Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Dillinger Escape Plan @ The House of Blues, Hollywood. 7/20/13.

Summer Slaughter, 2013. This traveling underground metal freak show used to be one of my favorite parts of the season. Bands from across the extreme music spectrum (death metal, metalcore, thrash, prog, etc.) all thrown together for a full day of blast beats and distorted guitars. Unfortunately, there has been a sharp decline in the quality of bands aboard the tour each year. Maybe because I'm getting old and senile/out of touch with the scene these days, but this year's lineup was easily the least exciting I've ever seen. It's true, I probably would have stayed home this year and not even bothered with Summer Slaughter 2013, if it wasn't for the nights headliner, the almighty, The Dillinger Escape Plan. 

I'm pretty sure I've ranted about Dillinger "a few" times before, let's just say...they're the reason I shelled out top dollar for my Summer Slaughter ticket. We purposely arrived late, missing nearly all the other bands except the last two support acts. Unfortunately, this meant we had to watch Periphery. They started their set as we settled into our perch inside The House of Blues and although extremely popular these days, I simply cannot stand this band. Their drummer is rad and they have some cool guitar stuff, but for the most part, I was grinding my teeth during their entire set. Animals as Leaders was next on the bill. I'd seen Animals As Leaders opening for Dillinger a few years ago, so there was some deja vu going on here. Only last time they played a much shorter set, and as much as I appreciate their shred guitar/instrumental music, after a while I felt bored to tears. 

Finally, Dillinger took the stage and all was right with the universe. They opened with "Prancer" and immediately began the high octane circus act that is their live performance. Leaping into the crowd, twirling guitars around like yo-yos, literally climbing the venue's walls and jumping from dangerous heights; I haven't seen the band this possessed in ages. The last time I caught DEP performing at a House of Blues venue was way back in 2005 when they opened for Unearth in Anahiem. Needless to say, the stage was left in utter shambles and people were actually flying off the balcony (AFI singer Davey Havok actually). This time they were in the much larger Hollywood location and were headlining the event. Again, since this wasn't a normal Dillinger gig but rather, the heavy metal hodgepodge that is Summer Slaughter, playing in a large venue before a crowd of new faces meant the band was beyond determined on this night. They played a nice mix of old favorites and new material off their latest album, One of Us Is The Killer.

The thing about Dillinger is that even if you don't enjoy their music, which is almost impossible since I caught several of the 300 pound security guards rocking out during their set, you can still marvel at the band's insane live shenanigans. I lost count of all the times Greg and Ben (who just broke his hand two months ago) jumped into the audience. The highlights of the night were when Greg jumped off the PA system, and later when he ventured toward my side of the venue during the end of "Sunshine The Werewolf" and I sang/screamed/sweated along with him like old times. Check it out (I'm the goober in white):

Once again, Dillinger proved they're the Weapon X of this extreme music shit ("...the best there is at what I do..." for you non-geeks) and put on another legendary performance. Do not hesitate to see this band when they come through your neck of the woods.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie Review- Only God Forgives

Director Nicolas Winding Refn's latest film, Only God Forgives is both simultaneously brutal and brilliant. Brutal in that it's at times, agonizing to sit through. Brilliant, because it pulls no punches and forces it's audience to not only think, but often fend for themselves. The end result is an absolutely haunting cinematic experience. This film is not for the faint of heart, or closed minded/intellectually challenged.

There are two undeniable truths about Only God Forgives that need to be addressed. First, it's simply a gorgeous film to look it. Nearly every shot is stunning. The cinematography and camera work on display throughout the film is phenomenal and IMO is worth the price of admission alone. Second, it should to be noted that Only God Forgives is not, and I repeat, IS NOT, a "conventionally" entertaining film by any means. If you go to the movies and want to escape/unwind and have fun, do not see this film. It's about as joyful as a trip to the dentist (I mean sadistic tooth warrior, not Horrible Bosses nympho DDS either). This film is utterly devoid of cinematic staples such as: plot, dialogue, character development, editing and sanity.

So why on Earth would anyone want to see Only God Forgives? Because it's damn good that's why. Only God Forgives appears to be Refn's knee-jerk reaction to the success of his 2011 breakthrough film Drive. While Drive was like a modern day fairytale, with it's dreamy atmosphere and soundscapes, Only God Forgives is a straight up nightmare. Refn has gone on record saying:
"...if Drive was really good cocaine...then Only God Forgives is great acid."
 That describes the film in a nutshell folks. It's a gloriously dark acid freakout. Throw everything (including taste) out the window and just prepare yourself for tons of blood, guts, dark hallways. excruciatingly long closeups and ass loads of karaoke.  That and one of the most oddball surrealist stories I've seen in theaters...but more on that after the trailer (cuz SPOILERS ya know?).

Watching Only God Forgives wasn't a fun night at the movies. It felt more like homework, analyzing Refn's art house drug experiment push the boundaries of story telling. Film is ultimately a visual medium, it's simply moving pictures after all, and by film's end Only God Forgives, with it's minimal dialogue, emphasis on symbolic imagery and Cliff Martinez's BRILLIANT score, hammers that home in spades. For that I'd say Refn's latest film is a rousing success...and totally fucked up.

WARNING: *SPOILERS* So here's the rundown to Only God Forgives' story (or my interpretation at least).

Chang, the police official with the wicked sword is God. He literally sees and knows all that goes on within Bangkok and dispenses Old Testament style justice as needed. Ryan Gosling's Julian character is haunted by his fucked past/family, especially his mafia/incestuous lovin' mother (who just might literally be the devil). He's angry about his lot in life and wants to change but due to his "troubled " upbringing he can't escape his family and their criminal/evil life. At one point Julian tries to defend his mother and fight Chang and naturally gets his ass can't fight God and win. Eventually Julian proves he's not a despicable soul like the rest of his family and is "forgiven" by God in typical Refn, aka utterly twisted, fashion.

If you saw the film and didn't catch any of that maybe seeing it again with this understanding might change your opinion. That or you still hate it because it's a painful, agonizing mess. Who knows?

Movie Review: The Way, Way Back.

The Way, Way Back
, is a touching coming of age story. It's a charming little film, centered on an awkward teen who learns harsh truths about adult life while coming to grips with himself and overcoming the often painful throes of adolescence. If you're a fan of Fox Searchlight's quirky, mass appeal indie flicks (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Ruby Sparks, etc.) you'll probably like The Way, Way Back. However, if you were one of those unfortunate geeky souls who struggled to find acceptance as a teen, you might just love this film.

BETA posture in full effect.
Liam James stars as Duncan, the film's uber alienated protagonist. We've all seen pathetic characters in movies before, especially coming of age flicks like this, but James' turn as Duncan in The Way, Way Back takes the cake. His character is so fucking BETA, it was literally painful to watch him onscreen during the first half of the movie. Of course this made his inevitable transformation from hapless loser into, well, a semi functional human being, all the more revelatory. Honestly, watching this kid's performance triggered a flood a nerdy PTSD flashbacks. Duncan's fear of the opposite sex, his isolationist tendencies and blatant self loathing, even his horrible fucking posture, it was almost too much to bear...that's how legit this kid's performance is.

Aside from the uber geek champion of the universe, The Way, Way Back features a stellar supporting cast as well. Steve Carell is cast against type, playing the douche of all douches, AnnaSophia Robb is the enigmatic/tortured hot chick next door that Duncan's character pines over (and she does a daaaamn fine job filling out dAt bikini), Allison Janney steals every scene she's in as the neighborhood lush/cougar. Then, there's Sam Rockwell. He's the wacky water park manager who takes Duncan under his wing and encourages our forlorn protagonist to live, to love, and to break dance. Liam James is the film's tortured soul, but Rockwell is it's pulsing heart. Watching the two interact onscreen together, despite the film's many, and I mean many, "coming of age flick" cliches, felt almost magical at times. Of course, again, I'm kind of biased here. It appears that there is a little Duncan left inside this blackened heart of mine, no matter how much Slayer I pump through the stereo.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I GET JOKES: Job Interview- wut do?

artwork by Chris "SILLYPANTS" Castro

Everyday is your day off when you’re unemployed. Enjoy each one like it’s the last. You never know when some dick nosed job recruiter might call/text/email you back and fuck up the perfect little Friday morning you had planned. Here’s what you do:

1) Don’t answer the phone.
You applied for this job how many weeks ago? Yeah, and they call you back NOW? Fuck that. You’re probably too busy having sex with your girl (hand), hiking (napping) or playing ball (PS3…and no you can’t pause multiplayer motherfucker!) to answer anyways. They’ll leave you a voice mail and they’ll like it.

2) Reschedule the interview. The later the better.
Cynthia from HR has no idea who she’s fucking with. 8am tomorrow morning? Try not to laugh in her face. Hold it in. We all know that choosing between an all night Star Trek The Next Generation marathon on Netflix, and waking up early for some stupid fucking job interrogat…er, interview, ain’t no choice at all. Tell her you volunteer as a crossing guard or have to take grams to the doctor in the morning. Anything to keep you in bed until 9 o’clock.   

3) Bum a ride.
Where is this place anyways? Across town? Hell no. Don’t waste gas or pay for parking when they’re probably not even going to hire your ass anyways. Call Tony. Tell fat fuck you’ll treat him to breakfast and smoke him out later if he drops you off. That McDonalds on the corner (‘Merica!) should keep him occupied until you’re done.

4) Don’t shave.
They don’t own you. Not yet. Once you get the job, if they tell you to wear a tutu and grab your ankles you better smile and ask for seconds (gross…but fetish shit pays well). Until then, don’t shave. You already had plans before they abruptly called you remember? How are you supposed to pick up at the bar if you look like that douche from One Direction? It’s not gonna happen my friend. No beard = no bush. Remember that. If they give you shit during the interview, remind them that this job should be about the content of your character, not the length of your facial hair. If they’re not down with Dr. King, then fuck that place and report this hate crime to NCAA, A.S.A.P.

5) Don’t do any research about the job or company before hand.
Why spoil the surprise? You need work, they’re hiring. It said so on Craigslist. Of course you’re going to apply. Besides, you’re trying to get a paycheck, not ghost write the company’s biography. Their recent expansion into foreign markets, charity work with disadvantaged orphans, or how old man Harris founded the company with just a five dollar bill and the sweat off his brow in 1947, doesn’t mean jack shit. How much are we getting paid homie?! Oh, and do sick days and vacation time roll over? That would rule.

So you got the interview pushed back until 10am and Tony’s on his way. You’re rocking a majestic beard and know everything you need to know about this potential “dream job” you’re interviewing for (it’s in a office, across town)...hold up.

You haven’t clinched this thing yet partner. There’s still one more thing we’ve got to cover before you start abusing the company gas card. This one is important so make sure you write it down if necessary.

Do not, I repeat, do not forget to bring extra copies of your resume to the interview!

You’re trying to make a good impression for Christ’s sake.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Watching Pacific Rim (in IMAX 3D no less) was the most fun I've had at the movies all year. Not since last summer's The Avengers have I cheered and smiled so much in a theater. Prepare yourself for a campy yet thrilling adventure film with some of the most jaw dropping visuals ever created.

Pacific Rim
is director Guillermo del Toro's love letter to the Japanese Kaiju film's he adored from his childhood. He was inspired by old Godzilla/ low budget sci-fi flicks, where random creatures destroy cities for kicks. Only this movie is in the hands of an expert director with a huge Hollywood budget. However, despite all it's amazing special effects and the mind boggling amounts of action/carnage that unfolds onscreen, the story behind Pacific Rim is actually quite simple and old fashioned. Alien monsters emerge from a portal under the Pacific Ocean which causes humanity to band together and build giant robots to fight them. That's it. That's the plot and overall theme of the film as well. The movie is about teamwork...and giant robots fighting Godzilla monsters. It's so simple, yet vastly more rewarding then any of the previous action/super hero/blockbuster types films released this summer.

The film's characters aren't the most richly textured creations, but they get the job done fair enough. Sure, sometimes they feel like stock examples straight out of other films (the fearless leader, the hot headed show off, the timid love interest, etc) but they don't mope around or do asinine shit that goes against their archetypes either (re: Man of Steel). Ildris Alba delivers the strongest performance as the tough as nails military commander in charge of saving the world. Charlie Day sort of steals every scene he's in also as the film's comic relief, playing a kooky scientist, channeling a bit of Rick Moranis from Ghostbusters in there somewhere.

Of course you don't go into a movie about giant robots fighting Godzillas for character development and outstanding dialogue. Have no fear, the fights are awesome. The size of these creatures and the sheer scale of all the onscreen carnage that takes place is almost too much for ones brain to process at once. I had to see the film a second time just to grasp all it's awesomeness. The robots are called "Jaegers," and the monsters, "Kaijus." Whenever a Kaiju jumps through the portal in the Pacific and heads to a populated area, he meets a Jaeger, controlled by two pilots who mind meld with the machine/computer for maximum ass kicking efficiency, and the two get it on in the most violent way possible. The film's epilogue establishes the Kaiju invasion back story that most other directors would have focused on even though that type of film has been done to death already. When Jaegers and Kaijus fight in this film, it's not new or shocking for the characters to do so, since they've already been at war with each other for years, so the film doesn't center on mindless disaster porn leanings (Michael Bay's Transformers anyone?). What you do some amazing eye candy for the inner 12 year old inside us all.

Pacific Rim is one hell of an entertainment ride. It has the Joe Cool cliches of Independence Day, the oddball sentimentality of Armageddon, and the uncanny, starry-eyed visual effects that made jaws/panties drop in Jurassic Park. Take note Hollywood, this is how you make a legit summer action movie.

Palms @ The Observatory, Santa Ana. 7-11-13.

Ever hear of the Deftones? Of course you have. They escaped the slums of the mid 90's nu-metal scene and emerged as one of the most exciting rock bands of the new millennium. Ever hear of ISIS? Maybe not...but you should have. They were genre bending titans of atmospheric and metal music, standing tall as the leaders of the 00's post-metal underground. What happens when you splice the charismatic vocal croons of the Deftones with Isis' intense musical core? You get an awesome fucking new band called Palms. That's what. They played four special debut shows in California last week. Their show at The Observatory was amazing.

Crypts, a Seattle based synth punk outfit, opened the show. I kind of hated the band at first, dudes playing laptops and synths don't usually hold a special place in my heart, but after a few songs I found myself totally spellbound by the band. The singer was a total maniac, jumping, spitting and cracking his belt like a whip every chance he got. I'm definitely interested in seeing more from Crypts in the future.

Once Crypts wrapped things up, the sizable crowd grew anxious for some Palms. I don't think the show was sold out but it looked pretty damn full from my end. It seemed like most people in attendance were die hard Deftones fans. This made sense, since Deftones are the larger act and vocalist Chino Moreno is worshiped like some kind of deity by his adoring legions of Southern California Latino fans. No really, you could literally hear a wave of panties dropping as soon as Chino took the stage. So the packed house was ready, and I'm happy to report that Palms was more than able to kick ass on this night.

Palms mellow, atmospheric sound (think sandy beaches at sunset) was enthralling, while the band's refined metal pedigree was strong enough to keep heads bobbing all night. They played every song off their self titled debut album and threw a Swervedriver cover in for good measure. It should come as no surprise that the band was tight and precise as hell, Palm's musical core (Jeff, Aaron and Bryant) spent more than a decade together bashing away in ISIS and Chino's career with the Deftones has cemented him as one of the best vocalists of his generation. It's like Hercules and Xena teaming better believe they're going to kick ass. I was pleasantly surprised to see Chino playing guitar during their set. I'm so used to seeing him as the hyped up frontman, watching him focus on his playing and delivery was kind of surreal. Also, Aaron Harris has been one of my favorite drummers for years. His block-y yet strangely fluid drumming style is totally unique and something I can't get enough of. Watching him rock out again behind the kit after ISIS disbanded was, for me, worth the price of admission alone.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay the band is that Palms sounds almost exactly like their album live. Get the CD, close your eyes and that's pretty much how they were in concert. Yes this isn't the most complex or technically demanding music, but it's rife with sonic textures and nuances that the band nailed perfectly onstage. Check out the band's new record and jump at the chance to see Palms live in the future.

Friday, July 19, 2013

FIDLAR bring the lulz (NSFW)

Hey hey kids. Long time no see. Sorry, the last few weeks have been rather hectic. I'm now officially backlogged on both movie (The Way, Way Back & Pacific Rim...go see em'!) and concert reviews and have several incomplete rants/thesis statements about the current political headlines from the crazy ol' U.S. of A waiting to finish. But that's not what this post is about. No, today we rock out with our cocks out.Literally.

Thanks FIDLAR. I needed that.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

R.I.P. My friend

Gary (middle) and friends/co-workers in action.
 Last week a friend of mine passed away after a two year battle with cancer. His name was Gary and he would have turned 21 this year. I met Gary through work, he was a fresh faced new hire that brightened everyone's day. He was literally, a kid, out of high school starting college, entering the workforce and looking forward to a long and fruitful adult live. Unfortunately, out of the damn blue, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2011 at the age of 19. I was one of Gary's supervisors, responsible for his training and development at work. I can honestly say that he was one of the most positive and optimistic people I have ever met. He didn't smoke or do drugs, he was athletic, an avid church goer, had a long term girlfriend and unlike most people (jaded/cynical assholes like myself) he actually liked being at work. The bravery he displayed these past two years, in the face of countless treatments and surgeries, is truly inspiring. Why a great human being like Gary had to leave this world so prematurely is something I'll never understand. His funeral is tomorrow.

Here is song I've been listening to a lot lately that feels strangely appropriate. It's simultaneously beautiful and tragic and I wish it would go forever but alas...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth of July...on July 4th.

July 4th. It's kind of a big deal here in the United States. Something about freedom and independence...I don't know, this anti NSA spy blocker I'm running is fucking with my GOOGLE powers.

I'm working tonight, so no celebrating/blowing shit up for me. It's cool though, I'm celebrating in my own way right now: sharing Fourth of July's awesome music with ya'll.

Fourth of July's new album Empty Moon is in the running for my favorite album of the year. It's that good. It's one of the most raw and impassioned records I've heard in some time. The jams from the video above demonstrate the band's pop rock sensibilities but it's the slow jams on Empty Moon that showcase their real talents. Song's like "The Cost" and "Before Our Hearts Explode," with their forlorn lyrics and folk/country leanings, they conjure images of cowboys riding across the open plains at dusk. It's like iconic Americana pumping through the stereo.

Check the band's Facebook, and listen to the demos from their new album Empty Moon HERE. If you can get your hands on the actual album, I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Movie Review: The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring succeeds in portraying the exploits of the real life high school aged vandals who burglarized Hollywood celebrities in 2008. In fact, Sofia Coppola's latest film is too successful and is just as boring and shallow as it's real life counterparts.

The film follows a bunch of spoiled kids from Calabasas, California, who crave the spotlight and jet set lifestyle of their Hollywood/Reality TV idols. These kids embrace all the petty and shallow aspects of modern American life, to the nth degree. In a world where you can become rich and famous for making a sex tape, or land on the cover of fashion magazines after being arrested and having your mugshot plastered all over the news, it almost seems logical to steal from wealthy A-(or sometime D-)listers and become famous yourself. The robberies, the drugs, the partying, the horribly cliched music and posturing, these kids use this things to mask how boring and pathetic they really are inside.


Unfortunately, The Bling Ring is a case of art imitating life. The film captures the vapid and empty lives of it's characters to a T...and this makes for a hell of a boring movie. It's so sterile and repetitive it's almost maddening. They rob and party, and rob and party some more. The characters don't grow or develop as people, because they were barely even people to begin with. The film doesn't glorify their actions but refrains from villianizing them either. Coppola's film takes a fly on the wall approach and is as cold and distant as the young hooligans themselves. Acting wise, the cast does an okay job but again, they're basically playing caricatures so that doesn't really say much. When your film is about unlikeable scumbags, you can either go go buck wild into left field (Spring Breakers, Pain & Gain) or stay true to the source material and risk crafting an unlikeable film as well. Looks like Coppola chose the latter. If it wasn't for Emma Watson and newcomer Katie Chang looking gorgeous onscreen and the ironically bumping soundtrack, I might have officially hated The Bling Ring. Instead I'll summarize the film with something Emma Watson's character would say: "it was NOT chill."

Movie Review: This Is The End

Sometimes, setting low expectations is a good thing. I was skeptical about This Is The End, afraid it was another one of those "funny trailer, horrible movie" type films that have plagued theaters since Judd Apatow became the commander and chief of Hollywood comedies. For every Superbad and Knocked Up, there's a Guilt Trip or The Sitter. For every Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there's a Get Him To The Greek. I was afraid this movie was going to be Pineapple Express all over again, a film with an awesome hype building trailer, but disappointing overall. Thankfully, I was wrong.

This Is The End is not only one of the funniest films of 2013, but one of the funniest movies I've seen in recent memory. The plot is ludicrous and almost irrelevant, the real laughs come from watching the ensemble cast tear each other to pieces with crude jokes and gags galore. The film centers around this group of Hollywood comedic actors, all playing exaggerated versions of themselves, as they party it up at James Franco's house when the friggin' Apocalypse unfolds. The dudes are trapped indoors and begin going stir crazy. Each character is used to being the token "funny guy/smart ass" in each of their movies, so imagine how wacky it gets when all six of them are thrown together in a less than ideal situation like this.

Raunchy humor aside, I'd argue that This Is The End's best feature is the film's basic underlying theme: that Hollywood is full of shit. The movie takes the piss out of our society's unhealthy culture of celebrity worship/idolatry. The characters in This Is The End are all famous Hollywood elites, but when shit hits the fan, their true colors are revealed, that of selfish, callous assholes. They're horrible people and even worse "friends" toward one another. Watching the characters drop their Hollywood facade and become honest human beings is almost as rewarding as the awesome Ghostbusters inspired CGI hell beasts that run wild during the literal Armageddon taking place outside. All the random nods and throwbacks to their own film careers, and the impromptu Pineapple Express sequel the stars create while trapped indoors are all perfect examples of how clever and tongue and cheek this film is. What could have been a self congratulatory circle jerk from Hollywood's current comedic heavyweights turned into one of the best comedies I've seen in years. Michael Cera, Emma Watson and Channing Tatum's cameos are worth the price of admission alone.