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 faรงade 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.