Tuesday, February 10, 2009

a slew of movies

It's been a bit since my last post and I have seen a bunch of movies since the last post; part of this is because I got rid of my cable, and the other part of that is I ummmm, cough, saw some movies, wink, for free, wink wink, on this set of tubes called the internets. These are tough economic times, and a movie lover like myself has to do what he has to do in order to take in all of these movies. Listen, I subscribe to netflix, buy tons of movies, see tons of movies every year, so this is my justification for using the tubes of the internet to see some films. Anyhow, the first film I shall review, I actually plunked down $13 freaking dollars to see! Why was it $13? Well, apparently the fact that it was in 3D and I got some crappy plastic glasses means that it costs more. So, here is my reveiw of Coraline. In the next few days I will also review The Wrestler, which you should run out and see now, and I will do my review of an older movie, that I happened upon again and I forgot how awesome it was and that movie was Brick. So without further adieu, lets get to it punks.

Corraline is yet another incredible creation from the genius that is Henry Selik, who gave us the Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride to name a few. The true triumph is that a film using stop motion animation was even made in this day and age of all cgi films, and the attention to detail and love in every frame really shines through. If you can see this film in 3D, run out and do it in the next few weeks, because it truly is an amazing thing and wholly engrossing experience.

Coraline doesn't only just look good, but is a great story to boot. Here we have a childrens tale, that doesn't pull any punches and is actually a bit scary and dark. I love the fact that this movie dares to go to some of the scary places it does and that it gives kids credit for what they can handle, rather than pander to them with fart jokes and silly songs.

The story of Coraline isn't very complicated. It is really reminiscent of Alice In Wonder Land, where a young girl discover a hidden world. Coraline has moved to a new apartment with her parents that pay no attention to her because they are busy wrapped up in their work. Coraline discovers a secret door, that has a hole to a new world where everything she longs for comes true. She has her "other parents" there, and they play with her, and give her their full attention. Not only do her parents love, pay attention to her and play with her, but the world is full of magic gardens, neighbors who put on elaborate plays for audiences full of dogs, and another neighbor that has a circus of trained, acrobatic mice. All of the sequences in the other world is where the movie really shines, bursting with imagination and incredible characters and creatures. Of course all is not what it seems, and there is a dark undertone to all that goes on in the other world, including the fact that all of the characters which populate the world have buttons sewed in place of their eyes, which Coraline's other mother also wants her to do.

Look, there is really no need to go further into the plot details. You know whether you want to see this type of movie or not. If you enjoyed Henry Selick's other movies and you like the writer, Neil Gaiman, then this is a home run for you. My only real quibbles with the movie overall is there was a little too much exposition up front, it doesn't spend enough time in the truly magical other world, and when the shit hits the fan in the end and we find out what is really going on, it wraps up just a little too easily. These are minor problems in a truly beautiful and fun movie. This is a kids movie, but it definitely isn't so lowbrow that adults also can also love it as well. Seriously, go see this in 3D while you still have the chance because it will only be in 3D for the next few weeks. I really enjoyed myself in this one and it was great escape, that took me back to my childhood for a few hours.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Top 10 Continued

So here is the rest of my top 10 list, with my favorite 5 records of the year. It is a little late, but oh well. Also, I am feeling a little lazy, so I really don't deconstruct any of the music here, just kind of give my feelings and a brief description. Enjoy.

#5. The Melvins: Nude With Boots On - What is there to say about The Melvins that hasn't been said before? Well, they have like 100 albums and yet here they are, still rocking our asses off as hard as ever. All the hallmarks of The Melvins are here, huge guitars and bass, thunderous drums, and Buzz screeching, singing and growling away. If you've never heard this band, you are missing out. If you are a fan of stoner rock, hard rock or a big guitar sound then you owe it to yourself to check out this record. I know it was an inspiration for me when writing songs for Black Sleep Of Kali and they have inspired countless others I am sure. The Melvins tread a fine line between pop and heavy, which makes them much more accessible than other bands in their genre.

Bonnie Prince Billy: Lie Down In The Light - Will Oldham is a genius. He seriously releases records at a mad pace, and they are always interesting, if not wholly engrossing. Lie Down In The Light is a country, bluegrass, folk, gospel and even Americana inspired album; and what I mean by that is that many of these elements make up the whole of a truly great record. As I was traveling this year, I think this is the record that I put on the most. There is something comforting about it to me that I just can't really put my finger on. As with much of Oldham's music, it truly evokes a mood, which I think is a truly special talent. So I will grab a beer, you grab a jug of whatever grain alcohol you like, and we will head out on the porch to watch the fireflies while listening to Lie Down In The Light.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Dig Lazarus Dig - Nick Cave in recent years has seemed to get even more menacing and rock and roll than in his youth, which is a great thing for fans of Nick Cave. Dig Lazarus Dig is the sound of a fire and brimstone preacher giving a sermon about sex, love and death; all while being very literary and actually using words that I had to look up - and I am an english major. If you heard Cave's other project Grinderman last year, then you have an idea of what is in store with Dig Lazarus Dig. Many of these songs are straight forward rock and rollers, but each track seems to be alive with background noises and little touches that actually add to the ambiance of the songs, rather than distract from them. Conjuring up images from the bible, to the ruined American dream, Cave and crew have crafted one of the best records in their long and kick ass career. I listened to this album so much, that I almost, or may have ruined it for my wife.

Constantines: Kensington Heights: I have been saying it for years and I will say it again; the Constantines are the most underrated band around today. Hailing from Canada, the Constantines play a brand of frantic indie rock and straight up rock and roll that has a sense of urgency and energy many bands try to capture and fail. Now this isn't my favorite Constantines record, but it is still is awesome enough to be number two on my list. Think of the Constanti
nes like this: if Bruce Springsteen played indie rock and was from Canada, then you may get an idea of their sound. Another description that I think would suit the Constantines is punk arena rock. My only complaint about this album and the band in general, is for some reason, on every record, they let one of their band mates sing, who isn't the main vocalist, and he blows; really, he is terrible. Why even let the guy sing when the main vocalist has such an incredible voice? Anyhow, The Constantines kick major ass, go listen and enjoy.

Torche Meanderthal - All bow down before the mighty Torche!!!! I love this band and this record so much. It is the perfect combo of stoner rock heaviness, mixed with pop melodies. I wrote about this record earlier in the year on my blog and will repost my review here for you to enjoy once again......

So Torche's new album Meanderthal has been out for a while, but I felt compelled, nay I felt crushed by awesome metal pop riffage to review this record here and now. I can't stop listening to this juggernaut of a record. I thought that Torche's last album was pretty decent, but nothing prepared me for the leap forward they took here. Metal purists may disagree with me, but metal purist can go huff glue in the corner and keep lamenting the death of Cliff Burton while sewing their latest Slayer patch to their denim jackets. Me on the other hand, I will move on while listening to incredibly awesome riffage, melded with a pop sensibility that Torche has created on my favorite record in a long time -- the MIGHTY MEANDERTHAL! Torche was know previously for their infamous "bomb note" and sludgy riffs; the bomb note being an ultra down tuned top string, that when struck produced an epic sonic sludge, that was more of an earthquake than a note (I previously thought it was produced through a whammy pedal, but my pal Morgan gave me the real scoop). They still use the bomb note here, so don't get your panties in a bunch.

Torche blazes through 13 incredible tracks on Meanderthal. Barely pausing, this album's first six tracks fly by at a breakneck speed, with not one of the first six tracks topping three minutes. Each song is balanced nicely with vocal melodies, huge riffs, and even some pop hooks, which is why some metal purist may dismiss the album. It's strange, because the album still has plenty to offer the headbanger, but in the mix is a real pop sensibility. The first six songs are more in the sludge or metal vein, but on the sixth track titled Healer, something you don't see much in metal happens: there are "woah oh's" thrown in. Yup. Woah oh, woah oh. It works though. The "woah oh" vocals really signal a shift in the album; they come at the end of the song, but going forward the record has a distinctly different feel and sound. The seventh track, Across the Shield, is where a real shift in the album takes place, and this is the point where I expect the metal purist to really scratch their long-haired, greasy heads. Is this a metal band? It is still metal, but the rest of the album seems a little more straightforward rock, in the vein of the Smashing Pumpkins, Helmet or even Foo Fighters. This is a good thing in my opinion. Torche is still able to retain their huge sound and heaviness, while adding real hooks and well thought out melodies to each song.

I would recommend this record to just about anyone who enjoys hard rock, which is not something I would do with a lot of other "metal" bands. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love metal; but most metal bands don't have these kind of tricks in their bags so to speak. I will listen to Gaza, Slayer or Mastodon till the cows come home because they are so brutally heavy, but that type of music isn't for everyone; maybe Torche isn't for everyone either, but I could see them have a much broader appeal than many other metal bands.

Torche is truly a dynamic band, and if you are still pissing and moaning about their new direction, then you need to see them live. Although they have moved in a poppy direction, these songs will still punish you right to the core in a live setting and rattle around in your skull, like any good metal band should. All I can say is this album rules my fucking face and if you don't like it then you have terrible taste in music and you should be ashamed to voice your opinions in public.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 10 Albums Of The Year - First 5

So here is my obligatory top 10 list. Here are the first 5 and I will put up the top 5 tomorrow. My top 10 movies will be on it's way soon.

#10. The Night Marchers: See You In Magic - A burst of good old high octane rock and roll. A few members of the best band of the last 10 years, the Hot Snakes, make up this San Diego rock outfit. Night Marchers sound like a less harsh version of Rocket From The Crypt, which makes sense since Speedo from Rocket From The Crypt is the singer\guitar player for this band. If you are familiar with either the Hot Snakes or RFTC then you have an idea of what this will sound like. If you don't know those bands then think greasy, gritty rock and roll with campy lyrics. What's not to like?

#9. Saviours: Into Abbadon - Thrash metal! Fuck yes. If you like galloping metal, mixed with a stoner rock groove, and don't mind a singer who sings in the same bark, drone type of yell, then you will love the Saviours latest opus Into Abbadon. The subject matter is your standard metal fair, destruction of the earth, evil beasts, drugs and whatnot, but when you are metal, what else is there to sing about? There is something about this record that really takes me back to the early, early Metallica days when they were awesome, but it isn't straight forward Metallica; it's as if Metallica also listened to a shitload of Black Sabbath. To top it off, these dudes slay live and are happen to be super nice gents to boot. I love this record, and if you like metal, then you should too. Bang your head!

#8. Earth: The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull - Earth's latest is definitely not something I can listen to on a constant basis, but when you are in the mood for super, super slow, western tinged drone, then it really doesn't get better than Earth. This latest offering gives the listener a huge soundscape to take in, with lots of interesting textures, set to a few repeating, reverb laden riffs. If you were ever to do lots of drugs and you just wanted to space out and stare at the wall while you sink into the carpet, then there is no other record to listen to during your trip. If you are looking for the huge, fuzzed out sounds of Earth's past records, then skip this. Everything on this record is shimmering clean, with a real Americana, gospel, old west feel. Guitars shimmer, organs blare, and the drums march slowly on. It is a really interesting record from a band that continues to redefine themselves in new, but slow ways.

#7. Everest: Ghost Notes - I had not heard about this band until recently, and since downloading Everest's first album, I can't stop listening. Made up of former members of Sebadoah and John Vanderslice, Everest play a classic rock\indie rock hybrid along the lines of Wilco mixed with some Neil Young; since Wilco and Neil Young are among my favorite artists, you can see why I would love Everest. The first half of the album is a nice mix of mellow rock songs, while the second half is a little more upbeat and reminds me of Crazy Horse. If you are a fan of good, mellow rock, then throw this one on and you will not be disappointed. I could really see my dad being into this, which is a good thing because my dad has awesome taste. In my mind I can see this being played on a good summer road trip. I can't wait to hear more from Everest.

Spiritualized: Songs In A & E - Jason Pierce has done it once again folks; here is yet another epic rock record, using the wall of sound to full effect, all the while retaining a haunting beauty. The description is a bit trite, but I feel it is pretty accurate. This is Spiritualized's first record in five years, and it yet again builds upon a solid back catalog. I would be so bold as to say this is their best record yet in a career filled with awesome records. Here you have gospel infused rock epics, with full orchestra backing, and tons of spaced out fuzz and reverb, yet there are some really subdued and beautiful tunes here. If you have never heard Spiritualized before, this is the perfect place to start. If you love rock, then you need to check this one out now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A few items of business

So, there are a few things I want to address quickly. First off, a few people have asked me about getting a link to the review of Water Power, an exploitation film reviewed over at chud.com, one of my favorite movie news sites. Here is a direct link to that article http://chud.com/articles/16097/1/CHUDSPLOITATION-WATER-POWER/Page1.html. Read that and enjoy.

Also, don't know if everyone knows yet, and this is completely non-film related, but...I AM GONNA BE A DAD! That's right! Apparently my junk is not broken. The little shit machine is due around June 20, 2009. Hooray for me! Kendyl, my wife, has been sick for the better part of two months, and I am now a slave to her every whim. I figure it is the least I can do for her. I am glad I am not a women. Pregnancy does not look fun. 

Anyhow, there are some really cool films coming out near the end of the month, such as the new Fincher film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Ron Howard's, Frost\Nixon; Aronofsky's, The Wrestler and more. I will perform my due diligence and review these films for you, because hey, I don't have a job, what else am I gonna do?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire Is A Triumph!!

You heard it here folks, Slumdog Millionaire is Danny Boyle's best movie since Trainspotting. Boyle's latest film in lesser hands could have come off as trite and cheesy, but Boyle has really pulled off a major feat by taking what seems at first like a silly premise and turning it into a tale about hope, struggle and enduring love that is truly touching and special. 

Now I don't want to get into spoiler territory with this review, because it is a film I think people should go into not knowing all the twist and turns. Slumdog Millionaire is the tale of a young Indian boy named Jamal who is a contestant on the Indian version of the television show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  He has earned more money than any other contestant in the history of the show and has become a national icon and inspiration in the process.  The beginning of the movie starts with Jamal being accused of cheating his way to success on the gameshow. No one believes that this poor orphan, that grew up in the slums and the streets of Mumbai, can know all of the answers to these questions that well educated Doctors and Professors can't even answer correctly. Subsequently he is arrested and accused of cheating. What we are shown as Jamal is being questioned by the police are a series of flashbacks telling the tale of his life, from a small child to the present day. Each questions that he answers actually ties back to a significant moment in his life, and we soon learn that all of the questions he knows the answers to, he knows because of his unique life experience.  

The real power of Slumdog Millionaire lies in the telling of Jamal and his brother Salim's tragic childhood. The brothers become orphans in the slums at a young age. Left to fend for themselves they befriend other orphans, suffer at the hands of people trying to exploit them, lie, cheat, steal and do whatever they have to do to survive. The night the boys are orphaned Jamal even finds the love of his life when the two brothers befriend another young orphan named Latika; Latika is the key to the heart of Slumdog Millionaire. Jamal instantly falls in love with her, and when the two brothers and Latika become separated after escaping from the bonds of child slavery, he spends all of his time trying to find her and find out what happened to her.

What is really special about this movie is that Boyle had the stones to actually shoot the entire film in India, with unknown (at least to American audiences) actors, and to show audiences a side of life in another country that they may not want to see or that may be hard to watch at times. Jamal, Salim and Latika do not have an easy life. It is a life where you would expect them all to turn out as criminals, which Salim does. In one particularly brutal scene of child abuse, I could hear a middle aged women behind me in the theatre mutter three or four times, "oh this is just awful, this is just terrible." I have to agree with her about the scene being hard to watch, but just because something is terrible or hard to watch, does that then mean we shouldn't be shown it? I think it is a good thing to show audiences, especially American audiences who in many cases, lead such a privileged life, may not be confronted with conditions like the ones depicted in this film. Maybe it will move people to actually try to do something for once and break out of the little, sheltered world they live in and acknowlege and identify with the struggles of other human beings. Sorry, I went off on a little mini rant there.

Anyhow, we are shown the life of Jamal, Salim and Latika from the time they are small children, all the way up to their late teen or early twenties. We also see where Jamal is getting all his answers from and we learn, and the police questioning him learn, that he is indeed not cheating. At one point in the film Jamal does find his old friend and lost love Latika, only to be tragically separated from her again. He is crushed, but ever the optimist, he comes up with a new way to find out where she is. He gets on the television show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire because he knows Latika loves the show and he hopes that she will see him on TV and seek him out. What transpires to bring them together in the end is truly inspirational. Slumdog Millionaire not only turns out to be a love story, but a story of the underdog who triumphs against all odds, and not bullshit odds like in some lame sports movies, but real odds, with a real life and death struggle to survive. 

What I have failed to mention up to this point is that the film really feels alive with energy and a sense of place. You come to know India and the people of India during the course of the movie and you also identify with them. Slumdog also happens to be really funny, with one scene in particular where Jamal does everything in his power to meet his hero who is an Indian action star; the scenes is both disgusting, yet extremely hilarious at the same time.

Boyle has crafted a universal movie that really will melt the heart of the most jaded cynic and is in my opinion, his greatest movie to date. There have been some truly inspirational movies this year and Slumdog Millionaire along with Man On Wire are really life affirming pieces of art that I highly recommend to anyone and everyone. Yes there are some scenes that are hard to stomach, but the journey the viewer takes along the way with Jamal, Salim and Latika is well worth the ride in the end. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reviews in short: Let The Right One In & Role Models

So recently I have seen several movies that have been out for a while. They have been reviewed to death already, so I am going to do what I call reviews in short. Basically each review will be short and sweet, tell you a little about the movie, and I will tell you whether I recommend it or not. With that being said, lets get right to this shit punks.

Let The Right One In
My first review in short will be the Swedish coming of age\vampire flick Let The Right One In. If you've read anything at all about this film it has been getting rave reviews. The problem anytime a film has such amazing word of mouth is it is almost always sure to disappoint on some level or another. I went in with such high expectations for this movie that they of course failed to be met. With that out of the way I will say that Let The Right One In is a new spin on the vampire tale, has some very haunting and beautiful imagery and most importantly, the performances by the child actors are incredible.

Let The Right One in is about a grade school boy who is bullied and has no friends. A small girl moves in next door who happens to be a vampire.  The main problem people will have with this film is the pacing, which is very deliberate and a bit slow. Toward the end of the movie I found myself thinking about its running time rather than being wrapped on up in what was happening on screen. I sound like I am bagging on it, but it was a really good flick. There are a few mind blowing scenes that will stick with you long after you have left the theatre and I was happy to see some brutal vampire action rather than namby pamby Twilight, pretty boy bullshit.

If you are interested in seeing a really interesting movie, with an original spin on the vampire tale, then Let The Right One in is definitely up your alley. It is almost more of a coming of age story, that just happens to be framed within the confines of a vampire tale. 

If you don't like foreign films and don't like movies that are a little on the slow side then I would sit this one out. Also, if you are one of those people that discount foreign films, then you probably aren't reading my blog, but if you are then all I have to say is piss off and broaden your horizons already you heathen.

Let The Right One In is definitely recommended. I have never given ratings before on The Upper Crust and I am not going to start here, but I will say that I would definitely see this one again.

Role Models
Role Models truly surprised me. I went in expecting to have a few laughs, but I had no idea that I was going to like it as much as I did. Basically whether you like Role Models or not will boil down to a few things. First off, do you like the Apatow brand of humor? If the answer is no then you suck at life, but if you don't like the whole Apatow-verse, then you wont like Role Models. It is vulgar, awesomely offensive and has tits. Now, do you like Paul Rudd? If you do, then see Role Models because he co-wrote the movie and stars in it. Next, do you enjoy little kids swearing a lot and people poking fun of Live Action Role Playing? Next on the checklist is David Wain who directed the film, who also starred in The State, plus wrote and directed Wet Hot American Summer; ask yourself, do you like him? Did you like wet hot American Summer? If you like any of these things to a certain degree, then you definitely should check Role Models. 

The supporting cast of Role Models are hilarious, with the standouts being the children and the always amazing Jayne Lynch (Best In Show, 40 Year Old Virgin). Again, as with Let The Right One In, we have a great set of child actors. For me child actors can truly ruin a movie and both of the main child actors in Role Models were funny as shit. 

So, to wrap this all up, I was really surprised I liked Role Models as much as I did. As I once said to some friends and have been endlessly mocked about it ever since, I will purchase this movie and watch this it frequently. If you like laughing and good times, then check it out. If you are a heartless bastard who just wants to sit around watching Irreversible and Requiem For a Dream all day, then skip this one  and do us all a favor by taking a leap off a tall building.

Monday, November 3, 2008


So I visit chud.com on almost a daily basis for movie news, reviews and more. It is my favorite movie based website and has some amazing writers and reviewers, and I generally almost always trust their opinions on films. Right now they have a pretty incredible review for a disgusting sounding exploitation movie called Water Power that is about some lunatic that rapes and gives enemas to women. It was made by some porn director in the 70's and was funded by the mob. It sounds like an absolutely disgusting piece of cinema and apparently it is super hard to find. I mention it only because it was an intriguing read and to get the word out about one of my favorite sites. Like I said, they always have interesting things to say and great recommendations. So go check out the review of Water Power and peruse their site for a lot of great content. Here is the link www.chud.com.