Man of Steel

WTF Comments: Everyone’s a Critic edition

MUPPET-CRITICS

WTF Comments II: Everyone’s a Critic edition

Jeez, everyone’s a critic these days! Even critics have critics! Welcome to another installment of WTF Comments. This time I collected comments from readers who had a bone (or two, or three) to pick with my reviews!  I realize that sometimes my reviews can be a bit acerbic, but I calls ’em like I sees ’em.  Sometimes I can be a bit harsh, but it’s all in fun.  It serves me right to have some critics of my own take some shots at me! First up, Bryan did not like my 3.5/5 (70%) review for the Rival Sons. Bryan’s comment was lengthy so I took the liberty of highlighting the parts I like best!

your gimmicky comment is idiotic. They record with real vintage gear because they are trying to create that vibe not for one song, but that’s who they are and frankly I’m glad. So much of what is out now is 150 tracks of productions and tricks that cater to the ADD society who needs a new sound effect coming at them every 10 seconds to keep their attention. Just enjoy the fact that these are guys are setting up a few mics into some of the best gear studios can pull out of the closet and they deliver great songs that they can actually reproduce live with backing tracks…hey, there’s a concept. If you can appreciate that you shouldn’t be reviewing music…you know..music???

also, STOP comparing them to Led Zeppelin just because the drums are open mic’d and there’s space. Go back and read the reviews when Zep was playing…the critics killed them…but somehow now their the greatest thing ever. Have you ever hear them live? I love Zep but Jay Buchanan can hit EVERY note on the album live, Plant couldn’t do that a lot of the time. But I don’t even compare the two, just enjoy the band without having to pigeon hole them. Basically your saying here’s this band, but we don’t really validate them because I heard something similar before. The album has potential…Geez.. the album kicks ass so just get past yourself and get on board. How about this for a review…”Hey everyone, in this day and age of laptops and samples, finally a band just plugs in and records to tape and here it is…enjoy some great rock with soul and vibe and enjoy these guys laying it out there while not pitch correcting and time aligning everything. AND, when you see them live they’ll sound like what you heard on your iPod, how refreshing. Rival Sons should be applauded and you should buy the CD”.

:-)

Thanks, Bryan!  I always thought being compared to the mighty Zeppelin was quite a compliment, myself. Then there’s Dave.  Dave also does not think much of my writing skills, in regards to Triumph’s 1986 turd The Sport of Kings:

This article is pretty lame. Please do some research before you post stuff like this. Triumph had issue with the producer Ron Nevison. He wanted them to have a hit single and he was trying to craft the songs to be radio friendly. The band had been pretty much cranking out an album a year for the whole decade and touring in between and the record company was demanding more. The band was spent! Some of the songs aren’t as strong as previous outings, but it sounds like you were never much of a fan in the first place. Never be embarrassed about the music you like…whether it’s Triumph, Kenny G or Michael Jackson. I like what I like and i don’t care what anyone else thinks!

Somebody needs to tell Dave that you don’t have to be “much of a fan” to write a music review!

Then lastly, there’s scm.  He or she isn’t a person of many words, but smc didn’t think too much of my Man of Steel movie review.

You continue writing articles about what great screen writers & film makers bring son. Man of Steel 4.5/5.

For the record: I am not scm’s son!  Hope you enjoyed these comments.

 

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Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 2: Movies, TV and the rest

If you missed the Top Five Albums of 2013 lists, click here!

Some people got carried away and submitted more than 5 in their lists this year, Uncle Meat being the number one offender. But since Tom & Uncle Meat were good this Christmas, here are the Top Five (or Six) (or Ten) Movies of 2013.  And while we’re talking about movies we may as well do a Top TV Shows of 2013 as well huh?

Tom

SMAUG

Movies

6. Sound City
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. This Is The End
3. John Dies At The End
2. The World’s End
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

TV Shows 

SCHANGhhhhhhhh10. Rick and Morty
9. PTI
8. Colbert Report
7. Daily Show
6. Eagleheart
5. Venture Brothers
4. The Jeselnik Offensive
3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
2. Community
1. Game of Thrones

Meat

Movies

SOUND CITY
10. Carrie
9. Kick Ass 2
8. Pacific Rim
7. This is the End
6. Man of Steel
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
4. 42
3. Sound City
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
1. The Wolf of Wall Street

TV Shows

Meat came up with a Top Nine.  Sure, why not!

HEISENBERG9. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
8. The Following
7. The Killing
6. Walking Dead
5. Californication
4./3. Tie: Mad Men/Breaking Bad
2. American Horror Story: Coven
1. Game of Thrones

Seb

Movies

man-of-steel-25. Iron Man 3
4. Pacific Rim
3. Star Trek: Into Darkness
2. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
1. Man of Steel

Seb also had some Top Concerts he wanted to mention:  “Brian Setzer and Meshuggah….. Yeah, I know its weird….he he he!”

Mrs. LeBrain

SHELDONTV Shows

5. Jeopardy!
4. Dragon’s Den
3. Blue Bloods
2. The Big Bang Theory
1. Hockey Night In Canada

LeBrain

For a variety of reasons I don’t get out to the movies often, so I decided to just post Five Movies I Saw in 2013!

MoviesGARY KING

5. Man of Steel
4. This is the End
3. Sound City
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
1. The World’s End

TV Shows

When Mrs. LeBrain wasn’t watching hockey, I watched these shows in 2013:

5. Star Trek re-runs (best I could come up with)
4. The Liquidator
3. Toy Hunter
2. Survivorman
1. Breaking Bad

LES

Gallery: Christmas Haul 2013

Music, movies, and books! I’ve been very occupied these last couple days.

I get the Guiness’ Book of World Records, and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books every year. I imagine my surprise when I discovered a friend of ours in both books! Apparently, Sweet Pepper Klopek holds the world record for “Most Baking Sheets Buckled Over the Head for One Minute.” This is a guy who has been on my living room couch!  Lemon Kurri says:

“He’s in there a couple times. Most mouse traps sprung on a tongue in 1 min too.”

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Ultimate Cut: Watchmen – The Complete Story (blu-ray)

Hot on the heels of my Man of Steel review, here’s…the Watchmen.

WATCHMEN : The Ultimate Cut – The Complete Story (2009 Warner 4 disc blu-ray set)

Directed by Zack Snyder, 216 minutes 

What’s the greatest comic book movie of all time?  I’ve seen a lot of them. There’s quite a few I haven’t seen as well, but it’s a great topic for discussion.  I always have to put Watchmen on the table when discussing great comic book adaptations.

Watchmen is a complex tale.  Its original comic was ambitious, containing page after page of dense backstory information in the form of documents and faux-magazine articles, all very relevant.  There’s even a parallel story taking place, a comic within a comic, which directly reflects one (or arguably more) of the characters in the main story.  Characters and their psychology are key.  In addition, neither the comic nor the movie are linear.  The story unfolds within different time periods, flashing back and forth, as we learn more about the characters, their motivations, and the world they inhabit.

It is the world they inhabit that was the hook for me.  I’m a sucker for alternate universe stories.  Here’s one that sets us on Earth, 1985, but things have unfolded very differently.  The influence of various superheroes/vigilantes has caused history to unfold very differently.  Specifically, it is the presence of Dr. Manhattan, who puts a swift and decisive end to the Vietnam war, who influences history the most.  In this 1985, Richard Nixon is still president, and masked vigilantes are now outlawed.

The Watchmen are a group of such vigilantes, originally known as the Minutemen.  Some, such as Dr. Manhattan truly are superhuman.  Others, such as Nite Owl and his successor Nite Owl II, are mere mortals with high-tech gadgetry and skill as their allies.  All have retired, some in fame and some in anonymity…all but one.  Rorschach.  He remains active, alone and wanted.

The movie begins as a murder mystery.  Someone has managed to identify and kill Edward Blake — The Comedian, once one of the most dangerous heroes alive.  To overpower and murder Blake would require an individual of tremendous resources.  Who?  And are other former vigilantes also at risk?  Rorschach seems to be the only one who wants to know.

Being a fan of the graphic novel, I was very happy with the way that Zack Snyder captured Watchmen. It was done with love and care. The things that are discarded, I didn’t miss so much. The things that he changed, I understand why it was done.  There’s one layer to the story/mystery that has been discarded, probably to keep this thing under 4 hours!  The things that are reverently exactly the same as the comic made my jaw drop in awe.  The acting performances are what they are, but I have to give special mention to Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach.

WATCHMEN_0006The soundtrack is one of the best in recent memory. Outside of Wes Anderson, I haven’t loved a soundtrack this much in a long time.  It’s awesome from the stunning Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are A’Changing”, to Nat King Cole, to Simon and Garfunkel, Hendrix and Philip Glass, and probably the weirdest use of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in movie history.  The soundtrack is where it’s at.  The movie even contains a Village People sighting!  I’ll skip My Chemical Romance.

This Ultimate Cut weaves the comic-within-a-comic, Tales Of The Black Freighter, previously only available on its own, into the main body of Watchmen. These segments are narrated by Gerard Butler.  New live action linking sequences connect the movie to Black Freighter, much like it worked in the graphic novel. People who haven’t read the graphic novel might not understand what “Black Freighter” is doing there, but they should probably start with the less daunting theatrical cut to start with anyway.

WATCHMEN_0003The box set includes four discs, beautifully packaged. Hardly a complaint to be registered. The box is heavy and sturdy. Included is Watchmen: The Motion Comic, packed in its own case, 5 hours long on its own. One disc is the expired digital copy of the theatrical cut (whoop de do) and another disc is loaded with special features. Best of these is Under The Hood, which is based on the graphic novel segments covering Holis Mason.  Mason, the original Nite Owl I, wrote an autobiography called Under the Hood; this film is a faux-documentary on his story. It is presented as a television program from 1975 re-run in 1985, including commercials and scratchy footage. At 35 minutes, this is an absolute must. Other special features include brand new audio commentaries, for those who dare to keep going deeper. This set is just loaded.  Unfortunately I found the sound level inconsistent, I had to turn it up and down frequently.

Having said that, I’m not going to discard my Director’s Cut of Watchmen. Clocking in at almost four hours, watching this version is a commitment. I know that occasionally, I will want to watch the “shorter” version of the film. Since a digital copy of the theatrical (shortest) cut is included here, maybe you won’t feel the need to double-up on Watchmen editions.  For an enriched viewing experience, set aside the four hours one afternoon and enjoy.

4/5 stars

Malin Akerman … Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II

Billy Crudup … Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman

Matthew Goode … Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias

Jackie Earle Haley … Rorschach

Jeffrey Dean Morgan … Edward Blake / Comedian

Patrick Wilson … Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl

Carla Gugino … Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre

Matt Frewer … Moloch

MOVIE REVIEW: Man Of Steel (IMAX 3D)

MAN OF STEEL

Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013 Warner Bros.

I’m a child of the 70’s, therefore a long time Superman fan.  I’m also a fan of Zack Snyder’s The Watchmen.  I wasn’t sure if those two worlds should ever meet, and to be honest, after seeing a preview screening of Man of Steel, I’m still not sure.

The Good:

Michael Shannon as General Zod.  Rather than copy Terrance Stamp’s Zod, Shannon’s is grittier, more passionate.  His motivations are different.  Rather than revenge, this version of Zod seeks only what is best for the Kryptonian people.  As a general, he was born, bred, and trained for nothing but the betterment of his people.  Unfortunately, this is at odds with the interests of Earth.

Also great was Henry Cavill as Kal-El.  Nobody will ever forget Christopher Reeve, but Cavill’s talent, chiseled looks and physique will certainly have people forgetting Brandon Routh.  Cavill’s Superman was 100% flawless.

And finally, Russell Crowe as Jor-El.  I’m a not a Russell Crowe fan, not in the slightest, but he was great.  His Jor-El had a much larger role than the Marlon Brando incarnation had.  Jor-El is the architect of everything that unfolds.

The Bad:

I have problems with the wanton destruction.  Kal-El’s prime motivation is always the safety of others.  Yet he, Zod, and Zod’s henchmen pretty much destroy all of Metropolis and reduce it to dust.  Even though Zod seeks and needs Kal-El, our hero doesn’t use this to his advantage.  He doesn’t, say, fly to the Pacific Ocean to battle Zod.  Or Antarctica.  He stays right in the middle of Metropolis and is a party to damn near every building coming down!

I also didn’t like the look of the Kryptonian technology.  It was too monochrome and Cybertronian for my tastes.  (Yet, somehow Kal-El ends up with the only blue, red and gold suit on the planet?)

The Ugly:

I left the theater with a booming headache.  I don’t know if it was the 3D or the overly loud sound mix, but my head hurts.  To sum up the experience, the last hour of the film had too many missiles, airplanes, spaceships and carnage flying around.  The brain can’t process that much information.  I didn’t feel that the 3D really enhanced my experience.  (My brother in law Martin said the movie felt like a Michael Bay film, with all that crap blowing up.)

Man_of_Steel_37095Man of Steel had a decent story, that begins where Superman and Superman II did, but then goes in its own direction.  In many regards this movie is Superman:  First Contact.  It’s funny how often we forget that perhaps the most remarkable thing about Superman, is that he’s an alien!  Living among us!  Plotwise, the McGuffin here is something called the Codex, which contains the genetic blueprints for an entire generation of new Kryptonians.  As Krypton’s last defender, Zod wants it.  But his interests and Kal-El’s are at odds, since Zod plans to exterminate humanity and move in here!

I have to admit I’m surprised that Snyder got such great performances out of this cast.  Not that the cast are a bunch of hacks; they’re not.  Amy Adams was fine, and so was Diane Lane.  But let’s face it…we’ve seen other directors in the past get wooden performances out of Lawrence Fishburn and Kevin Costner.  Fishburn amounts to little more than a background character, but Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is much more important than the version in Superman.  He filled the role appropriately.  My mother always said that Costner is best when he’s playing a farmer.

Much like The Watchmen, Snyder tells stories in multiple timelines simultaneously via flashbacks.  In Man of Steel, these flashbacks are all critical moments of character development.  This was done very well, with Cavill playing Clark Kent’s evolution perfectly.  At the same time, I’m surprised Snyder didn’t use more popular and classic rock music.  He did use a little bit, but certainly not on the scale of The Watchmen or even Suckerpunch.

I noticed two Battlestar Galactica alumni:  Tahmoh Penikett had probably 1 second screen time, but Alessandro Juliani had a bit more.  Why were they in it?  Because Man of Steel was partly filmed in Canada!

Although I will probably buy Man of Steel on blu-ray to “have the whole collection”, I don’t have an immediate craving to see it again.

Man of Steel opens today.  Time for an Advil.

3.5/5 stars

IMG_00000294

REVIEW: Europe – The Final Countdown (1986)

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TFC FRONT

EUROPE – The Final Countdown (1986, 2001 Epic remaster)

I remember back in 1986/1987, all the rock magazines were playing on the same angle: Who’s better, Europe or Bon Jovi? Hard to believe that the two bands were once considered on the same playing field, now that Bon Jovi are permanent megastars. Not to mention their music sounds nothing alike!

Everybody knows “The Final Countdown” which received a new life thanks to TV shows shows like Arrested Development. (Gob Bluth uses it as his theme song during his ill-fated magic acts.)  What you may not know is that this album had three other classic singles (“Rock the Night”, “Carrie”, “Cherokee”) and 6 great album tracks with no duds. As an added bonus, this remaster also includes three live tracks from 1987’s Final Countdown World Tour.  These may in fact be the same tracks as the Extended Versions release, but I don’t have that one to verify.

The synth-y title track kicks off the proceedings, its regal anthemic melody setting the mood. A science fiction themed song, the people of Earth have departed for Venus (let’s ignore that Venus is 460 °C). The lyrics…not super great on this album, but let’s not forget that English was their second language and they were still kids at the time. Regardless, “The Final Countdown” is a complete success as a song, from insanely catchy verses to chorus to intricate guitar solo courtesy of John Norum.

“Rock The Night” follows, another catchy song, this time with the guitar handling the meat of the tune. Then, the hit ballad “Carrie”. It’s a bit soft by today’s standards but is still a well written keyboard ballad with a great melody. This is followed by another great rock song, “Danger on the Track”. Vocalist Joey Tempest tells us of a journey followed by “strangers on my back”.  (See, because “back” rhymes with “track”.)  Again, not a great lyric, but it is a great song. Side One of the original LP was finished with the fantastic “Ninja”, which in my own personal world was a single in its own right. The lyrics: “If I were a noble ancient knight, I’d stand by your side to rule and fight.” OK then.

PHANTOM ZONE

Apparently the phantom zone wasn’t just for General Zod.

Side Two kicked off with a riff and a smile, and probably the best tune: “Cherokee”.  The lyrics here are not bad, a tale of the demise of the American Indian. However it is the riff that holds the song down, a typical Norum burner of great integrity. Still can’t tell what that voice says at the beginning of the song, though! The next track is “Time Has Come”, a mid-tempo soft one that I considered filler back then but like quite a lot now. “Heart Of Stone” has a bit more meat to it. This is followed by the fastest and heaviest song on the album, “On The Loose”, which has some of Norum’s best playing. In fact it was this song that brought Norum to my attention as a monster shredder in the first place. After hearing this song, I continued to watch his career with great interest, from solo albums to Don Dokken back to Europe. The album closed with another mid-tempo soft song, “Love Chaser”, which has a keyboard melody reminiscent of “The Final Countdown” itself, bringing us full circle. It is another great tune with killer melody and vocals from Joey Tempest.

The three bonus tracks are live takes of “The Final Countdown,” “Danger on the Track” and “Carrie”. Clearly, Europe could always cut it live.  These are from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1987, and feature Norum’s replacement Kee Marcello on guitar.  Marcello is no slouch, and had a different style to Norum’s, therefore adding another element to the songs.

The Final Countdown is the kind of album that I think should be owned, rather than just pick up a hits disc. You won’t go wrong with any of these ten tracks. The live stuff is just an added bonus.

5/5 stars