Movies, music, cartoons, comics, food, and television. That's just the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.
I was given an assignment for school on 5 songs that mean a lot to me. It had to be short, so I cut some stuff out. I’m sort of glad I did, it makes the list a quick read. At the same time I know I could have written pages on the music I love. Anyway, these are some of the most important songs that shaped who I am. Enjoy.
Michael Jackson/Weird Al Yankovic-Beat It/Eat It: These two artists were the first musicians that I listened to independently when I was growing up. I chose Beat It and Eat It because I like both the songs for different reasons. Michael Jackson gives a grim look at someone who will put their life in jeopardy just to be accepted. Weird Al’s version is about food. Both versions are about life when you think about it.
Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody: When I started using Napster as a kid I would remember songs that I overheard previously from all sorts of media and download those songs. After watching Wayne’s World I knew I had to download Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a good thing I did, it’s one of the most beautiful and powerful songs I have ever heard. That song is art, that’s what it is. Queen is one of the bands that got me through High School.
Gorillaz-Slow Country: Slow Country reminds me of the first girl that I ever loved. When I hear it I can’t help but think of her and how great it felt to feel loved by someone. I also remember what it was like to have your heart broken at a young age, and how good it is raise yourself from the ashes and not let depression get the best of you. She loved Gorillaz, too.
Black Sabbath-War Pigs: While I’ve always liked Black Sabbath, War Pigs is what made me appreciate Black Sabbath even more. I’ve heard anti-war songs before, but nothing like this. Black Sabbath was telling the truth about war. Its wickedness, the politicians who use the lives of people for their own gain, how it leads to only more suffering. Black Sabbath knew exactly where war would take us, and so did I.
Black Flag-Now She’s Black: When I was going through a really bad break-up this song (along with Bastard in Love, also by Black Flag.) helped me get through the pain. The love of my life was out of my life, but everywhere I went, everywhere I looked, she was there. It was like Henry Rollins was speaking about exactly what I was going through. Love will drive a man insane.
As any gamer would know, Atari recently filed for bankruptcy. A move that shocked the videogame industry and brought out an abundance or articles in remembrance of Atari and what they’ve done for the industry.
These articles on the importance of Atari and their accomplishments are well deserved. Atari used to be the biggest name in videogames, they laid the foundation for what videogame companies are today. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for them the entire videogame industry may not even be a thing. While videogames were popular when Atari first got in the game, it was their presence (and the Atari 2600) to bring the love of videogames to the masses.
Now, I’m not part of the videogame population that saw Atari at its zenith. By the time I was born (1987) Nintendo had already revitalized the videogame industry and Atari was trying to stay head above water in a changing landscape. So, I can’t say that Atari means as much to me as someone who is older may feel, but it’s never good to see such a big name go down.
The problem I see with it though is that while people are saddened by the loss of Atari, can anyone name a non-licensed game that they created in the last five years? In fact, Atari just seems to be a name that’s used to sell merchandise to an older group based on the appeal of nostalgia. (Something that will most certainly happen to me when Sega starts selling Genesis memorabilia in bulk.)
After Nintendo got into the hardware game Atari didn’t seem to know what to do with itself. Maybe people were still blaming the company for the videogame crash of 1983 or maybe they just seemed too behind the times in terms of the way they were being managed, but all my life it seemed like Atari was playing a constant game of catch up.
By the time I was in Elementary school Atari was still trying its hardest to stay relevant in the industry. I remember seeing advertisements in magazines, comic books, and on television for the Atari Jaguar, but whenever I brought it up to any friends in the school yard there seemed to be a universal feeling of indifference toward the console. I’ve never even met anyone in my entire life who owned an Atari Jaguar. I think that says a lot about where Atari was at that time.
While Atari was eventually saved by the likes of Hasbro and Infogrames, it seems like it was only being used for its name. There was nothing incredibly fascinating about Atari’s output in its final years, a lot of licensed games and re-releases or visual updates to their classic games. Nothing was being done to make Atari stand out or seem special, it was just being used for its name and history.
This is real the problem lies, the videogame industry is like a shark, it has to continually move forward or it will die. Atari wasn’t moving forward, it was being used to create and publish games that would get a quick buck.
While Atari finally going bankrupt may feel unpleasent in the hearts of videogame fanatics, the Atari they know has been dead for over a decade now. However sad it may feel to see Atari go bankrupt, it’s almost impossible to not think that some company is going to buy the name. It won’t be the same Atari that people know and love, but then again, Atari hasn’t been the same company that people know and love since the 80s.
In the wake of a tragedy the public starts to look for answers on why everything goes wrong. A common scapegoat for a tragedy is music. Musical artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, and Marilyn Manson have all felt pressure from the public because of misinterpretation of their music. (In Marilyn Manson’s case it was just a witch hunt, since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of the Columbine High School Massacre didn’t even like his music.) While the artists are not directly involved, they still feel the guilt over the calamity.
In the movie Black Metal, Ian (Jonny Mars), the lead singer of the band Crown of Horns, begins to go through a period of bleakness after one of his fans kills his teacher in cold blood. While Ian may have the ghastly black metal persona on stage, off stage he’s actually a calm parent who seems to live a typical life.
The tragedy begins to take a toll on Ian after a fight in a convenience store where he is confronted by a passer-by who blames him for the incident and even goes so far as to say that it was probably Ian’s child who committed the acts of murder. (This doesn’t bode well for the passer-by)
While it may be difficult to tell a story in under nine minutes, writer and director Kat Candler does a pretty good job of showing you the traumatic event and the chain reaction that comes from it. The film also doesn’t feel like it’s trying to capitalize off of the black metal controversies from Norway. Rather, this film depicts an artist influenced by the music who finds himself in his own dilemma caused by murder.
Jonny Mars is really good in Black Metal, due to time constraints it’s not easy for someone to give a a completely developed performance in a short film, but Mars was able to do it. While the title would have you think that you would see more of his black metal persona, you only really see it in the very beginning of the film. The majority of the film sees Ian as just an average guy.
The cinematography in the film definitely stands out. From the shots of the grisly murder scene, to Ian talking to his daughter in the middle of the night, everything is shot superbly well.
While the film has a somewhat abrupt ending, it’s very well done and worth a watch. I don’t watch a lot of short films (Unless you count cartoons as short films), but Black Metal was something that I couldn’t help but watch because of the subject matter. Even though it isn’t my favorite metal genre, it does have an interesting history behind it. However as I said before, this movie isn’t about that history, it is merely a backdrop for the story. You don’t need to be a metal fan to enjoy this movie, wouldn’t hurt, though.
Black Metal is an official selection for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and can be seen for free on YouTube.
Yeah, this review is pretty late, but I just got around to watching Looper the other day. 2012 had me skip out on a lot of movies, so I’m trying my best to catch up.
In the future when the mob wants to kill someone they send them back into the past, where one of their hired guns, a looper, waits to assassinate the target. However, every looper must live with the realization that one day the mob will come after them and eventually meet the same fate that every one of their target’s met, this is called closing the loop. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) eventually encounters himself (Bruce Willis) one fateful afternoon and is knocked unconscious. Now he’s on a mission to take his future self out before the mob decides to kill them both.
Looper is written and directed by Rian Johnson who has directed some great Breaking Bad episodes and one of my favorite High School movies of all time, Brick. (Which also stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Beyond that, I haven’t seen anything else that Johnson has directed. He doesn’t have a large amount of things under his belt, so I still have time to catch up on his work. For the most part though, he’s been a part of some excellent projects and I hope to see more from him soon.
The two principal actors who play Joe in the film do a really good job on both their parts. While Levitt plays Joe with an arrogant bit of swagger, Willis plays him with a more mature attitude about life. Even as Willis pleads with Levitt to help him, Levitt wants nothing to do with his future self’s plan. It’s surprising how similar Willis and Levitt actually look. I’ve never noticed it before, but as you watch the film you do start to notice that there is a certain something about the both of them that makes them look like future and past versions each other.
While Willis does play an important part in the film, he doesn’t show up in it nearly as much as Levitt does. In fact this is mostly a Levitt film, with Willis showing up every once in a while to be a bad ass or to be gloomy about the turn of events. Still, this doesn’t take away from his performance in the film. Just don’t come into Looper thinking that Bruce Willis will get as much times as Levitt.
Levitt is strong throughout the whole movie and never once lets you down. His character grows during the movie and not once does it seem forced. The entire performance seems real natural, which is good because the brash nature of his character could have come off really bad if it was in the hands of a weaker actor.
Special appreciation should be given to the story of Looper, time travel movies usually deal with one of two problems: Either the film goes too in depth with the way time travel works, making the movie incredibly convoluted and confusing to follow or they don’t put enough work into it, leaving room for major plot holes. How does Looper counteract such problems? In a meeting with himself, young Joe brings up the possible outcomes that may come of them meeting together and what dire complications it could have for the future. Future Joe shuts him up and tells him that if they were to go into everything about time travel it would just be too complicated. By doing this it saves the movie valuable time and doesn’t become a burden on the film.
The music in the film is okay, it has moments where it stands out, but the music by Nathan Johnson never reaches the same heights of beauty as it did with Brick. Which is too bad because the soundtrack in Brick is one of my favorites. Still, it’s not like it’s bad, just a tad bit flawed. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, Nathan Johnson and Rian Johnson are related. They’re cousins. Pretty talented family, right?)
Looper is a great movie that is more closely related to crime thrillers than science fiction, the action is ever present and never gets boring. I can see why it made so many ‘Best of 2012’ lists. It’s just a shame I wasn’t able to see it in theaters when I had the chance.
I’m poor. That sucks. It especially sucks when you have so many different hobbies like I do. So as 2012 went on and I started to miss out on great comic books, films, videogames and concerts, it really broke my heart. So what do I do when I’m asked to make a top 5 list of the best games of 2012 when I’ve only played two games and beaten one? Well, first I cry, but after I’m done crying I decide to write a list of games I wish I played this year. Can’t hurt, right?
Hey! Look at what I wrote! Hope you enjoy it.
It’s been a while since Judd Apatow’s last movie. While his last film, Funny People, wasn’t his best film, Apatow has been a part of a lot of quality projects in the past. So I was willing to give This is 40 a chance.
This is 40 follows the continuing story of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) from Knocked Up. As the title explains Pete and Debbie are finally crossing over to 40 and neither seem to be too happy about it. (Pete seems to be taking it much better than Debbie does, though.) Age isn’t the only problem that they’re facing, as financial problems begin to pile up for both Pete and Debbie’s businesses and parenthood seems to be a hindrance for both of them.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann perform well with each other and perfectly capture a bickering couple in the middle of a long argument. Of course this is the same nagging couple that worked really well in Knocked Up, so you shouldn’t be surprised by how good their chemistry is together on screen.
There are a lot of bit players in the movie, but the one that sticks out the most is Albert Brooks as Pete’s dad, Larry. Larry is caught in a situation where he is now dependent on Pete for money and Pete can no longer take care of his father like he used to. Brooks’ character neither takes the role of a protagonist or an antagonist, instead you kind of pity his character while at the same time despising him. He’s a like a smart ass with a heart of gold.
Most of the acting in the film is good, and for the most part there is nothing in the movie that would tarnish it, but I did see some problems with Iris Apatow, Judd Apatow’s daughter. There are moments in the film where she does a really good job, but for the most part her character is kind of annoying. I hope I don’t come off as mean, but I just don’t feel that her acting is strong enough in some scenes and as a result it sometimes hurts the film.
It should be noted that while I wasn’t too pleased with Iris Apatow’s performance, I did enjoy her older sister’s (Maude Apatow) performance. Maybe it’s because she’s older or maybe she just has a better understanding of acting as a craft. Either way, she does a good job.
Going into this film you may be wondering what Apatow will be going for with This is 40. Will he be more dramatic like in Funny People? Or will he try to be more comedic like in The 40-Year-Old Virgin? Well, This is 40 feels closer to Knocked Up, but with a more serious vibe. Jokes are still funny and certain situations are more light hearted than others, but in the end it doesn’t feel as hilarious as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up, which is okay.
It seems like a lot of people are afraid of change, and the idea that Apatow may be growing up is a little off-putting to people, but I’ve come to a point in my life where I wouldn’t want to see him do the same silly movie over and over again. The story is still great and the characters are still interesting, it’s just that comedically it’s not as strong as his earlier films.
If you’re going into This is 40 hoping that you’ll be laughing so hard that you’ll run out of air and pass out then you will be sorely disappointed. However, the movie is pretty interesting on its own and does tend to give a good chuckle every now and then. I suppose the average Judd Apatow fan is now at a crossroads and needs to find out if they want to continue to follow Apatow as he grows as an artist or if they would rather stick with his sillier work.
Quentin Tarintino is a huge fan of 70s exploitation films. You can see it in a lot of his work and in most of his interviews. Django Unchained brings together the classic westerns from the mid to late 60s with the classic Blaxploitation and ultra-violent films of the 70s. It’s like Tarintino is paying homage to the films that meant a lot to him during his impressionable years.
Django Unchained is the story of Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is saved by Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) in order to collect a bounty on the head of a few thieves. On their journey Schultz begins to mentor Django and promises to reunite him with his wife. However, this leads them to the eccentric and ruthless plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is in possession of Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).
Since Django Unchained is somewhat of a Western, the cinematography has to be top-notch. It’s one of the things that define Westerns. Vast open areas and beautiful scenes on the prairie are what make Westerns so great, and Django Unchained delivers on the beautiful cinematography. In fact there is a scene at what seems like the Rocky Mountains that is just jaw dropping. While it may not be the standard Western by traditional standards, it does offer cinematography just as good as the classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns of yesteryear.
The violence in Django is great, it not only captures your eye because of the bullet holes going through everyone, but Tarintino doesn’t shy away from the brutality that slaves were going through at the time. Tarintino could have gone two ways with his depiction of southern plantations at the time, he could have: A) Worked around it and showed as little as he could as not offend anyone or B) Showed what slaves were actually going through at this time and not cop out last minute. Thankfully he went with the latter.
The violence towards slaves in the film isn’t just there as a way to shock you either. Flashback scenes where Django is begging for his wife not to be whipped are filmed perfectly and help make the movie feel like more than just a violent Western. Although I’m sure this film pays its respect to exploitation films of the past, it feels like the material in the film is something more than just your regular exploitation violence. There is substance in the violence shown in the film.
Now there is some great acting in this film, but two actors really stick out. The first actor to stick out is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie. Boy, is he good at playing evil. More than menacing, DiCaprio plays Calvin as sort of a southern playboy who buys slaves just so that he can make them fight to the death for his own amusement. Something has to be said about a character who revels in just how malicious he is. Calvin Candie may become one of my favorite villains of this generation, he can go from calm and cool to off the wall in a manner of moments, and he always regains his complexion.
Samuel L. Jackson is the second actor to stick out to me. His character, Stephen, is the main…uh, House Negro in the film and is very dedicated to his master, Calvin Candie. However, Stephen is just plain evil. He goes out of his way to make a scene when Django first shows up on Candie’s plantation and continues to do whatever he can to interrupt Django on his mission to save his wife. Jackson can be really funny in this role from time to time. In fact most of the laughs coming from the crowd in the movie theater were during Jackson’s rants in the film. Much like DiCaprio’s Candie, Jackson’s Stephen can switch back and forth between gleeful and menacing without missing a beat.
However, it was the two heroes in the film that I found to be somewhat dull. While Foxx showed some range in emotion in the film, it wasn’t anything amazing. I remember when Will Smith was supposed to be a part of this film, personally I don’t know if it would have been better or worse with him. Foxx did a good job, but it wasn’t anything special.
Now as for the case of Christoph Waltz, I think he did rather well, but as the movie progressed it seemed like his character started to change in unsuspected ways. Near the end of the movie his character makes a weird decision that seems really out of place. I think Waltz did the best he could with the character, and he is rather charismatic as Schultz, but it’s nowhere near as good as his character in Inglorious Basterds.
The music in the movie gave me mixed feelings. While I enjoy the music from Ennio Morricone and different country music artists in the film, there were times when I was brought right out of the film when out of nowhere there was some hip-hop track being played onscreen. The only song that was somewhat modern that I agreed with had to be Richie Havens’ Freedom. Anyone who has ever seen Woodstock will know just how powerful this song is, and it’s played perfectly to a certain scene.
The movie is somewhat long, and while this is what I expect from Tarintino movies, there were certain scene that could have been edited down a tad bit. That said, there weren’t a lot of them. This movie is justified in how long it is and it never drags to the point where you’ll start checking you phone to see what time it is. Since the dialogue is so good, I was never bored with what was going on.
Spike Lee has said that he will not watch Django Unchained because, “…It’s disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film.” While I can understand where Lee is coming from in his statement, I feel that Tarintino is doing something similar to what Blaxploitation directors did during the 70s. They found that there was a market for heroes whose skin color wasn’t white and decided that that role could be made with or without Hollywood’s help. You could also state that even the heroes in the films eventually became stereotypes themselves, but at the end of the day they were trying to make an alternative hero for the masses, and make a couple bucks while doing it. I’m not black, so really I have no say in the matter. I just think Lee should give Django a chance and if he’s offended, stick with what he believes.
Django Unchained is a great movie and if you’re a Tarintino fan then there should be nothing stopping you from seeing the movie. Although it deals with some controversial subjects, one shouldn’t be afraid to give it a watch. There are quite a few “N” bombs in the film, and the violence is pretty graphic, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what is actually a really good love story and probably the best Western to come out in years.
Another shooting happens in America and right away news outlets sensationalize the massacre, hoping to get the highest ratings possible. It doesn’t help that the number one videogame in the country at the time was a game that allowed you to shoot random people from across the globe. Gamers knew what this would lead to of course, cries of violent video games training the killer and ,”How can we let our children be witness to the type of violence that is perpetrated in video games?”
I wrote this editorial on violence in video games after what happened in Newton, Connecticut. Hope you enjoy it.
In the realm of fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien stands above everyone else when it comes to love and admiration. (Even Gary Gygax pales in comparison.) His Lord of the Rings novels are some of the most influential books to ever be written, and The Hobbit is where that legacy began.
Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy brought an entirely new generation of fans to Tolkien’s work. One can even be as bold to say that his films are almost as important to the legacy of Tolkien’s work as Tolkien’s novels themselves. Jackson’s films weren’t the first Lord of the Rings films to ever be made, animation legends Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass (Rankin/Bass) and Ralph Bakshi have both given their interpretations of Tolkien’s material, but neither have received the same amount of success that Jackson has.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey finds a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) joining a group of dwarves led by their leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) on their journey to reclaim their home from a vicious dragon named Smaug. While Bilbo is hesitant at first, he eventually comes to terms with the task he has been given and joins the dwarves on their adventure.
Beautiful. That’s the first word that comes to mind when you experience the lush and amazing world of Middle-earth. Jackson’s previous trilogy were just as beautiful, but upon watching The Hobbit you rekindle the same love for the land of Middle-earth that you did when you first saw The Lord of the Rings. It’s still amazing to see places that look as beautiful as this still exist on earth.
The acting in The Hobbit is well done, Ian McKellen does just as good a job in this film as he did in the previous Lord of the Rings films, but there was never really any doubt that he wouldn’t do a solid job as Gandalf, a role he now owns.
Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins exceptionally, the subtle changes that Bilbo receives as he grows as a character are accomplished by Freeman. While Bilbo may be hesitant and a little cranky in the beginning of the film, he eventually grows into a more noble and heroic character. Freeman does a wonderful job of showing the evolution of this character in the first act of the trilogy.
Richard Armitage also does a wonderful job as the prince without a throne, Thorin Oakenshield. While dwarves have always kind of been represented as thick headed idiots (A stereotype that persists in this film), Thorin is represented differently, he is a proud dwarf who wishes to bring his people back to the level of prosperity that they once knew. Usually a character this well thought out would be reserved for a character much taller in stature, but it’s nice to see it be given to a much shorter hero.
The music composed by Howard Shore is excellent. Well deserving of attention from anyone willing to give out awards for music in film. It holds the title of ‘epic’ so much, no other word can describe it as perfectly as that. Listen to Misty Mountains (Cold), it’s almost impossible not to get chills while listening to this music. If this doesn’t at least some recognition from the Academy Awards, then all hope is truly lost.
Not everything is perfect in the film however, the CGI is real hit and miss, with some orcs (Mainly the film’s antagonist) looking too cartoony for the film. While Gollum (Andy Serkis) still looked amazing and seemed to be the stand out point for the CGI in the film, I couldn’t help but be turned off by some of the other CGI in the film. It doesn’t detract too much from the movie, but it’s something that pretty much every film snob in the world will complain about once they see The Hobbit.
Another thing that may deter you from enjoying the film is how stupid some of the dwarves may act. Once again, it’s nothing huge, and there isn’t a lot of bumbling idiocy running amok in the film, but you will find some of the dwarves to be rather stupid. Or you might actually like their care free spirit, it’s something that I don’t think everyone will agree on.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a film that I didn’t think I would enjoy when I first saw its trailers and commercials. (Perhaps it was because whoever was in charge of editing those trailers and commercials decided to make the film seem more light-hearted than it actually was.) However, after seeing the movie I was pleasantly surprised. Peter Jackson has once again created a Tolkien adaptation that he can be proud of.
In an age where you could be locked up for even joking about hacking into a major corporation, Wizzywig decides to have fun with the idea. Written by Ed Piskor, Wizzywig examines the world of hacking. While most people think of hacking as a less than dangerous crime, Wizzywig shows just what life is like for a hacker on the run.
Wizzywig is the story of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a hacker who learns at a young age that it’s possible to get around the system. His thirst for more knowledge leads him from being a phone phreak all the way to life on the lam. The longer he stays out of the limelight the more his legacy grows, but with increasing pressure from the law he can only hope to stay hidden.
The plot of Wizzywig takes its inspiration from the real life stories of hackers, but this shouldn’t turn off anyone who isn’t a technophile. Even if Kevin can’t help but be intrigued by the latest in technology, this book takes place more than a few decade ago. Your iPad probably has more power than what Kevin was working with at the time and even if that still seems like a problem, Piskor is able to write what Kevin is doing in layman’s terms.
The story is told in a somewhat confusing way, this may be because Wizzywig was compiled from a web-comic. This gives Ed Piskor the chance to be creative with the way that he writes the story; however some people may be turned off with the way that it is presented.
The story goes back and forth without any indication of where you are at the time. It took some getting used to, but after a while you begin to enjoy the small detours in the story. It’s not like they’re not connected, every part plays a role in Kevin’s story. Think of it like watching Pulp Fiction for the first time.
From the beginning to the end of Wizzywig the art is excellent. Piskor doesn’t give you the same random character over and over again, and as Kevin begins to live his life on the run Piskor designs him to look slightly different during each occasion without completely changing the look of the character. The art is dark, but it only helps the look of the story.
Wizzywig may not seem like a story that everyone can appreciate, since it deals with some things that most people don’t completely understand, but beyond any confusion about hacking, there is a solid story of an anti-hero who just wants to live a normal life like the rest of us. You get to see Kevin grow up before your eyes, so it’s impossible not to care for him. Minor quibbles aside, Ed Piskor has created one of the best graphic novel stories in a long time and should be checked out by anyone with interest in either the world of comics or hacking.