Monday, November 26, 2007

The Mist

Today I've witnessed one of the most horrifying and bleak movie-going experiences of my life.

Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's "The Mist" is not for the faint-hearted. It requires a lot of endurance from its viewers - and it's a good thing.

Instead of depending on a oh-so-cute young cast, it revolves around a group of Maine townsfolk - characters and archetypes so common in King's oeuvre. Thomas Jane is very convincing as the middle-aged, handsome, very American, quarterback hero that King uses in pretty much in all of his stories: he is Vic Trenton, Bill Denbrough...His shortcomings and strengths are real, palpable, and minimalistic. That, in effect, makes it even more appealing.

Then there is Marcia Gay Harden...her portrayal of a religious fanatic is one of the best villains I have seen in recent memory.

The questions that are raised with regards to the role of God in our society and how unassuming people can turn to bloodthirsty fundamentalists by one good orator is scary and has to be viewed to comprehend.

As for the ending, I thought "No Country for Old Men" - my favorite film of the year so far - had a bleak ending that haunts the viewer long after the credits roll, but "The Mist" tops that. I can't even remember having a reaction of this magnitude to a film for a very long time.

It may not be perfect, but it is one hell of a ride and a welcome return for Frank Darabont.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

England Crashing Out

What a way to end a dismal qualifying campaign. Today, England crashed out of contention from the upcoming Euro 2008 afer losing 3-2 against a Croatia side that has already qualified.

Before the FIFA World Cup 2006, I predicted - with a hint of subjectivity - that England would come out as victors. My justification: they had the best midfield combination that our age has ever seen. I mean, with David Beckham, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, what you have is a team that scores, passes the ball well, and holds possession. How wrong was I - and countless other commentators - when England put on a desperate show of redemption. And the broken foot of David Beckham should not be an excuse.

Flash forward to the present, the same midfield is still here. And the result is exactly the same.

Unfortunately, England looks like a lost cause. In world football you have the heavy weights: Brazil, Italy, Germany; you have the also-rans: Spain, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Netherlands. I'm afraid England remains with the second group after struggling in the group of bubbling teams-in-betweens, namely France and Argentina. Shame...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Black Sheep

The 2006 zombie-sheep flick from New Zealand could be the best movie Peter Jackson never made before the Rings trilogy. The reason for this comparison is not only the fact that the Kiwi was responsible for the most fun zombie movies ever - quite unlike his epic adventures of today - but it shares the blood and gore that we were so used to get from him before he plunged into the PG hell.

Black Sheep owes a lot of debt to "Braindead" and "Bad Taste", but it has its own modern twist to it. In these days of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Scream", mixing horror with comedy seems to be the norm. And there is nothing wrong with that. At least it's not the horror-porn of the Eli Roth crap.

What sets these aforementioned horror-comedies from the Jackson fare is that they all have a very tight script. "Black Sheep"'s structure remains intact until the very end without becoming utterly formulaic like the '80s movies all the screenwriting books are citing. The exposition given in the first ten minutes is very organic and informative. The characters are consistent throughout and the pace never falters. It actually feels like a blessing that this was a non-Hollywood project with completely unknown actors (at least for non-Kiwi audiences) and cheap yet "realistic" special effects. I could easily see the effects being handled with an iMac, but the animatronics work so much better - wasn't that the reason why "Jurassic Park" was so effective?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Running out of Space!

To my surprise / shock / dread my iPod is running out of bits to hold my music. I never thought I would have 30GB worth of music, but now I do.

It puts a lot of things in perspective. I am a kind of person who saves all his belongings for an impending apocalypse of sorts - which means, what I possess, I shall possess in the future too. And this, of course, applies to music. However, over the years I have shed some albums from my collection. One thing that comes to mind is the Sting / The Police best of album. Not that I don't care for the blond siren or his white-raggea-punk style, but somehow I must have felt the urge to get rid of that album. Another victim was a Beatles tribute album. It is a wonder I had that in the first place - I have no inclination to hear another note from the so-called Fab-Four, or as I would like to call them, the Bottles.

Anyway, the whole point of this particular rambling is that I am running out of space and that I would have run out sooner had I not got rid of some stuff. But, then again, who needs an iPod that can hold 160GB...Yours Truly, for sure...

Man Your Battle Stations

Coheed and Cambria rocked and rolled Los Angeles last night and Yours truly was present at the proceedings. I want to dedicate this space to the aforementioned band.

It used to be a dinosaur rock: over-indulgent, snobby, and out-and-out British. But, prog rock seems to be taking over the masses without the masses' knowledge. Coheed and Cambria are one of the few bands that are bridging the gap between the prog rock shenanigans with the ridiculously emotional emo. And they do a great job at that.

Personally, prog rock is one of my favourite sub-genres of rock. I love the musicianship, the intricate melodies, the absurd's just fantastic. Understandably, it shouldn't be the music of choice for the ADD-addled generation of ours. Yet, last night proved this wrong.

Kids screaming "man your battle stations"! And not to some German power metal band, but an American band made up of, yes, young players! That's just amazing. Only a handful of years ago a music like Coheed's would be deemed ludicrous, but it is now hip.

For once, I'm I can share my prog with other people!!

Johnny Rotten...rot...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Leaving the City of Angels

It's almost time to bid farewell to Los Angeles and head back to Boston. But, before I leave, I want to take this moment to list the stuff I am going to miss here in L.A.:

1- My friends: Although they are not part of L.A., I think the only time I will come back here would be to visit them. I'm going to miss hanging out with them.

2- In'N'Out Burger: definitely the best fast-food burger I've had in my life. Animal style, baby. Animal style. On the same note, I'm going to miss guacamole in my burger too...

3- Rainbow Bar & Grill: Even though I didn't get to see Lemmy, dining across the booth where "November Rain" was filmed is pretty awesome, don't you think?

Unfortunately, these are the things I will miss. So, despite a future gastro-intestinal problem, the only thing I will miss from this city are my friends. And they better come and visit me wherever I end up.

P.S. I know, this blog sucked...

Monday, November 5, 2007


When Nightwish announced that they fired their inimitable vocalist Tarja Turunen back in 2005, everybody - including Yours Truly - was convinced that it was career suicide. Forget the amazing musicianship and leadership of "Steve-Harris-of-symphonic-metal" Tuomas Holpainen, or the subtle chemistry between the band members (check out their live songs on YouTube and see how tight they are), or the formidable back catalogue, which serves as a blueprint for countless imitators around the world. Nightwish was famous for Tarja. The Siren almost was Nightwish.

Fast-forward to 2007 and the announcement of a new album and a World Tour. Hold on, who will sing? The charismatic Viking Marco Hietala? He is a good singer, as is evident on 2002's "Century Child" and 2004's multi-million selling "Once", but, surely, he can't sing those sweet ballads. Then they revealed Anette Olzon (again search YouTube and see when she is unveiled for the first time - it's hilarious!)

The first album with Anette, "Dark Passion Play", is marginally different from their excellent back catalogue, yet it is quint-essentially Nightwish. "Amaranth", "Cadence of Her Last Breath" and the absolutely amazing epic "The Poet and the Pendulum" would sit comfortably on any of their albums. But, the songs seemed to have been tweaked to accommodate Anette's less flashy vocal style. I had my reservations as to how the old songs would sound like. Don't get me wrong. Anette is a wonderful singer with an angelic voice, yet Tarja was a different angel, you know?

And last night in the House of Blues in Los Angeles I was once again blown away by Holopainen's genius. Anette's lungs are not only up to par with Tarja's in older tunes, but she sings them with a passion that was lacking in Tarja's more trained voice. "Wish I Had an Angel", "Dark Chest of Wonders", and "Nemo" never sounded better. She is a perfect fit for Nightwish. It is perhaps injustice just to praise Anette about last night - the whole band were at their peak. I am absolutely convinced that Nightwish is the best live band around.

Thank you, Nightwish, for making last night an unforgettable experience. You deserve to reach higher and I am sure you will.

One last note is about Tarja - her collaboration to the Nightwish wagon is carved in stone and they can't take it away from her. Maybe she will be Paul Di'Anno of Nightwish?

Sunday, November 4, 2007


My roommate recently sent me an article that appeared on about a comparison between the respective head coaches of today's highly-anticipated game between the Patriots and the Colts. The analogy he makes about the game is that it is not just a game between the two best teams in the NFL, but an age-old battle between the Good and the Evil. He thinks Bill Belichik is evil, and Tony Dungy is good.

Now I don't know much about the histories of these said coaches, but the reasons he gives for the evil nature of Belichik are ridiculous. First of all, the white elephant in the room is the cheating scandal. Belichik is found guilty and charged for it. He paid for it. Done. Gone. Diego Maradona, considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time, is responsible for one of the cheekiest moments in football history with his (in)famous "hand-of-God" goal. He was also caught for using illegal substances in the 1994 World Cup. Yet, could anybody question his talents and what he gave to the world of football? No, absolutely not.

The second reason the article gives is Belichik decision to go for a fourth down when his team was already a thousand points up. Belichik is the coach of the most exciting team in the NFL now. He plays to win games. What did Redskins do last week? Nothing. Nada. They had a whole game to come up with something and they didn't. And Patriots took advantage of that. There's nothing wrong with that. So what if "one of the greatest coaches in the history of NFL" was embarrassed on national TV. He was embarrassed because his team couldn't deliver. Don't blame the team that showed up. Blame the underachievers.

Today's game, by the way, was quite boring by Patriots and Colts standards, yet it delivered the goods in the last quarter as Patriots came back from 10 points behind to win the game by 4. Great end to a game. Patriots are the best team in the NFL right now and any team that fails to come up with the goods against them will face the same fate as the Redskins. Colts showed up, played well...but lost.

I guess the evil prevailed and the spawns of Satan shall rule the world, huh?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Murder Party

This year's Sundance Audience Award winner "Murder Party" is a mess of a film and I am begging for information as to how the "audience" found anything remotely interesting about it.

There are films you need to watch under some sort of influence. Films such as "Super Troopers", "Starship Troopers", and other films with the word "Troopers" in them. And "Murder Party", from the wacky poster of our cardboard-suited hero surrounded by a handful of oddjobs wielding chainsaws, knives, etc., seemed like a good candidate for a film to be watched under influence.

My influence of choice was Sam Adams Light - one of the two light beers that actually taste remotely like beer and not a cat piss subjected to extreme solar exposure - and with the help of a dubious pepperoni and sausage pizza, "Murder Party" became the ideal choice of pastime for a Friday night.

And wrong was I...

This isn't a critique of the said film, but an indictment of the independent scene. Why can't they make films with a story? Independent films are what they are - independent. So, they should be independent of all the studio cliches, and deal with "indie" cliches. What is wrong with the writers? Oh yeah, they are going on strike...that's right.

What this strike will bring is an influx of independent films with minimalist approaches. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it will be a breath of afresh air to have something without a number in the title. However, if the tosh that will be put out looks anything remotely similar to this piss-fest, then I am ready to stop watching new films altogether and go back to my collection.

Please...let this strike not give a chance to films like this. Just because something is independent, that doesn't mean we need to support it whole-heartedly, with arms spread wide. I want to see another "L.I.E." or "Kids" or "Before Sunset", for crying out loud.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Writers' strike

Now, I'm not going to get into the whole politics of the impending strike (doom?) that will, presumably, take effect on Monday. One of the reasons is because I have no clue as to what they are arguing about. From what I gathered from the so-called trade papers is that it has something to do with the DVDs. Does that mean that once the studios come together and decide which new HD format we will be spending our hard-earned money on, there will be a threat of a new strike? The small print, my friends.

What am I rambling about again? I have no idea, but all I can wish for them is to sort the mess out so that I could have something to do at work. I'm bored to death! I mean, is it really that big of a deal? I would take a side (as a wannabe writer, I should side with the Guild, but it is nothing more than a country club for writers with zero-to-nothing talent). Think about it: in order to get into the Guild, you have to have a movie made. And now think about the movies they keep putting out there. And the TV shows. Yes, those are the people. They are striking.

Oh yes, and there is a flood in Mexico where 300,000 (latest tally as I am going to press) people are stranded. Oh, and there was a bomb near the Presidential Suite in Pakistan last week. And, Sarkozy (look up) and his wife just divorced. And an elitist country club of cliche-creators want an extra dollar for every DVD that we buy. Well, with the emergence of the new technology, they might just as well ask for another 50 cents for HD-DVD and 51 cents for BluRay. We'll see.

Robert Plant

Yes, the Golden God is style.

Robert Plant never really disappeared off the radar. He may not be packing stadia or attracting hundreds of thousands of fans in the summer festival circuit, but he is as relevant today as he was back when Led Zeppelin were the shit.

His post-Zeppelin albums in the '80s only managed to draw some attention to them mainly for his reputation, rather than the music itself - even though they had some memorable moments. When his one-time creative partner Jimmy Page was lending his chops to Mr. David Coverdale in an ill-fated project, Plant was keeping a low profile. This went on until he re-united with Page to form Page & Plant, to the dismay of John Paul Jones.

It was one of the most exciting moments of my teenage years seeing two rock gods on stage in Istanbul...and what a show it was. The power cut one hour before the show forced the support band, the excellent Nekropsi, to play their show with torchlights on their heads. But, no...he wouldn't sing "Stairway to Heaven".

When that project fell through, he embarked on another journey - again on his own. He now had a backing band: The Strange Sensation - a group of seasoned session players, all unknown. The two albums he recorded with the Sensation were...well...sensational. "Dreamland" and "Mighty Rearranger" are simply magnificent records. Plant's voice never sounded better. Despite the loose way they tried to look, there was a sense of meticulous detail to their work. "Darkness Darkness" and "Hey Joe" from the first album, and the title track from the second album are stand-outs.

Now we have another album - a duet album, actually: "Raising Sand". Alison Krauss is his partner, while T Bone Burnett is the producer - he also plays in some of the songs. Krauss and Burnett were both featured in the Coen Brothers' 2000 movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Here the tone is similar to the film, but the atmosphere lends itself more to Plant's two previous albums. The songs feel like what "Dreamland" or "Mighty Rearranger" might have sounded like had they been recorded acoustically.

It is a great album and that is all thanks to the incredible chemistry between Plant and Krauss. In fact, Plant seems to be taking a more supporting role to the angelic voice of Krauss. She is exceptional in "Trampled Rose".

It is as far removed from Led Zeppelin as you can get, despite the acoustic tone. It ain't "III", nor does it try to be. Yes, Plant was right. Zeppelin reunion is not what we need, we need him to spend his energy and time to projects like this. I mean, can they actually pull off another "IV", or recapture what they did back in the '70s? No, unfortunately they can't. But, we have "Raising Sand" - an excellent album. A definite contender for the album of the year.

The Golden God is back...