Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

I understand that with most summer blockbusters, one shouldn’t expect a classy piece of cinematic genius, specifically from Michael Bay. Mr. Bay’s found a tried and true formula to his seasonal epics: downplay the plot, blow a lot of stuff up, and throw in some cheap gags. 2007’s "Transformers" was an enjoyable summer flick, with all the easy laughs and over-the-top action I expected for seven bucks. I entered the theatre at midnight this Wednesday ready for nothing but another trip full of inane and mindless entertainment of incredible proportions.

But somewhere between giant robot testicles and Shia taking a quick
trip to robot heaven, it was all just a little too much.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" continues the ongoing war between the peace-seeking Autobots and the true-to-their-title Decepticons. It’s been two years since the events of the last film, and Optimus and crew have joined the U.S. military to battle their nasty counterparts across the globe. The Decepticons are on the hunt for the remaining pieces of the AllSpark to restore their leader Megatron, who in turn will help restore his leader The Fallen, an ancient bot who was stopped from activating a machine that would absorb the sun and wipeout life on Earth. Meanwhile, Sam (Shia LeBeouf) touches a piece of the AllSpark, engraving its knowledge into his mind and driving him slightly insane. While dealing with his temporary bouts with madness, he’s balancing his relationship with Makaela (Megan Fox) and attempting to fit in at his first year in college… and that’s just the half of it.

Yeah, it’s convoluted, even for a two- and a half-hour plus movie. When it comes down to it, though, very few are piling into the theaters to see Sam and Makaela’s relationship evolve or how the Autobots feel about their assigned positions of guardians of Earth. Bay knows this, so he doesn’t bother with any character development or background. The first movie set up characters and at least attempted to give them some depth. Here, everyone’s one-dimensional enough so you can tell who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s comedic relief from the get-go.

"Comedic relief" is a term I use loosely, though. In the first flick of the planned trilogy, jokes were maybe a little over fifty-fifty hit-or-miss. For a high-budget, summer blockbuster, that’s pretty good. The sequel warrants more laughs from poor acting and ridiculous moments than it does from planned bits. Case in point, Sam’s parents. The two got a majority of laughs in the first film from their horribly awkward yet, at times, identifiable banter. Here, Sam’s mom purchases and ingests a pot-brownie before tackling an unaware Frisbee thrower. Wacky, wacky, wacky! And also fairly unfunny. Perhaps the worst attempts at humor comes from the Twins, two new Autobots that speak in ebonics, throw in obscenities because it's edgy, and, from a CGI standpoint, looking absolutely terrible. By throwing in some breaks for laughs, it’s clear Bay expected the audience to lose it when one Twin tells Sam’s frightened roommate, "You a pussy," and the other advises him to "run to [his] boyfriend." Even better, these guys receive the most screen time compared to all the other bots. Awesome!

Bay must’ve taken notice when fans complained about how "Transformers" only had a handful of robots in it. The number of Autobots and Decepticons is nearly tripled. However, we never really learn a single thing about most of these new guys (save for two) and most seem pretty generic. Example: All this hype about the behemoth that is Devestator? The ultimate, gigantic bad ass of epic proportions that’s been teased since the sequel was announced? Pulling a Venom, he’s in it for a solid ten minutes and SPOILER ALERT gets taken out by one-shot from a human weapon END SPOILER. How anticlimactic.

At the very least, they look nice.

Visually speaking, the movie ranges from stunning to cheesy. Some of the clashes between the giant bots are a thrill to see. "Transformers 2" heeds the criticism of the first movie’s fights which often times left the viewer confused and clueless as to who was fighting and what has happening. This time, the camera’s pulled back a bit, and we get to see these technological monstrosities’ bouts of fisticuffs in full, breathtaking glory. On the other hand, you have the phoned-in effects of the Twins and several other unimportant bots. It’s not a huge deal; it’s just disappointing how great some aspects of the movie’s visuals are, yet others remain so horribly flawed.

From a technical standpoint (as if anyone going to see this movie cares), both the cinematography and sound are lacking. Expect the typical Bay shots: dramatic 360 spins, angles accentuating Fox's assests, etc. The editing at times is laughable, and it seems no one in the theater could understand what bots were saying half the time. Could've just been the system here, or it could be a giant mistake by the crew.

The movie clocks in around two- and a half-hours, and it FEELS like two- and a half-hours. The first flick, with all its major flaws, at least kept me captivated to the end when I saw it in theaters. This time around, I kept checking my phone every ten minutes, hoping that the whole thing would come to its sloppy conclusion soon.

It’s not near as entertaining as it’s predecessor, but this sequel is not without its merits. Let’s just hope that cast and crew get it together for the inevitable, "epic" conclusion.

"Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" receives a Thin Frenchman.

Coming in the next day or two: Reviews of "Fanboys" and "Year One"

Monday, June 1, 2009

He's Back (And So Are We, Maybe)

Ok, enough boring shit on this blog.

Jay Reatard dropped a new single the other day (available as a free download at Matador) and lemme tell you, it may be the catchiest song he's ever written. Without betraying his noisy original Memphis punk sound, Jay brings a song to the table with all kinds of hooks and turnarounds that is sure to expand his audience. But by the end it leaves me wondering if he really he "really don't give a shit."

Boring shit terminated.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MGMT... haha, Sarkozy. Haha...

Who blatantly broke copyright laws and then was a total dick about it?

MGMT: "It was totally Frenchie, over there!"
Sarkozy: "Yeah, it was me... I'll give you a Euro; would that help?"
MGMT: "No, jackass! I'm gonna shoot you with this bow
and arrow. Then we're gonna sue you for forty Gs!!"

Here's part of the original story:
And here's what broke today:

It would seem France loses another one.
On a side note, does this mean America's music industry is more powerful than the French government? Probably not, but maybe.

Message posted on MGMT's website:
"We did not want to be 'typical Americans' and sue, despite the amazing monetary benefit and chinchilla coats and Navigators it would bring, instead we are using the settlement fee the UMP presented and donating it to artists' rights organizations."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tastes Like Kevin Bacon

if you have a weak constitution towards grindcore,
please move along;
if you can stomach it, you'll find this to be more than entertaining.

(or at least stick around until :17)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Top 5 Big, See-able Movies of 2008

1. The Wrestler
I haven't actually seen this yet, but any film that can get producers and directors as well as his fellow actors to stop spitting on Mickey Rourke has to be on my list. And if it strokes my childhood obsession with professional wrestling goes straight to the top... Plus, it looks different from any other movie out and I've heard it's pretty good.

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This was probably the saddest I've ever been through an entire movie; the general focus of the picture is death and was crafted with such a lonesome quality. It wraps a bunch of interesting little stories into a single, big one and manages to stay pretty simple. Most of the complications in the actual production weren't in the camera angles and shots but in the cosmetics and effects added to the actors. The make-up and graphics artists deserve the Oscar for making a 7 year-old Brad Pitt look like an 80 year-old man. Despite that, David Fincher's seventh big-screen production is beautifully shot and vaguely reminiscent of his previous films (Se7en, Fight Club). I saw it twice... not a common thing for me.

3. Rock'N'Rolla
Not quite the Guy Ritchie we first loved, but damn close. Ignoring the whole Madonna mess, it embodies the same fantastic visuals he's known for but lacks the strange, esoteric story line of his recent work. It's quick, smart, funny, and spectacularly contrived.

4. The Dark Knight
Sigh... just see it. It's Batman and the Joker. Don't make me explain it, just see it.

5. Bank Job
A clever heist. We get a sensitive Jason Statham here who doesn't really show his athletic skill until the end, where he befriends a brick in quite a satisfying manner. Very easy, and fun to watch, this movie is exciting but but barely makes the Top 5 list.

Honorable Mentions
(It's only coincidence that they're all based on true stories)

Milk- It's sweet, but it's also Sean Penn. I'm tired of Sean Penn, aren't you?
Miracle At St. Anna- Spike Lee may have tried to hard.
The Changeling- Clint Eastwood has gotten really good at making dark, desperate films

Movies to Not See

The Happening- Just a sad recreation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Another sad recreation, Keanu Reeves captures the robotic quality of the original movie.

Funny Games- Just weird... Pretentious Nautica models get bored and terrorize a family. It's kind of pretty and has some really intense moments, but overall just feels like a waste of time.

Mama Mia- Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA and Meryl Streep condoning it.

Biggest Disappointments

The Day the Earth Stood Still- see above
The Happening- see above
Ironman- A comic made far too commercial in order to make money
Quantum of Solace- Too short, lacking plot
Max Payne- A video game story was cut to pieces to make a movie
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- Southpark said it all I think

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hard Knock Life in a Glass House

I’m a sucker for mash-ups, especially if they’re cheesy.
Like any other college rock enthusiast, I love Radiohead.
At the drop of a hat, I will recite “99 Problems” in full.

As such, Jaydiohead is everything I could ask for. New York deejay Minty Fresh Beats has added himself to the outrageously long list of mixers who cross Jay-Z with artists that they probably shouldn’t (The Beatles, Pavement, Beethoven). The trend continues when the mastermind behind The Black Album is thrown against the geniuses responsible for classics such as Kid A, OK Computer, and In Rainbows. As awkward and clumsy as this may sound initially, it surprisingly works out well. Very well.

To begin, this album is not an incredible piece of music. It’s another mash-up prominently featuring cuts from The Black Album, and it will not redefine the way you look at either artist. Regardless, it’s still an enjoyable distraction full of songs that are just to fun to listen to. Jay-Z is the star here when it comes to vocals. Minty Fresh puts a heavy emphasis on Mr. Carter’s fluid lyrics, usually only incorporating Yorke as backing vocals or for the occasional chorus. Radiohead’s front man has an even more ethereal sound here than normal, adding a cold, haunting resonance to many of the tracks. The real surprise here is how well the band’s music fits with hip-hop verses. This is made abundantly clear from the beginning as the album opens with “Wrong Prayer” and possibly shines brightest on “Lucifer’s Jigsaw.” With this set and the recent mix between “Reckoner” and Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” (also not as terrible as it sounds), perhaps Radiohead’s discography will become the new Black Album in terms of mash-up popularity. Okay, let’s not hold our breaths.

Unlike most mash up attempts, tracks actually sound good together. Absent are segments so mismatched and forced that they completely remove one from the music. The two selected cuts blend together smoothly and naturally, with only a handful of minor mistakes along the way. Some will find slight faults with the ham-fisted way Yorke’s “yeah” right before the refrain in “Dirt Off Your Android” is tossed in. Others may call foul on the slight edits to songs, most notably the timing of “15 Step.” These people should realize that Jaydiohead is nothing to be taken overly seriously.

All of the tracks have an interesting sound, and my top two or three change after every listen. At the moment, however, “Change Order” reigns supreme. While a melancholy guitar plays out, Jay-Z gives a rundown of his crime and drug expertise while Thom Yorke chimes in with the chorus, “A couple more for breakfast / A little more for tea / Just to take the edge off.” As said, don’t go in expecting groundbreaking things, but enjoy these different approaches to old favorites. This set of remixes is the ultimate Jay-Z/rock mix (apologies too all you die-hard Collision Course fans out there, all four of you). All ten tracks are available downloadable and free at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another List, Yo.

Think you were done reading 2008 year-end lists? Not quite! Here’s the rundown of my three favorites from a great year of tunes.

1. Dear Science, - TV on the Radio
Rolling Stone is getting some stuff right these days, and one of them is putting TV on the Radio’s most accessible album to date at the tip-top. For years I had been wondering when I would have my first experience listening to a masterpiece album when it dropped, and Dear Science, provided the opportunity. Tunde’s “Ba-ba-bas” on “Halfway Home” signal an album loaded with singalongs sure to fail as fans attempt to create the hauntingly beautiful voices of Tunde Adembimpe and Kyp Malone. “Family Tree,” my favorite song of 2008, moved me almost to tears from the ethereal piano and perfect place shaker beat. Its line “cozy red rainbows” is one of the most interesting bits of imagery I have heard in today’s popular music. The album ends with a bang, literally. Malone’s song “Lover’s Day,” is a song lyrically about fucking, and a march-worthy tune to back it up.

2. In the Future - Black Mountain
Being a sucker for some good Psychedelia, I loved Black Mountain’s In the Future. Listen up, Zeppelin fans, if you haven’t heard this record yet, I’d highly recommend it. Stephen McBean’s songwriting is the basis for a band that knows how to flesh out a song. Dazzling key work and intense drums keep the record sounding full during the balls to wall rock and roll Black Mountain can create. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the sound is Amber Webber’s soulful, pleading voice. Its eerie beauty propels this record to heights of beauty, and high on my list (“Highs” seem to be a motif and creative tool for the members of Black Mountain).

3. Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
Despite the scrutiny, the soul inspired LP from MMJ this year proves to be one of the most forward moving pieces of rock, while getting in touch with the “golden age of music.” A nearly immediate starkness is the funk-metal song “Highly Suspicious.” Carl Broemel provides the throat-shredding titular chorus while Jim James does some Prince inspired squeals. Its oddball sound can alienate some devotees, but seeing the track live solidifies it as a misunderstood piece of Rock & Roll gold. There is familiar territory for MMJ in this release as well, as in “Aluminum Park,” which could be a stripped down version of a track off Z. The eight-minute disco closer is one of the best tracks James and Co. have put out, and makes for a great outro for my number three album of 2008.

These albums, in my opinion, rocked the harder than most other albums released this past year (except for Chinese Democracy, of course). Also, it kind of pains me not to put Fleet Foxes, Jay Reatard, and the Hold Steady on here, but that just gives an example of how good 2008 was for new music.