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.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

April 13

Mates of State & Black Kids

4/13/09 Kansas City, MO

Beaumont Club

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Quest For Every Beard Type

Just so you know, if you didn't already (and if you did, just to reiterate), is possibly the best waste of one's time... besides Moustache Salad.

Check this:

I know I will be following this quest.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Think About It.

100: The Odd Couple – Gnarls Barkley
99: Konk – The Kooks
98: Everything Is Borrowed – The Streets
97: The Age of Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets
96: Stainless State – Neon Neon
95: Rising Down – The Roots
94: Blessed Be Our Ever After - Burden Of A Day
93: Donkey - CSS
92: You And Me – The Walkmen
91: A Thousand Words - Styrofoam
90: Hold On Now, Youngster… - Los Campesinos!
89: 21 – Mystery Jets
88: The Secret Wars – Ace Enders And A Million Different People
87: Partie Traumatic – The Black Kids
86: Sleep Well – Electric President
85: Viva La Vida - Coldplay
84: Reality Check – The Teenagers
83: Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
82: Blessed Be Our Ever After – Burden Of A Day
81: Animal!/Not Animal – Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
80: Walk It Off – Tapes ‘n Tapes
79: Fortress – Protest The Hero
78: Nothing Happens For A Reason - Pompeii
77: Re-Arrange Us – Mates of State
76: Innerpartysystem - Innerpartysystem

75: Cardinology – Ryan Adams
74: Beautiful Future – Primal Scream
73: Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis
72: Intervals – See You Next Tuesday
71: Sky Eats Airplane – Sky Eats Airplane
70: Midnight Boom – The Kills
69: Texas – Playradioplay!
68: Nights Out - Metronomy
67: Where Myth Fades To Legend - Alesana
66: Velocifero - Ladytron
65: Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
64: Caesura – Helios
63: Arm’s Way - Islands
62: A.M. – Magnetic Morning
61: Ghosts I-IV – Nine Inch Nails
60: Chemical Chords - Stereolab
59: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
58: At Mount Zoomer – Wolf Parade
57: Microcastle – Deerhunter
56: Censored Colors – Portugal. The Man
55: Dance Gavin Dance – Dance Gavin Dance
54: The Chemistry of Common Life – Fucked Up
53: Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East – Greeley Estates
52: Falling Off The Lavendar Bridge – Lightspeed Champion
51: Elephant Shell – Tokyo Police Club

50: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
49: This Town Needs Guns – This Town Needs Guns
48: Seeing Sounds – N.E.R.D.
47: Skeletal Lamping – of Montreal
46: Modern Guilt - Beck
45: The Hawk Is Howling - Mogwai
44: Great White Whale – Secret and Whisper
43: Guidebook For Sinners Turned Saints – Jamies Elsewhere
42: A Coloring Storybook And Long-Playing Record – Cinematic Sunrise
41: The Tide – Oceana
40: Take Me To The Sea – Jaguar Love
39: Wires… And the Concept of Breathing – A Skylit Drive
38: The Stand Ins – Okkervil River
37: Casey – The Rise of Science
36: Saturdays = Youth – M83
35: Suicide Season – Bring Me The Horizon
34: Do Say Make Think – Do Say Make Think
33: We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings
32: Lost In The Sound of Separation – Underoath
31: This Will Destroy you – This Will Destroy You
30: The Devil, You + Me – The Notwist
29: The Ocean & The Sun – The Sound of Animals Fighting
28: For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
27: Ghost Is Not Real – Husky Rescue
26: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

25: Fasciination – The Faint
24: Attack & Release – The Black Keys
23: Want – 3Oh!3
22: Street Horrsing – Fuck Buttons
21: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust - Sigur Rós
20: Illuminate - Lydia
19: Third - Portishead
18: Antidotes - Foals
17: Someday Came Suddenly – Attack Attack
16: You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Into – Does It Offend You, Yeah?
15: Oracular Spectacluar - MGMT
14: LP3 - Ratatat
13: Avalon – Anthony Green
12: Santogold - Santogold
11: Feed The Animals – Girl Talk
10: Dear Science, - TV On The Radio
09: In Ghost Colors – Cut Copy
08: V – Van She
07: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie
06: Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
05: Only By The Night – Kings of Leon
04: Relativity - Emarosa
03: Made In The Dark – Hot Chip
02: Bring Me Your Love – City & Colour
01: Intimacy – Bloc Party

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ira's Top 8 of '08

2008 shaped up to be a pretty decent year for music. Over this year I’ve probably listened to more music than ever before, producing a substantial shuffling in my favorite music. I fell in and out of love with countless artists (In: Silver Jews, Drive-by Truckers. Out: The Decemberists, Band of Horses), discoved fresh bands and dusted off old legends (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones) I’d never had the chance to get properly acquainted with. Here’s my list of favorite albums of 2008. This list is unranked other than the top two spots, mainly because I feel the top two albums really stuck out above the rest of the competition.

1. Dear Science- TV on the Radio
Towering far above the rest of the albums released in 2008, Dear Science struck me harder upon first listen than any other album since OK Computer. David Sitek removed the fuzz and cacophony of Return to Cookie Mountain, letting the band’s songs flourish in the company of horn and string sections. Every song on the album has its own unmistakable sound, from the funkiness of “Crying” to the horn-filled celebration of “Golden Age” to the emotional resonance of “Family Tree” to the Bush-fueled rage of “Red Dress” finally concluding with the sensuous and optimistic “Lover’s Day.” At its core, Dear Science is a great rock album from one of the most talented and innovative groups today, and also my favorite album of 2008.

2. S/T- Fleet Foxes
My favorite album of the year until the October release of Dear Science, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album is an excellent collection of songs that evoke the American wilderness and ethos both lyrically and musically with beautiful harmonies and rustic instrumentation. Robin Pecknold’s incredible voice dominates this album; a perfect companion for a spring morning, a summer stroll through a forest, an autumn drive, or a winter night reading beside the fire.

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea- Silver Jews
When I first heard the opening track on Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea I was disconcerted. Why did David Berman’s voice sound so strange? Where was the sly, witty wordplay I fell in love with on American Water? By the third track, “Suffering Jukebox” my fears were allayed with Berman firing off classic lines over great alt-country sounds. Although, in my opinion one of the weaker albums in the Joos’ catalog, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is still a treat to listen to, continuing Berman’s streak of quality songwriting and finding him tweaking his style as he ages.

The Stand-Ins- Okkervil River
Originally intended to comprise a double album with 2007’s The Stage Names, The Stand-Ins displays Will Sheff’s skill at characterization in song writing, and Okkervil’s continued maturation into a full-on rock band. This aborted twin isn’t as fully formed as its sister but still has plenty of great moments, especially the epic farewell song for Jonathan Meiburg, “Lost Coastlines.”

Stay Positive- The Hold Steady
Stay Positive is different from the other Hold Steady albums. It rushes out the gates with two great rock songs, “Constructive Summer” and “Sequestered in Memphis”, then explores the darker aspects of drinking and the party life, an area touched upon in other albums but never allowed to become the overriding focus of songs. A hint of age and weariness creeps into Craig Finn’s voice during these songs, suggesting some doubt and disillusionment, worried that life may be just "excuses and half-truths and fortified wine." These down and out ballads coexist along with Finn’s own self-referential rockers to form another solid album from The Hold Steady, one of the best rock and roll bands in America.

Feed the Animals- Girl Talk
Sample-master Greg Gillis deserves all the acclaim he gets merely for this album’s ability to turn drab boring parties into wild dance affairs. Never has an entire album been this danceable for so many different people of varied musical tastes. This album is also fully responsible for my recent obsession with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.”

The Evening Descends- Evangelicals
The Evening Descends alternates its sound between that of a pleasant trippy dream and a terrifying nightmare, one that I found myself visiting time and time again in 2008. Utilizing samples and strange sound effects, Evangelicals’ The Evening Descends is an atmospheric and frequently catchy album of psychedelic rock.

S/T- Vampire Weekend
I like catchy pop songs. Vampire Weekend’s got ‘em, along with enough semi-obscure references to keep me interested in the lyrics. Although these guys may not be the capital “I” important band some sources labeled them as, they know how to put together a pop song, something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Any band that tosses in an homage to Lil Jon’s “Get Low” is okay by me.