Monday, May 30, 2011

Meat Party Capped Off With The Hangover Part II

Apparently The Hangover Part II never had a fighting chance.

With a 35 percent score of critical reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, this is surely a pretty worthless movie. Except, by any other standards of comparison other than the first installment, this sequel would actually be bordering on riotous.

The beginning and the end are nearly as good as The Hangover, which is saying a lot, considering I ranked it the greatest comedy of all time. Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, and a capuchin monkey are particularly over-the-top funny.

However, the middle section in a nightclub, a tattoo parlor, and a Buddhist monk sanctuary are each lacking in inspiration and very slow. The producers could have done so much more. And the critics' complaints about how this is basically The Hangover Part I only in Thailand are certainly correct.

All that said, I certainly don't need my 90 minutes back. And reliving the original Hangover with my friends Gordie, Zak, and Brian for a Fogo de Chao Brazilian meat party really put Friday evening over the top.

**** out of ***** stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

James Franco Cuts Off Arm, Thrills Us With Delusions in 127 Hours

James Franco may have bombed as host of the Academy Awards, but he added to his impressive movie-character resume with his Academy-nominated performance in 127 Hours as outdoor adventure seeker Aron Ralston.

Much like his roles in Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, and Milk, he nails the laid-back and delusional persona. And it only gets better for Franco, who stars in what looks to be a tremendous upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

127 Hours is a beautifully filmed exploration of Canyonlands National Park in Utah as well as a very likable mountaineer's mind and thought process through the very difficult decision to cut off his lower arm to dislodge himself after a harrowing 127 hours caught by a fallen and unmovable rock.

It's pretty impressive how gripping this film is, especially considering that the only dramatization added to what is essentially a documentary was the scene in which he shows two female hikers how to jump into a deep pool beneath the rocks.

**** out of ***** stars

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beatles Action Figures Help Relive Childhood

The great thing about having a kid is that you can still find ways to be selfish. Or at least still find ways to spend money on consumer goods that serve no real utility.

Jackson (pictured left) loves the Beatles and R.E.M. and I think action figures are pretty sweet. Well, I have yet to find a Michael Stipe figure, but The Beatles' Yellow Submarine figures became a necessity.

I had originally planned just to get my favorite Beatle, Paul. But Jackson had other plans. Once he got that, and saw on the box that there were figures of the other three Beatles as well as the Blue Meanie, Jeremy Hilary Boob PhD (aka The Nowhere Man), Fred the Submarine Captain, the Glovey Lovey, and the submarine itself, it was all over.

As you can see behind him in his room, we now have the entire set (a couple of hundred dollars later). Jackson has progressed to the next stage of wanting doubles of all of them, and also the Lord Mayor. But the company inexplicably didn't make a figure of him (Jackson knows him from the bedtime book we have of the Yellow Submarine).

Luckily I can sidetrack him with the box of baseball cards I just bought him.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alma Tropicalia Hits a High Note

Word on the street has it that Saturday night's show at the funky Artisphere space in Arlington, Virginia was the last gig for the current lineup of Alma Tropicalia (pictured to the left). That's too bad because it seemed like most of the pieces were coming together for DC to have an excellent Brazilian tropicalia rock band firmly entrenched.

Nevertheless, it was a strong show in the long room in the Rosslyn neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Georgetown. The latin flavor was heightened by the 50-piece female drum band that opened and came on at the end of Alma Tropicalia's show as well. There was a lot of fun new music in the set, a killer background projection of Mad Men-like 1950s films, and all kinds of good vibes.

Too bad Alma Tropicalia, featuring my good friend Gordie (formerly in my last band, The Sprogs), seems to be making some changes to a pretty solid lineup.

Perhaps Gordie and I should reform The Sprogs or start a new band. I know I often say it, but I'm starting to get itchy to be motivated to writing lots of songs again. I've been on hiatus a little too long. With that thought, here is one of my favorite self-penned tunes that has yet to formally go into the recording studio. What do you think? Should I get a band to "rock it up," write a b-side to go with it, and release a new single?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Phantasm II Adds to Strong Horror Library of 1980s

Deadly silver balls. That creepy mortuary dude. Bad attempts at tough-guy humor from bald men.

Yes, 1979's Phantasm had it all. And I finally got around to - in honor of Friday the 13th - watching Phantasm II.

The horrendous acting and sometimes-slow pace make this arguably painful. But if you loved the first installment, you'll be pretty happy with this one. And, in all honesty, its Evil Dead 2-like stylings help it stack up well against the best movies of an incredible decade of horror flicks. (Released in 1988, with a budget of $3 million, it is supposedly the lowest-budget Universal production of the 1980s.)

Young Mike gets out of the mental ward where he landed at the end of the first film, realizes the "Tall Man" (pictured) and his Jawa-like creatures are still terrorizing his loved ones, and sets out on his personal quest to eradicate the bad guys.

Phantasm II takes a while to get going, but the second half is filled with (if not a discernible plot) wildly creative horror vignettes.

*** out of ***** stars

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sicko Indie Rockers Get Loud at Rock and Roll Hotel

West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood (pictured) visited the Rock and Roll Hotel last night and put on a great show. The Washington City Paper has great photos here.

The band got onstage and looked all of about 18 years old each. Which made it all the more surprising when they proceeded to manhandle their guitars into a mesmerizing combination of screeching and melodic feedback. With pounding, rapid-fire drums chugging away and impressively loud vocals, Surfer Blood was like a combination of The Smiths, Vampire Weekend, and The Pixies.

"Floating Vibes" kicked off the set and Pitchfork's Number 37 song of 2010 "Swim" near the end highlighted the hour-long performance.

**** out of ***** stars

Surfer Blood pranced and sang through the jubilant crowd during its set. Meanwhile, Austin headliners ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead did the same during their mind-poundingly loud part of the show. The only difference was that the Trail of Dead were much darker and gothic, and the crowd seemed totally different up near the front of the stage. For Surfer Blood, it had been harmless college indie hipsters. Now it was transformed into a slam-dancing pit of metal lunkheads.

While I love all of the Trail of Dead's album, I was underwhelmed by the lack of hooks in their live show. The four-piece was exceedingly tight, but much of their material consisted of unenjoyable jams. The songs that worked best were the very short ones, even when they were no more than two minutes of guitar wankery. At least they were more to the point.

** out of ***** stars

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Funny Email Chain: Worst Movie Sequels

I don't drag my friends and family onto my blog too often, but this little conversation between some of my oldest friends is noteworthy. What do you think are the worst movie sequels?

Dewey: My list of worst sequels of all time…….feel free to add your own…..i know it's endless, but these came to me quickly.

1. Caddyshack 2………..awful
2. Transformers 2…….first was good, this was way bad
3. Godfather 3…….maybe only cuz the first 2 are PHENOMENAL, and nothing could live up to those
4. Young guns 2……..just had fun typing it
5. Blair witch 2 ……..hard to follow the premise of #1
6. Honorable mention: Halloween 3, only cuz it has nothing to do with first 2, but I still kind of like it, and I know Mackie does too.

ET: Caddyshack 2 is horrible. Agree with your list and add the following:
Pet Semetary 2
Star Wars episode 1
All Jaws sequels
Weekend at Bernies 2

Scoots: Coal Miner’s Daughter part deux.

Dewey: Is that actually true, there was a 2….?

Scoots: The second “Hooper” was pretty bad, not to mention “Smoky and the Bandit” III.

Me: I can't really add anything to this list. Maybe Godfather 2 (or was it 3 that was really bad?), Basic Instinct 2, Weekend at Bernies 2 (should there have even been a 1?). Porky's 2 was pretty disposable if I recall correctly. I can't confirm that there actually was a coal miner's daughter 2, from a quick internet search. Don't mess with Halloween 3, Mathews!

Dewey: Porky’s was great……….Porky’s two was like retelling the story of Porky’s 1 to a friend who wasn’t there, and he just doesn’t get how funny it was to be there……

ET: Godfather 2 was awesome - 3 sucked.

Also, predator 2 and while most of the Friday the 13ths were bad, part 8 (Jason takes Manhattan) stands out - kills an entire river boat of high school kids and then dies in the NY sewers after toxic waste runs through it and turns him back into a child.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bedroom Recordings: 60s Soft Rock Surfer Girl

I've been in a holding pattern for a little while on writing music. And I rarely play other people's songs. So I thought I'd push myself to learn some good cover tunes to play this summer around the campfire.

First up: "Surfer Girl" by The Beach Boys. This was one of my favorite songs to sing at bedtime to Jackson when he was a baby. My version is nowhere near as good as the music of my two favorite new bands of the moment, Telekinesis and Yuck. And it certainly is a little embarrassing in light of the perfect and un-improvable Brian Wilson-led version.

But you've gotta start somewhere ...