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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Baseless Speculation: Creed (2015)

A few weeks ago, I did a few Twitter posts commenting on the concept I call the "Blogger's Blues". In those tweets, I defined the Blogger's Blues as the constant questioning of whether what you write on the ever expanding, infinitely- deep swamp that is the internet means anything, either to your followers or to yourself. It's a feeling I've had far too often doing this, and I've yet to come up with a permanent solution for it.  Though one Andrew Weiss, host of the blog Armagideon Time, did give me some very good advice on the matter, To wit:

The best you can aspire to is a zen state of "Well, it amuses me".
That line has been rattling around my head since then. (Mostly because my  brain takes awhile to even attempt to fully implement good advice. Just ask my family.) I've come to the decision to try and keep that quote so I can keep this thing  goin'. As such, I'm going to form baseless speculation on a movie trailer. Aren't you excited?

Well, okay I lie a bit. I'm not going to go down second by second of the trailer for "ZOMG! THIS IZ TEH BESTEST EVAR!!!11!!!!" moments. That's not what I'm about and I'd like to keep it that way. I'm also going to do my best and not actually critique the trailer. That, to me, is basically a useless endeavor unless you're a Cleo Award judge or an internet movie critic needing to boost your traffic.

(Speaking of which, you should all go visit  David DeMoss' site And You Thought It Was...Safe? and watch his video on against the practice of reviewing trailers.)

So without further adieu, let's get to the point at hand, the Rocky spin-off movie Creed.
or those of you who don't feel a compulsive need to pay attention to news about movie projects, Creed is the story of Adonis Creed Johnson, son of Carl Weather's famous showboat rival turned ally turned corpse Apollo Creed. The trailer doesn't give much away, but this is a boxing movie in the Rocky mold,in continuity with the six other Rocky movies, co-starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. You can most likely expect Adonis to come to terms with his past (with a side order of accepting his legacy as Apollo Creed's son), go through a romance subplot and have a major fight with a memorable foe with six to winning the fight (proving himself as a fighter) and half a dozen to losing (but coming to a personal change in the process).

There, that's all I going to go into the film itself and its trailer. I instead want to go into the main star, Michael B. Jordan, a man whom I've known of but haven't followed all that much. I've never watched any of his major roles in television. Never seen Chronicle, either (thou I do want to at one point). And I only caught the last three or so minutes of Fruitvale Station on TV months ago (Also on my "Watch Later" list").  But I still feel the need to talk about him since Creed feels like a film young actors do when they want to skyrocket to leading man status.

It probably wasn't that hard for him to get the starring role, since Jordan already worked with this film's co-writer director, Ryan Coogler, also directed Fruitvale Station. And Creed, to me , is just the film a young a hungry actor would slaughter goats in sacrifice for: leading man in an established franchise (therefore guaranteeing a certain amount of returns) that both shows off dramatic chops. Plus, since he's the main he won't be sharing the spotlight like most of the ensemble pieces he's done. And I know what you're gonna say,"What about the new Fantastic Four movie?" What about it? The damn thing was already looking to become  disaster before the first teaser trailer came out. Can't blame a man for hedging his bets?

No, we really can't. Nor can we really say the quality fo the movie just from some trailer. All we can do right now is make baseless speculations.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Know What I Like: Praise The Dead

Like Columbus going back to Spin to talk about this place with all the wonderful natives fit to become slaves, I'd like to tell you about something I discovered recently.

While I can say I've known of the name Dead Kennedys for quite awhile, I can't say I've ever actively tried to listen to them. This extends to the general relationship with the punk rock sub genre as a whole: always slightly flirtatious, but never something that would actually stick. I've tried dipping my toes into the water every so often; trolling YouTube for good audio of God Save The Queen, Anarchy in the U.K. , Sid Vicious' cover of My Way and a handful of songs by The Clash. Each were good, but none of them made me want to dip my toes further than those handful of songs.

Then, as with all things, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas would help broaden my horizons. Specifically, its second end credits song. I heard Viva Las Vegas playing, but the song sounded wrong. I knew it wasn't Elvis' voice and the lyrics seemed to describe more explicit drug use that the King Of Rock n' Roll would allow (in songs, anyway). So I waited for "name the music you used" section of the credits, and with that I discovered the Dead Kennedys.

The most punk Donkey Kong logo I've ever seen

It didn't stop there, though. Unlike the earlier bands mentioned, something about Dead Kennedys struck a chord with me.* So I decided to check out other songs by the guys by, of course, checking YouTube. and thankfully, I found their..."signature songs", for lack of a better phrase. Those being the California Über Alles and my personal favorite (for right now) Holiday In Cambodia.

Now, Holiday in Cambodia's my favorite because, honestly, it's the message of the song. Putting a bunch of yuppies to task for their B.S. is always something I appreciate. I imagine the scenario is that the unnamed yuppie(s) of the song got transported to Cambodia as a form of punishment by the band. (My interpretation also includes that the band is actually a collection of god-like beings, going around and giving ironic punishments to the jerks of the world. My mind is a strange and terrible thing, people.)

While it probably seems sacrilegious to compare Dead Kennedys to anyone else, I kind of equate them to the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And I say that because both bands are kind of hard to pin down for me. They just do their own thing and are really good at what they do. Their sound to me, comes off like a combination of 50's surf rock, guitar thrashing, high anarchic energy and the highly critical and cynical lyricism that just hooks me. I know with Holiday in Cambodia, the Dead Kennedys and I are going to have a long relationship. And maybe that will branch out to the punk rock genre as a whole.

*Not to shay those bands aren't any good, they just didn't stick with me like Dead Kennedys did.

Edit: Just for the hell of it, I'm including California Über Alles. I'll most likely be talking about the song later, but I felt like it should be here with its fellow "Signature song" (Man, I really need to figure out a better name).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Always Remember....

....somewhere out in Japan, there is a to scale (18.5meters/60.7 feet) sttue of the RX-78-2 Gundam.
The People's Exhibit X of the "Giant Robots are awesome" arguement 
...that lights up.

Exhibit X-2
The world is kind of bizarrely amazing sometimes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Know What I Like: Fear and Loathing Edition

This is going to be a quick one since I really don't have much to say on the following song. My knowledge of the music scene of 1970 is non existent at best, so I cannot give you a comprehensive (or even a basic) overview of the band, folk music in general or the zeitgeist of the time. So without further adieu, I present to you Brewer and Shipley's One Toke Over The Line.

The song's association with Hunter S. Thompson's Gonzo masterpiece is what hepped me to the song originally, I will admit that with complete and utter honesty. But it is a genuinely good song, and one I probably never would have known existed without that story. So thank you Dr. Thompson, wherever your wild soul may be. 

P.S. Does the first picture in the video make the Brewer and Shipley duo look like Matthew McConaughey and Jim Beaver or is it just me?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What Does Raoul Duke Want? (AKA A Shameless Rip-off of Todd Alcott)

Something very interesting must be outside that window...

Aaaaaannnnnnnd we're back! Sorry about the week long silence, faithful reader. I've just been stuck trying to figure out what the hell I was going to next. With all the I Know What I Like posts, this thing was in danger of becoming solely a music blog, and I can't have that. Not just yet. So I've decided to go full speed ahead on an idea I've had rattling around my head for the last couple of months and rip-off Todd Alcott.

For those of you who have no idea who I'm talking about, Todd Alcott is a screenwriter living in L.A. (I know, that statement was an oxymoron; what other city would even accept screenwriters?) He (according to IMDB) is one of the three writes responsible for one of my favorite childhood VHS staples, Antz, and for that I'll be forever thankful to him. He's also a man who's been blogging at least since March 2006, writing brilliant articles about superhero movies, film in general and recapping episodes of The Venture Bros. when he has the time. Go check him out; he's a far better writer than I'll probably ever be. 

Now the reason I mention the good Mr. Alcott is that I want to shamelessly suck up to someone far more popular than I he always starts his analyses of films (multi-part epics in their own right on the internet) with one simple question: what does the protagonist want? It's both the first fundamental question of screenwriting (hell, of all fiction writing) and the tagline for his site.  It's a simple enough question that has to be answered at some point; what force gets the protagonist out of bed that morning and " I'm a go do this thing." To that end let us look at Raoul Duke, main character of both the infamous book and infamous cult film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Why? Well, why not I say. Duke seems like an interesting enough fellow for a rambling jackass like me to talk about.

He seems very happy about the prospect of some amateur making facile analyzing of his character

What does Raoul Duke (and, by extension, Hunter S. Thompson) want? To hear him tell it he wants to find The American Dream. And I do believe that he does want to do that, or at the very least a part of him does. But looking at the character, his "misadventures" in Las Vegas during 1971 and see something else. Somewhere underneath all the damn drug trips, violent outbursts and generally manic behavior lies an unspoken want. A need that has not, and probably never will, be fulfilled. Well, two needs actually: the need to believe in something and the need to belong.

And he found that place in the San Francisco in the middle '60's. He was part of something then; some grand transformative force that though-no, believed deep in their souls-that they could take on and change the world with just they're energy. They were high-powered freak, running rampant and mad across the world. to paraphrase the madman himself, he could drive down to anywhere and just know, for certain, that there were people as high and wild as he was.

Then it all came crashing down. The movement self-destructed, turned into a violent mess and he was left out in the wilderness; to fend for himself in the terrible, heartless and dull world of Richard Nixon's America. He was able to find others, fellow "lost seekers", but they could never gather as they did for those mad, mad, mad couple of years. But he won't find it in the 70's. This realization, I think, crushes him immensely and causes, to him, a unique kind of depression. Not the depression of knowing that the party's over, but the depression of knowing that the dream of a better future is dead and no one had either the will nor the power to revive it.

So Thompson (nee Duke) cannot belong to the world as it is and he cannot change it. He cannot fulfill his central desire.   So he goes the only way, in his eyes. he can: get as high as humanly possible (or perhaps beyond humanly possible) and avoid reality like it's an old high school acquaintance you don't care to talk to, Ned to Duke's Phil Connors. It threatens to catch up with him (the increasing number of crimes and public disturbances couldn't go unnoticed forever) but never does for him, at least in story. I suppose that's a decent enough consolation prize.

That's all I've got, honestly. If you have something else or you think I'm a complete and utter moron who doesn't truly understand the story and how dare I even think I could, go on ahead and write your own look at Hunter Stockton Thompson aka "Raoul Duke". This, as are all things on this blog, is just my say on the matter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I Know What I Like: Billy Joel and the Thirtysomethings

Bioshock background poster or MRA ad? You Make the call!

I've never had any particular affection for Billy Joel up until a few months ago.  I can't say I ever hated him; the guy who wrote and sang Piano Man, My Life and Just The Way You Are* is not somebody I can ever really hate. But I've never really given the man any real consideration until I started hearing Movin' Out on my way to work on one of three oldies stations that come clear in a commute from Menomonee Falls to Delafield. I still can't say I'm a huge Joel fan, but I can say that I plan on getting one of his albums one day (either 52nd Street or a Greatest hits album). 

In my brief time paying attention to Joel's career, I've found myself flabbergasted by the man's ability to function as a musical drifter; wandering to whichever style he desires for a song. And that's just a fancy way of sayin' I was surprised as hell to find out he was the guy who wrote and sang The Longest Time.

No, really. I'd always assumed this was the one and only hit of a long forgotten Doo Wop group, not a nostalgic tribute to a childhood favorite genre. Just goes to show you how much passion he has for it. Kudos, Mr. Joel.

* Though, let's be honest with ourselves, Barry White sung it better.

P.S. I cannot in leave this post without making some commentary on the video. As such, here are some brief bullet points:

  • Does the school seriously expect one old janitor to clean up that friggin' mess? Man, the administrators of this high school are cheap bastards.
  • Billy Joel in a bad wig, cheap suit and and huge glasses is just funny to me and I don't know why.
  • I wonder if all these guys decided to reform their Doo Wop group just to cheer Joel up.
  • The one in the black suit looks like a made man in the Mob.
  • '84 Billy Joel looks about as teen-aged as Sean Connery looks Japanese.

He looks like a Romulan without the pointy ears
  • Are none of the rooms in this school locked?
  • I wonder what these guys explained their morphing back to their teenage selves  to their wives, bosses, friends and children. Hell, getting pulled over by the cops will probably get their driver's licenses cut up as fake IDs.
  • That was kind of a weak double take, my dear Janitor. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Know What I Like: Do the Hump

If history teaches us anything (other than never make bread unaffordable and society will always try to redress its wrongs) Is that eras will, after the fact or during their height, be given n identity in the popular consciousness. From my very limited observation, it seemed that the current trend of giving these identities to decades is a twentieth century trend, seeming carried over to our new millennium. This is not a new observation ( Bob "Moviebob"Chipman opined on this in his "The 90's Didn't Suck" video) , but it's not without merit that we see decades defined by certain aspects (in the United States, anyway). Just off the top of my head we have:

  • Turn of the Century/ new developments in life an technology (1900s)
  • A distant and forgotten conflict (1910s/ WWI)
  • A grand old party for those who could afford e (The Roaring 20's) 
  • Poverty and rising global tension (1930s/ The Great Depression) 
  • War and beginning of the Nuclear Age (1940s/WWII)
  • Attempts to establish normalcy among rising tensions between gender, racial and youth (1950s)
  • Revolution and Rebellion (1960s)
  • The Revolution caving in on itself and Cynical Disillusionment (1970s)
  • Excess and trying to revise the prior two decades as long dark nights while simultaneously only paying lip service or outright ignoring the problems of the day (1980s) 
  • War on Terror, paranoia and the destruction of  (2000s)
  • Social Media and a new butting of heads between the old order and those who've had enough of it (2010s as of right now) 
Today's subject is the decade I left out of that little list: the decade I was born, the often derided 1990s. While most of the above list were defined by external forces, the Decade that Clinton Ruled (and the Elder Bush Drooled) was defined by a lot of factors that made up the decade that came to be seen as remanded arts of the 70s (social tensions remaining unresolved) and 80s  (excess and pastel colors) instead of "Oh dear God, we haven't really come that far, have we?"

While the 90s brought us an (in my eyes, at least) an increase in the celebrity gossip culture, 24 hour news cycle and inward looking paranoia (In what other decade prior would The X-Files be considered a major thing and not some kitsch TV show to be laughed of?) we're going to talk about classic hip hop. More specifically, how a group who once modeled themselves after the Black Panthers and once included Tupac Shakur in its ranks  into this...
So that's what a black Groucho Marx would look like...

...and released this classic onto the world.

Stop whatcha doin'
'cause I'm about to ruin 
The image and the style that ya used to

You damn sure did. Humpty Hump.

Now I don't know much about Digital Underground (my research on them only consisted of browsing through Wikipedia and looking up The Humpty Dance on Songfacts) I do have some personal history with this particular song. See, as a black kid growing in the not-all-that mean suburbs of Menomonee Falls, WI, my parents kept their car radios tuned exclusively to one or two stations. One of the was 103.7 KISS FM (the mainstream pop music station) and Jammin' 98.3 (R&B, old school Hip Hop, general "black" music station). While I can't say I despise either station, I can say that my formative years gave me my fill of both. While I do still listen to KISS FM every now and then, I've never felt the need to go back to Jammin' 98.3 ever since I got my driver's licence (mostly for fear of hearing Alicia Keys' Fallin' again). But I remember that nearly every time the station was on late at night and the Old School Basement Party would start, I'd hope to hear this song or the remix of I Got Five On It.

My younger self could never really pinpoint why he liked The Humpty Dance, but since I'm a wiser (well, relatively wiser) 25 year old man, I can explain my affection for this song a bit more clearly than his "because it's really good song." And the answer is quite simple: it's about being unafraid to be completley silly. I mean look at Shock G as Humpty; the man looks like he's about to perform stand-up as the dorky uncle of Steve Urkel. And the Humpty dance itself is basically a just getting on the dance floor and making an ass of yourself. That's what makes this song so endearing to me, because as the Burger King bathroom freak says

[But] Sometimes I get ridiculous

And more people should get as ridiculous as you, Humpty Hump. And have you talent. And really funky beats. And spectacularly good flow.

Can we just get a Digital Underground reunion?