Monday, August 3, 2009

Film Review: Pusher Trilogy


Rewatched these films and am still in awe of their absolute grittiness and realism. This is the gangster film stripped bare of all operatic beauty and given a punkish edge. Think Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets meets John Cassavetes with themes from Trainspotting thrown in for good measure and this is what you'll get. It gives a look into the lives of petty low level drug dealers on the streets of Copenhagen. The violence the the trilogy comes both subtly and viciously.Each film of the Pusher trilogy is distinct from the next. At the same time a minor character from one film (for example Mads Mikkelsen's Tonny from Pusher) becomes the central character in Pusher 2.Refn ended up getting $1 million in debt and the only way he could get out was to crank out a couple more films. Those two films ended up being Pusher 2 & 3.

Pusher 2 is one of those sequels that outshines the original. Mads Mikkelsen, who ended up playing Le Chifre, the main villian in Casino Royale, does a turn as a low level gangster named Tonny. I've seen few films that show as flawed of a main character as Tonny. Pusher 2 is certainly the most optimistic of the three.

Pusher 3, while not as brilliant as Pt. 2 is still very good. It follows Milo, the boss of the main character of the first Pusher film and has an ending as graphic and intense as anything out there.
While the bookend films are not as good as Pusher 2, the tapestry that is woven by all three make this trilogy incredibly strong. If you are a fan of Scorsese or just gritty and raw films in general then this trilogy is an absolute MUST see.

Refn's new film Bronson preimiered at Sundance this year to rave reviews. It's been called "A Clockwork Orange for the 21st century". The trailer is pretty amazing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Apocalypse Now: A Journey Into the Heart of Darkness

"My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. It's what it was really like. It was crazy. And the way we made it was very much like the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane." (Francis Ford Coppola at the Cannes Film Festival Premiere 1979)

Apocalypse Now is film about a military captain ordered to go up the Numan Ba River to assassinate amn insubordinate Colonel by the name of Kurtz. The plot is fairly simple but the depth of the film is immense. The film's plot plays out as a metaphor for a journey into self. Confonting one's fears and looking into the abyss so to speak. While the main character in the film is depicted as making a journey into self, so was Coppola during the making of it. They both confronters their fears: fear of failure, death, going insanse. There are double meanings everywhere in this film and for me to go in depth on each one, well this review/analysis would be pretty monstrous. Eleanor Coppola said in Hearts of Darkness that you have to die alittle to come out on the other side. In February of 1976, Francis Ford Coppola went to the Philippines to shoot Apocalypse Now. It was based loosely on "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. The film was set during the Vietnam War. Principal photography lasted 238 days and was documented by his wife through documentary footage which would be later used by Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper to create the greatest documentary about making a film: Hearts of Darkness- A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Coppola's greatest fear was to make a pompous film on an important subject. There are tapes of him saying that the film is going to be a "20 million dollar disaster." It couldn't have been further from the truth. It would be a film recognized as a masterpiece of cinema and possible the quintessential war film. But like all great films, it transcenes the very genre it gets tagged under. It's journey into the heart of darkness. A journey that is shared with the audience and brought to us through the work of Mr. Coppola and crew.

There was a time in the 70's (1972- 1974) when Coppola hit his prime. The Godfather I & I as well as The Conversation all garnered mass acclaim and, in the case of the two Godfathers, became cornerstones of American cinema. It was a decade in which directors like Steven Spielberg & George Lucas were creating ambitious scifi epics like Star Wars & Close Encounters of the Third Kind while directors like John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese were creating intimate portraits of the human condition with films like A Woman Under the Influence and Taxi Driver. Coppola was much like the father to an entire generation with his Zoetrope company: John Milius, George Lucas all worked under his wing. The production of this film is probably the most infamous out there. It would be a film that director Francis Ford Coppola would poor everything into. After it, he would never attempt to make another film in its scope or ambition and became relegated into making small indie films throughout the 80's until he felt comfortable moving back into the studio system in the 90's with films like Bram Stroker's Dracula and Jack.

In 1939, Orson Welles planned to make Heart of Darkness into his first motion picture. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is based on the physical and psychological shock the author himself experience in the Belgian congo in 1890. The narrator describes a journey he took on an African river. Much like the journey up the river our protagonist takes on the Nang River in the film. He witnesses the brutalization of natives by white traders. Throughout the book he hears of stories of Mr. Kurtz, the most succesful representative of the company that sent him up river. He succumbs to the primal temptations of the jungle and goes insane. In 1939, Orson Welles planned to make Heart of Darkness into his first motion picture. Screen tests were done with Welles playing the part of Kurtz. The studio however, backed away from the project in fear of it going over-budget. Welles would scrap the project and go onto make Citizen Kane, a film considered to be greater of all time.

1969 saw Francis Coppola found Zoetrope Studios, a studio dedicated to making films outside the Hollywood system. Their first project was Apocalypse Now. They would take the premise of Conrad's book and translate it though the Vietnam War. Vietnam was a pefect backing to the madness that is presented in the book. It could not be more fitting.This time Col. Kurtz was conducting the war on his own terms deep in Cambodia. George Lucas was set to direct a screenplay written by John Milius. They planned on doing it in Vietnam in 16mm. Young and rebellious filmmakers like Lucas and Millius were ready to go into that terrain. But without a studio, Apocalypse Now was shelved and Coppola went on to direct The Godfather I & II. The films both won Best Picture from the Oscars and put him on the map as one of the leading directors in film during that decade.

When he was finished with The Godfather, he went back to tackle Apocalypse Now. Harvey Keitel was originally cast as the lead. Sam Bottoms, Frederic Forrest and Laurence Fishburne also joined the cast. Coppola was ready to shoot the film in the Phillipines because of its similarity with the terrain in Vietnam. Since the US Army refused to cooperate, he struck a deal with the Phillipinnes President Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos allowed him to use his entire fleet of helicopters as long as he paid them well. Keitel would end up getting fired and replaced by Martin Sheen. Already the press got ahold of the stories from the set. Headlines like "Apocalypse veiled in a shroud of secrecy" and rumors of delayed production.The press painted a portrait of Coppola as a crazed obssessed director. It was a project which the director had been working on for more years that even he could remember....and this was just the beginning of the problems.

There seems to be an almost mythical aura behind the production of this film. Mythical as in it being cursed. In the first weeks of shooting, a typhoon hit the set. The film would also become $3 million overbudget. Marlon Brando threatened to drop out. But probably the most striking scene of the documentary Hearts of Darkness is when Martin Sheen is shown having a nervous breakdown as Coppola commands him to go on with his work. Sheen would end up suffering a heart attack but recover shortly afterward and finish the film. The one crucial piece of the puzzle was the ending Coppola still had complications with. Brando and Francis worked out their differences and complications with the ending.

Apocalypse Now opens with The Doors 'The End'. A song that has always been one of my favorites. It is used to great effect in the opening scene, in which a jungle explodes with napalm after a helicopter flies by. It then transitions into an overhead shot of Captain Willard's eyes. The helicopter blades mimicking the sound of the fan above the Captain's head. "Saigon. Still in Saigon." the captain says with. The war itself was a "rock and roll" war. That's not a statement of putting off the war lightly. It's to say that it was one of teenage youth, innocence becoming the real casualy of war. One such scene that so exemplifies this is when Willard's boat intercepts a villager boat and ends in a complete slaughter of the villagers over a dog knocking over a barrel. It's an eerie mirror to the Mai Lai Massacre that took place in Vietnam. It's also a major theme of the film- the hyprocrys of Western Imperialism. In fact, Capt. Willard's entire mission is characterized as hypocrisy- the army wasting their time and money in ordering a Captain to kill on of their highest-ranking officials.

The most famous scene in the film is when a helicopter unit led by brash Colonel Kilgore, leads an attack on a local village in order to escort Willard's boat on the river that leads to Kurtz. It is a scene of both exhilaration and horror. Few scenes in films are able to capture both of those emotions simultaneously. It is also most known for its use of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. There are similarities between Kilgore and Kurtz. Kilgore is no worse than Kurtz in the methods he uses to achieve his goal. After the attack, Colonel Kilgore delivers the famous line "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." A line that has been parodied countless times. My favorite thing about this film besides the philosophical allegories, is the dialogue given by Willard. "Never get out of the boat." He narrates after him and a character named Chef are nearly mauled by a tiger when looking for mangos in the jungle. That type of dialogue has two sides to it. One being used as literal, the other being used to talk about how Kurtz "got off the boat and went all the way".

More than just a journey into madness, Apocalypse Now has several themes and motifs going on. The loss of American values is one. The morality at play here throughout the various stops just seems to lower with each stop. From a bunch of troops gathered around seeing Playboy dancers to Col. Kilgore ordering some of his troops to surf the beach.

The film's primary metaphor is how a person darkens beyond recognition in the face of war. Each member of the boat experiences a breakdown. The cinematography brilliantly captures this madness by cloaking river in darkness and fog. The journey down the river in both the film and the book exists as both a philosophical and allegorical level. In the book, the narrator stumbles upon Kurtz's compound in a remote outpost lined with a row of human heads. It is an image that always stayed with me when first reading that book. The scene in the film towards the end is easily the most haunting and cathartic that I have seen in a film. What Kurtz found at the end of the river was that the Viet Cong were willing to go to greater lengths to win. "Then I realized they were stronger than we. They have the strength to do that. If I had 10 divisions of those men, the our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion , without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us." This is the horror that Kurtz found and it it this horror, the loss of morality, that flew in the face of us in Vietnam. P.O.W. camps like the Hanoi Hilton are examples of this. This type of philosophy is not just grounded in Viet Cong tactics, it exists in all of us. There are always limits that we have, judgments that hold us back. Kurtz was one who abandonded this concept. Willard was one who discovered just how far Kurtz had gone.

"The river- sleepless, crowded with memories of men on ships. Hunters for gold and pursuers of fame. What greatness has not flowed on the ebb of that river. Into the mystery of an unknown earth. The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires. The river is black tonight, my friends. Look, it seems to lead into the heart of an immense darkness." (Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)

At the end of the documentary Hearts of Darkness, Francis Coppola ends with saying: "To me the great hope is now that these little 8mm video recorded and stuff now- just people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be making them. And suddenly, one day, some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, and you know, make a beautiful film with her father's cam-corder and for once this whole professionalism about movies will be destroyed forever and it will become an art form." This statment would become true particularly in the 90's when filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino became part of an independent filmmaking movement. It's still going on today. Somewhere in some garage is a screenplay written by an unknown that is probably the next Apocalypse Now. Or the next Godfather. But in today's age it is so hard to get through to Hollywood. It has become an era of branding and we as an audience don't really care. The time when Coppola could go out and make a film as daring as Apocalypse Now have been over for quite a while as is the decade in which that creative spark occured. Apocalypse Now was, to me, a culmination of the creative spark started in 1967 with films like Bonnie and Clyde & The Graduate. It is the equivalent to Pink Floyd's the Wall- it closed out a decade of creative influence and took an ambitous concept and ran with it.

Apocalypse Now opened on August 19, 1979. It has since grossed more than 150 million worldwide. The film went on to win three Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards and the Palm d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival. TCoppola would never make a film as amitious as it again. The philosopher Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche said "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you." That quote rings true about both the ideas of the film as well as the making of it. Francis Coppola nearly went mad making this film. He, along with the protagonist Willard took their own personal journeys. Willard, to assassinate a colonel, only to find out what drove the colonel to the brink. In Coppola's case it was to shoot a film that he deemed a failure from day 1 of shooting, only for it to be embraced as the greatest war film ever made. The film pushes beyond others into dark places of the soul and reveals truths that we do not want to discover that lies at the end of the river.

NOTE: My top 2 favorite films, this one and 2001: A Space Odyssey do have similar structures. Both are quests. They have very loose dream-like structures and are more of a series of broken episodes than continuing arcs. Both also present very deep questions and mythic images. Also, as many film fans know, there are two version of the film in existence. In 2001, the film was re-released with almost an hour of footage added to it. It was titled Apocalypse Now Redux. It included a French plantation scene in which Willard acquaints himself with a French woman. While this version is interesting, the initial theatrical cut is much tighter and concise.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

LOST Season 5 Review

This season has completely blown me away with the amounts of twists and turns it has taken. I admit I was a little hazy about a couple of storylines that were getting far fetched (Locke resurrecting from the dead for one), but the finale completely redeemed everything I was iffy about. This show is easily the best on television right now. The themes of destiny, light vs. dark were explored even further. The finale took on a VERY religous overtone as well. Two major twists happen in the finale which completely change the game and set the stage for the final season next year. The wait is going to be exruciating.

The End of A Semester

NP: Arcade Fire- Funeral

Yesterday was college graduation for several of my friends. It was also a signal that the end of the best semester of my life. Nothing but great memories. On Friday a bunch of us went down to the Carriag and had a bunch of drinks. It was a blast. Remembering old times, talking about all the stuff that went down. After that we went to White Castle. One of my favorite things to do is reminisce with old friends about the good times we had.

This semester along with the past one saw me living on campus. It was something I had since regretted doing as it made a big impact on my social life. I still have one more semester left. But it will be different from past ones thats for sure. Alot of people I have become friends with graduated. But there still are a good amount of people left to hang out with as well as new acquaintances to make. It's hard to believe...December 2009 will be the end of school for me. I am still undecided with what I want to do with my life. But I'm sure I will find my place in the world.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Concert Review: Lamb of God w/ Children of Bodom, As I Lay Dying, Municipal Waste

May 1 was an eventful day for me. I gave a 50-minute presentation for Philosophy of History...something I've been dreading for a while and am now glad it's finally over. After that I went to the Medieval Fair sponsored by History Club. Launching a computer with a trebuchet is just as fun as it sounds. But the highlight of the day for me was a concert I went to with a couple of my friends.

The first band that played was God Forbid. We missed them because we showed up early. Didn't matter for me. Not a fan. Municipal Waste was in the middle of their set when we arrived. Some really nice thrashy metal that I enjoyed. After that, Children of Bodom, one of my favorite Scandinavian metal bands graced the stage. They put on one hell of a show. I was surprised they went on so early into the concert. Expected Needled 24/7 but didn't get it. I did get to hear Living Dead Beat which was nice. Next up was a band I saw before at a Protest the Hero show, As I Lay Dying. Not a big fan of them. There's a limit to the amount of metalcore bands I can stand. Their performance at the concert was solid though. The band that was worth the price of admission alone was Lamb of God. They are known for putting on killer live shows and this was no exception. Their new album Wrath is pretty good although I enjoyed Sacrament more because of its production and consistent brutality. The set had a good selection of songs from Wrath (The Passing, In Your Words, Set to Fail, Contractor, Grace, Dead Seeds, Reclamation)Sacramant (Walk With Me In Hell, Redneck, Blacken the Cursed Sun, ), Ashes of the Wake (Laid to Rest, Now You've Got Something to Die For) and As the Palaces Burn (Putrified). The whole balcony started to shake when they got on stage and it didn't stop until the show was over. A circle pit started below but no wall of death. They're definately one of my favorite metal bands of the decade. The only thing stopping them from me liking them even more is the unwillingness to incorporate new ideas into their sound. If Sacrament was the Vulgar Display of Power, then they still have a Far Beyond Driven in them.

Overall a solid concert.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You say you want a revolution: The Spirit of the 60's

The 60's. The decade that changed both cinema and music and drove them toward an expressive art form. When looking at film and music one must take into account just what was going on during that era. Peace rallies, protests of the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK, etc. Let's not forget the turbulent year of 1968: the assassination of both Mart in Luther King, Robert Kennedy, The Tet Offensive and the Democractic Convention. The spirit of the decade in general was a reaction to the 50's which were very conservative.

Through these events, artists were coming up with some of their boldest and most striking staements. Beatlemania erupted and the British Invasion set in. The Beatles would end up creating albums like Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour which would further studio experimentation and give influence to countless bands in the decades to come. Led Zeppelin would takes American Blues and process it with heavy guitar riffs and massive drum grooves. Progressive rockers Pink Floyd would emerge as a psychadelia band with Piper At the Gates of Dawn. King Crimson would take this one step further with their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. It was a time of experimentation in music. What we see going on in music is parallel to what was happening in film at the time.

1967, the same year Sgt. Pepper was released, saw the release of Bonnie and Clyde. It was a film that ended with a violent massacre at the end. The protagonists were the villians themselves. Another film, The Good the Bad and the Ugly saw the hero in the form of The Man With No Name, who by moral standards was in it for himself. By far the boldest statement in cinema during that time was a little old film by Stanley Kubrick called 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was a film that would lead to several theater walkouts and angered reactions from critics. The following year, a film called Easy Rider came out. It was regarded as the first independent film as it was made on a shoestring budget. At a time when the Hollywood studio system was on its way out, these filmmakers brought their vision and craft to the forefront and helped change the form.


1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (I will do a full review on this movie in May, hopefully by then I will have experienced it a movie theater. I will say this though, the first time I saw it I didn't know what to make of it...after the 3rd viewing I liked enough to proclaim it as my favorite film of all time.)
2. Once Upon A Time In the West (1968)
I'm no big fan of Westerns but this film just OOZES cinema verite. The shot selections, the panoramics of landscape, the Ennio Morricone music....just amazing.
3. 8 1/2 (1963)
Federico Fellini's most daring film. One that is admired by countless directors and viewed as his masterpiece.
4. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
The scariest comedy of all time. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest we came to nuclear war at that time. Kubrick made a satire about it. There's no way they would make a film like this today.
5.The Wild Bunch (1969)
Sam Peckinpah's most recognized film is both an end to that era of Western films as well as an end of the old.
6. The Great Escape (1963)
There's something so cool about this film...oh yeah, it's Steve McQueen riding away from Nazis on a motorcycle.
7. Easy Rider (1969)
The first independent film.
8. Persona (1966)
Ingmar Bergman as his most structurally dense.
9. Breathless (1960)
The French New Wave of cinema started here with Jean Luc Godard's debut film.
9. The Graduate (1967)
"Are you trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson?". The Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack coupled with Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross' performances are enough to make this a classic.
10. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)


Psycho (1960), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1967), Midnight Cowboy (1969)


1. The Beatles- Abbey Road (1969)*
2. The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds (1966)*
3. The Zombies- The Odessey and the Oracle (1968)*
4. The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)*
5. The Who- Tommy (1969)*
6. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention- We're Only In It For the Money (1968)*
7. The Doors- The Doors (1967)
8. King Crimson- In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
9. The Moody Blues- Days of Future Passed (1967)
10. Velvet Underground- Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

*The 6 albums selected will be included in a list I will create later: My 100 Favorite albums.


Remake. Among film fans it can be percieved as almost a dirty word. But there are some good remakes out there: The Thing instantly comes to mind. The Departed was an excellent remake of Infernal Affairs. Reasons: The remakes were in the hands of GOOD directors and in the case of The Thing, it actually followed the source material as opposed to the original 1951 film. Alfred Hitchcock is one of the few directors who remade his own movie: The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Remember, I said their are SOME good remakes.

What studios are basically doing is fast tracking remakes, waiting for the opening weekend numbers, and if they see its succesful, they remake another film. If not, then a straight to video sequel.

The genre of horror is probably most targeted with remakes. The problem is with alot of these movies coming out, the studios grab a director that is not seasoned and gives them the task of remaking a film. Case in point: The Fog. The Fog comes out and after two weeks it is forgotten. Remakes can live or die based on who is behind it. If it said The Fog directed by David Cronenberg, I'd be alot more interested in seeing it. Hollywood's obssession with remaking foreign horror films is not slowing down either as Let the Right One In is being remade for next year.

A remake that's coming up that I am interested in is RoboCop. I'm a big fan of the original film. The thing that interested me in the remake: Directed By Darren Aronofsky.

With the sheer number of films being remade, tt shows that Hollywood is only speeding up on the remakes. And they seem to LOVE those 80's films. “Romancing the Stone,” “Footloose,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Dune,” “The Karate Kid,” “Red Dawn,” “RoboCop,” “The Big Chill,” “Arthur,” “Ghostbusters” and “The NeverEnding Story” are but a few of the titles from that decade being developed around town.

Let's just face it. Hollywood is bankrupt. And it doesn't look to get any better. The majority of studio films today are BRANDS. Being that studios think that we as a people are too lazy to embrace a new idea and would rather have an old one remade. And guess what: we buy it. You want an example? Fast & Furious makes $73 million in its first weekend. Now to anyone who complains about remakes and saw that film on the opening weekend, you just gave Hollywood incentive to make even more. Hell,if I want to see hot chicks and fast cars, please, just take me to the auto show. Don't make a fucking movie, let alone franchise out of it. When people stop supporting remakes and reboots like Fast & Furious, maybe studios will get a hint.

A good article on this was just released today:

The Beatles Remasters 9/9/09

Found out about this on the forum I frequent.

I'm all for it. I don't have all the albums so I plan on getting the mono box set when it comes out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Bloody Valentine- Loveless


A couple weeks ago, I was browsing through FYE. Came across this band called My Bloody Valentine and an album called Loveless. The cover was different shades of pink with only the neck of a guitar showing along with the band's name in the left hand corner. Now I had heard about the band from the forum I frequent as well as a friend's list of their 100 favorite albums. So I decided to buy it. Put it on in the car and the drums kick in. What follows sounds like a keyboard getting destroyed with a saw. Female vocals follow. Now the vocals are not discernable on the album. But that's part of the band's unique style. Vocals are just another instrument in the wall of sound that they create.

My Bloody Valentine started out in Dublin, Ireland in 1984 and were one of the pioneering bands of the shoegaze genre. They released their debut album Isn't Anything in 1989 and followed that up with Loveless. This was due to funding problems. The album is looked at as the defining album of the shoegaze genre and one of the best albums of the 90's in general. After the album, the band became inactive. Until they started recently touring again.

The album starts off with Only Shallow: the sound of a drum beatr and then kicks into to what sounds like a keyboard being destroyed. Loomer and Touched are short but still contribute to the overall mood. To Here Knows When is the dreamiest song on the song n the album. Bilinda Butcher's vocals are very effective here just as they are on Only Shallow. When You Sleep has a hypnotizing riff that just sucks the listener in and doesn't let go. If I was forced to pick one weak song it would probably be Come In Alone. It's the song I have the least number of plays for. With the track Sometimes, you can totally tell that The Smashing Pumpkins took influence from this album when creating Siamese Dream. Blown A Wish brings back Bilinda's glorious vocals back into the fold. What You Want is a rockin' tune and is a lead up to the album closer, the 7 minute Soon. One of the best tracks on the album and a perfect way to end it.

Loveless would go onto become a favorite of musicians ranging from Brian Eno to Radiohead to The Cure to The Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. It's an album that broke new ground sonically and regarded as one of the best albums of the 90's.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Problems With Adapting the Watchmen

Just last week I decided to sit down and read the graphic novel by Alan Moore. I am now kicking myself for not having read it before seeing the film. However, I did see the film again after I was finished with the novel and it did make a difference. Alan Moore said Watchmen was unfilmable and I agree in a sense that it deals with elements that cannot be translated well to the big screen.
Filmmaker Terry Gilliam also said that Watchmen would be impossible to translate to the big screen. He planned on doing a series on it. When reading the novel, I felt that is was more richer than the film. Ozymandias had more of a presence and

Zack Snyder took on a brave decision when choosing to film Watchmen. Watchmen was a film that no matter what it did, it was going to disappoint fans. He faced the challenge: How do you adapt the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time onto the screen while making it mainstream enough for audiences to fully understand it all all the while staying as faithful as you can to the source material? Well the answer to the question at hand is you can't. Snyder was screwed either way.

There are many films that are adapted from books where it does indeed stray from the source material. However, the problem that some critics are pointing out with Watchmen is that it is TOO faithful. This poses a problem for Joe Shmoe audience member who walks into the movies having never heard of the graphic novel and expects a film like The Dark Knight. This very well could contribute to its large decrease in box office intake during it's first week.

At the same time though, you are faced with pleasing the fans of the graphic novel. In that sense Snyder did a fantastic job of translating the source material. The fans did not want to see Snyder's interpretation or anyone else's for that matter. They came to see Alan Moore's book. However, there HAD to be adjustments made. The ending of the book dealt with a giant squid. In an interesting podcast between both the writers: & David Hayter, Hayter explains that there are just o many fantastical elements an audience can withstand. Had the squid been included in the film, I bet there would be quite a few walkouts of the theater when it would come to the part in the film. The changes Hayter made when adapting the novel fit the film well.

Still, the whole Tales From the Black Freighter was cut out along with Hollis Mason's story arc. Not to mention the explanation behind Bubastis, that one creature that belongs to Ozymandias that sparked a reaction in one of the audience members in my audience to say "What the hell is that thing?" Again, if Snyder had included the exaplanation behind it along with Hollis Mason and the Black Freighter, the film would have clocked in at 3 hours and 40 min. Given the short attention span of several audiences these days, this would have been a death spell on marketability to mainstream audiences.

However, for all the fans that are bitching and moaning about how they left that stuff out, you're going to get your 3 hrs. 40 min. Ultimate Director's Cut Edition.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let the Right One In, Mastodon, Metallica's Hall of Fame Induction

For all those who flocked to the theater to see Twilight and missed out on Let the Right One In, you missed a far superior version that starts truer to the vampire mythos than the former. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, this Swedish vampire film is one of the best horror films of the decade. There is an atmosphere to the film that is so chilling and one that I have never seen used to an extent in a vampire film before. It's basically two films in one, a vampire film and a relationship film, and I dug how both worked.

For those who are interested in checking out, keep in mind that the company who made the DVD altered the subtitles. 'Dumbing it down' would be the correct term when you compare the theatrical subtitles to the DVD subtitles. However, the company has heard the fans responses and have now decided to re-release the DVD with the theatrical subtitles....without exchanging the original DVDs that were releeased.

The Atlanta based quintet's 2009 release came out recently and it has been in constant rotation in my CD player and iPOD. By far the best new album I've heard in 2009. A major move forward from their brutal onslaughts of metal in Blood Mountain. Crack the Skye sees them show their progressive influences more than ever. Very doomy sections at times are another plus. Some of my favorite tracks include Oblivion, The Czar, Ghosts of Karelia and The Last Baron. Divinations is a track that will please the hardcore fans of Mastodon while the majority of the album shows them progressing into new territory.

Just recently it has been confirmed that Newsted, former bassist for Metallica will be playing with them as they get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I've always had much respect for him as he got the short end of the stick when he was in the band. Here was a guy who wrote brilliant songs for his the band Flotsam and Jetsam and once Metallica recruited him, he hardly got to write very little (Blackened and My Friend of Misery to name a couple). Not to menntion his bass being turned way down in the mix on And Justice For All. The documentary Some Kind of Monster shows him expressing his thoughts toward the whole situation and shows that he is a guy that is pretty level headed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Film Review: Synecdoche, New York


One of my favorite bands Rush once proclaimed in one of their songs Limelight: "All the world's indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers."

In Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, the stage is HUGE and set in a warehouse. It is a film about the life of Caden Cotard from 40 to 80. He is a theater director who sinks into loneliness. Throughout the film he struggle with several romantic relationships- Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams. One of the interesting things about a couple of the films of 2008 was that independent films shared themes of some of the bigger studio pictures. For example, the studio Twilight and the far superior foreign film Let the Right One In. Curious Case of Benjamin Button shared the theme of aging and mortality with Synecdoche. The film Synecdoche taught me more about the struggles growing old in its first half than Curious Case did in its entire running time.

Charlie Kaufman is easily my favorite screenwriter working in Hollywood today. He is unmatched when it comes to his inventiveness and originality. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are among some of the most original films to come out of the medium. This is a film that has divided audience and critics. Many of the films that have done that however, are the ones that you don't usually appreciate upon first viewing. It takes multiple viewings to appreciate it. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is quite good. He remains the one actor who has been in more films that I have proclaimed as a favorite of that particular year than any other actor in this decade. He certainly knows how to pick his projects wisely.

I'm not going to go into too much detail on the whole plot. Just go see it. If you like, good. If not, then it's not your thing. It took me two viewings to appreciate the layers and complexities of Charlie Kaufman's film. The types of film that touch on mortality and the struggle of just getting by in life engage me moreso than others. In the film Caden Cotard delivers what to me is the thesis of the film: "We are all hurtling towards death. Yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we're gonna die. Each of us secretly believing we won't." Caden Cotard puts on a production of epic proportions and later on in the film states the possibility of "What if everyone had a part in this play and nobody was just an extra." This type of dialogue helps the viewer gain a better understanding of the overall theme of the film. What the film did so well was show how fast life goes by.

Overall, I really loved this film. It is one I revisit because it is one of those that reveals more and more upon each viewing. The best film of last year and certainly one of the best of the decade.
Rating: 5/5

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dream Theater Tenth Studio Album Updates

Just found out about the title of the tenth studio album from prog metal giants Dream Theater as well as track titles and a cover:

March 13, 2009

New York, NY:

Progressive metal veterans DREAM THEATER have announced BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS as the title of their tenth studio album. The band commenced work on the album – their second for Roadrunner Records, following up 2007's Systematic Chaos — in October of last year. Roadrunner will release the record on June 23. In addition to the standard version CD, the album will also be available on vinyl LP, as well as a 3-disc Special Edition CD that will include the full album, a CD of instrumental mixes of the album and a CD of six cover songs, the titles of which will be revealed at a later date. Six weeks prior to the June 23 street date, Roadrunner will release one cover song per week through digital retailers. Drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci are once again at the helm as producers, while Paul Northfield mixed the record. The band will embark on a world tour in support of the album beginning in Europe throughout June which will be followed by the second edition of the band’s PROGRESSIVE NATION tour featuring Zappa Plays Zappa, Pain Of Salvation and Beardfish throughout North America in July/August. A video for the first single, "A Rite of Passage" will be shot in late March.

The track listing for BLACK CLOUDS & SILVER LININGS is as follows:
1. A Nightmare to Remember
2. A Rite of Passage
3. Wither
4. The Shattered Fortress
5. The Best of Times
6. The Count of Tuscany

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Album Review: Umphrey's McGee- Mantis

Mantis is Umphrey's McGee fourth studio album and what a great one it is. This is a band that has been attracting more and more people to its music. They have taken over where Phish left off. Fans of the bands try to trade as many shows to each other as possible. Umphrey's live performances include improvisation like Phish and King Crimson. This gives each show a new and unique set each night. I have heard about this band on the forum I go to many times but I never really was anxious to dive into their catalog. I knews they were a jam band from Chicago but that's about it. When Mantis was released on January 20, I decided to check it out and I LOVED what I heard. And now onto the review of the album.

The album at times feels like it owes itself more to modern prog giants Beardfish than it does Phish. Made to Measure employs a string arrangement and while it does feel like it is tacked on to the beginning it still has much to offer. The 12 minute title track is one of my favorites on the album and moves through multiple sections that are completely addicting. Cemetary Walk is another one of my favorites. The ending is a moment I keep returning to on the album. The electro-beat infused reprise is very cool as well. We then come to Turn & Run. A solid track but it didn't hit me upon first listen. It is growing on me though. Spires is the track I first heard from this album via the band's myspace. Another song that's a clear standout on the album. The whole vibe given off during the instrumental section at the end is great. Prophecy Now is pretty good but to me it acts more as a link between Spires and Red Tape. Red Tape has some really good vocal harmonies/ Again, the instrumental sections are just on fire. 1348 is the album closer and what a great closer it is.
The drumming by Kris Myers is VERY impressive. Great vocals and superb instrumental sections. I would love to see these guys perform this material live and see how they add improv to some of the songs. This a band that would be perfect for Progressive Nation. Maybe next year perhaps? Overall, this is clearly the best album of the year so far and I expect it to be in my top 10 by the end of 2009.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen Review

"An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."

On July 25, 2008 I was sitting in a packed theater ready to watch The Dark Knight. A preview for a film came on that was set to the tune The End is the Beginning Is the End by Smashing Pumpkins. The words "Most Celebrated Graphic Novel of All Time" appeared. It was a trailer for Watchmen. Now I had not read the graphic novel but from the trailer alone I was greatly anticipating this film. Flash forward March 6 2009. Still haven't read the graphic novel (I know...).

Anytime a film plays around with the film company logo (in this case Paramount), it gets points. It opened up with a sucker punch like many good films have done in the past. The opening credits set to Bob Dylan' The Time Are A Changin is one of the most inventive sequences I've seen used in film. As someone who is fascinated with the historical period covered within the sequence I was very amused at the whole take on it from the Watchmen angle.

The use of music was one of the most effective things here other than the visuals. Probably the most effective use of it is Philip Glass' Pruit Igoe and Prophecies which was originally part of the Koyaanisqtsi soundtrack. That sequence in the film was seamless and really stood out.

The visual aspect of the film was absolutely amazing. The author of the graphic novel Alan Moore said that Watchmen is unfilmable. Now I don't know if he was talking about the complexities of the visuals but if he was then Zack Snyder pulled this off very well. I was not a big fan of his last film 300 but this film has redeemed him for me. Jackie Earle Haley (Rorshach) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's (Comedian) performances were among the best in the film. However, Malin Akerman's performance as Silk Spectre II did nothing for me. I feel that Janey Slater was better in terms of female performances.

I did have an unpleasant viewing experience. My friend and I arrived at the theater and it was on one of those ultra screens. However, the theater was packed and we ended up having to sit front row. Hopefully, when I see it again I'll have a better experience.
Now I have read that the original director's cut was 3 hours and 10 minutes and the Zack Snyder intends to release that cut in July in theaters in New York. In addition to that, he plans to release an Ultimate Cut with "Tales of the Black Freighter", a 20 minute animated short that will be incorporated into the film. Making it a total running time of 3 hours and 30 min.

I'll add to this review when I finally get my hands on the graphic novel and am able to compare the two and see how faithful it was and what sacrifices were made in terms of cinematic adaptation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

81st Academy Awards

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Sean Penn for Milk
Who should've won:
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Kate Winslet for The Reader

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Achievement in Directing
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

Darren Aronofsky should have at least been nominated for The Wrestler.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Dustin Lance Black Milk

Who should've won:
Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter Wall E

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Simon Beaufoy Slumdog Millionaire

Best foreign language film of the year: France Departures, Japan

Best animated feature film: Bolt Kung Fu Panda WALL-E
Best art direction: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Best cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Best sound mixing: The Dark Knight
Best sound editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best original score: Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman (I'm noticing a trend here)
Best original song: O Saya from Slumdog Millionaire, music and lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam
Best costume: The Duchess
Best documentary feature: Man on Wire
Best documentary (short subject): Smile Pinki
Best film editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best makeup: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Best visual effects: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Concert Review: Anathollo w/ Willowfair

Had a blast at the Anathollo show on Friday. The venue was in a church which was the first time I have seen a concert in that type of setting. The opening band was Willowfair which opened up with the theme to The Wire. That was sure to put a grin on my face. Very solid band.

Anathollo are a band I've heard of before but am not as familiar with their work as I apparently should be. They employ several different instruments during their live sets which create a unique atmosphere. The lead singer shared stories of a 'Magical Appalachian Hobo' and a marriage proposal even took place. It was an evening filled with spontaneity. Their latest album Canopy Glow has some very strong songs on it and is getting many spins as of late.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Concert Review: Meshuggah/Cynic/The Faceless

Had an absolute blast on Sunday at the House of Blues. It was my first time seeing a concert at that venue. It was a pretty good setting. When I heard that Meshuggah would be touring with Cynic I NEEDED to get my hands on a ticket. It's one of those lineups that are just too good to pass up.

The Faceless
The opening band was a good mix of Cynic and the heavier sides of Opeth. I've onlyt heard of them through their myspace previously but what I heard at the concert I liked.

The mighty Cynic return after a 15 year hiatus. Their album Traced In Air was my favorite album of 2008 and seeing it performed live was great. The band sounded amazing. They had a very nice balance of material from Traced In Air as well as their debut album Focus. Seein that those were the only two albums they were able to cull material from, the setlist was great as the best was chosen from both albums.

Nunc Fluens
Space For This
Evolutionary Sleeper
Veil of Maya
But I'm A Wave To
Adam's Murmur
Uroboric Forms
How Could I?
King of Those Who Know
Integral Birth

I've heard several stories about the brutality of Meshuggah concerts. Alas, the House of Blues did not allow crowd surfing or anything of that nature. But it still sounded brutal. Some of the songs they performed were Rational Gaze, The Mouth Licking What You've Bled, Combustion, Bleed, Pineal Gland Optics, Sane and Electric Red. The crowd abosolutely went apeshit when they pulled out Future Breed Machine for the encore. It was a great cap off to a great concert.

Overall concert: 9/10

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Upcoming Music and Film

This is a list of most the films I am looking forward to this year. As the year goes on I will update the list.

2/13- The International
2/13- New York, I Love You
3/6- Watchmen (Hell yes...the visuals on this film look amazing)
3/13- Bronson (Nicholas Wending Reffin's film that garnered major Sundance Film Festival praise)
3/20- This Side of the Truth (Ricky Gervais is at it again.)
4/22- Earth
5/8- Star Trek
5/15- The Brothers Bloom
5/22- Terminator: Salvation (Hopefully this movie works well)
5/29- Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi goes old school. Hopefully this is as memorable as his Evil Dead films)
5/29- Up (It's Pixar man)
6/12- The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
7/1- Public Enemies (Michael Mann. Johnny Depp. Christian Bale. Need I say more?)
7/24- 500 Days of Summer
7/31- Funny People
8/21- Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino's Dirty Dozen-esque WWII film)
9/9- 9
9/18- The Informant
10/2- Ashecliffe (Scorsese takes on the thriller genre with this prison based film)
10/2- A Serious Man (The Coens are cranking out another film a year after Burn After Reading)
10/23- Amelia
11/6- A Christmas Carol
11/6- Fantastic Mr. Fox (Hopefully this animated film shows a new style from Wes Anderson)
12/11- The Lovely Bones (Looking forward to this Peter Jackson effort)
12/18- Avatar (This could be the BIG leap in effects and 3D film yet)

Blood Meridian (Todd Field doing a Cormac McCarthy adaptation...interesting)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Heath Ledger's final performance)
King Shot (Alejandro Jodoworsky's first film since 1990...produced by David Lynch...I just filled the cup)
The Matarese Circle (This could very well be David Cronenberg's breakout film)
The Road (Yet another Cormac McCarthy adaptation to look forward to)

And here's the music section:

1/13- Kreator- Hordes of Chaos
1/20- Umphrey's McGee- Mantis
2/17- The Appleseed Cast- Sagarmantha
2/24- Lamb of God- Wrath
3/3- U2- No Line On the Horizon
3/9- Pure Reason Revolution- Amor Vincit Omnia
3/24- The Decemberists- The Hazards of Love
3/24- Mastodon- Crack the Skye
APRIL TBA- IQ- Frequency
5/5- Isis- Wavering Radiant
5/19- OSI- Blood
6/23- Dream Theater- Black Clouds and Silver Linings

Between the Buried and Me
The Mars Volta
Massive Attack
Porcupine Tree
Devin Townshend- Ki

Monday, February 2, 2009

Marty breaking the 'Silence'


Martin Scorsese is planning to film his next project on his slate: Silence. A 17th century drama about a pair of Jesuit priests searching for their mentor in Japan while spreading the word of Jesus Christ. This will be Marty's first theological themed film since the controversial 1988 The Last Temptation of Christ. It is adapted by Jay Cocks from a novel by Shusaku Endo and it's apparently been a project he's been wanting to do for ages now. What just got good got better since now Scorsese has signed on Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, Che) and the milkshake drinking master himself Mr. Daniel Day- Lewis. This will be Mr. Day-Lewis' third outing with Scorsese with his previous two being The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York.

Scorsese is a director whose films are ones I am there for on opening day in theaters. Silence will be no exception.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sergio Leone: Once Upon A Time...


Sergio Leone. When you say the name to a film fan they most commonly think of Spaghetti westerns. I went to the Music Box on January 22 to see what is personally my favorite western: Once Upon A Time In the West. The epic scope of the film is what did it for me. It revolves around 4 people: Jill, a woman who is coming into town to meet her soon to be husband, the other characters being Cheyenne, Harmonica, and Frank. The opening 15 minute are some of the best 15 minutes of cinema as 3 outlaws contracted by Frank are waiting in a train station for Harmonica. The score by Ennio Morricone is one of my favorites as well and ranks up there with his score for The Mission as one of his best. This is filmmaking at its finest and the images captured throughout the film depict that.


I recently watched Once Upon A Time In America for the first time. It is a 4 hour film but it had me completely drawn to the characters and story for that time. Very few director can accomplish that. The film has had a checkered past. It was originally to be released as a 4 hour film and debuted as such to tremendous praise at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Soon afterward it was completely butchered down to 2 hours. Home video and DVD have saved this film by restoring its original 4 hour running time. The director's cut which has not been released yet is said to 4 1/2 hours. I would love to see that version and compare the two.
The film follows five bunch of kids over the span of five decades. These types of films are among my favorites because you get to study the characters growth from childhood up through adulthood. The childhood friends become criminals but still attain a sense of loyalty to one another. Loyalty that will be strongly tested throughout their adult lives. The violence in Sergio's films is always sudden. Boom. Done. Out. The film itself opens with two very graphic images and pits the viewer right in the middle of the storm. Many have commented on the structure in it being akin to an opium dream. DeNiro starts off the film in an opium den and the film is bookended by it. In a sense it is. This is a dream of America gone awry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lost Season 5 Premiere

The best series on network television returned with a riveting season 5 opener yesterday. I really hope they do more origin story on the Dharma Initiative, the smoke monster and the island itself. The best news about this season is that the flash forwards and flashbacks are few and far between.

There were alot of things going on in this opener. Hopefully they also shed some light on what the hell happened to Claire last season. A good theory I read up on one of my forums is that The Others were waiting for Locke, because he shifted to the past and met them, and they had to wait years for him to come back after the crash.

Overall I really like the direction the season is heading: answering more questions as opposed to asking. They have enough questions to last them this season as well as the final sixth season in 2010. One thing's for certain, it will be interesting looking back on confusing episodes like this after the show is over and putting the pieces together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Wrestler review

One of the most poignant and heartfelt quotes I've heard from a film in a LONG time that completely sums up Rourke's character is "The only time I get hurt it out there [outside the ring]." That quote rings true throughout the film as he tries to reconnect with his daughter played by Evan Rachel Wood. He also tries to connect with a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. Both of them perform in front of a crowd and both have professions which are not taken seriously by the general public.

As a wrestling fan, I have been told so many times "Wrestling is fake. They're acting." Well, the punches and kicks are fake and the whole role playing is acting indeed.
But how does one learn how to take a chair shot or get thrown through glass? You don't. And that's what the film portrays so authentically.

What Mickey Rourke does with this performance is amazing. He's not playing Randy "The Ram" Robinson...he IS The Ram. It's what Daniel Day Lewis did with last year with There Will Be Blood.

The director, Darren Aronofsky, whose previous works include Pi, Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain has proven to be absolutely fearless when it comes to portraying a character. Not many directors would want to take the route that Aronofsky did at the end of Requiem For A Dream and I applaud him for his honest character portrayals. The filmmaking here is very much in the vein of John Cassavetes. Character driven, many scenes being improvised and a very documentary feel to it all.

This film legitimizes what wrestlers do in the ring and the lasting effects it has not only on their bodies but on those close to them. Rourke's powerhouse performance is sure to get him an Oscar nod and he clearly deserves the win.