Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rant; Goodbye 2007 mass media distraction, Hello 2008 junk media infatuation

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to remove the 32 year old “Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-ownership” ban which prohibits a local newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same market. What does this mean? Well, simply put, newspapers and radio stations can now merge together to create a larger parent company without restrictions from the government. How is this important again? Well see, there is this little thing known as media diversity, and the more a huge media company owns, the less diverse the opinions and viewpoints are from each of its subsidiaries. Especially when these giant media companies have owners who have their own agendas and give loads of money to lobby for certain politicians who….

OK so it gets complicated, and I can write an essay in itself about this subject (I’ll spare you) but in a nutshell, media conglomerates have been significantly growing since the FCC has slowly and discreetly been loosening the governmental bans on their regulatory size. Today’s “loosening” was done so in spite of enormous public resistance and steady warnings from Congress, yet it still went underway without a hitch. Although technically this should have been headline news, another story announced today completely buried it under the radar.

Do you still want to take the red pill? Whether you’re a conspiracy theorist or not this still seems pretty fucking fishy. Yet this has been the climate of our media, and when there are five media conglomerates controlling everything we see and hear, how will we ever really know if this is an actual controlled media distraction? Why would they tell us? Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, and 2007 was a most blissful year. It was a year where Britney Spears’s health condition was more followed than the presidential candidate debates, where the writer’s guild strike continues because of the prevailing popularity of reality television, and where the Iraq war coverage was almost eclipsed by Anna Nicole Smith’s death.

These media giants have us so wrapped around their big greedy finger, that the more we buy into new reality shows, over-hyped tabloid media coverage and pop culture gossip ridiculousness, the more they profit from our lack of understanding. Our descent into hyper-commercialized media is providing us with such instant gratification that we are losing touch with our once-valued voice within our sacred democracy. Yet even as I write this now, I am slowly realizing this will only get worse. Where even informative blogs are passed over for gossipy and image based blogs. So in a sort of mini-resignation, from now on I will be writing a bit more, how do you say, attention deficit disorder-ly .... um, succinctly. I guess when you can't beat em’, join em’ right? Here's to hoping 2008 will be a bit more altruistic…..ahh who gives a fuck? Happy Holidays! Get drunk and do stupid things. It's what we Americans do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Album Review; Radiohead "In Rainbows"

I think it would be unfair for me to write a review for a Radiohead album before stating the obvious; Radiohead is the best rock band in the world, period. Ok, so maybe that was a little bias, or maybe it was a lot bias, but I can’t go on writing another word without proclaiming that Radiohead have been my favorite band for the last ten years. Back in 2001 during my freshman year of college when my obsession with Radiohead reached its unhealthiest peak concurrent with their album release Amnesiac, I distinctly remember a fellow dorm mate (who shall remain nameless) asking me what I listened to. When I chimed out confidently “Radiohead” I’ll never forget how he replied; “What that band who sang Creep?….they suck!”. My next reaction naturally was one of contempt, but it quickly morphed into sympathy; sympathetic that he hadn’t (and may never will have) any concept of the greatness, depth, scope, grandeur, and magnitude that is Radiohead. While comments like this in my frat minded dorm probably didn’t help my early reputation of being that introverted kid, I didn’t mind because while they were listening to Emenem on a constant loop I had the unique pleasure of experiencing a band that was continuously changing, expanding, and evolving not only their own sound, but the entire face of rock music.

This is just one of the many reasons why I’ve been obsessed with Radiohead. Besides the fact that musically and sonically they’ve always been light years ahead of their peers, more importantly they are a socially conscious band that have always relied on instinct and virtuosity rather than profit and sales. For example back in the year 2000 right before their eclectic, and brilliantly abstract album Kid A was to be released, nearly all its album tracks had been leaked on to the internet, which was then just that lone scapegoat Napster. Of course in those early days of mp3 (when it seemed so revolutionary and anarchical to download music) the record industry, confused and blindsided by the notion of digital music, hastily made it their top priority to shut down the programs that were “stealing” it. Countless headlining bands joined the copyright infringement bandwagon, most noteworthy and embarrassingly being Metallica. However when it seemed even the toughest of bands (if you consider Lars Ulrich tough) was whining about losing money, Radiohead were one of the only bands that supported downloading music, more or less because 1) they knew if the music was good enough that people will still buy the albums regardless 2) even if the songs were downloaded millions of times over it still wouldn’t have seriously hurt the deep pockets of already wealthy musicians. Luckily Radiohead’s music was a little more than good enough, but its was that instinct of earnestness, humility, and defiance that helped them grow into the heroes of modern rock, and with new album In Rainbows they have used this defiance to once again shake the foundation of the methodical music industry.

Its hard to imagine that Radiohead haven’t released an album since Hail to the Thief in 2003, and in their 4 year absence, the music landscape and industry has drastically changed. Since then we’ve collectively upgraded into the corporate digital music age, the very one that Radiohead had prophesized (and feared) since Ok Computer in 1997. Downloading music has been completely turned on its head and the record industry has not only learned how to embrace the digital music they once feared, but synthesized and capitalized it into their greatest financial model. iTunes and iPods has since controlled the way we listen and buy our music, and because of the digital download market’s dominance, bands now tailor make their music for digital consumption rather than orientated for an album. Because singles are more easily downloaded than an entire album, minor and major bands suffocating in the immense digital chaotic shuffle are tempted to create music that is more user friendly, thereby destroying the ideals of “album rock”. Its become a streamlined process fueled by commercialism, advertising and hyper consumerism, and even thought its become the standard, the creativity of bands have suffered in our instant gratifying digitized world. Although many bands of moral have tried to resist iTunes, the monopoly of the digital music world has since acquired almost every existing popular band (recently and sadly even Led Zeppelin), except, that is, for one band…. any guesses?

In Rainbows is the response, and the wake up call to our world transfixed in our digital media. Once again presenting their gift of social consciousness, Radiohead embraced their alliance with technology to defy the control of the monopolizing iTunes. Where countless band after band gave in to sell their music (and maybe souls) online, Radiohead stood boldly as soul survivors, and ever since they’ve been freed of their contract with Capitol in 2003, they been able to do the most rational and unselfish thing possible; give away their music. In the (now historical) surprise announcement that Radiohead would let fans download their album and pay whatever they felt was necessary for it, they set an example for the rest of the industry to feel shameful for. It is the slap in the face to both the record companies and popular bands who let themselves get caught up in the traps of digitized popular music. And if I had to guess what the title of In Rainbows means, it’s probably exactly that; that in 2007 its easier to be caught up “in rainbows” of glossy, shiny, accessible, commercialized pop music bliss, rather than try to achieve something more intricate, genuine and benign. Granted Radiohead are one of the only bands in the world with the ability to attempt something like this, knowing their loyal rational fanbase (I paid $10 dollars), they still have the gravitas to ask us what their music is worth, and just like a chartable organization, they trust in our willingness to give, rather then require it.

But hold on, don’t think this is just one long love letter to Radiohead, the music of In Rainbows is still a horse of a different color. Alas, when we talk about the songs they’ve given away in this humble offering, it’s not hard to see why they were willing to try their experiment. Anyone familiar with Radiohead’s history know they are a band who’s always been uncomfortable in their own skin. This is especially true for lead singer Thom Yorke, who has unofficially been the disenchanted leader of the band since their early days. However since 2003 Thom and the band have found a peace within their music, and have settled into a more relaxed, less taxing stage of their career. The band feel they have nothing more to prove musically, and are comfortable enough playing off each other, rather then pushing themselves like they had years ago on Kid A. For the band’s health and longevity this is reassuring, however for a band of sonic experimentation, its not. All but two songs on In Rainbows are songs that have been played live during the last two years, and for one of the best live acts in the world, the news songs pale in comparison to their classics…..

Upon listening to the album you realize; these were not only very relaxed sessions, but that the music was almost specifically crafted to be given away digitally. As soon as you listen to the openings of both “15th step” and “Bodysnatchers” you can hear that low poor quality 160kbps sound buzzing through your headphones. Even though these are the two stand out tracks, they seem almost deliberately low-fi with their live incarnations sounding almost identical, if not better. When you reach “Nude” the song that has been floating around for ten years as “Don’t get any (big ideas)” in Radiohead’s back catalogue, its beautifully sung by Yorke, but still had potential to become something much more impressive. And this is the thread that runs through the album, with the possible exception of “Faust Arp”, which is a beautiful finger picked Thom Yorke acoustic masterpiece. I’m not saying the album is bad, but it is definitely not on par with their sweeping epic Ok Computer that launched you into the space with “Airbag”, and leaves you stranded in cold desolation with “The Tourist”. Its not as distant, isolated and eerie beautiful ad Kid A and Amnesiac which suffice to say I believe are perfect albums. Maybe my standards as a devoted Radiohead fan are too high, but this album to me seems more like Radiohead patching up leftovers and tying up loose ends. From a band that are practical the kings of album rock, “In Rainbows” is surprisingly incoherent with a lack of connectively flowing tracks, which is ironic based on my previous sentiments.

Yet even in Radiohead’s mistakes, there are truths, and I can’t help but believe (and hope) Radiohead had the whole album planned out this way from early on. After all, they are the socially conscious band, and these songs could very well play right into their theme of music loosing touch with its creativity (hence its unpolished low-fi sound). And even though this album is blatantly very organic, and straightforwardly “Radioheadish” it still haunts me why they didn’t flesh out the tracks more. But like I said, Radiohead really don’t have anything left to prove, and compared to so many other albums that are being undeservingly praised right now in the barrage of digitally packaged music, Radiohead In Rainbows is still far and away better then any of your current indie picks. That’s why I am going to give this album two reviews; one for a Radiohead album, and the second review comparing it to everything else in the iTuned catalogued music world of 2007. Radiohead may not be perfect, but at least you can always expect them to do the unexpected, remind us of our flaws, and occasional come back to save the (music) universe.

Radiohead “In Rainbows” (compared to older RH albums) 2 ½ out of 5 stars
Radiohead “In Rainbows” (compared to everything else) 4 ½ out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rant; Rehab Hollywood & The "Unholy Trinity"

Upon opening my web browser this morning I was bombarded by ‘the big news’; Lindsay Lohan was arrested for yet another DUI after completing her second stint in rehab less than a couple days ago. Although nothing Lindsay Lohan does surprises me anymore, what pissed me off was that I couldn’t escape the media coverage. I went to for some actual news but there was Lindsay Lohan's mugshot staring at me on the front page.
Finally I gave in and went to my guilty pleasure celebrity information website where the site devoted 3 pages worth of pictures and thorough coverage to this ‘big event’. I started to read page after page of superfluous details like how Lohan was in a drug fueled car chase, how her press agent says she “is an addict”, that Lindsay’s father is appearing on Larry King, etc...
Between Lohan articles I then see a preview for an OK! Magazine article detailing “Britney’s Meltdown” during a recent interview.
All of a sudden I felt queasy, like I had eaten something that went bad weeks ago. But it definitely wasn’t something I ate, it was from what I was reading, and it was then I came to realize the worst kind of addiction; one of celebrity obsession.

The blog rumors flying around are that Lindsay’s solution to all of this (besides jail) is going back into rehab, as if 3rd times a charm. At this point it's just idiotic because obviously rehab isn’t really doing it for Miss Lohan. That’s probably because Lindsay doesn’t go to rehab to get sober/clean like you know, normal people do, she goes because it’s gives her good PR. She goes because somehow along the way going to rehab in Hollywood has become a trendy and acceptable way to recuperate from being a celebrity socialite, as if it was the equivalent of aspirin for a lengthy hangover. I don’t believe Lindsey is ‘addicted’ to anything more than her excessive celebrity lifestyle and the limelight, and by using rehab to disguise the fact that she’s just an attention whore is the biggest joke of them all. Lest we be reminded that we are the ones that give and grant her this glorified attention and that really, the joke is being played on us, the people that are not only fooled into thinking rehab is helping her, but religiously follow her actions through each step of her "fall" and "recovery".

Which brings me back to that queasy feeling I had this morning; the one that reminded me that we are only fanning the fire of these excessive celebs, and that we might be more of a problem for them then they are for themselves. We may not realize it but we are all contributing to their excessive celebrity lifestyle, in essence because we have become our own paparazzi - each our own tabloid. How so you ask? With the advent of wi-fi laptops, blogs, celebrity based websites, camera phones, webcams, vlogs, and cheap video recorders, on web 2.0 we are not only choosing to monitor celebrity life, we are actively creating it. It is in our culture of hyper-surveillance that our pop-culture fascination has reached new extreme highs and celebrity excess has reached new extreme lows. The proof is in the pudding. Perez Hilton started out as a regular blogger just like everyone else, now his celebrity tabloid website generates over 7 million hits a day, and he just got his own reality show on VH1….. no, really. is a website that is devoted to securing exclusive celebrity scandalous videos and photos, and was the site that exposed Michael Richards…from a guy with a camera phone. Thanks to this over saturation of pop-culture, it's more accessible then ever for any Joe Schmoe to contribute to and become part of it. This has consequently overlapped what once was obscure tabloids news into gossip of our daily lives, where political news stations report on it, talk shows overtly divulge into it, and TV producers create ‘celeb-reality shows’ around it .
This severely creates a negative effect upon those who surround people like Britney Spears & Lindsey Lohan because they aspire to get a piece of the fame, but are even more hungry for it than the rest of us. This is especially true for Lindsey, including (in no particular order) her attention-whoring mother who could possibly be getting her own talk show on E!, her "ex-alcoholic" father who's willing to unabashedly talk about his daughter to any TV station, her "friends" who are obviously not persuading her to stop drinking/drug using, and club owners who let her drink to garner publicity for their club. Yet we, the casual observers, remain the guiltiest of parties because these wannabes are attending to us, the pop culture addicts who generate their fame. Without our fascination they might not be so gun ho in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong though, I am in no way defending Britney or Lindsay because there are plenty of young celebrities in Hollywood who avoid this excessive lifestyle. For example, take Hillary Duff, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore who were smart enough to avoid all these pitfalls. However we are only influent to those celebrities that can be influenced through us, and Lindsey Lohan along with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton I think are the three worst examples of female celebrities who wean completely off their own ego. Dubbed the “Unholy Trinity” (and with good reason), these three excessive celebrities earned the title not only from their string of erratic behavior, but for their lack of discern for any sort of human decency and/or integrity, leaving themselves open to ridicule, such as this awesome chart I made (click to enlarge).

But do remember, they do half of this stuff because it grants them the attention they crave and allows them to wean off of their own success. Like I said previously, the only real thing these unholy three are addicted to is their own fame. This symbiotic relationship between us and them is the vicious cycle, and if we allow their egos to get any bigger, who knows what could happen. I kind of think of it like the “don’t feed the bears” sign… if we don’t feed their ego and stop caring as much about what these celebutards do, then maybe they will stop doing them (as much).
News stations are beginning to pick up on this, especially when “Paris Hilton won’t eat in jail” somehow makes bigger news then a political debate. However it’s up to us to make the decision, by weaning ourselves off of tabloids, celebrity blogs websites & magazines, talk shows and whatever shitty celeb-reality TV show is on right now. And I will be the first to take my own advice, just as soon as I stop writing this hypocritical blog about it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Album Review; The Smashing Pumpkins "Zeitgeist"

The Smashing Pumpkins were slightly different from the rest of the burst of early alt-rock 90's bands. For one, the Pumpkins have always been a moniker of sorts for lead singer Billy Corgan - just as the Cure is to Robert Smith, Nine Inch Nails is to Trent Reznor, and Guns 'N' Roses is to Axl Rose….OK well, maybe the first two. Corgan has been and always will be the ring leader of and sole contributor to the band. This made Corgan an irregularity during those grungy, nihilistic days when other groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden couldn’t exist without each group member and their subsequent symbiosis. Corgan assembled the band around himself. With James Iha on guitar, D’Arcy Wretzky on Bass, and Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, this classic lineup became the group we remember as the Smashing Pumpkins, but really behind the scenes Corgan was pulling all the strings.

With that much power, some would say Corgan became a tad bit egotistical. Some would also say "tad bit" is an understatement. But can you really blame the guy? Where it ordinarily took four or five musicians to create a powerful alternative band, not only did Corgan prove he could do it all himself, but in the process he became one of the biggest alt-rock acts of the 90’s and a defining voice of Generation X. However, what really separated Corgan from the rest was his musical inspiration. Where other bands of the era harnessed that 90’s meaningless void to express their depression, Corgan dared to emote his depression through lovesick anthems and egocentric desires. He was inspired by theatrical glam bands like Queen, The Cure, and70’s David Bowie, which directly contradicted the toned down, apathetic-to-fashion look of grunge. This direct violation of the Gen-X code made The Pumpkins an irregular act that musically stood out like a sore thumb in the 90’s, yet they still fit in perfect with it's despondent sound.

By the year 2000, when the Gen X’ers had grown up and alt-rock had all but dissipated into mainstream blandness, Corgan knew that The Pumpkins time was up. He had disbanded the band, but really in name only, as if he already knew The Smashing Pumpkins were an artifact of the era rather than a band of longevity. It seemed like the noble thing to do was go out on top; as legendary and significant. But considering Corgan’s egocentricities it seemed he was doing it only to scoff at the competition; knowingly expressing that the Pumpkins were better than the rest and didn’t have anything else to prove. Afterwards he carried on with his new band Zwan as well as a solo album, yet Corgan never quite reached the stardom and/or recognition The Pumpkins once gave him. Little did he know, seven years later the very thing he was trying to diverge from would come back into style. With all this is mind it shouldn’t have been a surprise when one year ago Corgan self-exclaimed that The Pumpkins were reuniting, even though the only real reunion involved Chamberlin and himself.

No one could have predicted that this decade would not only represent a huge regression in rock, but dedicate itself to and rehash the same pomp, glam and extravagance that once made The Pumpkins such an irregular act of the 90’s. Today, headline, arena-filling acts, such as AFI and Panic at the Disco, practically model themselves after the Pumpkins theatrics, and My Chemical Romance’s lead singer Gerard Way not only worships Corgan but admits he is his greatest influence. The whole internet generation, raised on the merits of these bands, owes at least some of their overdramatic, emo life-styling to Corgan. So the new album Zeitgeist must be Corgan’s conscious step backwards into this musical oblivion, almost as if he wanted to remind all the kids on MySpace that he was doing this way before any of their new, favorite bands. The very fact that the album is named Zeitgeist, a German expression meaning "the spirit of the age", is the clearest indication that he is appeasing this generation’s lower standards.

Part of Corgan’s appease apparently involves discussing the political climate. Although on it's exterior, the album appears to be politically charged with songs like “United States” and “For God & Country”, it does not disguise Corgan’s huge ego. Coming from the guy who sang “Love is Suicide” during the grunge days, these statements more or less show he’s overcompensating for lost time in the spotlight. Gone are the long, sweeping movements and grand gestures of classic songs like “Soma” and “Tonight, Tonight”. They are instead replaced by fast chugging, melody-less songs like “Tarantula” & “(Come On) Lets Go”. In fact, the whole album plays this way. The songs sound like they were made to be played on Guitar Hero rather than to become memorable. Granted the Pumpkins have always been known to rock hard, however this time around it seems they were crafted to sound like they’ll rock hard instead of actually rocking hard.

And maybe that’s exactly the point. Perhaps Corgan had made precisely the album he wanted - the Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist album for the iGeneration. It is the album you download (iTunes) individual songs from instead of listening to all the way through. It may be an overcompensation and it may be Corgan’s way of reassuring himself that he’s still relevant, but is this album really any worse than the bands he overcompensating for? Sure it’s no Siamese Dream, or Mellon Collie, but that really was a different age of refinement. If anything, this album is a perfect artifact for the year 2007. It’s cold, calculative, self-righteous, over confident, pseudo-politically aware, hyper-active, and starving for attention. If that’s what Corgan’s intentions were than kudos to him, but if it wasn’t and he was unaware of the synthetic feel of this album, then maybe it's time for him to get back in that cage, despite all his rage.

3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Movie Review - Fantastic Four; Rise of the Silver Surfer

Even though I read a lot of comics growing up (and I mean a lot) Fantastic Four was never really on the top of my list. I was more of an X-Men junkie. But when I did get a chance to breeze over a Fantastic Four book, what always pulled me in was the dynamic between the four members. Although over the years, the Fantastic Four have been through many incarnations, the core group of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Women, The Human Torch, and The Thing have always been the 4 are what has made the comic so wildly popular since the early 60’s. It isn’t really the adventures they go on, or the intergalactic superbeings they cross, but the relationship between the 4 teammates that have made them so appealing; the mix between borderline soap opera drama, and comic relief banter that make not only for a perfect “comic” comic book, but fit perfectly into a big budget no-holds bar, Blockbuster, action movie.

With that said, it is for this reason I defend the Fantastic Four movies, and can also attest that Fantastic Four; Rise of The Silver Surfer is one of the best “comic” comic book movies to come out in a long while. The first Fantastic Four (2005), was mediocre at best, but did succeed at setting the right tone for the characters. If you disagree with this, go find the Fantastic Four film they tried to make back in 1994 directed by Oley Sassone. Now there’s a travesty on film. Although some will argue, I think the best thing about the current Fantastic Four movies is that the writers, as well as director Tim Story, keep the tone lighthearted. Unlike big movie missteps Daredevil, Ghost Rider & The Punisher (characters who were suppose to be serious, dark, mysterious and brooding, but were treated like sideshow acts in each respective film) The Fantastic Four movies are suppose to be campy and lighthearted. I feel like if they tried to make the characters to overtly serious they would be disrespecting the heart and legacy of the characters. So for all the naysayers who can’t stand the movie for it's camp factor, you probably wouldn’t be able to read a Fantastic Four comic book for the same reason.

Fortunately, Rise of the Silver Surfer balances the camp and the seriousness just right, to where exposition moves out of the way for some decent action sequences. So in a nutshell, a being from outer space (The Silver Surfer) comes to earth basically to decide whether earth is suitable to be devoured by a planet eater named Galactus (he’s a whole ‘nother story). Turns out our planet is quite delicious and Galactus is ready to feed, but once our Government’s spy satellites catch the Silver Surfer in action, they go running to uber-scientist Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) to help find out what kind of threat our country is dealing with. Of course this directly interferes with Reed marrying Sue Storm (Invisible Women/Jessica Alba) which gives the story it's nice, little conflict. Just as in the comics, Reed has to decide whether to choose his extraneousness work in the laboratory or spend quality time with Sue. It is this conflict that has been a problem for Reed since his inception by Stan Lee himself. As the plot moves forward, Reed, with the entire earth depending on him, works in secret to find out what the Silver Surfer is up to. It is this superhero paradigm, selflessness over selfishness, that plays a very important role throughout the course of the film resulting in some incredibly successful scenes .

This underlying theme plays a crucial role in the socially conscious script. Like in the comics, the Fantastic Four are big celebrities, and in today’s world where celebrity life is followed more closely than religion, the biggest news isn’t the Silver Surfer's arrival, its Sue & Reed’s weeding. Where the rest of the team ignore their celebdom, Johnny Storm (Human Touch) fully embraces it, wearing sponsorships on his uniform (like a NASCAR racer) and constantly craving media attention. Also the US Government is played in fascist order by General Hager who makes demands of Reed to help find and capture the Silver Surfer. Eventually he also enlists Victor Von Doom to work with Reed and help motivate him to work faster. Although initially the enemy seems to be Silver Surfer, as he is finally captured and tortured by our Government, we learn that we are in fact the deviant ones. It is only through the kindness of Sue Storm and the gentle nature of the human heart that we find a resolution.

I believe this is a subtle jab at both our current bullying governmental policies, our ultra-celebrity obsession, and how they are both deferring us as reasonable human beings. In a way the writing of the script and the initial storyline by Stan Lee have always been a cautionary tale. What if a grand being not from our world was to bring on the Apocalypse? Would we be worth saving? Not unless we change our boorish behavior and not if we continue to act selfishly and not selflessly. The reason why the Fantastic Four are so, well, fantastic, is not because they have their superpowers, but because as a team they are willing to give up their lives, their selfishness, for a higher cause. And this is the lesson we are being taught in the movie. Sue says to the Silver Surfer when asking him to spare the planet, “There’s always a choice”. A choice to make a difference in each other’s lives and a choice to try to make our lives worth saving." This is the epic, morality tale Stan Lee set forth when he wrote this storyline in the 60’s, and it still echo’s true in this movie. And that, my friends, is why this movie succeeds and isn’t just another campy superhero action flick. See it how you may, but I think ‘nuff said.

Fantastic Four; Rise of The Silver Surfer
Rating: B+

Monday, June 04, 2007

Album Review; Linkin Park "Minutes to Midnight"

When Linkin Park released “Hybrid Theory” back in 2000 I was one of the countless millions who jumped on the band wagon and immediately became a fan (I had just turned 18 FYI). The way they blended rock and rap was unlike any other band I had heard at the time and even though many other bands had experimented sonically with it before, they were the first band to make it sound revolutionary. And that’s what I though Linkin Park was to become; revolutionary. I assumed they were going to continue to push their unique brand of rap-rock and expand upon it.

But alas, this was not to be. Since 2000 what has become prevalent in rock isn’t rap-rock anymore. That has been replaced by the faux-emo/screamo scene. Yet, what makes Linkin Park still so attractive and popular is lead singer Chester Bennington’s ability to encompass the same territory that all of the other mediocre screamo bands do today, but better. Linkin Park’s uniqueness derives from their ability to combine both Chester’s melodic emotional whaling with Mike Shinoda’s fast and furious rapping; a combination that boasted all their success on “Hybrid Theory”. In fact the name "Hybrid Theory", which was the band’s name before Linkin Park, expresses their belief in the successful combination of rap and rock.

However what has becomes immediately apparent on their new album “Minutes to Midnight” is that their patented mix of rap-rock is no longer apart of their formula for success. Linkin Park is still one of the biggest headlining acts in rock music, and with each album they have been trying to match the success and stature of “Hybrid Theory” and carefully representing themselves along the way. So for “Minutes to Midnight” they hired producing legend Rick Rubin and sat (supposedly) on a wealth of material to trim down to one compact album. But once you hear “Minutes to Midnight” its easy to conclude that Linkin Park has succumbed to the pressure of staying on the top of the charts instead of being musically adventurous, sadly because it almost abandons everything they once supposedly stood for.

There is nothing wrong with going in a different direction musically, as long as it’s for the right reasons of course. On “Minutes to Minutes” Linkin Park appears to diverge from their rap-rock roots for all the wrong reasons. The album relies on Chester’s emo-tional singing as a crutch for the sole purpose of knowing his emo voice is their trump card. That was a wrong assumption to make, and the two tracks that merge Shinoda’s rap with Chester’s vocals (“Bleed it Out” & “Hands Held High”) just so happen to be the best tracks on the album. I’m not sure what’s more ironic, that they employed legendary rap-rock producer Rick Ruben only to stay away from rap-rock, or that their best tracks are the ones that actually use rock-rap. On Shinoda-less tracks like “Valentines Day” and “Leave out the Rest” Chester presents emo-ballad lyrics like “I dreamed I was missing, you were so scared, but no one would listen, cause no one else cared”. Not only are these songs un-melodic and bland, but Chester’s lyrics are so ambiguous it seems he wrote them just to appeal to his angst filled teenage audience, not because they are sincere. Songs like these serve as nothing but filler, and without Shinoda equaling out Chester’s introspection, there is no versatility to the tracks that were once so relevant on “Hybrid Theory”.

Either way, there is nothing exciting about this album. “Minutes to Midnight” might sell well because they knew what would keep them profitable and on top of the pops, but it doesn’t make them any better then the rest of the bands that follow the same shtick. In fact it’s downright embarrassing that Linkin Park has lost confidence in their merging of rap-rock to accommodate to an audience of lesser concern. But what’s more embarrassing is the audience that Linkin Park is trying to attend to, and how they might consider this a good album. For shame, you faceless audience, you should expect more from your music.

2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why the films Ghost Rider & Daredevil sucked it hardcore (an open letter to Mark Steven Johnson)

Dear Mark Steven Johnson,

I know you must think you have a very strong imagination to be both a writer and director, and I bet you're a real nice guy who’s fun to work with, but I just want to let you know you will go down in history as the man who ruined the mystique and grandeur behind characters such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider. Any respectable comic book fan, movie aficionado, or simply anyone that recognizes a decent film will tell you that you have failed miserably at helping these prolific characters stay respectable.

I know, it’s not all your fault. Marvel Studios, Columbia Pictures and the producers obviously are making these movies for a quick buck and not to tell an in depth, thought provoking story. If it wasn't you then it might have been some other hack director like Stephen Sommers or W.S Anderson, but unfortunately, you are the director and you are going to receive blame for accepting the role as the continued destructor of classic comic book characters.

In your new film Ghost Rider you tell the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil to gain supernatural powers. However perhaps it is you, Mark Steven Johnson who has sold your soul to the devil to help in your ascension towards becoming a big-budget formulaic, cliché and Hollywood-eske film director. Your films are the ultimate realization of how Hollywood can corrupt a genuine story for formulaic dreck. Your comic to film adaptations deviate so drastically from their original creative material, that they will always be a reminder of how big budget Hollywood films diminish strong plots, in depth character development, and coherent emotional storytelling. Yes, I understand these are comic book characters, and comics have always been bombastic and hyperbolic in nature, however both Daredevil’s and Ghost Rider’s comic book personas have real emotional depth with strong ties to relevant human regret and sacrifice. These anti-heroes remind us of our frailties and how our dark sides can control us if we are not careful. But you diminish these characters by portraying them as being comical, unrealistic, and one dimensional. Just because Ghost Rider has a flaming skull you shouldn't have to point out the obvious and allow him to say "feel’s like my skull’s on fire". This may be acceptable for comic book characters who are meant to be portrayed as satirical such as Deadpool and Hellboy, but for serious characters such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider, who have a strong history of being dark, moody, intense and relevant you're just destroying their legacy.

So here is my suggestion: please stop accepting directing roles for classic comic book characters such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider and accept roles for films your better suited for. You’re obviously very good at Hollywoodizing film plots so stick with it. Just please stay away from comic book films that should be crafted delicately with justifiable plot substance, and not just glazed over. Stick to the casual and lighthearted films you’re used to like “Jack Frost” and “Grumpier Old Men”. People need a good laugh and you sure do provide it with those oh so classy films. Believe me I am not just saying this as a comic book fan, but as a movie fan, or better yet, and fan of original, insightful, tangible, un-formulaic films. So please, on behalf of comic book fans and movie fans around the world, QUIT PATRONIZING US AND ADMIT YOU’RE A HACK. Thank you.


P.S. I posted this rant on IMDB because you are not cool until you post on IMDB;