Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy Birthday Paul Thomas Anderson!

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite director. I view his films like stone tablets from Mount Sinai. I've ranted about PTA ad nauseum on this blog, but guess what? Even more PTA love to celebrate the man's 43rd birthday.

This is a short edit that highlights all of PTA's films (excluding 2012's The Master).

Here is a special in depth video that explores PTA's technical genius behind the camera:

The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo.

And I'll leave you with an example a shinning example of PTA's twisted humor:

Happy Birthday sir. I can't wait to see what the next 20 years of your career will bring.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel
is a noble attempt at selling Superman to modern film audiences but it falls short on almost every level. I tried viewing this film as both a former comic book geek and as a cinephile, hoping that one aspect might balance out the other but alas, I was disappointed on both fronts.

As a film, Man of Steel is a jumbled mess. First, the script is bad. I mean plot, dialogue, character development, all of it. This film relies so heavily on visual spectacle that it temporarily numbs the viewer to the asinine dialogue repeated throughout. There were moments where I wanted to cringe at the drivel these characters were saying ("You're a monster Zod and I'm going to stop you.") but was immediately bombarded with explosions and almost forgot...almost. Just about every character feels like a caricature, leaving us indifferent to their onscreen exploits. Lois Lane is about to fall to her death, oh wells. Superman is yelling about something, he's mad, I guess. What should have been a simple origin story gets convoluted with tons of unnecessary "filler." The sci-fi battle sequence on Krypton looked kinda cool (Star Wars meets Prometheus) but was totally out of place. Why was superman smashing the giant spider machine when he should have...nvm. He's gotta smash something I guess.

Outta the way...I'm fighting here!
Henry Cavill looks likes the perfect Superman specimen but alas, he and the rest of the cast can't overcome such a sorry script. I usually love Amy Adams, but she and Michael Shannon's talents were largely wasted. There are plot holes galore and some of the most blatant product placement I've ever seen in a film. I think Nikon and IHOP should have been credited as actual characters they got so much screen time.

The film's pacing is also totally out of whack. It feels like director Zack Snyder tried making two different movies and spliced them both together...while blindfolded. A series of somber flashbacks show Superman's coming of age in Kansas with the Kent family after he arrives on Earth. These scenes are probably the best of the entire film and are shot in a pseudo Malick style. Imagine Clark Kent testing his super powers on the set of The Tree of Life. Something like that. Then we get to the other half, the Michael Bay disaster porn portion of the film that totally lost me. The action is so fast paced, there's so much CGI tomfoolery onscreen that it's hard to focus on anything in particular. Buildings, jets, trains, Kryptonians, all fly through the air at breakneck speeds, it all becomes a giant exhausting blur. Also, the high octane fight scenes would have been more impressive, if they weren't straight Dragon Ball Z ripoffs. If you've seen the final fight between Neo and Agent Smith in Matrix Revolutions, you've basically seen the battles in Man of Steel.

Watching this movie as a former comic book geek, Man of Steel was even worse.


Superman is one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time. He's been fighting crime and saving the world in the pages of DC comics for 75 years now. In terms of popularity it goes something like, Mickey Mouse, Jesus, and Superman...and not necessarily in that order. Superman has survived through the ages because his character, the ever vigilant boyscout supreme, has remained a consistent symbol of goodwill, truth and justice in a continually dangerous and scary world. From the Great Depression, Hitler, the Cold War and 9/11, Superman has been there. He never falters or waivers in the face of evil, he always does whats right. Hell, he doesn't even age and has outlived his original readers by this point. He's Superman. Calling him an icon, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, the traits that have made Superman such an endearing figure for nearly a century, also make him extremely boring and one dimensional. Yes, I said it, Superman is boring. He has to be though. It's in his character's DNA. Marvel Comic's Captain America faces a similar problem as Supes, the whole goody two shoes/hall monitor thing. Both characters are displaced loners, (Supes is an alien refugee, Cap is from a bygone era) but only one of them can fly and is indestructible...and that is Superman's main problem, he's too powerful and too one dimensional for audiences to relate to. But why would you? He's that unattainable image of perfection we all secretly yearn to achieve. He doesn't second guess himself or drop the ball, ever. Why would we want to bring him down to our level?

That's Man of Steel's biggest mistake in my book. They try to humanize an alien demigod. Nolan's Batman movies had a certain grit and harsh sense of realism because 1) Batman has serious psychological problems and 2) He's a just a regular dude under that mask. Superman is, well, Superman! He doesn't mope around, he doesn't recklessly endanger innocent lives (demolishing Smallville and half of Metropolis in DBZ fistfights) and he doesn't kill! In trying to make Superman hip for modern audiences Man of Steel totally destroys the essence of who Superman is and why he's endured for so long.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Review: Before Midnight

I'm not even going to lie here folks, I'm biased as fuck when it comes to this movie. Before Midnight, the latest in Richard Linklater's unexpected romance trilogy, is definitely going in my Top 5 films of the year list. This movie had me laughing, squirming and ready to bawl in my seat simultaneously.

I've already ranted about my love for the Before films in the past, but I'll gladly summarize more for you late arrivals. 1995's Before Sunrise saw a young American dude named Jesse woo a gorgeous French girl named Celine (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy) and followed their one magical day together in Vienna after meeting by happenstance on a train. In the pre-internet dark ages of the mid 90's, how could lovebirds from different continents keep the flame alive? Well 2004's Before Sunset showed us what happened to our favorite "kinda" couple in the nine years that followed, as we follow the two as they stroll through the streets of Paris on one beautifully lit afternoon. Before Sunset takes everything that was great about the first film up a notch (the dialogue, cinematography, onscreen chemistry, real time fluidity and most of all, those damn emotions/feelings they conjure up), and is easily one of the best movies of the 2000's. Here we are in 2013, nine years from the last film with Before Midnight.

Great trilogy or GREATEST trilogy?

On it's own merits, Before Midnight is a great film. As a bookend to the entire trilogy, it's phenomenal. This is the equivalent of cinematic crack cocaine. This dat good shit yo. Each film in the series has aged like Jesse and Celine's individual characters. Before Sunrise is starry eyed and naively romantic. Like first teenage love, it's the most cheesiest and powerful fucking thing in the universe. Before Sunset is damaged and woeful, but still longing for acceptance and a warm embrace. This final film however, is the dark, jaded bulldog phase. The "leave the toilet seat up and I'll asphyxiate you" side to love and relationships that no one likes to talk about, especially Hollywood romance films that often pander to young girls.

Before Midnight is a bold film that flies in the face of normal mainstream cinematic conventions. Jesse and Celine are the antidote to the youth oriented ADHD geared juggernaut of today's Hollywood apparatus. The 13 minute, single take car scene near the beginning of the film is a thing of sheer beauty/brilliance. It feels a bit strange watching other people onscreen as Jesse and Celine have held a monopoly on camera time throughout the entire series. The supporting cast all do a wonderful job though but really, it's the interaction between the two stars that drive this film. They laugh and cry and all but rip each other to shreds at certain points and it all feels jarringly real. The romanticized Cinderella/stroke of midnight effect that propelled Before Sunrise and Sunset is gone. Before Midnight revels in the harshness of reality. These characters have 18 years of history between them and at this point, feel like living, breathing humans to some people (dorks like me). When you've spent the better part of a decade wondering about the exploits of fictional characters, they've got to be doing something right in regards to storytelling and characterization.

You may have noticed that I haven't said a whole lot about the film's plot. That's because it's all a massive spoiler. It's probably possible to enjoy Before Midnight without seeing the previous films, but I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, I strongly caution against it. Go hunt down the other films and watch them in order before heading out to see this new one. These characters deserve it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Nails @ The Echo, Los Angeles. 6-8-13.

A friend asked me to describe Nails' sound to him...I told him it was like listening to steroids. That rush of testosterone filled energy that convinces you that you'll fight the world in bare-knuckle combat and fucking win. That's what this whole extreme music (metal/hardcore/punk/noise) nonsense is supposed to be about. The wild union of determination and raw power. Nails embodies that spirit to a T.

This show started early and because I suck at life and had to work Saturday afternoon, I missed pretty much all the opening bands. Bummer. I did manage to catch the last half of Power Trip's set. These Texan thrashers stand apart from the horde of copy cat "Thrash Revival" clones with the frenzied urgency in their performance. They didn't come onstage to share their love of high tops and denim jeans, they came to bang some fucking heads, which is exactly what they did.

Nails didn't come to bring the noise however, they came to obliterate. Their set was so loud my ear plugs tried to abort themselves midway through their performance, no joke. Todd Jones and co. played a good chunk of material off their new album, Abandon All Life (best of the year contender? Shit yes). If you haven't heard their new record then do yourself a favor, the next time you have a bad day at work or an argument with that pesky significant other, click that link provided above. You'll thank me for it. Their set was criminally short, but rock solid. Some of their new material is more spazzy (re: blast beats) and less mosh friendly than the jams off Unsilent Death, but kids down in front still lost their friggin minds. All I saw were a stream of dark figures bouncing off each other/flying through the air all night.

Highlights of the night included:
-Todd Jones dedicating the song "Tyrant" to himself.
-the eerie quiet in the room as Jones lambasted internet "shit talkers" before "Suffering Soul."
-the shaking floor boards (aka the Nails effect).
-newly added 2nd guitarist Saba's nod to Slayer during the ending of "Unsilent Death."

Nails is seriously a force to be reckoned with in the underground metal/hardcore world. I'm going to be that old man telling campfire stories to youngins about seeing Nails in concert, mark my words. They're like the Achilles of this shit. Unfortunately for ya'll, the band is set to remain a part time passion project for the foreseeable future. Aside from short regional runs/festivals, extensive international and North American touring is pretty much out of the question. So move to California then. Get your Nails on.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Awesome Photo (15)

I love Converge. I love The Wu-tang Clan. What happens when you combine each group's iconic imagery? The best fucking tattoo of all time that's what!

Jane Doe Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit.
I'm one of those indecisive pansies who's too terified to actually get tattoos, but cyborg_gym has one gnarly tattoo that I totally approve of and secretly plan to steal one day and pass off as my own.

Seriously dude, you win the internetz for this one:


Bump some Converge/Wu-Tang to celebrate this Awesome Photo.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I GET JOKES: Free Speech

artwork by Tiffany Reza

Did you know it’s illegal to yell “fire” in a public place? Well you can, but only if the joint is burning down. You can’t falsely yell “fire” in, oh, let’s say a crowded theater, or any packed public place that could cause panic and result in people getting hurt. I know, I know, but what about muh FREEOMS?! Freedom of speech is great (thank you Larry Flynt) but limitations like this one seem necessary in my book. 

You know what other phrase should be illegal? “It’s yours.” I’m not talking about slices of pizza either. Falsely identifying someone as your baby daddy should definitely fall under the limitations of free speech. You better have a warrant, forensics and eye witness testimony before you come at a guy with that. Why? Well the threat of a fire/disaster in a public sphere is illegal because it could result in bodily harm or death. False fatherhood accusations on the other hand are equal to certain death. It’s an 18 years to life sentence (depending on how fucked up the kid turns out). Say goodbye to the existence you once knew. It’s diapers, braces, data plans and tuition/bail from here until the little bastard gets a full time job when he’s 34 (thanks Obama).

If you can’t yell fire in a public space, you shouldn’t be allowed to accuse potential baby daddy’s on Twitter either. Think about it. The social media sphere is more crowded than all the theater houses and sports arenas in the world. Do you have any idea how hard it is to shake the hashtag #deadbeatdad. You’ll be an instant pariah. Even something harmless like: “Joey Joe Joe was tagged at The Yard House with 4 others” will result in endless comments like: “He needs to be wit his family at home.” “PREACH” and “ReALTALk.”

I know that big government is the enemy and the last thing we all need are the feds telling us how to live and what to say…but this is serious. The Clear and Present Danger doctrine has been instituted in our legal system for almost a century now, I just think it’s time we updated it for modern times. No false fire or paternity claims in 21st century America. And remember ladies, the burden of proof rests solely on the prosecution. God, I love this country.