27 February 2012

Rampart

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Not a whole lot to say about this one. I saw it because Woody Harrelson rocks and Ebert said it was good. Sadly I was somewhat disappointed given the premise of a “bad” cop dishing out his own justice, hearkening to Bad Lieutenant (remake), which I enjoyed quite a bit. This is a bit more realistic, sad, and just a bit difficult to watch. The camera work can be pretty annoying with all the hand-cam stuff and unconventional movements/angles. Woody’s performance is on point, and he does muster up a bunch of pity for his plight, but it’s also quite apparent that what he’s doing is largely wrong, which given the seriousness of the thing didn’t make the experience all that enjoyable for me.

It’s definitely an interesting film with lots of good acting. It felt longer than it was though which is a bad sign.

13 February 2012

Concert Review: Die Antwoord at 930 Club, 12 Feb 2012

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Pitchfork’s recent review of Die Antwoord’s new second album, Ten$ion, is pretty scathing. The 4.2/10 rating is accompanied by words mostly going on about the emptiness of the lyrics and failed attempts at irony or relevance. In a purely analytical sense, I agree with pretty much everything in the piece. However, much as with the first album, I can’t help but love it. I had to see this sordid display in person.

The night began pretty lamely. I got to 930 club about an hour after opening due to metro track work and a bit of a late start, but it seems I didn’t miss anything. The opening act was some DJ who I don’t even care to look up because all he did was play samples of hip-hop and EDM songs I’d never heard. I’m just not accustomed to that and didn’t enjoy it at all. It didn’t help that he was on stage for another one and a half hours, and then Die Antwoord didn’t come on stage until 10. Of course once they finally showed up, it made the wait well worthwhile.

One of the more entertaining parts of the trio’s presentation is the visual aspect, which until now I only really knew from their videos. I love Yolandi’s freakish sex appeal and Ninja’s wiry, nerdy aggression, and the many faces of DJ Hi-Tek give the band a bit of mystery to their fa├žade. All these elements were on intense display last night. The two front-people went through several flashy outfits throughout their set, and their movements were constantly energetic.

As for the music, it pretty much as powerful as on the albums. Although I kind of fail to see the point of including the DJ aside from maintaining the character, there were some slight differences here and there. Of course Yolandi and Ninja couldn’t replicate their vocal performances perfectly but they did with tons of vigor and the volume made up for the loss in production quality. Yolandi’s voice in particular often brought back memories of my last concert experience with Blood Ceremony’s flautist.

I think they mostly stuck to songs from Ten$ion, but they did hit a bunch of the great ones from $O$ and ended the show with Beat Boy and Enter the Ninja, which were both pretty bangin’. It was about an hour all told, which was alright with me as it allowed me to catch the metro before it closed.

This was my first rave show, and my second hip-hop show, although my first was MC Lars so I don’t think it really counts. Definitely a new experience for me. I didn’t really participate much aside from a bit of head-banging (what else is a metalhead to do?), but I think I got the drift. Probably not going to attend many similar things. Unless it’s Die Antwoord again.

11 February 2012

The Muppets / Chronicle

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Thanks to my parents I grew up watching stuff like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, so while I didn’t actually see much of the Muppet Show, I still have a pretty good nostalgia level for these characters. However, after seeing some of the later films like Muppets in Space or whatever, I think some of that wore off, and kind of preempted any interest I would have had in this one. So I didn’t see it until last night, because doing stuff with friends is fun. I got to see it at the Arlington Draft House n’ Cinema which was pretty neat. Ate some chicken.

I’ll cut to the quick. It’s a good, entertaining movie that relies very heavily on nostalgia and cameos. The whole concept of the thing is of course getting the gang back together and all that, which is fine, but it’s missing something that the first films had. There’s also the new muppet character who is having an identity crisis in tandem with his somehow human brother played by Jason Segal, but even though it starts the real main storyline it eventually seems to become unimportant.

It was definitely fun to see all the cool people in it though, and as I said, it’s entertaining. Lots of funny bits. I like Amy Adams. Chicken tastes good.

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I only started hearing about Chronicle a month or so ago, I think. Kept myself from watching and trailers. Similarly to my experience with The Skin I Live In, I went into it knowing very little; all I knew was it features some kids/teens who somehow gained some sort of telekinetic powers. I’m totally down with that. I’ll try not to go too far in depth on this.

It is in fact about three high-school seniors who find something weird in a cave and then gain the power to move things with their minds, among other things. The rest of the film is an examination of how having this power affects their lives and friendships without getting into any real sort of superhero nonsense. It’s all very believable and emotionally effective. There were some bits (thankfully not too many) that resonated pretty hard with me. Some of that watery stuff came out of my eye-holes near the end.

If you liked Heroes before it sucked, enjoy Misfits, or saw something to like in Kick-Ass or Super, then you should definitely see this movie. If you’ve ever dreamed of flying, you should see this movie. If you are a human, you should probably go see it. What I’m saying here is that it’s really good.

05 February 2012

The Grey

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Here’s yet another movie that was advertised in such a way as to cheapen the content and make it more appealing to the broader audience of people who just want to see Liam Neeson punch some wolves. That said, I don’t know if it would be doing as well as it is if they’d gone the more honest route. It’s been getting great reviews from pretty much everybody though so that’s a good pull if the general public actually pays attention to that.

Even though the trailer is a lie, The Grey does employ some common horror/action movie cliches, such as plane crashes and a bunch of people getting picked off one by one; but that’s just superficial to the real soul of the film. It’s about this guy played by Liam Neeson who’s pretty much ready to give up on everything, but in the face of a force outside of his control, his human survival instinct kicks in and makes him a leader. The rest of the cast is far from the incidental cannon fodder of elimination-style horror movies too; they all seem like real people rather than one-note stereotypes, and even the ones with the most limited screen time leave a lasting impression.

Lately I’ve grown to love action movies with a lot of breathing room, e.g. Drive, and this is definitely one of those. It’s hard to run in the snow and the wolves don’t even show up that much anyway. Much of the movie is just discussion of how doomed these people are, and it’s great. The action scenes are quite good too.

It’s a very human movie. Humanistic I’d say. There’s a somewhat pronounced element of religious questioning and relying on oneself instead of a distant god, and it really works quite well without going too far for semi-religious people to accept, I think. Neeson’s descriptions of his idea of what happens when you die seem starkly poetic.

It’s definitely not a perfect movie though. The whole thing with the wolves couldn’t really be done right without real wolves, and the animatronic/cg solution they came up with is just kind of embarrassing in parts. That said, the whole thing with people getting upset about the portrayal of the wolves as unstoppable death machines is pretty darn wrong. Neeson’s character explains several times that they are basically in the animal’s den and are therefore seen as much more of a threat than normal.

It’s good. You might not want to see it right now if you’ve got a flight coming up though.