Monday, June 15, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Let me begin by saying this movie has some graphic violence, and also Paris Hilton. Those two things might scare away a large number of people. Despite these two things, and somewhat because of them (yes, even Paris), this movie is amazing. Stop reading and go rent it. It's entertaining from start to finish, is very visually pleasing, the soundtrack (and since it is a rock opera, this is most of the dialogue) was amazing.

The movie presents a vision of the future of widespread organ failure. Fitting with the natural capitalist American response of most movie businessmen, our villain, Rotti Largo, founds Geneco- a company that produces organs and sells them at high cost, as well as produces society's newest drug of choice. Due to the high cost of saving your own life, people sign steep contracts to get the organs. When they are unable to pay, Geneco sends a Repo-Man after them to get the organs back.

Our heroine is Shilo (Alexa Vega of the Spy Kids series, but don't hold that against her here), a sickly girl trying to live outside of her father's confinements. Her father, Nathan, (Anthony Stewart Head from Buffy) keeps her indoors to protect her frail health. Nathan is also secretly the Repo Man.

Supporting characters include the three Largo children, including Hilton as the plastic surgery and drug addicted spoiled daughter, the GraveRobber who acts as a narrator and inbetween drug deals, and Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman, the original Phantom of the Opera star), the most popular entertainer around and also the best friend of Shilo's dead mother.

Repo! had a very limited release in theaters, but I'm hoping it can gather some underground steam so it's not lost on our culture. I won't go through the entire movie, but here's a rundown of some of the parts I remember fondly. Paris Hilton's face falls off. After trying to repair a botched facial transplant, the heiress attempts to establish herself as a singer to disasterous results when her face falls off. What's a girl to do? Sell it online, of course. The big finale occurs onstage in front of a sold out audience. You can read as much or as little as you want into what that says about present society but it makes something so over the top both even more extreme, and also work. The audience buys it, so I buy it. I'll end with the cameo from Joan Jett. Because her appearance was just as random and short as this description of it.

Sidenote: if you search for images of Repo! The Genetic Opera DVD on google and specify the color orange, you end up with a bunch of non-character related pictures of Paris Hilton.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

3 is a Magic Number: Jordin Sparks - Battlefield

That's what I learned from Schoolhouse Rock. Well, actually it's one of many things I learned from those wonderful cartoons. This is mostly to introduce a running theme I've noticed so I can keep track of it.

Pop music loves saying things three times. For some reason, even if it's just lazy song writing, an extremely large number of popular songs rely on the convention that saying a word or phrase three times in a row creates a good song. Somehow, it works. I don't have examples of failed songs with this convention for obvious reasons, but the success stories are all over the radio.

All three of Flo Rida's singles from Mail On Sunday repeated themselves. First we got Low, Low, Low, then he was stuck on an ele- ele- elevator, then we put our hands in the ayer, ayer, ayer. Beyonce can see your halo, halo, halo. Stand under Rihanna's umbrella -ella -ella. Kelis shakes things up a bit by adding an "ugghh!!!" in between the second and third "I hate you so much right now"s in "Caught Out There."

Mary J. Blige - "Come To Me (Peace)" - repeats Peace
MJB - "Enough Cryin" - she's had enough cryin, cryin, cryin and it's time to say bye bye bye
Chris Brown - "Forever" - -eva -eva
Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy" - structure of chorus: does that make me/you crazy? x3
Omarion - "Ice Box" - I'm so cold, I'm so cold, I'm so cold
Alicia Keys - "No One"
Akon - "Right Now (Na Na Na)" - it's even in the title. the song's all about the na na nas
Timbaland feat. The Hives - "Throw it on Me"
Kat DeLuna - "Whine Up"
Hilary Duff - "Beat Of My Heart"
*NSync - "Bye Bye Bye"
ABBA - "Gimme Gimme Gimme"; "Money Money Money"
Amy Whinehouse - "Rehab"
Natasha Bedingfield - "These Words"
Ciara feat. Chris Brown - "Turntables"
Justin Timberlake - "What Goes Around.../...Comes Back Around"
James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"

Our newest contributor to the trend is Jordin Sparks. She premiered her new single, "Battlefield," this week and performed it live on the American Idol results show. The song is filled with "a battlefield" x3 and "get your armor" x3. I have to admit that I'm liking this song so far. I'm glad the live performance got rid of the annoying synths in the studio version. During the chorus, they create this noise that distracts from the rest of the song and doesn't bother to be in the same key at all. Even though the answer to the song's question was answered back in the 80s, love is like a battlefield because 'Love is a Battlefield,' Jordin could have a nice sized hit on her hands with this song. Her previous three singles (Tattoo, No Air and One Step At A Time for those not paying attention) lacked the energy this song has. "Battlefield" has the potential to become almost anthemic in its sound, and is more upbeat. I also think Jordin has improved as a vocalist, which is doubly as impressive considering her health complications with her voice over the past two years.

I can't figure out how to embed a myspace copy of the song for people to listen to, but here's a link to Jordin's music page where you can listen to "Battlefield" in its entirety.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chrisette Michele - Epiphany

On Tuesday, both Chrisette Michele and Ciara released their newest albums. I've been going back and forth between the two constantly for the past few days wondering how I wanted to present my reviews of them. At first I was going to offer a comparison, but I've realized that my feelings for Ciara's Fantasy Ride are too complex to be handled in anything other than a track by track discussion. Even though I like Epiphany more, my feelings for it are much more simple and I can just do a traditional review here.

Michele has said publicly that her goal for this album was to make music that people could bob their heads to, and she has succeeded. While the material may not have the uptempo makings of a mainstream hit, R&B stations have picked up on the title track and the second single "What You Do [feat. Ne-Yo]" is a promising follow-up. Epiphany is one step in the pop direction from Michele's first album, I Am, in that the Ne-Yo produced record contains a small boost and tempo and energy. Michele's voice is still powerful and soulful, and it sounds like she's been working to become an even more impressive singer. On "Notebook," she effortlessly hits notes that previously have sounded stretched and barely there on earlier recordings.

The themes of Epiphany deal with a lot of breaking up. "Epiphany (I'm Leaving)," "Blame It On Me," "Playin' Our Song," "Another One," and "I'm Okay" all talk about the ending of a relationship, with "Fragile" and "Porcelain Doll" threatening to call it off if things don't improve. That's 7/12 tracks. The other tracks cover a crush, meeting "Mr. Right," two love songs during a relationship, and a song to a father about letting his daughter go. While this could create a repetitive nature to the album, Michele and Ne-Yo do a good job developing a variety of sounds within such a small spectrum. While I find the strongest points of the album are "Notebook" and "Fragile," I would strongly recommend buying this album in its entirety.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make Me A Supermodel - Down on the Farm

The final eight supermodel-wannabes all took a field trip to a farm where they had to pose with an animal. Mountaha and Sandhurst got Molly, a two day old calf; Salome, Brandon and Colin posed with a bull; Jordan and Amanda were each on a horse, and Jonathon stood between the two horses. For the runway, they wore tweed country inspired clothing and tried to be elegant.

Jonathan clearly did the best this week. Guest Judge Maggie Rizer (sp?) said that he should fax this to his wife immediately. It's modeling, and it's also an authentic looking country image. During the rest of the episode, Jonathon demonstrated that he can do push-ups faster than Sandhurst when the models were ambushed by a personal trainer. He also won immunity this week.

I don't think this photo should have won the challenge, but the photographer chooses, so I think it's the end result combined with overall performance throughout the shoot. The shot makes Sandhurst look very strong, but it kind of makes his torso look a little short. Something about the camera angle and maybe how high the pants are. We learned this week that Sandhurst loves ice cream and eats a lot of cereal.

Salome did really well this week. I like the pose, she's one of the only people that did a really modelish pose this week. Her upbringing made her really comfortable and she seemed to be in control during the shoot. She didn't do that much the rest of the time.

There's an obvious gap in quality between the first three and Mountaha, but she did much better than the other four. The problem with three of the bottom five is that they were just boring. She's just kind of kneeling there trying to keep the calf in frame rather than making sure she looks good. It's not her job to get the animal's good side. Mountaha's walk was good this week.

Even though Colin was eliminated for this photo (along with his bad walking) I think it's better than the other three. He really tried and the result is at least something that's not as boring as Brandon/Jordan. We also learned that Colin smells really bad after working out. He also kind of bragged about beating Kerryn, which... I thought she was like his best friend in the house?

Even though what she's doing is really bad and boring, I still like this shot of Jordan. I love the way it's framed with the view of the stables behind her. She's lucky she knows how to walk well and has a book full of good photos to ignore this one. Jordan doesn't work out apparently. A lot of people hate the thin person that never works out, but that's me too, and like me, Jordan is really out of shape when she's forced to join the group exercise. Oh, did you know she doesn't like Amanda?

Amanda was almost sent home for being sex on a horse, but I'm putting her above Brandon because this isn't boring. Bad is better to me than boring, because at least it can be memorable. People will remember Amanda sexing it up on a horse way before they remember Brandon standing there doing nothing.

Here's the offending shot. It's so boring, but the judges just let him slip through with a warning to pick up his game. He seemed a lot closer to booking the go-see he went on with Sandhurst than Sandhurst did. In part because he doesn't have nearly as big of thighs so he fit the sample.

Next week, the seven remaining models are posing nude. Salome's weight issues will probably put her in the bottom again. Amanda seems to be a favorite to go home, so we'll see if she can do sexy and sensual without being sleazy. Also, in order to prep for the shoot, the guys have to do a lot of manscaping and Brandon cuts his testicle(s).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Let's All Go To The Movies - Wolverine

So I saw Wolverine tonight. I feel like I was expecting more than I got. While it was fun to see all the different mutants, there were a few obvious plot issues - and I'm not just talking about differences between the film and the comics.

This is somewhat spoilerish, but not to the point where I'm going to give away the whole movie. I just want to complain about the major plot problem. Skip the next paragraph if you want to remain 100% unspoiled.

When Wolverine meets Gambit and they're about to fight, Wolverine sees Sabretooth and decides to fight him instead. If Gambit hates Sabretooth as well, as he reveals in the preceding conversation, why would he interrupt the fight and let him get away? I know you couldn't actually kill the character off, but the situation just wasn't natural.

I felt that the acting was sufficient for what it was. The Blob was the most annoying/worst actor, so good news for He did decent enough for his first effort. Most characters didn't really have to do that much, since the movie is less than two hours long and involves a large variety of locations and people present.

I know the movie is going to make tons of money no matter what anyone says at this point. It's the first big summer movie of the year, and the anticipation for this has been brewing for years. It will be interesting to see how people react to the film after seeing it. Will it experience the near-universal praise of The Dark Knight or will it be a more realistic reaction? I'm kind of thinking a Juno-type effect where all the hype is going to end up hurting people's perception. I say go see it, enjoy it, but know it's far from perfect. I'm hoping some of the later movies of the summer (next week's Star Trek, HP6, Transformers 2, GIJoe, etc) will be much better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Heroes - Volume 4 Finale

I'm semi-live blogging the finale of Heroes tonight. I'm not going to waste a bunch of posts, so I'll just edit in to this one as the show goes on. Even though I like this show, I'm a little surprised it's not getting cancelled.

Pre-credits -
How did Danko fire two darts into Nathan's back with one shot?

We kind of just get some more random clips from last week with a little expansion. HRG knows well enough to let Claire and Angela run off to save Nathan, and then gets pulled over like we saw.

Sylar can shapeshift, so he figured out that if he moves that spot in the back of his head where he's vulnerable, he can't really be killed. Umm... put him through a wood chipper. Fargo his ass. Anyway, he gets everyone to think Danko killed another guard and throws Nathan into the bathroom to get to later.

Commercials: Star Trek looks really good. Good for Zoe Saldana to keep finding work.

Angela's off to find Matt Parkman, because we need more annoying people for this finale to work. Also, she dreamt he was there. Must have been a nightmare.

Sylar's now in Nathan's form using his stolen power of object-memory thing like "sniffing" from the movie Push. Claire is dumb and can't tell the difference between Sylar and her father. Their personalities are not similar at all, and it's kind of obviously not right.

Hiro and Ando are still running around being pointless. Hiro's so boring, especially now that he might not have a power.

These scenes are so short. I never really realized how we bounce back and forth between storyline so quickly.

Commercials. I hate so many of these characters. I'm not sure why I like this show.

I heard a spoiler that someone's dying tonight, but it didn't say who. I hope it's not just Danko since his storyline is ending.

Peter gets Nathan. That's the scene. Meanwhile, Danko admits his storyline for the past several episodes for HRG, because apparently since they don't have powers they can be trusted to share a big cell at Building 26. They're going to work together for mutual benefit! Yeah?! No. How contrived and obvious. Especially the handshake. But no, Hiro stops time and while Ando takes their photos from the wall of suspects we stare at all the frozen people.

They make their way to the hospital room of heroes and only save Suresh, because why save the others and find out if they have any useful abilities when you can just save the most annoying and not pay the extras. So, Suresh magically knows that Hiro's body is rejecting his powers.

Claire and not-Nathan check in to see the president.

Hiro saves HRG from being knocked out by Danko, but collapses as his eyes go bloodshot and his nose bleeds. But I thought Ando was supposed to kill him in that vision of the future we saw? If you're going to admit that random events and choices will continuously change the future, you should stop showing us scenes from the future, Show.

Sylar's captured Claire and boasts to HRG.


Sylar's monologuing for Claire and comparing their lives. It's awkward since apparently Sylar can control her movements, but not what she's saying. Now he's hitting on her over wine?

Nathan and Peter arrive to take down Sylar and Claire goes flying out the door at them. She get's looked out the room and we don't get to see the resulting fight scene because that would cost too much money. The room does end up on fire though. She finds "Peter", and then Sylar and Nathan return, so it really was Peter. Wait!!! Sylar just slit Nathan's throat. He's dead. Wow. He's not really who I was the most sick of on this show, but I will not miss this character.

Back from commercials and Matt's met up with Angela. He refuses to help her because that's 'not why he came there,' but is soon convinced because really what kind of plan is "I'm going to DC to save the world!"

At the hotel/political headquarters Angela does a good job finding/mourning for her son. She's easily the best part of the show. Meanwhile, not-Nathan is stalking the president. But wait! The president is really Peter who had absorbed all of Syler's powers during the fight. Oh, it's important to note that during an 'everyone dies' speech, Sylar name-dropped Arthur Patrelli, because remember that whole power? Peter uses it to make Sylar normal and vulnerable. He gets drugged and is done for.

More commercials, but I can tell we're pretty much done. We just need a nice little wrap up...

Oh, apparently Matt's here so he can turn Sylar into Nathan by mentally manipulating him. Which... sounds really weird, even for a show about super powers. It also seems like it would easily wear off as soon as Matt leaves the room/gets knocked out/takes a nap. But apparently not. Also, apparently Peter didn't steal the whole shapeshifting power, because he turns into Nathan. So while Nathan died, it's really Sylar's personality who died. What a dumb ending. They all decide to name their new effort The Company, because that hasn't been done before.

Hiro and Ando head home, because they have nothing else to do. Suresh is randomly hanging around to be in the scene.

Volume 5 is called redemption and starts six weeks later. We start at the home of a Building 26 agent who's house has flooded. The water becomes a nude Ali Larter who has become evil since she shattered a few weeks ago. She's been tracking down and killing those who tried to kill her in front of her nephew.

Nathan 'doesn't feel like himself,' which is really poor foreshadowing. He still has Sylar's clock thing going on and Angela's worried.

I'm not looking forward to next season. Ali Larter as a villain doesn't really fit with what we saw of her previously.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tropic Thunder

I just saw this movie for the first time on Wednesday. I loved it for so many reasons, from its status as a parody of war movies, to its commentary on cinema in general, there were so many little things that add to it.

1. The Soundtrack
War movies (especially those based on Vietnam) have this wonderful tendency to use music by artists that were involved in the anti-war movement of the counterculture. Like using The Doors to open Apocalypse Now, Tropic Thunder uses a great collection of 60s music including Buffalo Springfield and The Rolling Stones.

2. Alpa Chino
A great send up of hip-hop rapper/actors, Alpa Chino also provided a sort of 'straight' man to Kirk Lazarus. The movie opens with his ad for "Booty Sweat" and "Bust-A-Nut," his energy drink and food bar in the same vein as Pimp Juice. He represents LL, Will Smith, T.I., 50, Luda, and any other rapper who decides to get into acting (Mos Def doesn't count), and the revelation that he's gay is also pretty funny considering the rumors surrounding Will Smith, Diddy and other hip-hop stars.

3. From the beginning fake trailers to introduce our actors, Tropic Thunder makes passing jabs at the movie business throughout the entire film. When Lazarus advises Tugg Speedman to not go "full retard" to get a more meaningful performance, he spouts off a long list of Oscar winners to back up his claim. Also, the Klump-bashing Fattie franchise Jeff Portnoy stars in was hilarious. It was nice that it only played such a small part in the movie, but it was great that it was put in there. Also, Ben Stiller used his standing in the industry to get a wonderful collection of cameos. Tobey Maguire as a gay monk fondling Lazarus's rosary beads and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lance Bass and Jon Voight at the Oscars made great additions to the movie just by being there.

4. Ben Stiller and Jack Black were not Ben Stiller and Jack Black
Usually I hate Jack Black and Ben Stiller has a tendency to place the same character over and over again. Stiller did a very good job of writing characters that both used his strengths, without being the cliche man in over his head he usually ends up with. Jack Black really toned down his energy and I greatly appreciated it.

5. I'm not even familiar enough with war movies to begin to list the references here. Check out this list:
Although I do want to add that I don't think it's complete yet. For example, the first big explosion where the trees explode from left to right was taken directly out of Apocalypse Now.