Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Christian Bale

This tattoo warrants an 8:30 res at Dorsia
Today Is Christian Bale's 39th birthday. Bale is easily one of the best actors of his generation and one of the few figures in Hollywood who I'll support regardless. I'll watch anything he's associated with because I know his performance will be nothing short of awesome, and because he usually chooses roles that don't insult my intelligence.

The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Fighter, Public Enemies, 3:10 To Yuma, The Prestige, The New World, Rescue Dawn, Harsh Times and The Machinist...Bale delivers amazing performances in those films. Despite his world wide fame as Batman, or his Academy Award victory and critical acclaim he's received over the years, in my eyes he will always be the yuppie/serial killer extraordinaire, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. That movie warped my fragile little mind teenage mind when I saw it on the big screen back in 2000. I swear the film gets funnier and more entertaining every time I watch it and it all stems from Bale's over the top performance. Christian might be the man in Hollywood these days, but his Bateman persona, is a god. Enjoy this awesome American Psycho montage and remember...don't touch the watch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Awesome Photo (12)

Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Ranger herself, signing autographs sometime in the early 1990's. I watched The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers religiously as a kid (up til they started the whole alien/zeo/ninja ranger crap sometime after season 3) but never appreciated Kimberly's hotness until the 2000's rolled around. How could such a babe have been under my nose that whole time? I guess my eight year old self was too caught up watching Goldar kicking ass on TV to notice., Amy Jo Johnson has maintained a consistent acting and singing career after her stint on Power Rangers and had her first child back in 2010. Oh, and she's still gorgeous. Amy Jo, if you're out there...please come to Frank & Son's one day. I'd stand in line untold hours and pay a kings ransom to hear you say "Pterodactyl" and morph just one more time.

How was I was oblivious?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kubrick Exhibit @ LACMA

I kicked off the new year with a long overdue trip to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art to check out the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. The exhibit pays tribute to the late film maker's entire career. From his early days as a photographer for Look magazine, his first foray into film making with his short/documentary film, 1951's Day of the Fight; and of course his classic film's like Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove..., 2001: A Space Odyssey  and The Shining to name a few.

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 photo IMG_1094_zps2c870e88.jpgFull Metal Jacket was the first Kubrick film I ever saw. I must have been in 8th grade and was on a serious war film binge after Saving Private Ryan came out. I was sorting through my grandpa's VHS collection looking for some new war/action film to watch and saw the oddball cover of Full Metal Jacket. The white background, the cartoon-ish looking helmet that says "Born to Kill" but has a peace button right along side it. I had a feeling this wasn't going to be like the average Vietnam flick. Other than that, I had no idea what I was in for. That's when I fell under Kubrick's spell.

Here are some photo's from the exhibit. Forgive the poor quality. I was recovering from a nasty illness and was spellbound.

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German Dr. Strangelove poster with the uber sexy Tracey Reed
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2001: apes gonna ape

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A Clockwork Orange: Alex's costume and a milk bar statue.

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The Shining: creepy ghost twins
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Full Metal Jacket: Animal Mother looking raw onset & Joker's helmet below
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Eyes Wide Shut: orgy masks for all...

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self explanatory

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Lil' ol' me hanging out w/ Alex, Jack and Joker.
It's safe to say that Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He was more than just a director, he was a visionary. His films were never huge box office smashes and he never won a major Academy Award (save for 2001's special effect's win) yet here we are, with a globe trotting exhibition housed at world renowned museums paying tribute to his legacy. Kubrick was so ahead of his time, it's almost as though he made his films for himself and for future generations to enjoy. Why else would such a secretive/reclusive individual who shunned Hollywood leave a literal warehouse of archival material behind after his death. Either way, I'm glad he did. This day at the museum was just what I needed to kick the pain in me gulliver. I was cured all right...

If you're in Southern California I seriously recommend you check this out. The Kubrick exhibit runs until late June 30th. LACMA is also just a rad place to visit in general.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Top 5 Films of 2012.

So here it top 5 favorite films of 2012.

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The Master- Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
I was fortunate enough to see The Master in all it's epic, 70mm glory. PTA's follow up to There Will Be Blood doesn't offer the same instant gratification fix as it's predecessor, but it's still a marvelous film in it's own right. Every shot is breathtaking, the cast (Phoenix, Hoffman, Adams) delivers the best acting performances of the year, and the soundtrack is untouchable. The Master's plot might be foggy, but the overall experience of the film is anything but.

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Silver Linings Playbook- Directed by David O. Russell
A lighthearted take on the serious and often somber topic of mental health issues in America, Silver Linings Playbook was my pleasant surprise of the year. I laughed and was generally more entertained during David O. Russel's quirky romantic dramedy then I had been in ages.  I'm also now sold on both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence's acting chops.

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Zero Dark Thirty- Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
The hunt for Osama Bin Laden could have easily been depicted as a "glorious" pile of pro-Western propaganda. I'm glad Kathryn Bigelow took a different approach with Zero Dark Thirty. The film is cold and clinical, like it's Type A personality protagonist Maya (Jessica Chastain). The tedious and often  horrific nature of the espionage/political world take center stage. The film may be dark and exhausting, but it's almost cathartic as well.

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Prometheus- Directed by Ridley Scott
I don't understand the anger over Prometheus. Aside from looking absolutely gorgeous on the big screen (and I usually loathe 3D), Ridley Scott's latest film is easily the most ambitious sci-fi film in years. Was the film perfect? No. Was it entertaining and leave you craving more? For me, the answer is a definite yes! Introducing "The Engineers" and expanding the Alien mythos into a separate but equally enthralling cinematic universe was right decision. The sub-par Alien VS Predator franchise sort of killed the whole chestburster thing anyways.   

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End of Watch- Directed by David Ayer
David Ayer has officially come into his own as a filmmaker. He may have written the script for Training Day, but his subsequent directorial work (Harsh Times and Street Kings), although entertaining, were less than stellar. End of Watch crushes any remaining doubts I had about his directing. Ayer's latest cop drama is, gritty, fast paced, even hilarious at times, but most of all, it's one of the most heart wrenching films of the year. Jake Gyllenhaal and Micheal Pena's chemistry as gang busting LAPD officers is uncanny and is the heart of the entire film.

Some pretty rad movies I dug from 2012 that were just shy of the final cut:

The Avengers
NERDGASM OF A LIFETIME. The most fun I've had at the movies. EVER.

The Sessions
John Hawkes performance as a sexually and spiritually frustrated polio victim/quadriplegic is awe inspiring.

Absolute carnage. I haven't enjoyed such awesomely relentless violence on the big screen since the lobby shoot out in The Matrix.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2012

Here's the listing of my favorite albums from 2012. Not necessarily the best or greatest but the ones that left the biggest impact on me and warranted the most repeated listens. Not ranked in numerical order, all rule pretty hard (IMO). Feel free to take listen:

Converge- All We Love We Leave Behind
It's pretty much unanimously agreed upon that Converge's Jane Doe was the best metal album of the 2000's. Their first album of the new decade is no slouch either. The riffs are still crushing and the technical spazz parts still turn lesser minds into spaghetti, but this really is one of the bands most catchy/accessible albums to date. Clean vocals that don't offend the ears and memorable, infectious songs, this album is the prefect starting point for Converge rookies.

Gaza- No Absolutes in Human Suffering
The ugliest and unfortunately, most truthful album of the year. No Absolutes is like the evil twin of Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind. Both albums blend punk and metal into a slammin' hybrid but while Converge use clean vocals and uplifting melodies to spice things up, Gaza only slow down to further bludgeon the listener with lumbering riffs and some of the most menacing howls/vocals this side of the insane asylum.

The Hives- Lex Hives
No one will accuse The Hives of being the most prolific band around, but it had been so long since their last album (2007's rather disappointing The Black and White Album), even I was afraid the band might have lost a step. Well rejoice world, Lex Hives marks the band's triumphant return from the dark realm of major label land, back to high octane world of punk meets retro rock where they reign supreme. Nobody does poppy, infectious and snarling 4/4 rock music like The Hives. This new album proves it.

The Hives - Go Right Ahead (Official video) from Bold Faces on Vimeo.

Ghostlimb- Confluence
The follow up to their awesome 2011 album Infrastructure does not disappoint. Another quick jolt of thinking mans hardcore, that isn't afraid to bring the galloping tempos and screams to a crawl and simply rock the fuck out. The first time I heard this song "Candiae" I wiped the drool from mouth and hit replay instantly, it's that good and represents all that is awesome about Ghostlimb and their entire new album.

Black Breath- Sentenced to Life
This record was the surprise of the year. I've seen Black Breath live before, I dug their last album fine but holy balls I did not expect to love Sentenced to Life so much. It's the perfect blend of thrash and crust punk by way of old school Swedish death metal. Basically, I start having visions of circle pits and frozen cemeteries when this comes on. The production, dear LAWD the production, is phenomenal. Every instrument is clear and distinctive, it sounds modern and high def but still has that classic dirge us metal heads fiend over. Catchy energetic songs that will make even the most casual observer thrash like a madman and bang their fucking heads.

Phobia- Remnants of Filth
This new Phobia record is not unique or all that distinguishable from the rest of Phobia's epic grindcore catalog, but something about this album just stuck with me. Enough to edge out new albums from grind legends like Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer and fiery upstarts The Secret. All those albums slayed, but something about this new Phobia record just won out. It's simple grind but done to perfection. For the none grind fiends out there, imagine The Ramones on a cocktail of steroids and meth and you've got Phobia's latest album.

Torche- Harmonicraft
The happiest album of the year? Torche have roots in sludge and stoner metal, but they have progressed into the best heavy rock and roll band nobody knows about on the planet. They're so good it's not even funny. One tour with the Foo Fighters or Red Hot Chilli Peppers would put this band into the stratosphere. Steve Brook's vocals are warm and inviting, the guitar tone is both heavy, and saccharine sweet at the same time. Torche's rhythm section is unfuckwithable and they prove it on Harmonicraft. I even saw grown ass *gasp* metalheads dancing, yes dancing, to Torche's new songs in concert I shit you not.

Beneath The Massacre- Incongruous
This band is on some next level shit. Technical death metal for angry T-800 model terminators. The whole album is a whirlwind of bloops and bleeps (guitar doodling), machine gun fire (double bass drumming & blast beats) and demonic vacuum cleaners (growling vocals). This was THE death metal album I went back to all year (edging out new records from Spawn of Possession, Gorod, Nile & Cryptopsy). Your brain is not ready for this.

Anaal Nathrakh- Vanitas
No band frightens or excites me as much as Anaal Nathrakh does. Their extreme (and I mean extreme) blend of black metal and grind, is like the soundtrack to Armageddon. Vanita's production sounds like it was recorded in the cold and terrifying depths of outer space, while it's music was written in the chaotic agonizing pits of hell. Bits of traditional "heavy metal" guitar melodies and soaring operatic singing mixed with a barrage of drum machine madness, blitzkrieg tremolo picking, and the most terrifying vocals shrieks you'll ever hear. Check out the final scream/outro of this song for proof.

Deftones- Koi No Yokan
This band is fired up. They've adjusted to the lineup change brought by Chi Cheng's tragic accident, and are attacking the current musical landscape like a band possessed. Koi No Yokan is the Deftones 2.0's second stellar album in a row (following 2010's amazing Diamond Eyes). The production sounds a little less gorgeous than their previous record, but the songs, the songs are just as haunting and unlike their string of albums from the 2000's, truly dynamic.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Top 5 Concerts of 2012

I went to 16 concerts in 2012 (real professional/touring bands not friends or locals). That's two more than last year, but still about ten less per year from my heyday in the mid-late 2000's. Getting old sucks.

Anyways, here are my top 5 favorite concerts from last year:

The Dillinger Escape Plan/NAILS/Dangers! @ Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock. 1/18/12.
The first show of last year was pure insanity. Introduced to Dangers!, NAILS shook the floor boards and Dillinger caused sheer pandemonium as usual. I sprained my wrist in the pit, and damn near lost my voice singing "Milk Lizard." My last time seeing Jeff Tuttle live with the band also. You will be missed man.

Refused & The Hives @ The Warfield Theater, San Francisco. 4/18/12.
Road trip/vacation. Check. 2nd time seeing The Hives in same week. Check. Watching Refused perform songs off The Shape of Punk to Come live even though the band broke up in 1998 and you've only enjoyed their music posthumously. HOLY FUCK. Singing "New Noise" with the thousands of other awe struck individuals, worshiping our mighty Swedish Overlords = priceless.

Hatebreed @ The Fox Theater, Pomona. 9/29/12.
Tour celebrated the tenth anniversary of Hatebreed's Perseverance album. This was the greatest karaoke night of my life. Every song on that album is like a tattooed Drill Sergeant. You will lift weights, scream and smile like an idiot when Perseverance plays and you will like it. The most fun I've had at a metal/hardcore show in years.

Converge/Torche/NAILS @ The Echoplex, Los Angeles. 10/28/12.
Sickest tour lineup of the year. Every band slayed (even "local openers" Dangers!) but Converge took the cake, like always. They played "Jane Doe" at FYF, but kept the old/rare song motif going this night, playing "Heartless," "You Fail Me" and "My Unsaid Everything." New songs off their killer new album were top notch live as well. It was Converge overload and I loved every minute of it.

No Doubt @ The Gibson Amphitheater, Universal City. 11/24/12.
I was worried this show might suck because I spent a good chunk of 2012 hating on No Doubt's latest album Push and Shove. Luckily, they played a crap load of old material and, miraculously, those new songs sound kind of awesome live. Gwen Stefani remains one of the hottest women in the universe.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is an exhausting film. It's long and tedious. It's intense and shocking. You'll cringe and find yourself laughing at the most random, mundane things because of how dark and smothering the overall tone of the film is. As difficult as the film is to sit through, it's still amazing. A technical marvel that's beautiful to watch (even if it's content is jarring) and loaded with great performances, Zero Dark Thirty is easily one of the best films of 2012.

The film is based on the decade long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain plays a young and determined CIA agent named Maya who devotes eight years of her life to capturing the terrorist mastermind. I shouldn't say devote, more like obsess. Her character is barely human. From her depiction in the film, Mayas work is all consuming. She barely eats, hardly sleeps and when awake, only focuses on the manhunt. Maya is a strong willed and intelligent person. She's pretty much always the smartest person in the room and must navigate through the sexist and bureaucratic nightmares of the CIA/political world, as well as the very real physical and psychological dangers she's faces in the line of duty.

Jessica Chastain's performance is the heart and soul of the film. The audience grows (colder) as Maya becomes more engrossed, and jaded, by her work. She can barely stand through the horrific torture sequences that open the film but by the second hour, she doesn't flinch. Instead you might become more enraged at how frustratingly incompetent our government appears to operate with all the behind the scenes spy stuff. Bureaucratic bungling becomes just as reprehensible as waterboarding over enough time. The film's final act, the raid on Bin Laden's compound, is dazzling. It's edge of your seat film making, which is quite a feat considering the entire world already new the end result (spoiler: they kill him). Director Kathryn Bigelow is an ace when it comes to building tension, and the way she handles all the military and CIA procedural stuff makes Zero Dark Thirty feel more like a documentary than a feature film sometimes, which reiterates just how good she really is.

I don't understand all the controversy the film has been generating. It doesn't promote torture in anyway shape or form. In fact it should be blatantly clear that the film as no agenda or political message behind behind it at all. This isn't go go USA propaganda or an anti-Muslim, pro torture film by any means. There's hardly even any real cohesive plot or narrative in the first place. The film jumps around between a span of ten years, following obsessive compulsive CIA agents damn near spiral into madness to accomplish their mission. Bigelow's film is like a two and half hour Nietzsche infomercial,

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
...that, and it's a damn fine movie.

(That is, without the doubt, the BEST trailer of 2012 also.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Movie Review: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino's latest film Django Unchained is wildly entertaining. It's long and over indulgent, ridiculously violent, at times hilarious but most of all, it's sheer fun. I really liked this movie but couldn't help buy feel slightly disappointed overall. Like Wes Anderson, Tarantino's film's have a certain formula to them and his penchant for extreme style over substance is starting to really irk me.

Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave turned bounty hunter who, along with his European partner Dr. King Schultz (played by the amazing Christoph Waltz), travel the antebellum South, killing bad dudes and searching for Django's long lost wife hoping to buy her freedom. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a vile plantation owner and Samuel L. Jackson his ruthless slave/house servant.

Inglorious Django
The entire cast is amazing. The four main stars, along with Kerry Washington as Django's wife and even Don Johnson, who I haven't liked in anything since the G.I. Joe: The Movie, everyone delivers great performances. Foxx is technically the star of the film but he is simply out matched whenever Waltz, DiCaprio or Jackson are on screen. In fact, during the dinner scene at Dicaprio's plantation (aka Candyland) when all four are sitting at the table, it's like a massive tug of war for the audience's attention with such great actors each commanding the screen at the same time.

The thing I love most about Django Unchained, is how the film bends over backwards to remind the viewer just how horrible, how ridiculous and how real slavery was in American history. People are beaten, whipped, stripped nude, tortured and attacked by dogs. It's all cringe worthy violence but helps propel the film's narrative: the American South was a fucked place before the Civil War.

Tarantino uses Waltz and DiCaprio's characters like yin and yang symbols. Both are smooth talking, educated white men whose lives are directly intertwined with blacks. Waltz, the white man who liberated Django and stands on the right side of history, is a European immigrant who looks at the backwards ignorance of DiCaprio and his Southern culture (who so desperately try to mimic European aristocratic life on their plantations) with disgust. There is no single villain in Django Unchained, it's all of Southern Culture and the poisonous idea of slavery that's at target.  

So while I really enjoyed this film, I do have my complaints. First, its too long. Yes everything looked cool on screen but Christ man, the film is damn near 3 hours! I personally think 30 minutes could have been trimmed without hurting the film's overall narrative and hell it would have even helped the film's pacing. Next, I get it Quentin, your a great director. Please, please stop writing your name in CAPITAL LETTERS across everything you do. It stopped being cute in Kill Bill. Django's crazy outfit, the odd choice of modern rap music thrown into a film set in the mid 19th century...I mean c'mon. It's just too much sometimes. I know who's directing this you don't have to keep reminding us.  Oh look, Tarantino has a cameo during the films 3rd false ending and it's easily the worst thing about the entire movie. Great. I love being immersed in films but Tarantino's blatant Tarantino-isms do nothing but yank me right out.

Django is still a great movie that I highly recommend. I'm just sad that I only liked it and didn't fall in love.