Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Movie Review: Enemy

, the new (old) film from Prisoners mastermind Denis Villeneuve, is undoubtedly one of the most head scratchily, perplexing films I've ever seen. A film so opaque and puzzling, I could not stop thinking about it for days afterward.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam...and Anthony, and his performance as both dudes (well...) is nothing short of amazing. Adam is a neurotic History professor. He's disheveled, lives in a spartan/dingy apartment and has a smoking hot girlfriend (the oh so wonderful Melanie Laurent). His life consists of lectures, grading papers, drinking wine and having sex. One day, out of the friggin blue, a coworker randomly suggests Adam check out a certain film that might lift his dreary spirits a tad. Adam goes to the local video store, watches the flick and is startled to learn that one of the actors in the movie looks exactly like him. This is Anthony. Anthony is an aspiring actor. He's a suave fellow who wears nice suits, rides a motorcycle, and has a beautiful pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon). Adam becomes obsessed with meeting Anthony and eventually tracks him down. When the two eventually meet, that's when shit really goes off into Twilight Zone land. 

was actually filmed before Prisoners, but it's release was delayed until recently. Like Prisoners, Gyllenhaal's performance is absolutely riveting. He successfully creates two distinct characters in this film, even if they are exact duplicates of each other. His mannerism for Adam (his posture, his walk, his tone of voice) are completely different than Anthony's. When the two characters interact with one another, it boggles the mind at how good Gyllenhaal is onscreen. Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon play different variations of the same woman also. Both are beautiful blonde companions to Gyllenhaal's Adam/Anthony combo. Laurent's character is more aggressive and her nude body appears seductive while Gadon's pregnant wife is worrisome and her nudity showcases her vulnerability. The atmosphere in the film is creepy, awash in a hazy yellow/rustic tone, and Villeneuve successfully drags the viewer into the paranoid, oddball cinematic reality he's created.

So now...the weird stuff. I suffer from arachnophobia, aka I'm deathly afraid of, well you know. So much so that I'm getting all squirmy just thinking about em'. With that in mind, any discussion of Enemy must mention it's weird and totally disgusting obsession with spiders (barf). From the opening scene to the film's now infamous final shot, this film is completely engulfed in spider imagery and metaphors. Some people might not understand what the hell is going on throughout the movie and I know the fact that I had my hands covering my eyes during some crucial  points ( paralyzed w/ fear...remember?) didn't help my understanding either, but after much deliberation and some online research, I think I've pieced the film together fairly well. Anyone who is into David Lynch and Fincher films just might love this movie. Other folks will probably punch their screens asking "WTF did I just watch?"


If you watched Enemy and your brain turned into scrambled eggs, don't worry. Chris Stuckmann has an in-depth explanation of the film HERE.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Military Child" - Their Wedding's NEW Single

A good song is hard to ignore. Genres be damned, I think it’s safe to say a catchy, memorable tune is what we’re all looking for when we push (or click) play these days. Southern California’s Indie/Pop maestros Their Wedding, have delivered just that with their latest single, “Military Child.”

This new song off their forthcoming Wine EP, is awash in foot tapping, finger waving goodness. Coming from a jaded misanthrope like myself, that’s saying something folks. With a pulsating hi-hat and funky guitar scratches, Celese and Al Hernandez (drums and guitar respectively) unleash a flood of good vibes on the ear drums. Piano man/crooner Michael EscaƱuelas’ vocals provides a soulful, world weary tone that brings an emotional heft to the table, while simultaneously doubling down on the band’s mega catchy factor as well.

Their Wedding’s Wine EP comes out June 3rd, via True Grit Records. If “Military Child” is any indication, you’ll be “Oooooh Oooooh-ing” in no time.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 2014 Metal Alliance Tour: Behemoth, Goatwhore and 1349 @ The House of Blues, Hollywood. 4-5-14.

This epic pairing of black metal-ish bands from around the globe (Poland, USA, Norway and Columbia respectively) served as an early highlight for 2014. Even though I'm a huge fan of both Goatwhore and 1349, this night was really all about the return of Behemoth. Yes, it's been about 6 years since my last Behemoth show. I've always enjoyed the band live before, but somewhere around the release of The Apostasy, I started feeling like the band had hit a plateau. I stopped rushing to see them on every tour and then Nergal's epic battle with cancer took the band out of commission for a while. Long story short, this was my first time seeing the band in what felt like forever and I was curious to see how Behemoth 2.0 would deliver.
I'm glad to report that newly rejuvenated Behemoth did not disappoint. Supporting their new album The Satanist, their strongest album since 2004's Demigod IMO, the band damn near ripped the sold out House of Blues a new skylight. The band opened with "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel," and the capacity crowd went bonkers. Behemoth seem to have taken a cue from their black metal roots, you know...before they transitioned into a tech death juggernaut in the 2000s, since their new material is far more streamlined than their most recent albums but also, far more impassioned. Sure, Inferno isn't pushing tempos past the speed of sound on their new songs, but they still rock pretty hard. In fact, both the crowd and the band's energy level were higher than I've ever seen at previous Behemoth shows. The setlist might have had something to do with that, sandwiching fan favorites like "Conquer All" and "Christians to the Lions" in between the foot stomping/headbanging friendly jams off The Satanist. Hats off to Nergal and his merry men, dudes know how to put on one hell of a show.

welcome back
Goatwhore and 1349 were cool as well even though they both had technical problems with their sound. 1349 was a blur of noise. That's kind of the appeal of their whirlwind black metal approach but the guitar was way too low in the mix and as much as I love the drums, I do like to hear other instruments also. I guess Frost was busy with Satyricon or had more visa issues, either way home boy wasn't playing drums with 1349 (yet again =/) but his replacement did a pretty solid job. I've never seen Goatwhore receive such a large and enthused reaction before in 10+ years I've been following the band. It seems that the streamlined rock n roll vibe of their last two albums has finally garnered them the fanbase they've always deserved. Sure I'd have loved to hear some more older jams in their set, but the crowd seriously loved the shit out of their performance. It almost seemed like THEY were the headliners at one point. Unfortunately, Sammy had some issues with his guitar that ate a few minutes of their allotted time and put a fat lull in the middle of their otherwise, high octane set. I was also bummed I missed Inquisition, but again, this night was all about Behemoth anyways.

BEHEMOTH "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" Official Video Uncensored from Behemoth Official on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America- The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios has done the impossible. Not only have they transformed a B-tier, one dimensional character like Captain America into a total badass, but they've made a sequel that surpasses the original and elevates the entire genre into higher plane (think The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight). In summary, Captain America: The Winter Soldier shattered all of my expectations, had me giggling like a school girl and reaffirmed my undying loyalty to the Marvel brand.

S.H.I.E.L.D./Big Brother...is watching,
Captain America's first movie was pretty cool, even if it was a glorified placeholder for The Avengers. I loved the vintage, period piece atmosphere and didn't mind the dozen or so montages that rushed the film into the current MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe for the non-geeks). Cap's new film, The Winter Soldier, although intertwined with the rest of the MCU, stands on it's own two feet as a legit action/thriller extravaganza. Seriously, you could take away the comic book elements from this film and you'd still have a wildly entertaining action flick. Since Captain America doesn't have high tech armor or an enchanted space hammer, he's just a dude jacked to the extreme pinnacle of human perfection, his movie is bit more grounded than the usual Marvel films. Yeah, he's doing back flips off planes and punching holes in walls, but it's still less crazy than space portals and robot wrestling. Instead we see Cap laying the smack down on dozens of random goons in total 80's action mode. The fight scenes in this movie are beyond glorious. The elevator beat down sequence was easily one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life (next to Thor Vs Hulk in Avengers). I don't know what I enjoyed more, watching Cap finally go full super soldier, or the subtle barely there extras, like him bouncing off walls and falling off freeways; the crazy physics stuff that was always implied off panel in the comics but brought to light on the big screen.

Geek stuff aside, this is just a really well made flick. The Winter Soldier is a political leaning thriller, with topical references ripped right from the headlines. Nick Fury and his bros at S.H.I.E.L.D. have developed some new mega spy/drone weapons to weed out threats before they occur. It's some Orwellian/G.W. Bush/NSA stuff that our boy Captain America wants no part of (he's a 95 year old WWII vet for crying out loud). Everyone in the cast deliverers great performances, from Frank Grillo and the low level henchmen types to Scarlet Johansson who finally owns her Black Widow character. Of course all praises due to Chris Evans, the dude is the perfect Captain America. He handles the action and emotional aspects of the character remarkably well. His speech during the beginning of the third act was inspiring in all the ways Warner's godawful Man of Steel was not, and "end of the line" remark during the finale battle scene with the actual Winter Soldier had my heartstrings all twisted much like the now iconic, "...I had a date," phrase from the first film.

Kudos to the Russo brothers for directing such a sharp and ass kicking thriller. If you're into fast paced action flicks like the Bourne films, you'll love this. Next to The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider is easily Marvel's best film to date, and also one of the best comic movies of all time (up there with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, etc). Go see this.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Movie Review: Noah

Darren Aronofsky makes some weird movies. It's what he does and it's why I love the man. The first time I saw Requiem For a Dream my fragile little mind was reduced to paste. His 2010 masterwork, Black Swan, was so spellbinding I almost called Natalie Portman by her schizo ballerina character when I met (re: gawked at ) her a few years ago. Aronofsky's films are delightfully twisted and his style of filmmaking is so vivid and compelling, his movies literally haunt their viewers in the best way possible. I'm glad to announce that his latest film, a big budget adaptation of the biblical tale of Noah (the OG Ace Ventura) is as dark and weird as a huge studio film could possibly be in this day and age.

First, if you come into Noah expecting a traditional Judeo-Christian version of events you're probably going to hate this. Like torches and pitchforks hatred. Aronofsky uses the old bible story as a vehicle to craft another creepy character study about yet another violent and self destructive OCD type. Instead of drug addicts, failed wrestlers or psychotic ballerinas, we get Noah. You know, the dude who housed and inventoried two of every animal in the world inside a massive hand built ship meant to weather the apocalypse, whilst every person in the world died an agonizing, oxygen deprived death. That guy. This being an ancient myth/fable, it's not exactly grounded in reality, forcing Aronofsky to make some interesting storytelling decisions. Noah is basically two films, the first dealing with the supernatural deity/hocus pocus stuff and the last centering on chilling personal/family conflicts. Both sides are handled with enough weighted respect that they end up forming one gripping film.

Russel Crowe may play Noah, but the film's real star is the director himself. How Aronofsky crams so many polarizing elements into this supposedly mainstream flick is beyond me. You have crazy Requiem style cuts and flashbacks to the Garden of Eden, giant rock monster angels roaming the streets (desert), Lord of the Rings style battle sequences, cutesy CGI animals up the wazoo, angsty coming of age drama for the teens and the gnarliest family dispute EVER. Oh yeah, and lots of implied incest. How Aronofsky made this into a coherent film, let alone an entertaining one is a miracle. Everyone in the cast delivers solid performances, especially my wifey Emma Watson and Jennifer "Queen of my universe" Connelly. Crowe and Connelly create A Beautiful Mind reunion onscreen while Watson and Logan Lerman (playing Noah's troubled middle son Ham) have a The Perks of Being a Wallflower rendezvous as well. Good actors, cool special effects, and a wacky fantastical story that doesn't insult our intelligence. Good job Darren. Now let the dreaded "book VS movie" debate rage on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel
is the latest Wes Anderson film that director Wes Anderson has decided to unleash upon us and it's probably the most Wes Anderson-y movies he's ever made.

Some of you might recall that I'm no Wes Anderson fanboy. The Grand Budapest only reaffirms this. The dude is clearly a talented director, with a near mastery of the technical aspects of filmmaking. Unfortunately, his brilliant visual prowess can't make up for his lackluster storytelling. More often than not, his characters are usually one dimensional caricatures stuck in deadpan or ham mode, spewing cringe worthy dialogue for the sake of being witty/ironic/whimsical. It's all so self aware, pretentious and just flat out annoying, that it makes Tarantino seem like a model of restraint. Hats off to the man for successfully creating his own distinctive cinematic universe, even if his movies feel like taped community theater productions at best, or gigantic dioramas at worst.

Despite my rant above, Anderson's new film ain't all bad. Ralph Fiennes' performance is easily The Grand Budapest Hotel's saving grace. His turn as the hotel's charismatic concierge was entertaining enough to prevent me from gouging my eyes out. The lavish sets and costumes are dazzling and Anderson's decision to switch aspect ratios during the film's different time periods was clever. There was also a few moments of genuine tenderness and emotion sprinkled throughout the film that pierced through the thick veil of camp Anderson's movies are smothered in, but they were few and far between.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest in a long line of self congratulatory circle jerks brought to you by the whimsical wunderkind known as, Wes Anderson. Did I hate it? Almost, but not quite. Will Wes Anderson ever evolve as a filmmaker and leave the Candy Land formula/crutch behind? Probably not...but I hope so.