Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 Favorites: Songs

While a bunch of these songs are just my picks from my favorite albums installment below, there are a few songs from albums that didn't quite get the cut or were too "old." Basically, this is what I like to think of as the soundtrack of my 2007, but it's really just some slim pickings. So this is my 2007 playlist - the songs aren't "ranked" - it's pretty hard to do that considering they are all so different!

I posted links to the music videos because I lack the ability to post streaming clips. But there are some pretty cool music videos and live clips. Baby's Gonna Die Tonight gets pretty interesting in the end, Men's Needs is pretty funny, and Music is My Hot Hot sex is pretty cool throughout.

"Baby's Gonna Die Tonight" by Adam Green
This is a recent discovery but I love it! The song is addictive, and the cool stuff he does with the drawings at the end is cool.


"Men's Needs" by The Cribs
This was the first video I watched of them - and I was read the top comment on the youtube board and it talked about some naked girl. So I was ready for the girl that danced/stumbled across the screen while the band was playing, but the black boxes covering her were a surprise - and pretty clever.

"Girls Who Play Guitars" by Maximo Park
This is just the song with some random-ass pictures. Sorry. But the song is pretty good.

"Chillout Tent" by The Hold Steady
One of my favorite songs of late. I think I'm a sucker for pop duets with a female voice and a male voice.

"Who's Gonna Sing" by The Prototypes
The dude in the video is pretty funny. And the vibrant colors are pretty crazy.

"Music is My Hot Hot Sex" by Cansei De Ser Sexy
It took some wikipedia reading for me to realize that all the girls were not the same, but the 5/6 girls in the group! The bass line is ridiculous, and the part that goes beyond the iPod commercial is awesome.


"Jerk it Out (Ahlund)" by The Caesars
I know I know, three iPod commercial-songs in a row, but I do have this whole album. The energy of this song has a certain air of fun that the other songs on this list don't.

"Liquefy" by The Servant
I'm probably the only one in the world who loves this guy's voice - but it sounds kinda like how I would sing if I had those skillz. Perhaps that's not a ringing endorsement.

"Your Honor" by Regina Spektor
I LOVE the drastic contrast between the hard/soft screaming/sweet singing. And I'll admit I like the soft part better - that chorus is amazing. Live recording from Bonnaroo was the best I could do.

"Loose Lips" by Kimya Dawson
Not surprising that Kimya doesn't make music videos, but this is a live recording. I love this song for so many reasons - the chorus is great, the fast talking intro is awesome, and the lyrics throughout are only rivaled by "Underground."

"Famous" by The Magnetic Fields
This song is such a great beginning to such a good album.

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel
I love the strumming beginning and when he first begins to sing...so good.

"Our Swords" by Band of Horses
I couldn't get enough of this song for the longest time, playing it over and over.

"Take Me to The Riot" by Stars
Deeply emotional, I've already waxed poetic about this song on my 2007 albums send-up, just enjoy the song.

"Pick Up the Phone" by The Notwist
I loved this song mostly because of the video's funny rabbits. But it's also kinda awesomely-haunting.


"2nd Period: Shoot Down the Stars" by Gym Class Heroes
My favorite video of theirs is probably for Cupid's Chokehold, but this is my favorite song of theirs for the tempo and the delivery.

"Don't Forget 'Em" by Consequence
Probably the most boring video on this list, but I played it back to back to back to back so often and put the page in the background. It just has a great hook.

"Everything I Am" by Kanye West
Again this song was discussed in detail in the 2007 albums send-up, but it's another addicting song that is great.


Other 2007 Favorites:
2007 Favorites: Albums

2007 Favorites: Albums

So I’m stuck at the airport and I finally had the motivation (and time) to finish off this article that it seems like I started ages ago. So I guess, out of the bad, comes some good, much like everything else. Also, for some of the song stuff I attached the link to the youtube video for their music video because I don't know how to stream songs. I know, no point in having a music blog without that vital skill, but I'm trying here people. And besides, some of what drew me to these bands are these music videos I'm linking up here.

One of my friends who have their own music blog asked me what my favorite group was. After answering “The Red Hot Chili Peppers” I was informed that my music sucked and I had to start listening to “good” music. What followed was the beginning of a humongous amount of new music that I listened to regularly in the last six months. I also started using youtube more as my own private radio station – something I strongly suggest. Unable to get a hold of most of these albums, I bought a bunch of them on Amazon, used, for a few dollars, and Amazon, being the trusty sales-person they are, recommended some more music. Checked those out on youtube, and bought some more.

I started listening to a few instrumental acts (Explosions in the Sky and Ratatat) after I discovered explosions on NBC’s Friday Night Lights. I also started listening to a bunch of lo-fi/indie-pop/anti-folk acts (Stars, Neutral Milk Hotel, Regina Spektor, Kimya Dawson) suggested by my friend. When Kanye’s new CD, Graduation was about to come out, I bought a bunch of CD’s from “harder” rappers (Nas, Jaylib, Madlib, Madvillain, Danger Doom, MF Doom) and checked out Gym Class Heroes after I saw them on the MTV Video Music Awards. My last discovery came when I was tinkering around on youtube and stumbled into foreign (mostly European) pop music (The Cribs, The Servant, The Prototypes, CSS, Maximo Park).

So that was a pretty big span of four drastically different genres. And bear with me here, since I didn’t do this last year, and my friend did, there were a bunch of great 2006 albums, so this year I included 2006 albums in my top ten, while notably including some of my favorite older albums I started listening to this year: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998) by Neutral Milk Hotel; Soviet Kitsch (2004) by Regina Spektor; Holiday (1994) & Get Lost (1995) by The Magnetic Fields; Neon Golden (2002) by The Nowtist. Also, since I didn’t really have time to do album reviews this year, this article is really my only chance to blog about them, and so if the entries get a little long for you, I apologize.

First, the close but no cigar discs: Prototypes (2006) by the Prototypes which had a lot of energy and flair, but not quite the, how do you say, English lyrics to realty compete here. I mean, I loved two of your French singles, but asking me to find a spot in my heart for those French “filler” songs that I can’t understand, is a lot. Our Earthly Pleasures (2007) by Maximo Park was an album that I liked, that I thought was similar to The Cribs’ Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, but I was wrong. While it has (maybe) a better single in “Girl’s Who Play Guitars,” it just doesn’t have the consistency or the quality of Men’s Needs. Boys and Girls in America (2007) by The Hold Steady was the closest, and the hardest one I had to cut. It might be better than some of the albums on this list, and I listened to it about ten times in the last week or so, but I couldn’t take one of the albums below, off that list. Although I have to say that “Chillout Tent” is probably one of my favorite songs of the year. Now, Here are my ten favorites:

10. Don't Quit Your Day Job! (2007)Consequence
Favorite Song: Don’t Forget ‘Em
Favorite Lyric: “Man I promise, when I get old enough/I'ma buy you a limo, and we gon' go to Red Lobster"

I foolishly missed Consequence despite loving Kanye’s The College Dropout, where Consequence guest starred on two tracks. However, my dad sent me an article from the Cinci Enquirer about him early in the year when he heard I had started listening to some rap music. I tried to get a listen on iTunes, but those samples don’t tell you much, and I soon quit. When I started using youtube again, I remembered and I checked him out. The first music video I watched, “Don’t Forget ‘Em” was boring and not very flashy, but the song was downright addictive. Of all the songs I have watched on youtube, I struggle to think of a song I listened to more. It didn’t take me that long to get my act together and buy the album on Amazon for $2. ‘Quence uses a few pretty funny skits (which is saying a lot because I normally get annoyed by most rappers’ skits) to tie together a strongly thematic album about the desire to make it big, and also the fears of making it too big. The singles on this album are very strong: Don’t Forget ‘Em, Callin’ Me, Grammy Family, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. The filler around them is just okay, and for a while I thought the album wasn’t going to make it. But it sneaked in, right here at #10.

9. How to Destroy a Relationship (2007)The Servant
Favorite Song: Hey Lou Reed
Favorite Lyric: “I don't want to be no one/I dream my dreams/Suck in my screams/I don't want to be no one”

These boys should not to be confused with the Christian rock band of the 70’s. I stumbled onto these boys when I was bored in my room one day and it suddenly came to me that I wanted to listen to that crazy song from the Sin City preview. I finally found them and on the iTunes comments page, someone had posted their website where they have their entire discography posted for you to listen to in streaming. This was AWESOME – I got to listen to both of their full-length albums and their half-length albums and really got into them. They were really the first Euro-pop group I started listening to before I started looking for more. How to Destroy a Relationship is a pretty good album, but it isn’t nearly as good as their self titled, The Servant (2004). That was the album I really fell in love with at first – it had more and stronger singles, and the filler didn’t seem like filler. But that album was too old for this list, and I started listening to How to Destroy a Relationship more. It’s still pretty damn good, and the single, Hey Lou Reed along with a bunch of the other songs have more humor than the group’s more serious debut. And I think that humor pays off and makes some of the non-singles sound better and more fun to listen to.

8. Cansei De Ser Sexy (2006)Cansei De Ser Sexy
Favorite Song: Music is My Hot Hot Sex
Favorite Lyric: “Why is that we stand so still?/People gonna start thinking we're statues”

I will be the first to admit that I found these girls (and one guy) when I went looking for, “that song from the iTunes iPod touch ad”. And I found them, in a big way, and after some wikipedia reading, I found a bunch of their songs and music videos on youtube. This time, I wasted ZERO time in buying their album on Amazon. This also helped me rediscover The Prototypes, who I had listened to earlier in the year (also because of their American single being used in an iPod ad – what can I say, they pick good music). CSS’ music video for Music is My Hot Hot Sex is really cool – they do some cool things with light and texture that make the video a lot of fun, and all the girls have a good stage presence that this video accentuates. When I first got the album and listened to it on my way home one weekend, I thought that one good single couldn’t push them into this top ten list. After a few more listens I realized that I loved a bunch of the other songs: Patins, Alala, Art Bitch and Alcohol (plus the obvious singles). I loved their attitude, I loved the flavor they brought to their music, and the bass beat they lay is damn good. The strongest personality though, front woman Lovefoxx has a great voice that fits perfectly for the group. I’m looking forward to their follow up to their first internationally released album.

7. Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever (2007)The Cribs
Favorite Song: Men’s Needs
Favorite Lyric: They were all equally intriguing...(okay, I'll be honest, I plain couldn't choose - it's not about the lyrics with them)

I found this group all on my lonesome and mostly by accident. During my obsession with Quence’s “Don’t Forget ‘em” I would occasionally branch out to listen to his other songs when I grew tired of listening to “Don’t Forget ‘Em” four or five times in a row. So one time, after typing ‘Consequence’ into youtube, I clicked on the song “Consequence” by The Notwist. And then I somehow found The Cribs. Hmm…that story doesn’t make a lot of sense to me now, but it did when I started writing it. More substantively, this album was probably my favorite Euro pop-rock album that I started listening to, and the album has this great energy that makes it easy to listen to and easy to get into. The funny music video for the single, Men’s Needs sure helped too – it’s pretty funny, and shows off everything the band is about. This album earned it’s spot here though because the whole album is consistently good, without any major disappointments, as each and every track is just as strong as the next, with a few standout favorites of course (Our Bovine Republic, Moving Pictures, Men’s Needs).

6. Everything All The Time (2006)Band of Horses
Favorite Song: Our Swords
Favorite Lyric: “Out on the wall sounds of banging is constant coming from your head/And desperate the calls came and ringing from those wanna wring your neck”

The best part about being given this album was how good it was. The worst part was buying their follow up album, 2007’s Cease to Begin and being completely disappointed. But this album is great. It has a sort of soft intensity that is hard to explain. Maybe that’s a poor word choice, but that’s what comes to mind. The words and lyrics fit perfectly with everything else they have going on, and contrary to most of the other groups I used to listen to, and characteristic of my favorites now, you can really enjoy the lyrics. I got this CD toward the end of July right before I did a lot of driving in my car and I basically alternated between this album and two others. I probably listened to it over ten times in about five days. The album doesn’t get old, and only gets better. I became addicted to “Our Swords,” often listening to that song alone even if I just had to run a short errand. After that I developed other favorites: the aptly titled “The First Song,” “The Great Salt Lake,” and “St. Augustine.” It seems to me that the songs on this CD have perfect beginnings and endings. And the middle parts are damn good too.

5. As Cruel As School Children (2006)Gym Class Heroes
Favorite Song: Shoot Down the Stars
Favorite Lyric: “This isn’t how it was supposed to be/Reminiscing don’t stand so close to me”

This is another album where I can almost pat myself on the back for finding it on my own, but it was really my search for the destruction of my soul (the weird desire to watch the MTV Video Music Awards to blog about them). I decided to check out the music for the big single from the artist of the year award (or whatever it’s called) that led me to the great video for “Cupid’s Chokehold.” The song was pretty good, but the video was hysterical, and I loved it so much because it actually fit the song (one of my pet peeves are abstract music videos). On a whim I decided to buy the album for a couple bucks when I bought Quence’s album – never thinking that this poppy-er, more accessible album would be the one I liked more. Again, this was another album where I really loved every song – and the flow and the mix were perfect. Just as people jumped on the (unfortunate) Limp Bizkit bandwagon over rap-rock, I would love it if Gym Class Heroes led a rap-pop wave. The only (mild) annoyance was the three skits on the album that were mediocre at best and made me want to skip over them when I listened to the album frequently in one car-sitting.

4. Begin to Hope (2006)Regina Spektor
Favorite Song: On the Radio
Favorite Lyric: “But I wake up in fear/You will never be my/You will never be my fool”

This was the first album I got this summer that really took me. I thought that if I was actually disciplined enough to make a top ten list, this would surely get the top spot. Why didn’t it? Not for lack of trying. I love every song through and through, and the first four, Fidelity, Better, Samson, and On the Radio, are downright addictive. To illustrate how much I liked this album: I listened to it over twenty times in the last four months, on my laptop alone. That doesn’t count my iPod or in the car. That’s a hell of a lot. Three things contributed to this album slipping to fourth place. First, I loved Soviet Kitsch a hell of a lot too (listened to it about just as much as BtH) and it was tough to separate the two, and when I did I realized I didn’t get “Your Honor,” which might be my favorite two-minute song ever (I guess Band of Horses "Our Swords" is pretty close too). Second, the albums below really stood out, and it should be a testament to them when I say how much I loved this album. Third, in particular, the album below took a little bit of the wind out of Regina’s sails – not that they are that similar, but I viewed them as similar, and in the last month or so, Kimya leapfrogged Regina.

3. Remember That I Love You (2006)Kimya Dawson
Favorite Song: Loose Lips
Favorite Lyric (this is the only place where I indulged myself and refused to make a choice): “Call me up before your dead, we can make some plans instead/Send me an IM, I'll be your friend”; “So I tattoo instructions on my ass/That say "don't ever put this body is a casket/Burn it and put the ashes in a basket/And throw them in the Puget Sound”

I think I’m done beating the “before Juno” drum and I can get into the comments. This album knocked my socks off. It took me two or three times through before I realized that some of Kimya’s songs were REALLY sad. Maybe that means I’m a shitty listener, but the WAY she sings to me seems to be so happy and light that I couldn’t believe the songs were that sad. By the fourth or fifth times (and I lot more times after that) I began to really get to the depth of the emotion in these songs. Instead of making me sad, I just developed a deep respect for the album and turned it on a lot. Regina’s lyrics were great, and pretty clever too, but Kimya’s here are leaps and bounds above. Of all the albums here (and first place makes this close, but Kimya still wins), this album has the best lyrics. I downright love almost every word she says (the one bump on an otherwise perfect stream is her “FUCK BUSH” rant on Loose Lips that seems out of place to me). What she says just rings so true, and obviously I don’t have to deal with things like a child growing inside me, but I like to think I can relate to some of the other stuff. And the stuff that I haven’t had to deal with now, I feel like I will relate to those events based on these songs, especially “My Mom.” If Juno didn’t make you run out and buy her latest, hopefully I convinced you. Maybe? A little? Come on…

2. Graduation (2007)Kanye West
Favorite Song: Everything I Am
Favorite Lyric: “Everything I’m not/makes me everything I am”

I started this list a while ago. And up until about five minutes ago, this album was in the top spot. It felt so right for me to put it #1. It represented a lot of what I wanted to say I did in 2007. To me this album shows a confidence, maturity, and skill that were missing from Kanye’s first two albums and mix tapes. I feel like I could talk about each of those three factors in relation to every song on Graduation, which, apart from Barry Bonds and Drunk and Hot Girls, is the closest to perfect of any rap album I’ve listened to (I’ll admit that’s pretty limited). Instead, I will focus on my favorite, Everything I Am, which crystallizes all three factors. A huge part of confidence is identity, knowing who you are (and who you aren’t) goes a long way to shaping your conception of self, which seems to be the cornerstone of confidence. Everything I Am’s premise, is obviously a song about identity, and Kanye’s confidence in the lyrics go beyond his boyish arrogance to reach true confidence “I never be picture-perfect-Beyonce/Be light as Albi or black as Chauncey/Remember him from Blackstreet/He was as black as the street was/I'll never be laid back as his beat was.” He calls out a bunch of people and identifies some stereotypic paths he could have pursued, but he didn’t. The next line is a piece of wisdom beyond Kanye’s years – “I never could see why people'll reach a/Fake-ass facad they couldn't keep up.” I think this speaks to his maturity, as a person, and as a performer. He clearly understands the faces people put on to make it big in the business and he didn’t mince words here, or leave this open ended. Additionally, a subtler sign of maturity is the efficient, waste-free album free of skits and jokes – some miss those skits, but I sure as hell don’t. Also adding to the polished, less-rap feel of the album is the intro, Kanye’s best (Good Morning) that mixes the benefit of the classic rap intro with, well, a song. Now the chorus, or the repeated verse, “Everything I’m not/makes me everything I am” is ridiculously addictive (yet simple) and represents a new stage in Kanye’s skills. Before, I was drawn into Kanye’s songs by his hooks and his beats, that were different than other rap acts – they were poppy-er, and more musical (to me). What made me love his songs, like Never Let You Down, was the beat. You sang along with the song Kanye sampled, and that was what stayed with you. On this album, you better believe you’re singing along with, and loving the lyrics themselves – the beats are still great (much better than on Late Registration) but the words are even better. Those three things meant a lot to me for a while, confidence, maturity, skill. I thought I’d come a long way in all three. Then I realized that my confidence boost was artificial, I still felt like a teenage kid, and “skill improvement” was just out of reach. But still “Everything I’m not/makes me everything I am” stuck with me, and almost pulled off the top spot. I don’t think I have a clue who I am, or who I’m going to be, but I did know who I wasn’t, and that was a big part of who I was – who I am. If you can’t look past “Stronger,” you need to; Champion, I Wonder, Good Life, Flashing Lights, and Everything I Am are too (ridiculously) good for you to not listen to.

1. In Our Bedroom After the War (2007)Stars
Favorite Song: Take Me to the Riot
Favorite Lyric: "You despise me and I love you/
It's not much but it's just enough to keep...”

Bedroom was another one of those three CD’s, along with Everything all the Time and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea that I burned at the end of the summer and kept in my car for a while. It must be obvious now that the album that received significantly more play that Everything, was this album. I was much more likely to listen to this song back-to-back-to-back than probably any other album I listened to this summer (and maybe ever). The album benefited from the fact that it was so different than everything else I was listening to at the time. It’s tough for me to really say that this album is “better” than Set Yourself on Fire, which I just bought recently, but I know for sure that this album will always mean more to me. And one of the reasons this song squeaked into the top spot was that this album, and Stars, brought a substantial wave of new music down upon me. Much more than Kanye did. Or at the very least, the music that I started listening to because of Stars was a lot better than the post-Kanye/Graduation music. Perhaps this disc got an unfair advantage because I listened to it an hour before I completed this list (and made the switch), but I would like to think it was much more than that. I mean I could talk about how great the music was – I loved the synergy and flow between the first three songs, and while I think every other person who has blogged about this song has hated the second track, The Night Starts Here, I loved it as a great lead in to my favorite song, Take Me to the Riot. After that the album continues it’s greatness and takes me to synth-pop-bliss. Maybe that’s not what I should call it, but I just did anyways. I do like to think that the greater reason this album is my 2007 favorite is that it really captures my most powerful memories from the course of the year. Well, for the most part, my life is pretty simple, but that simple life changed a hell of a lot between May and July and I think I will forever remember some of them with In Our Bedroom After the War as their soundtrack, or maybe their anthem. Again, I could probably go through all of the songs – because the whole album, really does speak to those experiences, but I will focus on my favorite, Take Me to the Riot. Now I’m not the only one to pick this one as their favorite song, and those music purists probably know more about why the song is so “good,” but I’m talking about why it’s my favorite. I won’t pretend to know the meaning of the song (can you ever know for sure?) but I will talk about what the song means to me. I’ll start with my favorite lyric of the year, “You despise me and I love you/
It's not much but it's just enough to keep...” It is a phrase that I find incredibly powerful and exceptionally heart breaking. Not sure what else to say about that, I shouldn’t really have to. The two verses a verse or two before make it even more powerful, “What now kid?, which way love?/Will we ever make up and be friends?” Another somber question that is (perhaps) answered by the sad “answer” above. The synth charged ending, the repeated “let me stay” wraps it all together…begging to stay and falling on deaf ears. Cut away all that emo crap I just mumbled out and you still have an amazing album.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I think I'm in Love

Over this summer one of my new friends introduced me into some great new music - and I listened to a lot of that biz and didn't really realize what I was getting myself into - indie pop. I kind of let that simmer for awhile - wearing out those copied CD's, listening to them over and over and then I started reading up on those bands, checking out some of their other stuff on the new internet radio (youtube - duh!) as well as taking full advantage of the 30 second Amazon clip feature and this led to me buying a bunch more CD's - mostly European pop acts that weren't quite the same as those original indie pop CD's that had quickly become near and dear to my heart.

Then I saw Juno. First, I have got to say that I was way early on the Kimya Dawson train before the flick (my summer friend turned me onto her about three months ago, so not THAT early I guess). And I just had to find out more about her. She seems totally chill - found out she's friends with one of my favorite acts from junior high (Third Eye Blind - singing on some of their songs and appearing in some of their music videos - btw - where have they gone?). I also found out she was in The Moldy Peaches. Calm down if you're the one person who visits the site and if being that one person, you're also into indie pop and you knew that - of course, you say. So I listened to them some on youtube and then started listening to Adam Green's stuff - which is a lot more radio friendly and accessible than Kimya's stuff and also checked out some of the other groups on the Juno soundtrack (so it did influence me a little) and did some we browsing and found plan-it-x records.

Anyway. What I'm trying to say is that I really love that stuff, and it's kinda changed me. Well. Definitely the music I listen to.

I love Apple, but...

Is it just me or is the iPhone product placement getting to be a little too much? It seems like every TV pilot can't seem to get off the ground without having at least two characters sport an iPhone. Then it seems like it has been creeping into everything else.

Perhaps I'm still just super jealous of people who have iPhones and I'm bitter. But come on. Most of the times, in REAL LIFE, I can make it down the street without seeing FIVE people with a $500 phone!

Sheesh. Okay, I admit it, I want one SOO badly...

Friday, December 7, 2007

What the hell

I was really hoping to see Juno and Atonement sometime over winter break. BUT...none of those movies are showing anywhere near me.

So now I am totally bummed about it. Those movies looked amazing and will probably be dark horse Oscar candidates for best picture, while Juno will most likely win original screenplay. Then you chalk up all the other anticipatory factors: Michael Cera, Keira Knightley...

I am kind of surprised that Juno's release is SOO limited considering the trailer aired in front of some major movies, AND has seemingly had lots of promotion (for an indie), and it seems like it has some serious commercial upside as Cera is pretty big now after Superbad and Keira has emerged as a strong, commercial, leading actor. Instead, the movies that are showing in town: Awake, Dan in Real Life, Enchanted, The Golden Compass.In the surrounding area there are just a bunch of mediocre movies, or good movies I saw a month ago.

While I wrote about Enchanted on on my other blog, SaltyStix, I'm just not that motivated to see it anymore now that I really want to see Juno and Atonement. I do want to see The Golden Compass thought, and probably will, but it just isn't the same.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Obama deserves one thing


I was never THAT big of an Obama fan and thought he was barely tolerable until I saw the Obama Girl Music Video that made me smile (and she was really hot). Beyond that I am mostly annoyed by him ruining what would be a good candidacy in eight years by running now. Sure you had so much buzz, but you have never:

(1) won reelection, proving that you were not in fact a fad, but that you had the ability to win over the public and stand up to a real campaign, and even a real candidate (most people don't realize that alan keyes, a transplant from new england, still managed to win over 30% of the vote).

(2) written/proposed legislation, does he even know how the political system works? can he use it? how is he supposed to run it? all his amazing new ideas won't mean shit if he can't get them through congress and use some real politik to influence senators and get some hard votes.

(3) had ANY exeuctive experience, I mean, he has never really even run an office, or any organization, and certainly not in the political realm. our past few presidents - Clinton and Bush both had exeuctive experience from being governors. When it comes down to it, Obama doesn't really have ANY experience generally because he has only been in Washington for 2 years.

So what does he deserve? He deserves to get stomped AND not be chosen as a VP candidate. He should not be rewarded for jumping the gun and letting his political desires get ahead of him.

Friday, November 30, 2007

This is the End

I was sitting on the bus today. I was surrounded by college students hunched over in their seats, their eyes glowing in the blue light inches from their faces, fingers rapdily punching in letters in their cell phone. Texting! I thought bird flu was bad.

It's one thing to walk around, constantly talking on your cell, but it is another to be launching text after text to all your friends. or *gasp* mass texting. Phone conversations at least include the exchange of oral communication, almost like actual interaction. But one of my friend's sisters accurately described her love of texting by saying, "it's like, communication without acitonal social interaction!"

And all the old people complain about the death of culture and ask why people don't talk anymore. The answer? Because they have nothing to say. By the time you're actually in the same room with your friends, they already know all about what has happened to you, because every waking moment, you are punching away at your cell key pad, sending them a text about what happened.

Furthermore, texting cemented "aim speak" into people's lexicon. I wouldn't be surprised if the new generation stats abreviating their words for everything. "Why not? We do it on the cell," they will say. Young inexperienced teacher familiar with texting quickly crumbles, unable to find an answer that will satisfy her own laziness to abbreviate everything.

Perhaps this is an overreaction (it is - for sure), but it could also be serious. Maybe.

Um...really

Does he still write on this thing? Oh yeah, he does...kind of.

I've been REALLY busy keeping my other website (www.saltystix.com) afloat so i have neglected lots of fun stuff these last four months (has it really been that long?!) But I shall return.

Things to look forward to:

Movies: most anticipated movies and Oscar run-up

Music: my top CD's of 2007 and my 2007 playlist

Sports: baseball offseason and NFL playoffs

Rants: do ron paul supporters know ANY of his views?

I'm excited...hope you are too!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Damon v Marky Mark

After leaving The Bourne Ultimatum a few days ago, someone said, “That was the same as Shooter.” Then it clicked – Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg are two sides of the same coin – their projects ALWAYS mirror each other (see right). Well, almost always. This is not the first time two rising Hollywood stars have churned out similar projects, but this time seemed to be TOO similar. But just like any other “product” one is better than the other, one is the established “name brand”, while the other is the latecomer, the “generic brand”. So I decided to run down through the films and see who the real McCoy was, and who the pretender was.

Continue reading this article at SaltyStix.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Fountain...springing forth

The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky - 2006 - 9/10

Summary:

This summary likely won't do The Fountain justice, but here goes. The movie intersperses three stories which I ultimately decided (you could come to another conclusion) that one was reality, one was a dream, and one was a story. In the end, which was which is mildly debatable. So the first one follows Tommy (Hugh Jackman), a doctor looking for an experimental cure for tumors, in the hope he will find a cure for his wife, Izzy (Rachel Weisz). The second one follows a hairless Hugh Jackman piloting a nebulous orb incasing himself and a tree that he is steering torward a dying star. The third one follows a conquistador, again Jackman, who's unshakable loyalty to the Queen of Spain, again Weisz, sends him to the lands of the Mayas in search of the tree of life. Each story looks to take place 1000 years apart from each other, but all three stories share one thing - Weisz is Jackman's everything.

Critique:


This movie was really powerful. I'm new to Aronofsky's genius - I haven't seen Pi or Requiem (I know, I know, I'm working on it). Beyond calling the movie "powerful" its tough about where to go from there. It's Aronofsky's show through and through - he wrote the script, wrote the story, directed it, even had his girlfriend play the lead female role. I guess I can go from there. Rachel Weisz is GREAT. She shows real acting chops that really distances her from the drudge she had to dish out in The Mummy movies. She has the same sort of inner confident sadness with the outward optimism that we see in The Constant Gardener - playing a somewhat similar, less metaphysically charged role. Jackman is no slouch either - playing three roles that take us to the edge of each possible character - a high tempered, pigheaded doctor, a deeply calm buddhist?, and a loyal but solemn conquistador. Each role is given the same dedication and the same reality. Jackman's facial features are especially endearing as we can feel all of his sadness, all of his frustration. To top it all off Aronofsky makes the movie look very classy - everything is beautiful, and it's easy to understand why. A little imdb background revealed that Aronofsky shunned CGI for micro photography of chemical reactions in petri dishes. The result is something that is truly masterful art that makes a huge difference in creating an atmosphere that is leaps and bounds different than what we would have seen with CGI. So I was clearly blown away by the movie - but I will say - the movie probably needs to be watched a few times so you can really appreciate it (probably like Aronofsky's other movies I hear).

Verdict:

Buy it (multiple viewings).

If you liked this movie, see...
...Pi
...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
...Solaris

Pacman enters the ring


Adam "Pacman" Jones, former Titans cornerback, who has been suspended for numerous clashes with the law, IS going to enter the pro wrestling game. If that wasn't embarassing enough, this quote, from Total Nonstop Action Wrestling co-Founder Jeff Jarrett was in the paper today: "He [Pacman] wants to prove he's the best team sport athlete...He wants to concentrate on the tag-team aspect of wrestling."

So Pacman is "justifying" his decision to become a pro wrestler because he wants to be a team athlete? That's pretty pathetic. Maybe a good team athelte wouldn't have gotten in trouble with the police so much so he could help his original team, the Titans improve. Instead Pacman is going to make himself even more of a mockery (it is remotely possible that pro wrestling will make him more of a joke than he has already made himself).

Bourne Again

The Bourne Ultimatum picks up exactly where The Bourne Supremacy left off – with Bourne (Matt Damon) running from authorities in Russia. And he never stops running, throughout the whole movie. Thinking he is finally leaving it all behind, Bourne picks up the paper to read a column about himself and a possible CIA cover-up. When Bourne inquires into the story he uncovers a new operation beyond Treadstone – Blackbriar. Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) benches Pam Landy (Joan Allen) and takes over – ordering his agents to shoot to kill Bourne. Bourne gets the message early, and as his memory starts to return, he begins to uncover more and more that connects him, to Blackbriar.

Continue reading this article at SaltyStix.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tristan + Isolde...atop the round table

Tristan + Isolde - Kevin Reynolds - 2006 - 9/10

Summary:

The story that many say influenced Arthurian lore begins in the early Dark Ages, shortly after the end of Pax Romana where a weak Britain is mired in war as several clans jockey for control. The "good" one the movie focuses on, is Marke (Rufus Sewell), who tries to unite the country and defeat the rampaging Irish army led by their ferocious general, Morholt (Graham Mullins).
On one of these raids Morholt destroys the British, taking many slaves, and killing the parents of Tristan (James Franco), a young boy who Marke saves, although he loses his hand in the process. Years pass and Tristan grows into a great fighter who finally meets Morholt in battle. Although Tristan kills Morholt, Morholt's sword delivers a powerful blow that posions Tristan. Believing he is dead, Tristan's friends and fellow soldiers launch his funeral boat into the tide. The ship washes up on the shores of Ireland, where it is discovered by Isolde (Sophia Myles) who cares for the wounded Tristan. Isolde tells Tristan another name instead of her own, fearing he will realize she is the princess of Ireland. The two slowly fall ddeeply in love, but Tristan is forced to flee when his boat washes ashore. King Donnchadh (David O'Hara) decides that he will hold a contest for the hand of his daughter, Isolde, for whoever can win her - in an attempt to create a false peace with the British tribes. Each tribal leader sends a champion in their stead, and Tristan begs to go, hoping to see his love, unbeknownst to him that his love is the woman he will be winning for Marke.

Critique:

I loved this movie. I'm a sucker for action movies with good love stories, but this movie is advertised as the greatest love story of all time - and then the movie crams in a bunch of really good action scenes. And Franco shows us how he learned to act between Spiderman and Spiderman 3 - by making real movies instead of slacking like Tobey. Sophia Myles is great too - playing her role perfectly as a woman who is torn by the passion she feels for Tristan and the respect she has for Marke. Just as Tristan is distraught by the choice he has to make - loving Isolde or fulfilling his duty to Marke. Rufus Sewell turns in a great performance as Marke, creating compassion for a face I associate with the evil Armand from A Knight's Tale. Woven into the love story is more than just good fight scenes - there is also a bunch of great history and folklore here that sets the movie apart from just another love story. Things are realistic too - from Tristan and Isolde's love to the fight scenes, to the characters - and I'm left with a big smile on my face at the end of the movie, despite the somewhat bittersweet ending.

Verdict:

See it now!

If you liked this movie, see...
...King Arthur
...Troy
...Kingdom of Heaven

Elephant...abandoning the ivory tower

Elephant - Gus Van Sant - 2003 - 8/10

Summary:



Elephant shows a normal day of high school from many different perspectives. We see students going in and out of class, the cafeteria, the gym, the library, the office, and more. The long shots and the unique camera angles combined with the "non actors" (what imdb refers to them as) gives the film a documentary feel. We see boyfriends and girlfriends, cliques, outcasts - everyone as they experience the day - often seeing the same shot from the eyes of those different characters. It keeps building and building, and you start to wonder what Van Sant has in store. Then you remember what you read on imdb - the movie is about a school shooting. And then you begin to fear what is coming.

Critique:

I thought this movie was really good. At the same time - it's really hard for me to write about the movie. Especially "summarizing" what happened. The movie was only eighty minutes and spends most of its time building characters and showing how ordinary they all. And then when they start dieing, you really care about these characters. I guess my biggest problem is that the shooters - the antagonists - get very little screen time. I won't be one of those people who want to know WHY they started shooting up the school - but I want to be one of those people who pushes for well developed characters all around. What else is there to say about a movie that tells the story of a school shooting? It was well done - excellently shot, and all of the characters are believable. The shooting itself is done right too - Van Sant recreates the fear students would have as two guys walk through the school shooting at anyone that moves. And Van Sant's showing multiple scenes over again from different viewpoints was really intense and lent a lot of depth to the movie.

Verdict:

If you can stomach it, sit down and watch it.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Brick
...Mean Creek
...Bowling for Columbine

Bunny rabbits and Office space

Last week’s Entourage episode centered on a bet between Drama and Vince about who could have unemotional sex first – E or Turtle. The guys think E cannot sleep with any girl without looking for a relationship – and E thinks Turtle flat out cannot sleep with anyone. Meanwhile, the Gold storyline about Ari’s son not getting into private school was revived and Ari’s son is being denied entrance to every private school in the valley. Generally, the episode is pretty weak, which is to be expected with so much happening in the first couple episodes.

Continue reading this article at SaltyStix.

The Dreamers...something to dream about

The Dreamers - Bernardo Bertolucci - 2003 - 9/10

Summary:

Matthew (Michael Pitt) is an American who finds himself in Paris in 1968. Despite the tumultous political landscape, Matthrew is absorbed in his studies and his intense love for the cinema. That is, until he meets Isabelle (Eva Green) at a rally and she insists he come with her and her brother Theo (Louis Garrel) to escape the Paris mob. Matthew goes with them and his life changes forever. Completely swept away and falling deeper into Isabelle, the siblings insist Matthew stay with them when their parents leave the country. The three become inseperable, sharing their love for movies and relishing their discussions on everything from movie directors to politics. But when Matthew starts looking through looking through closed doors, and Louis and Isabelle push Matthew's desire for Isabelle too far, Mathew has to deal with conflicts of love, jealousy, and friendship - then mix in some rebellious Frenchpeople and movie trivia and you have The Dreamers.

Critique:

I'd heard about this movie a long time ago when one of my friends blurted out that Eva Green had a nude scene in The Dreamers. And does she have a nude scene. In my defense - I watched the movie because it came highly recommended, not for the nudity - but once the nudity came, it was hard to think about much else. Once the movie crosses that threshold, it refuses to go back - when do they actually wear clothes? It took me a long time after watching the movie to realy appreciate how good this movie was - beyond its soft core nature featuring the Bond girl my friends would not stop raving about. One thing that stands out is how Betolucci integrates scenes from famous movies when the characters are talking about those scenes. Along with how the movie is shot, this splicing of classics gives the movie a surrealistic power that makes the movie memorable. Then you can talk about the powerful performances of the three actors. Michael Pitt is amazing as Mathew - his shattered innocence and clear cut principles of love, friendship, family and right and wrong are right on. Eva Green's confused carelessness - with her body and mond is equally great. Louis Garrel's Theo probably gets forgotten among American audiences who relate to Matthew, are attracted to Isabelle, and are repulsed by Theo - but that doesn't change the fact that Garrel is great. The movie is a deep look at not just leaving behind your innocence - but also an intense look at sexuality and the bonds of friendship. There isn't much else for me to rant about this movie - the only thing that prevented this movie from being a perfect ten is that the movie forgot to develop a linnear plot. But that's not really the movie's fault - it was a snapshot of life. And life, does not always have a straight path for us to follow.

Verdict:

Rent this one ASAP.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Y Tu Mama Tambien
...Last Tango in Paris
...The Motorcycle Diaries

Me And You And Everyone We Know...everything you could want

Me And You And Everyone We Know - Miranda July - 2005 - 9/10

Summary:

Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) is a shoe salesman who's life seems to be slipping away from him. His wife wants to separate and he struggles to raise his two boys (Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff) while coping with the loss of the woman he thought was his soulmate. Into his life comes Christine Jesperson (Miranda July basically playing herself) an artist who decides she and Richard are meant to be together. Christine is outgoing and goes for what she wants, whether it is the publication of her work, or winning over Richard. Richard can't take Christine's forwardness and panics. Meanwhile, Richard's friend Andrew (Brad William Henke) tries to control his urges when two neighborhood teens (Natasha Slayton and Najarra Townswend) start aggressively flirting with him. When the girls aren't trying to get into Andrew's pants, they try to get into the pants of Richard's eldest son Peter (Miles Thompson). Not to be left behind in the sexual practice ground of their wild neighborhood, Richard's six year old son Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) engages in a quirky internet relationship with a perfect stranger.

Critique:

This whole movie is amazing - it looks good, feels good, and is frankly, really good. Everything has the perfect tempo, and there is just enough indie movie and arthouse flavor with a small amount of romantic comedy to make the movie special. Each of the stories are so compelling - Richard's profound hurt at losing his soulmate, Christine's unrequitted love, and the kids using each other to learn their way in the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It's one of those movies where you can relate to ALL of the stories - each character is a protagonist in their own right. This unique aspect sets the movie apart and makes it one of the best movies I've seen this summer. July should be commended for working in her own sort of performance art and creating such a powerful story. I especially like how the two boys - in their childlike innocence chance upon drawing a picture, of which Peter explains to Robby that becomes the title of the movie - and somes up everything July wishes us to take away from the film. But for that, you have got to see the movie yourself.

Verdict:

See this movie NOW.

If you liked this movie, see...

...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
...Broken Flowers

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Briggs - seeing the light

The news finally broke that the Bears and Lance Briggs have agreed to a deal, meaning Briggs will play this season.

Honestly, I'm pretty surprised. With Drew Rosenhaus, the team-breaker, behind the plate, I expected Briggs to throw away a season or two being a whiny little baby. He rejected a contract that would have made him one of the highest paid left outside linebackers, but that didnt cut it for Lance and Drew. No, they wanted more. He wanted to test the waters. What for? Lots of money AND getting to play on a Super Bowl Caliber team isnt even enough anymore?

One of my friends thinks Briggs' stats are inflated because he gets to play next to one of the best defensive players in the game in BBrian Urlacher. Next to Urlacher, Briggs' tackles have steadily increased because the ball carrier doesn't want to run into the Urlacher wall. So they run by Briggs and he hits them. Its kinda like Briggs is in the perfect place. Sure, he could be star somewhere else, but his numbers would probably decline and he probably wouldnt get to play for a contender.

I guess I am a little relieved, because now we don't have a gaping whole at left outside linebacker, and we get some value out of Briggs for another year before he leaves. I do wonder if relations can be repaired to the extent where he would resign with the Bears. Would that be a good thing?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ballpark bankrupcy

I went to a baseball game yesterday (an exciting Reds victory in 12 innings) and I have this pet peeve about not buying food at the ballpark. Or really any sporting event, because the prices are so inflated. I'm really annoyed by this, to the extent that if I think I'm going to want any food, I sneak it in. Honestly, things are about FIVE TIMES what they should be. Bottles of water and candy bars are FOUR DOLLARS. Vending machines have that stuff for like, seventy-five cents. Why is it so much more expensive? I guess they assume they can get people to pay that, but that doesn't really make it right in my book.

Yesterday was different. After munching on candy for awhile, one of the people I was with wanted to try "fried cookie dough." Yes, FRIED cookie dough. I'd never even heard of it before. I'll admit it sounds pretty good. So I decided to make an exception and try the cookie dough. But when I got to the vendor, I saw that the price was $7. SEVEN DOLLARS. I thought that it was a lot, but that I probably wasn't going to try it again, so I might as well do this considering it was a once in a lifetime thing. Needless to say I couldn't really finish it because it was DOUGH. And it made me kind of sick to my stomach. And since I'd been chomping on candy for about six innings, my stomach was starting to crave "normal" food. And the only normal food I could really get my hands onto was pizza. So after all that sugar, all I could do was get something greasy to "calm my stomach."

The slice of pizza was five dollars. Frankly, I was okay with that. And I guess it was worth it. But I'm not used to spending $12-$15 at the ballpark.

Chuck and Larry...pretty hairy

We’ve all seen the preview, so we know that Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are two firefighters who get married so they can get couples benefits. Larry is paranoid about dieing because due to an insurance quirk, he can’t make his kids his beneficiaries. When Larry saves Chuck’s life and Chuck promises to do anything for him, Larry thinks that means getting hitched. Frankly, there isn’t much more to the movie.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poor Previews

I went to the new movie theatre this weekend to see an over-hyped, disappointing movie (Ratatouille), which I’m not going to talk about. Instead I’m going to talk about the only thing worse than the movie – the previews. Previously, I wrote an article about how previews gave away too much of the movies, which dissuaded me from seeing them. This batch of previews dissuaded me from seeing the movie because they were so miserable.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cecil B. Demented...very demented

Cecil B. Demented - John Waters - 2000 - 5/10

Summary:

Baltimore's native director Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorf) leads a band of radical movie revolutionaries bent on making a truly good movie. To do so, they kidnap the starlet Cecil's script has been written for - Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith). After an all out kidnapping that includes guns, grenades and carefully planted bombs, the gang drags Honey back to their studio-lair where they force her to begin learning lines and shooting the movie. Each crew member is a sort of over the top eccentric - from satanists to rappers. The movie is little more than live action reality, featuring the Hollywood star Honey, the nymphomaniac Cherish (Alicia Witt) and the drugged out Lyle (Adrian Grenier) raiding a multiplex, a Maryland Film Commission press conference, and the set of a "Forrest Gump" sequel (my favorite). Adding to the tension is Cecil's insistance that the crew be celibate so they focus on their work and channel their sexual energy into the production.

Critique:

The movie is really "too good" at what it does. Meaning it is simply too crazy. It took me awhile to really get into the feel and tempo of the movie and then I really enjoyed the middle of the movie. But then the end was even more, all over the place, and I began to get mildly annoyed again. The acting is over the top - its probably supposed to be. But the problem is, it's over the top to the point that the acting is BAD. I was especially annoyed by Maggie Gyllenhal's satanist character because the character was pretty flat - and her lines were stupid to the point that they caused me pain. I was hoping she'd be in the movie more - maybe be a little bit more like herself instead of some crazy devil worshipper. At the same time, when the movie was good, it was good - pretty funny, lots of good movie references, and other little things that I really like. But not enough to overcome all of the bad.

Verdict:

If you want to do something crazy, its an ok flick to watch

If you liked this movie, see...
...Death to Smoochy
...Celebrity
...Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

A Better Tomorrow 2...not so good

A Better Tomorrow 2 - John Woo - 1987 - 4/10

Summary:

Ho (Ti lung) has been serving time for killing boss Shing at the end of "A Better Tomorrow." The police try to recruit Ho to go undercover and find out if his friend Lung (Dean Shek) is the source of a new surge in counterfeiting. Ho refuses. But when he finds out his younger brother, Kit (Leslie Cheung), has gone undercover to infiltrate Lung's shipbuilding business Ho agrees. While Kit's wife (Emily Chu) is pregnant, Kit has to put his family life aside to seduce Lung's daughter Peggy (Regina Kent). However, Lung is framed for killing a rival gang leader who has been trying to take over Lung's shipyard and Ho has to smuggle Lung to New York. In New York, Ken (Yun-Fat Chow), the twin brother of Mark is operating a Chinese restaurant and trying to repel the advances of the local Mafia who are roughing him up for protection money. Lung arrives in New York but becomes mentally unhinged and Ken has to literally nurse him back to health so he can regain his sanity so they can return to Hong Kong and take back what is his.

Critique:

My biggest problem with this movie is probably my own fault. That is, that I thought Dean Shek's Lung was supposed to be the new Yun-Fat Chow character but I also wasn't sure if Lung was supposed to be Mark. So I was pretty confused for awhile, almost until Yun-Fat Chow actually did come onscreen. With that out of the way, I guess I can focus on all the substantive reasons why this movie was a disappointment. I guess I was expecting a little more considering the first one was so good and EVERYONE, the director, the writer, the producer, the actors ALL came back. But the movie makes little sense and is connected by too many coincidences and happenstances. Also, by now, I'm pretty sick of Kit - why won't he go away. Basically the movie just seems to have senseless action scenes whenever it realizes the movie is getting to be THAT bad. I wanted a lot more out of this movie. It would have actually been more respectable if Mark would have lived instead of inventing this twin character for Yun-Fat Chow to play. It reeks of cheap soap television instead of badass Hong Kong cinema.

Verdict:

The first one is all you need.

If you liked this movie, see...
...A Better Tomorrow
...The Killer
...The Replacement Killers

Rumor Has It...failure to graduate

Rumor Has It... - Rob Reiner - 2005 - 4/10

Summary:

Sarah Huntington (Jennifer Aniston) attends her sister's wedding with her fiancee Jeff (Mark Ruffalo). There, while she drinks with her grandmother Catherine (Shirley McClane), she begins to form an idea that The Graduate was based on her family. Convinced that since she's nothing like her father, her dad must have been the mysterious Dustin Hoffman-like character her mom ran off with before her mom's wedding, Sarah sets out to uncover the clues. Finally she finds the charming Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), now an internet millionaire and tries to find out if he's her father. Will Sarah succumb to the charms of the man who charmed the rest of the women in her family? Will she find her real father?

Critique:

This movie took a pretty clever idea - The Graduate - and basically turned it into shit. It wasn't even like these people were off their game - I think the acting was great. Especially Shirly McClane and Richard Jenkins (who played Sarah's "father"). But the movie is just a disaster. The pacing of the movie is really weird too (the three act formula seems to have fallen away here). It's also tough to decide if you really care. Granted, Ruffalo is doing a good job and Anniston is kind of along for the ride as well, but the characters themselves - their stories and lines are just not, not really doing it for me. So much of like the little things don't really work. The camera work also leaves lots of excess shots, or shots that seem unnecessary or do not fit with the rest of the movie. It doesnt seem like it, because I didnt say that much I guess, but the movie was a big disappointment.

Verdict:

Stay away.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Graduate
...The Family Stone
...In Her Shoes

Go Cubs

When the Cubs, a favorite to win the NL Central before the season, began to falter, I gave up on them pretty quickly. Hell, I thought with the signing of Alfonso Soriano, the influx of new pitchers, and the generally expensive offseason they would be good. But as usual, they were sucking and I quickly forgot about them and instead turned most of my attention to fantasy baseball. My thoughts of the Cubs, and the National League generally, began to fall away as my main fantasy baseball league was an AL-only league.

But as the All-Star break approached I was forced to notice the Cubs as they finally started getting those late game, one-run wins. And they were winning generally too - and catching up on the lagging Brewers. Well past .500, closing in on the division lead, and riding a ridiculous win streak, I knew I had to weigh in on this. Plus, the Cubs have done some deals of late.

First the transactions. The big one - the Cubs got Oakland's Jason Kendall for LHP Jerry Blevins and C Rob Bowen. It's a pretty good deal that gives the Cubs a good offensive catcher since we shipped Barrett west. And Kendall is a veteran pressence in a dugout that is getting increasingly younger. At the same time Kendall is getting pretty old and it seems like Koyie Hill is pretty good too (he had a 5-rb game this past week). The other move was the Cubs ditching Cesar Itzuris (sent to Pittsburg) - a guy who the Cubs got that was supposed to be an amazing fielder, fast on the base paths and who's hitting would improve. Instead he was pretty useless and left me begging for the likes of Ronny Cedeno and Neifi Perez. In fact, I'm actually thinking I'm starting to like the two Louisiana boys the Cub's have. Theriot to Fontenot - there's a double play combination that rhymes.

Now if the Cubs keep playing the way they are, I think they could easily contend for the NL Central crown. But that's really their only chance - I think it would be a stretch to say the Cubs could win the wildcard with all the competition out west.

Also, there's been all this talk on ESPN (a week or so ago) about how A-Rod might opt out of his contract. Among some of his destinations that were considered, were the Cubs. The Cubs might even have an advantage, because they would let A-Rod play short stop. Before we talk about how realistic this is, lets talk about how amazing this would be. The hitting of Soriano, Rodriguez, Lee, Ramirez...that's amazing. The Cubs would go from the butt of jokes to the NL's version of the Yankees. Throw in a solid leadoff hitter (Theriot, Fontenot, whoever) and you have a pretty formidable lineup. Now the reality - most people don't think the Cubs could pay A-Rod and Soriano. They might be right, but I'm more worried that an A-Rod contract would come at the cost of a Carlos Zambrano contract. Big Z is a pretty good reason the Cubs starting rotation is so solid, and losing him would be a big blow. Most commentators have already counted the Cubs out because there won't be enough ownership stability (because the Tribune is selling the Cubs) for a deal to happen. Lets hope something happens.

Well Cubs fans, cross your fingers.

Ratatouille..vermin

Ratatouille - Brad Bird - 2007 - 3/10

Summary:

Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat who loves to cook and his high standards for food have gotten him in trouble before. Besides that, Remy's brother and father prefer that he eat garbage and stay close to the nest so they can use Remy's super-smell skills ti determine if their food has rat poison on it. But the family is separated and Remy ends up in Paris. And this time, Remy's stomach gets him caught by Linguini (Lou Romano), in the kitchen of Gusteau's resteraunt, adding ingredients to the soup. Luckily for Remy and Linguini the soup is very warmly received and the chefs thing Linguini is responsible. In order to keep up appearances and fulfill his dreams, Linguini and Remy team up (Remy hides in Linguini's chef's hat, literally controlling him) to become one super chef. It's not that easy. Strange things are afoot as the manager begins to suspect Linguini is not the real chef. But Remy and Linguini must hold together to keep people coming in and defeat their nemesis - Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) - the man who's harsh review gave Gousteau a heart attack.

Critique

The animation was great - simply amazing. It all looked so so so good. And in this regard, the movie really was "the next step" in the evolution of animated movies. Also, the use of voiceactors instead of allstar "regular" actors is an admirable move to create the best possible movie instead of just cashing in on big names. However. my friends really hyped this movie, so maybe I went into it expecting too much. Being called "Pixar's best movie" really raised my guard. And unfortunately, this movie was far from it - barily coming close to A Bug's Life (the low end, not the high end of Pixar's greats). The movie is simply not that great. From the story. to the dialogue, the movie is nothing new. The characters, what they do, the plot progressions, the "jokes," all seem very old. And not anywhere close to old in a good way. Not a single line or plot point is unpredictable - you can practically say the lines before they're even prompted - its like a computer playing chess. And frankly, while the voiceactors are a good step forward, some of the voices are just downright annoying (unintentionally so). I don't think the laughter or adventure was anywhere close to either of the Toy Story movies. The puns and clever inside jokes meant for parents are even cornier - characters named after foods is not funny - its just cheesy (forgive the pun). And a criticism that can destroy any movie even applies here, which children's movies usually escape, is that the you just don't care for the characters.

Verdict:

Way overrated.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Toy Story
...Toy Story 2
...Monster's, Inc.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Better Tomorrow...bright outlook

A Better Tomorrow - John Woo - 1986 - 8/10



Summary:

Mark (Yun-Fat Chow) and Ho (Lung Ti) are friends and couriers for a Hong Kong crime syndicate specializing in largescale counterfeiting operations. During a sale in Taiwan, Ho is double-crossed and surrenders to the police so the boss's son can escape. Enraged, Mark goes to the traitor's resteraunt and kills him and all his men, but is shot during the shoot out. Meanwhile, Kit (Leslie Chung), Ho's brother, is a rookie cop whose reputation is tarnished by his gangster brother. When Ho gets out of prison, he wants to start over. Unfortunately, Ho is haunted by his past, and Mark pressures him to return to a life of crime as his partner. The rest of the plot is pretty straightfoward - with the boss's son running things, Mark gets no respect and Ho is worried for his life and his brother's so Mark and Ho must team up once more to topple the big boss.

Critique:

This movie was awesome. Surprisingly good character development too and an especially great performance by Yun-Fat Chow who is AWESOME as Mark. I can definitely see how this movie influenced reservoir dogs - the same sort of crime lifestyle, the suits, the seemeless killing, the butchering of people left and right, intense shootouts - it's hard to see how John Woo would go on to make crap movies like Mission Impossible 2. The action, while excesssive is not unrealistic - and looks like most of the stuff could be possible. Lung Ti is great too as a man who is torn by his loyalty to Mark and his promise to his father to keep Kit out of a life of crime. The movie is a great actioner driven by Yun-Fat Chow's superb character and Woo's brilliant direction which is fast and furious, and never lets up.

Verdict:

Buy this one.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...The Killer
...Leon (The Professional)
...Reservoir Dogs

My Super Ex-Girlfriend...super bad

My Super Ex-Girlfriend - Ivan Reitman - 2006 - 3/10

Summary:

Luke Wilson is Matt Saunders, an overnice architect who somehow can't find a girlfriend who isnt crazy. So his friend Vaughn (Rainn Wilson) pushes him to talk to a woman on the subway (Uma Thurman). Despite many weird quirks, Matt sticks it out with Uma's Jenny for awhile. But Jenny has a secret - she's really G-Girl, New York's superpowered savior - complete with interspace powers. She can fly, is impervious to any weapon, can shoot lasers from her eyes, has supersonic hearing and a lot more. Matt realizes he's not really in love with Jenny and does his best to end their relationship so he can move on. To say the least, Jenny is a little vengeful.



Critique:

The movie had a pretty good premise, but goes wrong soo often and so early, it's hard to let any of the good aspects rise to the top. It's too bad because between Luke Wilson, Uma Thurman, Anna Farris, Rain Wilson and Eddie Izzard, there are some pretty funny people on cast. But instead of laughing, the only thing you want to do is cover your eyes. The movie is pulled in too many directions as they try to have "action" scenes with a comic book type action heroine and then a "villain" is thrown into the mix as well. It's supposed to be a romantic comedy! Why do we need this villain plot?! There is enough going on without clutterin an already weak movie. And these good actors don't get nearly enough screen time - especially Rainn Wilson and Anna Farris who seem to be near afterthoughts in some scenes.

Verdict:

Please please please, do not see this movie.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...Deuce Bigalow
...Scary Movie
...Click

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Underrated comics flicks

In the past few years, since the success of Spiderman, the movie industry has been over-saturated with over-hyped comic book movies. This recent success has made us forget the comic book movies that came before these new blockbusters. Some of those movies were really good, and there are A LOT of them. Most of these movies had solid acting and were good enough to capture a cult following while still small enough to fly under the radar. Hopefully you will realize what you’re missing out on – and take note of the strong showing of 1994.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix under "Fanboys #2"

Clerks...hard at work

Clerks. - Kevin Smith - 1994 - 8/10

Summary:

Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) is woken by his boss who wants him to come in on his dayoff to work at the QuickStop, where Dante is a store clerk. Dante's friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) works at the video store attached to the QuickStop. Things dont go very smoothely for Dante as he has to deal with a moralistic salesman, revelations about his girlfriend's "history," the immature antics of Randal, his desire to squeeze in his hocky game, his obligation to go to a classmate's funeral and much more. While the movie shows "only" one day of work for Dante - a lot of stuff happens. The glue throughout the movie is the conflict Dante has to overcome: whether he can come to grips with the fact that he is still obsessed with his high school ex Caitlin while he is in a long time relationship with Veronica who really cares for him. Throw in some ridiculous humor, Jay and Silent Bob, and you have a pretty sweet cult classic.

Critique:

I was expecting a little bit more. Sure, I loved the film, but it was so hyped. It's kind of tough because it's hard to tell exactly what this film is about - slackers, wastrels, punks, lovers...the themes are all over the place and nothing really gets resolved. Sure, I'll give Kevin Smith some credit - life is all over the place and usually has no resolution. At the same time, a movie is a movie and so much stuff is just thrown out there that I was curious about. Sure, it might be the credit of a good movie that I have to think about it a lot, but it's also frustrating. On the lighter side, the movie was pretty good - and we get some of Smith's best nerd debates here - Return of the Jedi v Empire Strikes Back in particular, stands out. The acting is suprisingly good, especially considering that O'Halloran and Anderson haven't made any other movies before or after this one. In the end, this movie is missing a spark to push it over the top, something or someone, like...Rosario Dawson.

Verdict:

It's worth seeing.

If you liked this movie, watch...
...American Splendor
...Clerks II
...Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sicko...very healthy

Michael Moore’s Sicko was a pleasant surprise. For once, Moore’s touch is perfect. Instead of politicking and engaging in ridiculous attacks on political officials, Moore makes a movie where his message isn’t lost amongst his liberalism. Bowling for Columbine was a great documentary that got swept away under the wave of conservatives who defended the NRA and the National Guard. And Fahrenheit 9/11 had many ideas that should have been heard, but weren’t because of Moore’s blatant political commentary.

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix under "Aaron's Sicko Review"

Sunshine...not very bright

Sunshine - Istvan Szabo - 1999 - 4/10

Summary:



Sunshine follows a Hungarian-Jewish family lhrough three generations, around the turn of nineteenth century. The family's patriarch rises from nothing, aided by his spectacular miracle drink he calls "Sunshine" after the family name, Sonnenschein, which means sunshine. The story begins to follow the patriarch's favorite son, Ignatz (Ralph Fiennes) becomes a fast rising judge who faces serious questions about his Jewish name when Ignatz begins to rise through the court ranks. Drama heightens when Ignatz's family's pressures him not to marry the woman who becomes his wife (Jennifer Ehle) and the radical communist antics of his brother. World War I comes and Ignatz goes to war, only to come back bitter and estranged from the love of his life. The film then begins to follows Ignatz's son Adam (Ralph Fiennes) who becomes a great fencer under the tutelage of his brother. In order to make the next step and make the Hungarian national team, to compete for an Olympic gold, Adam has to decide whether he can continue as a Jew, or as a Hungarian. Everything comes tumbling down as World War II starts to rumble and anti-Semitism sparks to new highs. The family is separated, torn apart, and thinned out, and only Ivan remains, finally returning home to live with his grandmother (Rosemary Harris taking over from Jennifer Ehle). Fueled by anger over what some of his countrymen did to his family, Ivan becomes a Communist Party secret policeman and quickly rises through the ranks. Sure, there's some time for each character to get all introspective, but its not really part of the plot.

Critique:

The movie looks really good - a sort of (I'm using this term generously) faster paced combination of Giant and Dr. Zhivago. Giant's whole deal was the three generations and Dr. Zhivago had the whole, "I lived through everything," but in a boring way, unlike the amusing portrayals of historical events in Forest Gump and Little Big Man. Unfortunately, Sunshine seems to have learned little from Giant and Zhivago because the movie is like a carbon copy - it has almost exactly the same progression and events that Zhivago does and all the extra drama of Giant (but with a lot more explicit sex). Beyond the close connections to two of the most overrated, most boring, overlong movies - Sunshine tries too hard to express themes the movie just doesn't have time for. Critics and fans and even the writers seem to think the movie is about "identity" and "loyalty" and "religion" and I can kind of see that. But those are themes that receive cursory screen time. The whole, "we have to make sacrifices to get what we want" falls flat pretty quickly because there is little debate, little hesitation before sacrifices are made, so its tough to tell if the characters were actually even torn between two choices. Another thing that makes this movie hard to get into is that none of the protagonists (Ralph Fiennes plays all three) are particulalry sympathetic. Some of them are downright disgusting. They engage in questionable sexual practices, sever their family and cultural ties at will, seem to be easily swayed by those currently in power...the list goes on. When a character dies, you almost breath relief because you know there are only three, and when one goes down, you know the movie is closer to finishing.

Verdict:

If you don't have to see this movie, you probably don't want to.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Giant
...Dr. Zhivago
...Enemy at the Gates

Friday, July 6, 2007

Genre genre genre

What is a genre? “Genre” is defined as “a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique.” So a movie genre is a category in which to group movies. What makes a genre? A good movie. Movies, unlike plays can’t be grouped into simply “tragedy” and “comedy.” Instead, over time we have created the action movie, and then the action comedy, and so on. There are some movies that helped jump-start these genres, and the movies that followed them took a lot from these movies...

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Evan Almighty...a mighty mistake

Evan Almighty - Tom Shdyac - 2007 - 0/10

I’ve been able to put off my review of this movie for so long because no one else that writes for us has been stupid enough to see this movie. I can confidently say Evan Almighty was one of, if not THE, worst movie I have ever seen. As a “comedy” it takes the cake for THE worst. I think I laughed once, maybe twice. The only mildly funny thing was the credits, and that was too little too late...

Finish reading this article at SaltyStix, under "Evan All-terrible"

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Last King of Scotland...Oscar worthy

The Last King of Scotland - Kevin Macdonald - 2006 - 7/10

Summary:

Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a Scottish doctor looking for adventure and excitement and chooses Africa as the field of his dreams. He goes to help a clinic in Uganda where he quickly falls for the married Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson). He becomes fascinated by the passion of Uganda's new leader, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). After Garrigan sees Amin speak and Sarah forces him to leave, Garrigan is called to Amin's side to help him after he is in a car accident. Enamored by the fact that Garrigan is Scottish, Amin asks his name and shakes his hand and then begs for Garrigan's Scotland football t-shirt. The next day Garrigan is summoned to Amin's estate and after being wined and dined, agrees to accept Amin's offer to become his personal doctor. Garrigan quickly becomes much more than a doctor, becoming Amin's "friend" and advicser, helping to build a new, independent Uganda. But its not all roses forever as Amin's dark side and hard fisted politics begins to close in around Garrigan.

Critique:

First, I have to say that Whitaker is GREAT as amin. The clip they showed at the Oscars is AMAZING - "you did tell me, but you did not CONVINCE me." Very nice. McAvoy is great here too - a pleasant suprise considering I didn't know what to expect. Well, I did expect James Purefoy, but James McAvoy is quite different, and quite good. The story moves almost too fast - following the history with some scenes of action without really spinning much of a linear story. I want to see more of [MILD SPOILER...] of McAvoy's relationship with Kerry Washington's character. They clearly have some pretty good chemistry but there's just not enough of their relationship onscreen. Likewise of Gillian Anderson's character. As an aside, this is one of the few times I thought Anderson was attractive. Back on topic, Gillian Anderson's character seems to come and go in relation to the story with little explanation. In the end, Whitaker is AWESOME, McAvoy is solid, the movie is good, but the story is done a disservice.

Verdict:

If its good enough for Oscar, you should check it out.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Catch a Fire
...Blood Diamond
...The Constant Gardener

Too much roadkill


I've been doing a lot more driving lately and I have seen a lot of roadkill. Too much roadkill.

Honestly. Have animals gotten dummer? Has their intelligence regressed? Have their adaptations to life among humans been somehow weeded out? Are we driving faster so they can't get out of the way? What's the deal.

Frankly I don't care, I just do not want to have to steer my car around a dead animal everytime I get on the road.

Another thing that bothers me about the roadkill I have been seeing is that some of them are squashed birds. Seriously, come on. If you're a bird, and there's a car coming FLY AWAY. You have wings, use them. You should never be at a loss for getting out of the way. You should never have to WALK across a busy road. In fact, you should always be able to fly well above the road. Birds are actually the only animals I don't break for either. Because if they can't get out of my way, I'm only helping their species evolve.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Highlander...too high

Highlander - Russell Mulcahy - 1986 - 7/10

Summary:

Christopher Lambert is the Highlander, an immortal who has lived for more than four centuries. The Highlander, who now calls himself Nash is in for a rough ride as The Gathering, the time when there remains only a few immortals, draws near. At the time of The Gathering, all of the immortals will feel the pressence of their kinsmen and gather to fight to the death for the fabled "Prize." Lambert has a hard time though as he is wanted for the murder of an immortal who tried to kill him. Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart) is close on his trail, trying to unravel the mystery of this weird longswordsman. Spliced throughout are flashbacks to Lambert's training, in the mid 1500's when he first became aware of his immortality, by Juan Ramirez (Sean Connery, playing an Egyptian Spaniard next to Lambert's Scotsman). Frothing over The Gathering is the evil Kurgan (Clancy Brown), Lambert's nemesis through the ages. There can be only one.

Critique:

I first wanted to see Highlander after I saw the Bunny Video that hammered home the line "there can be only one." The movie is pretty good, mostly because I think the entire idea of the Highlander, of the immortals is so great. Just the idea of living forever - all that you see, all that you lose, all that you can't have despite having eternal life, is all so intriguing to me. It also helps that half the movie is flashbacks to the fifteen hundreds which helps you see past the cheesy eightiness of the movie. The beginning of the movie was almost hysterical as two men in suits pull long swords out of their suits and begin dueling. The duel was expected, but the swords seemed to come out of nowhere. After that though, its very easy to get caught up in the movie, because, as I said before, the story is so compelling. Lambert is good and bad. Good in the sense that his attitude and look fits very well, especially in the ancient scenes. He is bad in the sense that he seems to be overracting. Sure, that might be his lines or the story, but its too much some times. Clancy Brown on the other hand is able to walk the fine line between great villain and overacting joke, and does so quite well. Connery, as usual, is great here, despite playing a character you could never actually picture him as. An Egyptian Spaniard? Ha! What suprises me so much though is that Connery and Lambert came back for a pathetic sequel that has to do with the ozone! How does that make any sense (the plot)? What is even more embarassing is that Lambert lets himself get roped into two more movies, playing the Highlander for four movies.

Verdict:

It's worth it.

If you liked this movie, see...
...Judge Dredd
...Demolition Man
...Time Bandits
 
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