodes), with BSG: Razor being the last bit. Almost every moment of it all was excellent. However, there were a few episodes of filler that I could have done without; but hey, I'm not complaining. It's a great show.

I actually saw the first few episodes a few years ago; it might actually have been 2004. I just remembered having seen them before when I started watching a few weeks ago. Back then I didn't think it was that great. This was probably because I hadn't seen the miniseries from 2003 beforehand and was confused. The miniseries sets up the story for the whole thing and the show starts up pretty much right after the miniseries stops; not really the greatest move, but it seems to have worked anyway, as this is one of the most popular sci-fi shows around.

The great thing about it is the realism. The cheese level is extremely low, unlike the Stargate and Star Trek shows. The CGI is top notch and the camera work hearkens back to the hand-cam-like style of Firefly. The characters are wonderful. The story is better. The use of historical religions is very cool, and I think it makes the story at least twice as good.

The only thing other than the filler that I can fault the show for is the fact that this Colonial civilization that supposedly split with Earth thousands of years ago is still so similar to ours, down to the legal systems and computer hardware. I saw the President waving what looked like a Logitech mouse around once. I suppose it might add to the believability, but I don't think it's all that necessary. There should be a little more variation.

Of course there might be an explanation for this in Season 4, which starts up April 4th. It will reportedly be the final season, so a lot of questions should be answered. I suppose they might leave some to the upcoming series Caprica though. Definitely looking forward to that.

27 March 2008

Idiot Flesh, Zimmer's Hole

HEY FOLKS! IT'S TIME FOR A BLAAAAAAAG!.

That's right, I've hit upon something worth writing about and mustered up the boredom to contribute to this pathetic collection of thoughts. So, to start off this extravaganza of apathy, I shall introduce Idiot Flesh to you.


I've been a fan of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum for a while now, perhaps about as long as I've liked Meshuggah. Some of the weirdest, most innovative stuff I've ever heard. So, as is my wont, I was reading their Wikipedia page for about the 20th time and again saw the reference to the band Idiot Flesh. Apparently a bunch of SGM's members were in that band before forming the genius troupe. Their first full-length album was released in 1990, a time period I usually associate with not-so-great music. This is a ridiculous association of course but my mind is a dumb place.

So I checked 'em out. Their 1990 album, Tales of Instant Knowledge and Sure Death, is much milder than SGM's stuff. It's in the same vein lyrically though, and you can definitely discern the musical aspects that were carried on. A lot of it is more traditional, especially the bass work. Pretty funky really. All in all though I didn't think it was that great of an album; not really any stand-out tracks. Of course I just checked them out last night so I haven't had that much time to drink it all in. One thing I did notice was the similarity to Mr. Bungle, one of Mike Patton's earlier exploits.


I liked that album enough to try some more. So, Fancy was next up on the menu. This was their third and final studio album, released in 1997, just before their breakup. I haven't been able to find the middlin' one yet, but I think I'll be pursuing it, as this album rocks. Quite a bit more similar to SGM. The tracks Teen Devil Worshipper, Chicken Little and Cheesus (Dance Mix) were definite standouts every time I listened through it. Cheesus specifically is hilarious. It plays like a commercial, much like Gold Fish or something. It's just something you have to hear (unless you are an easily offended Christian). Many songs are a bit heavier than on their first, but there's no growling to speak of and none of the intensity reaches SGM's level.

Overall, satire and weird sounds make up Idiot Flesh's repertoire. I like it.


Next up is Zimmer's Hole - When You Were Shouting at the Devil... We Were in League with Satan. The title doesn't even fit on the front of the album; the second half is displayed on the back with funny portraits of the band members. This is comedy metal at its finest. The coolest part of the whole album for me was the track The Vowel Song. I was playing through it and this gem came up, and I was greeted by the voice of none other than Nathan Explosion of Dethklok, otherwise known as Brendon Small. Nathan has been conscripted to inform us that a lot of people can't read, and this is bad, because sometimes you need imagery to get off, like dangling sweaty knockers. We are then treated to a very short song with these simple lyrics:
A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes
Y are you wasting my air?
Why are you still here?
Why must I tolerate, no debate, eliminate!!!
A, E, I, O, U...SUCK....SUCK!!!
Nathan then lets us know that you don't need to know how to read to order a cheeseburger. Every restaurant's got a cheeseburger. The reason he's on this album is that the drummer, Gene Hoglan, filled in the for the fictitious Pickles on the Dethalbum and the subsequent Dethklok tour.

Other lyrical themes involve metal, hair, necrophilia, Satan, and I think marital stress or something. Great stuff. The only reason I bought this album is that 3 of the 4 members were part of the late and very great Strapping Young Lad, led by Devin Townsend, who is sadly not in this one. He did produce some of it and mixed it though. I've heard Zimmer's other two albums, and this one is definitely the best.

03 March 2008

The Dark Knight Returns and Ghosts

I bought this along with Watchmen because Amazon told me to. I'm not sorry about it, but this is not as good as Watchmen. Of course, very little is.

Frank Miller has gained a lot of popularity since the cinematographic versions of Sin City and 300 were released. Incidentally, the guy who directed 300 is currently going to be directing the film adaptation of Watchmen, which Alan Moore does not endorse, sadly. Anyway, Miller is a pretty good writer. He's also much more into the extremes of sex and violence, moreso the violence. TDKR has a lot of that. It's a story of an old Bruce Wayne returning to the streets of Gotham as Batman after a 10 year self-induced hiatus. The reason given is the death of the two Robins, as far as I can tell; I never read those storylines. The overall battle is one between Bruce and the stupidity-saturated media/government. This is another apocalyptic novel, as it was written at just about the same time as Watchmen, during the Cold War. As such, nuclear weaponry comes into play. An odd thing about that is that the effect is almost positive; it gives the man in black an opportunity to fix things in such a way that it's obvious he's the only one with his head on straight. Characters of note are The Joker, The Green Arrow, and Superman. Superman's story in this is a pretty cool one; he almost dies in the face of nuclear holocaust.

It was a good read.

This was released yesterday and I haven't yet had time to listen to it all. However, the special thing about this isn't just the music, it's the way it was released. Trent Reznor, recently freed from his record deal, has decided to go the way of Radiohead and put out a (partially) free album. You can buy the whole thing for a minimum of $5 as a download in a variety of formats. The coolest part of that is that unlike Radiohead, this guys knows what the hell he's doing with music encoding. The mp3s were encoded with LAME, the accepted standard of quality, at 320kbps, not 160. Lossless versions are also available in FLAC and M4A. Another extremely cool thing is that Trent and co. uploaded the first quarter (Ghosts I) to a bunch of torrent sites, including The Pirate Bay. That is right way to get the internet's attention, friends. Also free is a 40 page PDF of images meant to accompany the music, complete with computer wallpaper versions in standard and widescreen formats.

As for the music, it is good. It's all instrumental and mostly experimental, a mix of electronic and a variety of traditional sounds. Adrien Belew of King Crimson appears on about half of it. 36 tracks of delicious music. I'm not the biggest fan of NIN but this is just too awesome to pass up. So, support this guy at ghosts.nin.com.

28 February 2008

Watchmen and some music

So it's about time for an update. The biggest thing right now is Alan Moore's Watchmen from 1986-87. I bought this (what a concept!) a little while back right after reading Batman: The Killing Joke, (see previous post) also written by Moore. It took me the better part of two days to read it; it's pretty darn thick.

Holy crap is it good.

I shouldn't be surprised, and I suppose I'm not. This book is revered as the best graphic novel ever by nearly everybody. The most outstanding aspect of it is the story itself; although mostly applicable during the Cold War, it still rings pretty true today, a sort of anti-war novel. It isn't a traditional one though. With all the main characters as masked vigilantes, genius pseudo-megalomaniacs and nuclear demigods battling themselves and each other over how (and whether) to protect humanity, it could hardly be traditional.

In a sort of documentary about Moore called The Mindscape of Alan Moore, the genius writer describes the inherent link between art and magic. What this man has wrought in Watchmen is a perfect example of magic by his definition, which is something that changes a person's perception of reality (I think that's what it was anyway, I'm paraphrasing). I will probably never look at comics the same way again, nor life in general. This is the sort of thing that makes people form opinions.

Okay. On to some music.


Diablo Swing Orchestra - The Butcher's Ballroom
I've heard these guys mentioned quite a few times before, but didn't bother checking them out until yesterday. I shouldn't have waited. DSO's style is an amalgam of metal, classical, and I guess some sort of bluegrass or something. This is their only full album so far, I haven't listened their EP. Seeing as I've only listened through this album once I can't give a very in depth review, but I definitely recommend it.

Ween - 12 Golden Country Greats
Ween is a peculiar band. I haven't heard a whole lot of their stuff an most of it hasn't really interested me. However, Devin Townsend likes them so that's enough for me. Also this is a great piece of work. It's in the musical style of country as the title suggests, but instead of the subject matter dealing with tractors and beer coupled with heartbreak, pictures are painted with sci-fi and satire. The parental advisory on the front shouldn't be ignored, as there are some pretty awesome lyrics. It's a fun album.

Samael - Solar Soul
Yet another black metal turned avant-garde band. These guys aren't quite as out there as Ulver or Manes, but they're definitely good. This music is more industrial metal than anything, sort of sounding like Rammstein (although I don't really listen to them at all, and this is much more complex). It has symphonic elements as well, hearkening back to their roots. It's even catchy. Again I've only heard this once so far, but it stuck out of the many titles I've been going through of late.

I'm listening to it again now, and I just noticed that the vocals kind of sound like those in Celtic Frost's latest release, Monotheist, which is an awesome album by the way.

Stam1na - Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä
Finland has recently come out of obscurity in the music world due to Lordi's almost miraculous entry and win in Eurovision a little while back. This oddly named group here has also ridden pretty high on the charts, and for good reason. This is some pretty darn catchy metal; a little similar to french act Scarve, and with a few elements close to Strapping Young Lad. They're a lot more catchy though, a little mainstream sounding with all the production; not nearly as brutal as those two bands. Still it's very very enjoyable stuff.


Now for the heavy stuff \m/

Pig Destroyer - Prowler in the Yard
Just from the name you can imagine the brutality contained in this music, never mind the cover art. Pig Destroyer is a grind-core band, a genre that came from a melding of hardcore punk and death metal. The songs are short and fast. Unrelentingly psyche-scratching. The intro is read to us by the ubiquitous "Bob" computer voice. He describes a scene with two women engaged in some form of off perversion watched by a group of people who have no idea what to do about it. Then the music begins, and only those desensitized to onslaughts of musical brutality will keep listening. I love it. The vocals are, as expected, incomprehensible, but I checked some out and found this section of verse:
Certain things fascinate me.
First I went blind and then the sun went out.
The way you hold a match so steady.
How heaven is collapsing under so much joy.
I love that stuff like this can be so obscured by its presentation; I think it's beautiful. Beautiful brutality. The album ends with a return to Bob's monotone delivery of a conclusion to the weird tangle discussed in the intro. I won't describe it as it's quite graphic, and should only be beheld in its original form, if you're willing to try it.

I've listened to a ton of other stuff recently, but these were the standouts. Unfortunately much of what I try doesn't really get me at all, but I'll sometimes come back to it and see what I was missing. I think that's a common tale.

19 February 2008

Batman: The Killing Joke


It seems my foray into comic land continues. DC has put out some darned good stuff, and I haven't really looked at much of it. The recent drama with Heath Ledger's death prompted me to read up on The Dark Knight, and apparently both Batman Begins and this upcoming film are largely based on The Long Halloween, which I will be reading shortly. Ledger's character also draws from this comic.

This is fantastic. Better than the previous comic I reviewed, I think. It has the whole origin thing for The Joker, which I always like, and partially for that reason he's given a much more human face; I use the term "face" in a metaphorical sense of course, he's still the ghastly nightmare we all love. Anyway, you really empathize with The Joker, as his story plays out as a sad, unfortunate one. The overall feel of the book is quite dark, altough not nearly as much as Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth for example, which I read a while back. That was quite a trip.

This kind of adult-comic style is very alluring to me. For some reason I think I'm enjoying comics more now than I did as a kid; of course I've only just started, and these are pretty much the cream of the crop.

I am very much looking forward to The Dark Knight. RIP Heath Ledger.

18 February 2008

Superman: Doomsday

It's been a long time since I watched anything related to the animated realm of superheroes. The new wave of live-action films has sort of reduced the splendor of those seemingly childish things. However, this 2007 direct-to-video film is nothing to scoff at at which to scoff.

I didn't even know about this until yesterday when I was looking up information on Adam Baldwin, better known to most people (at least around here) as Jayne Cobb of Firefly. The reason I was looking him up was because I was going through Half-Life 2: Episode 2 again to listen to the commentary, and noticed a familiar voice coming from one the resistance fighters. Sure enough, Jayne's in the game. I also saw this film under his filmography, so good ol' Wikipedia led me to this gem.

Anyway. I remember way way back in the Warsaw NY library one day, I found this comic book called The Death of Superman. I've never been up-to-date with any comic books, and I'm pretty sure my mom wouldn't have let me borrow it. I read through a bunch of it crouching next to the comic box. It looked really cool then, and I've always remembered one of the opening panels, where a be-goggled Doomsday crushes a little bird in one gargantuan hand. That scene isn't present in the film sadly, but there are similar moments.

I was worried that the second half that deals with the rebirth of Superman wouldn't be as entertaining as the somewhat-ultimate battle between the red-caped behemoth and his spiky bane. My worry was for naught; it was quite entertaining. The semi-evil Superman clone was more bad-ass than the genuine article.

Altogether, Superman: Doomsday was a much better experience than what I remember of the animated series. Although it wasn't nearly as graphic as it could have been, there was actually blood and a small amount of watered-down swearing, making it much more believable. The ever-present cheese factor did make a few appearances. I really enjoyed it though. Adam Baldwin did a great job voicing the man of steel.

They should really consider doing this storyline for the next live-action incarnation. It would seriously own.

UPDATE

I just read through the comic book I remembered; it's actually a collection of comics in series. It was awesome; so much more intense than the movie. Doomsday is the embodiment of metal. Apparently Superman's rebirth is part of a different story arc not covered in The Death of Superman. Superman: Doomsday is quite a simplification of the original story, but I think they did a good job of it anyway.

23 January 2008

obZen


My jaw has officially gone below sea-level.

Meshuggah, my favorite band for the last 2 or 3 years, has created another masterpiece. As expected. This release is even more innovative than its predecessor, Catch 33, which has been my favorite album for an equally long time. This one might just topple that. I got a leak, at pretty low quality, but I can't resist listening to it ad infinitum. So here's a song-by-song (p)review.

Track 1: Combustion
WAH! Insanity. I don't think Meshuggah has played this many notes in one bar ever, aside from Fredrik's Holdsworthy solos. Every time I listen to it I like it more. Definitely a new direction, at least in the intro. The rest is a bit more similar to their classic style of pounding arrhythmic monotony, but still throws in some flourishes of color. Knocks my proverbial socks off my theoretical feet.

Track 2: Electric Red
Starts off with a very familiar sound, perhaps a Nothing feel, followed by some more of the Chaosphere intensity I love. Some of the chords are perhaps a bit more doomy than usual. I think it was an interview with Marten where he stated that this album would be more dense; it certainly is that. There is a lot more sound going on. I've always loved Meshuggah for their minimalistic intensity, but this is good too. Jens' voice hasn't changed at all. Still awesome. The latter parts of this song are a bit quieter, with some light chugga-chugga breakdown things. Doesn't excite me too much, but I'm sure I'll grow to love them.

Track 3: Bleed
This is the track I mentioned a couple posts ago. It just might be the best on the album. From what I've read on several forums, this is the one that everyone likes; some for reason a lot of them can't stand the opening track, but this one is a standby. I don't blame them for liking it. The pitch bend amid the cacophony of bass drums and polymetric chord-chugging is orgasmic. Other than the pitch bend, the only major difference from their previous work is the speed and density. It's fast. It's thick. Very little breathing room, and not that many polymeters really. But dog-mad, is it great. There's a bit of Catch 33 in here too.

Track 4: Lethargica
Another favorite on the message boards. The title is an accurate one; the speed hearkens back to Nothing's drawn-out soul-crusher riffs. Yet again though, the notes are much more diverse, which reminds me of Straws Pulled at Random (Nothing), come to think of it. We've got some more of the doomy chords from Electric Red. Holdsworth solo, sounds a bit like the one on Catch 33, but more structured. Holy hell Thomas Haake is awesome. Woah! I think I just heard some harmonics! Sweet!

Track 5: obZen
Apparently, the title track name came from some made up language. I can't remember which one, but I think it was an established language that no one uses. The word itself means "obscene." As for the song, I think It's most similar to the Nothing sound, but there are definitely a lot of differences. Alright I take that back. It's too different from Nothing. This is something new. Lots of polymeters. Unrelenting. Maybe a bit like War from the Rare Trax album, but not quite the same intensity. It's impossible to reach that with a human behind the drums.

Track 6: This Spiteful Snake
Badass title. Badass song. More of the doom chords. Man I wish I were a guitar player and had one of those 8-strings, they sound like so much fun. I wish I could understand what Jens is saying. Well, when I buy the album I'll be able to read the lyrics; this will be the first Meshuggah album I've bought, and it won't be the last. I might buy Catch 33 next. Fredrik is nuts. This one is pretty atmospheric, what with his rapid-picking going on in the background. The song ends with a nice drawn out signature Mesh chord. I love that sound so much.

Track 7: Pineal Gland Optics
Wikipedia says the pineal gland has something to do with dreams; there's a hint at the subject matter. The sound doesn't deviate much from the previous track, but we have some more of the drawn-out chords with a slight pitch bend that remind me of Catch 33. Fredrik's having some more fun with soloing in this one. There seems to be some note-sliding going on; I don't think I've heard that in a Mesh song before.

Track 8: Pravus
Boom! Another ass-kicker. Very different. This one almost has a death/black metal vibe in parts. Otherwise we have the new note-barrages and rather straight-forward drum footwork. Woah, there's a new sound, almost a traditional twin guitar tone, again with the black metal vibe.

Track 9: Dancers to a Discordant System
Awooooga. I love this. Non-sequitor notes. Meshuggah is pretty much anti-music. This is very Catch 33. Awesome. So saddening that it has to be the last track; this album is far too short. I'm getting lost in the polymeters as I often do when listening to Meshuggah... Now we've got an almost major scale going on. I wish I new more about scales. Then I could be even more confused. Gosh darnit, I have to see these guys live. There's just no buts about it. It's a necessity. And so, the final chapter to this masterwork fades out in polymetric glory.

That's that. I'm sad that I can now only look forward to owning a physical copy and not revel in the anticipation of hearing the sounds of genius, but I'm also ecstatic that I can finally listen to new Meshuggah. You can only play New Millenium Cyanide Christ so many times before it becomes commonplace.

Nah, you can't. Meshuggah will never get old.

EDIT: Here's a pretty great video interview with Marten and Tomas.
EDIT 2: Full album art finally!