Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Movie Review: Epic

Epic... Great title for a movie. It's hard to believe that there was never a film called that before. OR if there was no one has ever heard of it.
However, when I saw the trailer one thing came into my mind, and if you have seen the trailer more than likely the same thought ran through yours. If you hadn't seen the trailer, watch it, then maybe you can have the same thought.

Now do you see it? It's a movie you have seen before, many of times. Most notable “Fern Gully”. I went into this film thinking about all the ways I am going to tear into it, because it's the same crap I've seen before.
Except that in ONE area it is NOT like all the other movies where someone gets shrunk down to discover a new world. The big enemy of the forest, the thing is that is hurting the forest, is NOT humans. You heard me correctly,the big bad is not humans. The big bad is just rot, natural decay of a forest. It made me so happy! For once I didn't feel like I had liberal crap being shoved down my throat.
So thank you James Hart and others for not writing the same old shit.

Rating: 7 out of the 10 STARS

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Movie Review: Hangover 3

Biases, comparing, judgments it is what we all of us as humans do. We can't stop, it's in our DNA. What we can do is not let judgment ruin things. Today I'm writing about Hangover 3, the last in the Hangover Trilogy. I've had a lot of mix opinions from friends about this film. Some like it, some hate it, but the consistent things I hear are these; from those who like it, “It was better than the 2nd movie.” From those who hate it, “It just wasn't as good as the 1st movie.”Which to me means no one is judging this film on it's own merit.

Example: When I was younger I watched The Godfather III. I hadn't watched any of the other films yet, but I thought it was a great movie. I then watched the first 2 films in the trilogy and was completely blown away, I still loved the third film even if it wasn't as good as the first two, but almost everyone told me that hated the third. Was it because people are more judgmental than me? Was it because I saw it first? Was it because I have no taste in films? (don't answer that last one) I think it's because I saw it first. I had no preconception or comparison of the first two films.

Hangover 3 had almost everything I could want to round out this series. Funny new characters, lovable old characters, and some strange unique situations to make a laughable good time. Plus, Galifianakis is always funny. But I am not going to tell you much about this film. I want you guys to go watch it and tell me what you think. Is it funny or bad? Are you make judgments on this movie compared to the first two? Please, leave a comment. Next film is Fast 6 I'll try to have that up by tomorrow.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Star Trek into Darkness

     When I was a child in the 80's, a new series of movies came out based on a TV show from the 60's. I was instantly captivated. At the time, my youth kept me from understanding the nuances, the drama, and emotions of the films. My childhood delight came from the action, sounds, and shiny blinking lights of space. In 1988 a new TV series based on the 60's show came out. It was amazing! I decided to watch the original series and then the movies all over again. This time I got all the things I missed when I was younger, and I fully embraced my new passion. I was now one of the many that the world loving calls Trekkies. Now, as you all know, there is a reboot of the movie series. The latest movie, "Star Trek: into Darkness," directed by JJ Abrams, is out in theaters, and I want to see how it stacks up.

     First, I want to talk about the visual content of the film. Like any Sci Fi or Fantasy movie, a huge part is the look of the film. It begins on a alien planet which, unlike a lot of other worlds I've seen, this planet truly looked alien. More than that it was a great cross between an alien world and a familiar  one that looks like you would expect humans to live on. Then came the space ships, again a beautiful cross between the old ships and ships with a more modern feel. All in all Abrams created a picturesque universe.

     Next, the acting. Those who watched the first reboot movie know the great work done by the new cast. Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), and Simon Pegg (Scotty) are all incredible. So let's focus on the villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch. I know... the man has the name of a hobbit. Which is funnier when you find out he stars in the new Hobbit films as the voice of The Necromancer & Smaug the dragon. However, he is best known for the BBC show "Sherlock," where he plays a modern incarnation of the legendary detective. In this movie, just like everything else, he is astounding. He reminds me of an actor from some storybook, someone that can read a simple monologue and completely captivate his audience. I truly hope he becomes more popular in the States so he gets more roles here.

     Lastly, I want to talk about the part that is near and dear to my heart, the writing. Stories make our world go around, and this one blows me away. The emotions between the characters are wonderfully dramatic. I felt true passion between the friends. There were two crucial underlying themes. The first is that going outside the lines is more revenge than justice, and the second is how emotions can cloud reasonable thoughts. These themes were well laid out and explored, but I didn't feel like it was thrown in my face. The movie was excellent and I'm going to miss Abrams doing these films. I truly hope the next person to take over can fill his shoes. It is going to take a lot for a movie this year to top Star Trek.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

As usual let me know what you think, and follow if you like.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

     I try my hardest to never prejudge a movie before I watch it. I believe that everyone has played the Expectation Game with movies, where we say, “I expected more from this film,” or “I didn't think I'd like this movie, but it turned out great.” So when I heard that a classic American tale was being filmed by someone who, in my opinion, is one of the worst 3 directors I've ever seen (Baz Luhrmann), well... I told myself  "Watch it before you judge, don't leap to any conclusions." 

     As always, Baz Luhrmann didn't let me down. He took a classic story about how changing your outer appearance does not change who you are, nor does having been born to a higher class family make you a good person, and made it into a pretty and sparkly spectacle that I can only guess was aimed at women & gay men.  He gave it no real substance, just a paint-thin veneer of distraction from the mundane. “He is like the gay/female version of Michael Bay.” said a friend of mine. “If the two ever collaborated it would be a movie with Navy Seals masquerading as Chippendale Dancers, randomly breaking into pop songs and blowing shit up.” I couldn't agree more. Except I think Luhrmann's editing is so ham-handed that it would make Michael Bay blush.

     He also cut some of the most important characters from the film. For instance, the character of Wolfshiem, based on real life criminal & gambler Arnold Rothstien, who presented an ever-present danger felt lying behind everything. Even though he didn't even cause the problems, his character made you feel constantly wary.  Except that he didn't exist in the film, removing with it that ominous presence.

     Still, none of this would have bothered me too much. This is, as I said earlier, something I expected from the director. What truly bothered me, what made me nauseous, what almost made me get up a few times to walk out on the film was the music. The story takes place in the “Roaring Twenties”, also known by some as the Golden Age of Jazz. It was the time of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and not to mention Gershwin. Gershwin, for crying out loud! In all fairness there was like 20 seconds of Gershwin at one point in the film, but you can put the whole movie to Gershwin and it would work. Instead every time there should have been jazz playing there was a hip hop song instead. I have no problem with hip hop music, but when your trying to immerse yourself in the 1920's you don't appreciate Jay Z showing up to distract you from the film.

     However, not everything in this film was bad. The acting was fantastic. DiCaprio gave what I believe was his finest performance as Gatsby. I always thought DiCaprio overacted his parts to a certain extent. Not a lot, just that he had a little difficulty with subtlety. But almost ever movie he has gotten better, and in this one he excelled.

     Much like Gatsby himself I have hope. My hope is that the next classic book made into a film is a classic in its own right.

Rating: 3 stars out of 10

     If you enjoyed this review please follow me for more on movies, music, and books. Next week I'll be reviewing the new Star Trek film.

Friday, November 2, 2012

#8 Desert Island Album

Number 8 is a special one for me. “Evgeny Kissin & Kremerat Balitca 'Mozart Piano Concertos 20 & 27'”.

Before I started writing this I asked myself, “How does one describe pure music?”. And before you ask, yes I do sound pompous when I talk to myself. But I could not find an answer to my original question. I could talk about the technical aspect of it, but I always thought that was boring. I could talk all flowery and poetic about it, but then I would sound even more pompous. So if you don't mind I'm going to flounder through hoping to catch a glimmer of this brilliance in the blog.

Let me start with Evgeny Kissin. This man is a genius, and I don't use that word lightly. In my opinion, to use that word a person has to be either truly innovated in their field or perfected their art. Kissin defiantly perfected his art. He was playing the piano by ear and improvise by the ripe old age of 2. Ten years later at the age of 12 he played Chopin's concertos 1 & 2 at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory.
I have listen to many piano virtuosos all of them great. Here is the problem that I hear with almost all of them. They are really amazing at playing one period of classical music. Most of them are brilliant at playing the Romantic period. When playing Beethoven or List they sound amazing. When they play Mozart or Bach not so much. Kissin isn't like that, he can play any piece of piano music he wants and he makes it sound beautiful.

I'm going from one genius to another, Mozart. I don't think I need to describe why I think Mozart is a genius. Even if you are not a fan of him, no one can deny the influence musical history. He is my favorite composer. I had a hard time choosing a piece from Mozart, there is only 626 pieces of music. I thought first to pick my favorite recording of his Requiem. Then I thought I would love one of his operas, there is a great version Don Giovanni that I love. However this recording, even only being two years old, is the one I listen to the most.
Mozart piano concerto 27 is a lively a moving piece. It always gives me a feeling of running. Not running away from something or towards something, but just running for the joy of it. Then it slows down and it feels like you sit to take breath. You feel your heart beat and you take a breath. Afterward, to get up and run again. I can't describe it better than that. I know it's only what I picture in my head, but there it is.

Mozart piano concerto 20 is not as upbeat as most of his music. It begins with a heavy orchestral that makes it feel almost as if something ominous is chasing you. Yet the entire time the piano part gives you a since of hope. Which the orchestra starts to follow along with. It feel like Mozart is trying to say the power of positive thinking can change anything. Kremerat Balitca does the best job with this orchestra I have heard in this piece since the movie Amadeus.

This is a must have for me on any desert island.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Conversation with Jess Album #9

JESS:I couldn't wait until I got the opportunity to talk to you about this one - you picked one of my two favorite bands of all time!   

ME:Well I do have exceedingly good taste.

I remember when I first heard the Eagles - I was 14, and had just gotten my first walkman cassette player.  No, I'm not old, or anything.  Anyway, my sister made me a tape of "Greatest Hits Volume 1" of theirs.  One listen, and I was hooked.  The sheer precision of their performances was amazing to me, and the tight vocal harmonies instantly captivated me.  The song "Best of My Love" especially got me - the ending harmonies were so sublime.  How did you discover them?  And what first got your attention?

I first heard of them because the country stars at the time did a tribute album of their works which was incredible poplar. I instantly hated the Eagles and that album, why you asked, because I was in Jr. High and hated anything that was really poplar. You know, because I was a “REBEL”. Then after the “Hell Freezes Over” album came out a was chatting up a girl at a party who really like them. So in my suave Jr. High way I told her, “Oh yay! Me too!”. I'm not sure if that helped, but I got to second base that night, so it didn't hurt. Later I listen to the album without any pre-prejudices, and found them incredible.

Hitting on girls - expanding teenagers musical interests since the dawn of time. "Gregorian Chant? I LOVE Gregorian Chant! Have you heard that one about 'Dies Irae'?"
The Eagles changed dramatically throughout the 70s - beginning as a Country/Folk/Rock group, with Don Henley being mainly a songwriter, to their later incarnation as a Southern Rock group, with Don Henley being the quasi-lead singer, and Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh giving a very urban edge to their sound.  What period of their music do you like the most, and why?  Or do you even have a favorite?

I don't have a certain favorite. I do, however, love the way they changed. The best bands I know change the way they do things. The Killers change their style ever album, Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Muse, all have a way to change their identities over and over again. IT is a true mark of a great band.

I agree. Stagnation is a mark of the creatively challenged. 
Now, we know that Hell Freezes Over is something like a Greatest Hits compilation - of their original albums, do you have a favorite?

Desperado... I know, I know... It's a sin not to say Hotel California, but you asked the question.

Not a bad choice at all. That one is my favorite of their early period. If it weren't for "Last Resort" and "Wasted Time," it would easily top "Hotel California" for me, as well. 
The Eagles began when Glenn Frey and Don Henley met while working as backup singers for Linda Ronstadt.  Within a week they wrote two songs - Tequila Sunrise and Desperado.  Desperado is obviously the more famous of the two, but Tequila Sunrise is more interesting to me as a musician.  I noticed that you picked it as perhaps your favorite.  I wanted to ask whether the changing of perspectives ever stood out to you: it starts in third person, talking about a boy.  Then it changes into talking about his woman.  Then it changes to first person, where he's unsuccessfully hitting on this same woman. I can't think of another song that changes subjects that much in such a short time (Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" does, but it's something like 9 minutes long, and it's basically a medley of three unrelated and unfinished songs).  You get a definite glimpse into this world, and it feels familiar, but you also feel like there's far more left unsaid than spoken.

Or am I reading far more into this than you think is really there?

I don't think writing a song in a shifting perception like that is as hard as you think. I just think it's something no one ever thinks to do. Your average writer of something short isn't think, “let me look at this from all angles” just, “here is a point of view”. Which is to bad because it does pull me into the world completely. And no I don't think you're reading to much into this.

Hotel California is musically interesting to me for completely different reasons.  Everybody thinks of it as having this awesome, unmistakable melody.  This is actually not at all true.  There are only three or four notes in the verse, and just a few in the chorus.  If I played them for you on a piano, you might not even be able to distinguish what song it is.  What makes it so interesting is the very unusual chord progression going on behind it, and the way that progression changes the sound of the unchanging melody.  The structure is also interesting - extended intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse - extremely extended guitar solo.  I can't think of another song with that form.  Do you think its unusual composition helped it to be so successful, or was it a hit despite its strange structure?

I think it's one of those rare beautiful arts in the world. One of the few that ascends the art in which it's in.
As much as people complain about it, things like structure, and non-originality are used because it is what works. Every now and then something will be different but not BAD. Usually when someone steps outside the structure it is horrible. However, every once in a blue moon you get a masterpiece, like Hotel California,

You know me; I love structure. It's one reason I think Toby Keith's songs fade in popularity so fast; he writes a perfect hook, but has no structure to his songs. That said, if an artist can transcend the rules, that's when you find greatness. I think of the great Classical and Jazz composers; they spent years learning all the rules, so that they'd know how and when breaking them would be the most effective. 
Great call on this one. Now I'm not sure if I can put one of my favorite two bands on my top ten list. Damn you, Caleb Baccus! But yeah, great choice. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

#9 Desert Island Albums

Honestly, number 9 I had a harder time picking then any other position on this list. I knew whatever I picked here would kick a lot of albums off the top ten. Albums I truly love from artist like The Cure, R.E.M., Micheal Jackson, and Queen all failed to get on this list because they were either going to be number 9 or nothing. After a lot of listening and soul searching, a lot of listening and second guessing, a lot of listening and asking for advice, and a LOT of listening I finally came to a decision. My number 9 Desert Island Album is the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over”.
Now I know what you are thinking, “of for crying out loud Caleb, That is such a cop out!”, and you are right it is. But I do not think I can get through this list without a cop out or two.
As for the album itself, what can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times about the Eagles. We all know about there beautiful harmonies and mellow sounds. We know they were a huge influence on the rock & roll in the 80's and country music of the 90's. So I guess I'll do my best not to bore you.

There is another slight problem with picking this album, and that's that there is more than one version of it. For those wanting to hear this I suggest getting the DVD edition. It is the one where the Eagles sing Don Henley's “The Heart of the Matter”, which is my favorite version of that song. Before singing the song Henley makes a statement about it that sums up writing, and I mean writing anything, better than anything else I've ever heard. “This song took me 40 years to write, and it takes about 5 minutes to sing.”

I have written a book that is about 90,000 words long. When people hear this they say things like”wow” or “that's amazing its so long”. And they wonder why I am not impressed with myself. I spent 7 years developing a world that would work, another 2 years writing the book, and so far the last 2 years rewriting it. So since my 20's were spent on this book, no 90,000 words don't seem that long when I think about it. So thank you Don for letting me know I am not the only one.

But let's forget about that we are here to talk about music, and music I have a relentless passion for.
This band, in my opinion, has a catalog of music that rivals any other band in history. And like all bands they have the song that started the career. 

Like all great bands they have a song that is my favorite from them. Not necessarily the best, or most thought of song when you think about them, but the one I most relate to. With the Eagles this song is “Tequila Sunrise”. Now to the best of my knowledge, I was never a hired hand. But I was a lonely boy out on the town a lot, and the way it work going up to women you need a push.
Take another shot of courage
Wonder why the right words never come
You just get numb”
That was most every night of my youth. Sometimes I really miss it.
I could easily keep going on here, but let's face it, there is only one song you the readers want to hear. The song that no matter who you are, no matter how you are feeling, and no matter if you understand what the HELL they are talking about, is the song you want to listen to. So I;m just going to put it on and let you enjoy it. 
I truly think that is all I need to say. Hope to see you back for album #8!