Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Whither May Day

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Morning Birds

Pastoral spectacular-sounding harmonies

Mix one part classic pop; one part emotive rock n’ roll swagger and you'll get THE MORNING BIRDS - a cool Indie Pop Band from Idyllwild, CA featuring the awesome twosome - Jennifer Thorington and Samuel Markus who play sublime pop and experimental (and super luscious) rock'n' roll. 

The Morning Birds are a pleasant hybrid of sonic and spiritual understandings expressed through music, art, and moving images. The Morning Birds cinematic tones make you feel as if you’re floating on a cumulous cloud at daybreak being transported to another time and place. Enuff said, Hearing is Believing!! Hear why they are different & shop one of their 6 great Morning Birds albums now @ www.themorningbirds.bandcamp.com. Alternatively, check out their website  and like their fanpage on Facebook.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Killing Them Softly (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes finds this neo-crime noir interesting but disjointed!

Killing Them Softly is a strange crime film that is most notable for the presence of Brad Pitt, a vastly under rated actor whose seems to be dismissed for his acting because of his good looks. I will wager Brad Pitt (good looks aside) can do just about any genre of film including horror. Even as good as Robert DeNiro is at enveloping himself into a character, DeNiro cannot do horror as he poorly showed in Hide and Seek (2005). It was perhaps the one time I saw Robert DeNiro out of place. 

In Killing Them Softly, Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, an elite mob enforcer who is called to a run  after the local mob groups have all been robbed at their card games. Cogan arrives and begins to piece together the goings on in this little po-dunk town. Since we know who does the robbing, there is not much mystery as to what Cogan will find out. As expected, it does not take Cogan long to figure out what justice to dispense and to whom. Cogan is briefed by the local mob lawyer (a nonchalant Richard Jenkins) and their conversations are the best things in this film. They seem to know what needs to be done but, even in mob land there is method to their madness and so rules and protocol must be followed. 

Enter Mickey (James Gandolfini). Mickey is a hard living, brutal, has-been enforcer who still works when he needs to; in between getting popped by the local authorities and doing jail time. He arrives in town to take care of one of the bozos but immediately becomes intoxicated and exhausted by the local ladies of the night. He is apparently going through a nasty divorce, is violating his parole and is close to a nervous breakdown. Put a gun in his hand, and you will have anarchy. Why they call him is anybodies guess. 

Killing Them Softly is a nice attempt at neo-crime noir and Pitt does extremely well as Cogan; a quiet observer of people. "These guys can't do nothin' quietly. They can't keep their big mouths shut. That's where I come in. I like killing them softly. It gets the job done," Cogan laments to lawyer Driver (Jenkins). The problem I had with Killing Them Softly is that nothing seems left to the imagination. Everything is explained, and I did not need this to be explained. 

There is a running gag throughout this film as former President Bush and President Obama are heard in audio clips talking about the US banking crisis. These are played as we see shots of the dumpy town on skid row. Apparently things are tough all over, even for the crooks. 

Killing The Softly was written and directed by Andrew Dominik who worked with Pitt on The Assassination Of The Outlaw Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford ("The Outlaw" was later dropped by the studio because the damn title was long enough at it was). It was a better film and again featured an Oscar caliber performance by Pitt. Dominik wrote the screenplay for Killing Them Softly from the George V. Higgins novel "Cogan's Trade") and either the book or the screenplay could have used some more detail on characters and less on the daily machinations of the mob. I mean, really, what was the point of Mickey's character. It's a distraction that could have been written differently or just done away with all together. 

Still, Killing Them Softly is not a total waste of time. It has a cool vibe to it and the acting is first rate including those of Ray Liotta and Scoot McNairy. This is a so-so film that I was really hoping would have been great. It's short so at a run time of about 96 minutes you won't have to sit too long to get to the predictable end of a film that you see coming.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boogie Nights (1997)

Drugs, Disco and lotsa Sex 70's Style

Its told, Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer, director, and co-producer of the Oscar nominated Boogie Nights (1997), was obsessed with porn from an early age. This started with his childhood belief that a neighborhood house had been the site of at least one porno shoot, and, this obsession continued through his adolescence. The mid to late 70s, the period of Anderson's studious attention here, was porn's golden age – before AIDS, before Just Say No, before the advent of video and the decline in production values it wrought, seemingly before irony – and he has fashioned a loving, sincere elegy for the embarrassing excesses of the era. 

It's worth noting that the title of the film does indeed represent the first popular unironic use of the word "Boogie", and Anderson skillfully checks his cynicism at the door in telling the tale of young Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) from Reseda, who dreams of making himself into something better and harbors a thirteen-inch co-star in his Wranglers

Boogie Nights is essentially the universal story of one man's rise and fall (if you'll excuse a pun), his struggle to keep on truckin'. But what a universe the film takes place in. The club where Eddie washes dishes is a gathering place for porn-industry luminaries like director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), earthy legend Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), insecure stud du jour Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), and high-school ingenue Rollergirl (Heather Graham). 

When Jack is tipped off to Eddie's potential (already displaying the self-promotional savvy that will mark his future career, Eddie has been selling peeks), he quickly recruits the young stallion for his stable of actors, luring him not so much with promises of money or fame as with fatherly concern, interested conversation, stiff drinks by the pool, and naked chicks on the sofa. It's a pitch tailor made for an impressionable boy, and one of the strengths of Anderson's direction – and, yes, Wahlberg's fine acting – is that they never let you forget that deep down, the film's hero is just a big dumb kid. 

You can tell that the film was a labor of love for Anderson; not just care but joy is lavished on his direction and compositions. The opening scene, a dizzy long tracking shot that snakes into and around the club where Jack holds court, contains a contagious excitement for the vitality of the actors – the camera just wants to get next to them, and you do too. It feels like a hybrid of Alan Rudolph and early Spielberg, wit without angst. 

Burt Reynolds, turns in a restrained, unobtrusive performance, conveying sadness transfigured into the best possible course of action. William H. Macy, in a smallish part, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Scotty, the boom mike guy, are very good and touching. Anderson's handling of the diverse ensemble cast is indeed so deftly handled. 

The music too lifts up the movie to grander heights, although the songs aren't original here. Assembled by Karyn Rachtman, who was the brains and ears behind the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, it's pitch-perfect for the film and nearly constant, like a groovy tapestry backdrop. To the strains of "You Sexy Thing," Anderson's camera plunges underwater, even, to film Eddie cavorting with starlets in the rippling chlorinated blue, and you're almost underwater too with the perfection of it all, not wanting to have to come up for air. 

The ending though is sort of a cop-out. Maybe Anderson, as a first-time writer/director, either lacked the confidence to see his vision through or was afraid to risk his future career with the reputation as the guy who loosed on the public the idea that such giddy hedonism could go unpunished. As a result Boogie Nights lets go of its claim to subversiveness and bogs down in the same emotional populism that ruined The People vs. Larry Flynt. Yet, even after so many years, this is a great watch. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Home - Staind

A post-grunge fav from the archives

Staind is part of the post-grunge, nu-metal generation coming out into the light in 1995. Having released over 7 albums to date, this track is from their 1999 second album - Dysfunction. Staind displays an obvious Alice in Chains connection: vocal harmonies, melody lines, guitar lines but to dismiss Staind as purely an Alice in Chains clone is not to give justice to the work presented in Dysfunction.

Dysfunction is a alternative grunge blend - a swirl of Alice in Chains meets Coal Chamber, it flirts with Tool and Soundgarden, it's best friends with Korn and Deftones, it's Creed and Stone Temple Pilots. Original? Yes and no - Given that last sentence, a little stretch on the imagination but they're good at it. The music is driving, punchy, heavy and might make you exceed the speed limit while listening on the way to work. "Home" as expected was a slow rising  radio hit. Bottom line: if you're a fan of any of above mentioned bands, check out Staind and this killer track.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dredd (2012)

A visceral under-rated remake that deserves a larger audience

1995's Judge Dredd was savaged by critics when it was released. A critical failure, many die hard Dredd comic fans (on which it was based) hated its tongue and cheek humor and general silliness. I did not hate it and rather found its campiness quite endearing. Besides, you don't often  get to see Sylvester Stallone don an over the top role and still have genuine fun. 

By comparison, Dredd of 2012 is, to my understanding a more faithful adaptation of the comic book and a solid sci-fi actioner in its own right. Set in a dystopian future of huge urban scrawls, abject poverty, crime and colossal sepia-toned skyscraper towns, Dredd has a more' real' feel to it that adds to its advantage. 

The film starts in Mega City, a endlessly sprawling metropolis of concrete, neon and people. Massive skyscrapers that can house thousands of poor residents jut out of the ground like pillars from a distance. Most of the city shots are real shots of Johannesburg, South Africa that were digitally altered to create the monstrous urban structures but its done superbly.

As expected, Mega-City is a crime ridden dung heap ruled over by the menacing Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a vicious psychopath and drug queen who also controls the black market on a new best selling, time-shifting mind drug, Slo-Mo. So, its upto the lawful Judges, by the book administrators of the law (played very well by Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby) to take her down and keep civil order as best they can.

As an emotionless judge, jury and executioner all in one, Karl Urban in the lead role here is truly magnetic. You never get to see his face yet, he brings plenty of depth to the character.  Olivia Thirlby as his young rookie with a conscience adds a certain girlish innocence to the script when the movie starts but is a mature pass-out by the time all the bloodbath subsides and the movie ends.

Pete Travis, who gave us Vantage Point and End Game directs with kinetic flair and the result is a viscerally raw, gritty and intense movie experience.  The action scenes alone warrant a viewing and at just 95 minutes, its timed just right. A poor marketing strategy to position this as a 3D movie was the root cause for its market failure. Let it not deter you from watching what is actually a stunningly well made action entertainer. JohnnyTwoToes

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Down by Andy Ruck - A Brilliant Ballad

A underrated balladish tune 

With haunting melodies, thoughtful lyrics and a truly hypnotic voice, Andy Ruck creates musical poetry that demands attention and touches your heartstrings. You can sample his mastery on this popular track "DOWN", a gut wrenching tune on domestic abuse that has already crossed over 100000 views on Youtube. Don't be fooled by the rather simple looking video and the slow start, the track really takes off in the second half....its been on my play list the entire last week. 

Andy is currently gearing up to propel his long awaited 14 track debut album “PICTURES” on sale now. Know more about Andy on his website .

Friday, April 5, 2013

Soul Rising by Black Box Down

Awesome FREE indie pop track 

Checkout "Soul Rising", a great new track by BLACK BOX DOWN, the side-project of STAARK songwriter/producer Matt Cumming. Matt wrote and recorded this haunting song by himself in just ONE day and yet, it sounds supremely awesome - a rather striking song with slightly strange lyrics! 

Download "Soul Rising" for FREE along with an equally great free track "Call Your Bluff" from the official band site. Pls do share the love by liking the BBD Facebook fanpage too!

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