The Watchmen

Gallery: Other Stuff I Collect That Isn’t Music

I collect toys.  Lots of toys.

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GALLERY: Thanks for the rock!

Thanks to Simon McGhee for this autographed Sheepdogs disc!  I was supposed to go see them but I got sick and couldn’t go.  Simon had the band sign their new album for me anyway!  Thanks man!

And thanks to Mrs. LeBrain for winning this CD and these tickets from 107.5 Dave FM!  Blue Coupe (members of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper, get it?) are playing here next week.  They are Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper) and Joe & Albert Bouchard from BOC.  I hear good things about them.  The CD is a cool compilation double set of great Canadian classics!  Included on this disc, that I didn’t previously own and I’m happy to have:

  • David Wilcox – “Do the Bearcat”
  • The Watchmen – “Stereo”
  • Red Rider – “Lunatic Fringe”
  • The Band – “The Weight”

The picture of the food is completely unrelated.  We just had a great dinner at Borealis in Kitchener last night.  These are the barn door wings and the appetizer platter.   As usual Luigi was our server, so thank you Luigi for an excellent time!

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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

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CONCERT REVIEW: When Styles Collide (April 5 2013)

I’ve known one of these artists for 40 years, the other since she was born.  Rob Szabo is a childhood friend, and Kathryn Ladano got all the musical talent in my family!

563656_10152710710545468_886971882_nWhen Styles Collide:

MIX Music Series Concert #2


Musicians:

April 5, 2013, the Button Factory, Kitchener Ontario

Sponsored by NUMUS Concerts

Mix 2 posterA lot of rock fans can get into more cutting edge music, things a bit more challenging.  Many of us have ears already opened, by progressive rock giants such as Deep Purple, Dream Theater, and Frank Zappa.  When some of the region’s best musicians from various genres gather together to improvise live with an audience, it’s gonna be interesting.  The basic concept of When Styles Collide was to bring together players from different backgrounds, and see what happens.  Although some songs are pre-written pieces, all of the performances contained music made up entirely on the spot at one point or another.  Some are completely spontaneous.

Rob Szabo is a well known singer/songwriter and producer (his production helped bluesman Steve Strongman win a Juno award in 2013 for best Blues album).  Szabo is also a hell of a guitar soloist.  On another side of the musical spectrum is bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano.  Even though the two have known each other for over 35 years (essentially all of Kathryn’s life since they were childhood neighbors), they’d never actually played together before.  Also present was Kathryn’s frequent collaborator and bandmate from the Digital Prowess days, Jason White.  The quintet was completed by Brandon Valdivia on the traps, and Brent Rowan with some smoove saxophone.

A cool spy drama from the early 60′s would make a great backdrop for the first performance (Rowan’s “By Chance”).  Mixing exotic rhythms with hypnotic patterns, sax and drums dominate.  Szabo rocked back and forth to the music before breaking out into a jazz-tinged solo.  Then it’s Ladano’s turn to lead, with some contrasting highs and lows.  The crowd broke into spontaneous applause — something rarely seen at an experimental music geek event such as this, at least in my experience! (I’m told this is more common with jazz crowds.)  They then rolled into an Ian Paice-style drum solo, before coming back to the main riff of the song.

The second piece, “A Side of Me” is one of Rob’s songs, led by a mournful riff, before Jason White joins him.  This is a vocal number, with Rob Szabo’s expressive vocals.  It sounds like it exists somewhere in early Radiohead, before they got too carried away with themselves.

Then it’s a slow jam (“Sketch 1″ from Valdivia), perhaps from that same 1960′s spy drama.  But this is the scene where our spy’s had too much to drink and he’s wandering around some dark alley after a heavy rain.  This is followed by “Rorschach” named for the classic vigilante from The Watchmen.  It’s a more chaotic jam, perhaps reflecting the character’s on-the-edge life.  Some seriously eerie sax and bass clarinet keep you on the edge, while the percussion is a distant thunderstorm.

Rob said “Incandescent” was written during a period of heavy touring.  It’s one of Rob’s best tunes, melodic and melancholy, but with an occasional glimmer to let you know he’ll be OK.  The band seemed to be having fun jamming behind him.  Brent Rowan’s sax solo was appropriate and stunning on its own, but then Jason white took the lead with some fluttering piano awesome-sauce.

The band closed their first set with an improvisation, a rhythmic jam.  It’s really cool to see and hear the music build, like waves.  You can catch glances back and forth, the musicians communicating by eye, but most of the time they seem well ensconced in their playing.  It’s also cool to know that the music never existed before this moment, and if it wasn’t for the recording equipment, it would also be lost forever just after that moment.

The second set began rhythmically, with a catchy instrumental jam (“Sketch 2″).  There were solos from the wind instruments, and a constant background of interesting and sometimes exotic rhythms.  Rob Szabo laid down a guitar part that looked really really hard; his eyes concentrating on a music stand in front of him, his hand making giant leaps up and down the frets!  A cool drum solo was also captivating.  Kathryn explains:

“The two Sketches do have some basic material that we are following.  That’s why you hear a lot of melodies repeat. It features a small amount of notes and a basic structure that tells you how often to repeat, and when to solo. That’s how we’re able to end together, because it tells us that too. Despite the structure, the two Sketches are still very free and allow us to each do our own thing a lot of the time.”

“Good Son” is from Rob Szabo’s Sore Loser, part of a double EP.  The band didn’t obstruct the quiet song, but instead accented it.  I enjoyed Jason White’s complimentary piano lines.

The jazz-funk of “Funk” (good title) rocked, like a sweaty version of “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”, saxophone taking center stage.  Then, surprisingly, a spoken word piece.  Szabo put down the guitar and exchanged it for the microphone; the words were Nietzsche.  Jason White wrote the music, which he called “Fierce Fighter”.

Kathryn wrote “I Told You So”, a tricky little number that employs some of her favourite bass clarinet tricks.  It also seems to dance around the main rhythm to “Sunshine of Your Love”.  It’s pretty lyrical and out there, very cool and weird.  The band ended with a final Szabo song, “Police Report” that evolved into an extended jam.  Rob’s echo-y guitar solo ended the show on a particularly noisy, rock n’ roll note.

4.5/5 stars

Set 1:
1. “By Chance” by Brent Rowan
2. “A Side of Me” by Rob Szabo
3. “Sketch 1” by Brandon Valdivia
4. Improvisation by Kathryn Ladano, Brent Rowan, and Brandon Valdivia
5. “Rorschach” by Jon Maheraj (arranged by Jason White)
6. “Incandescent” by Rob Szabo
7. Group Improvisation
Set 2:
1. “Sketch 2” by Brandon Valdivia
2. “Good Son” by Rob Szabo
3. “Funk” by Brent Rowan
4. “Fierce Fighter” by Jason White
5. “I Told You So” by Kathryn Ladano
6. “Police Report” by Rob Szabo (leads into a final group improvisation)
Some photos by Martin LePage