Thursday, December 30, 2010


"F.U. Penguin: Telling cute animals what's what"

A funny witty book that talks about cute animals in the most sarcastic form of humor. This book will open your mind as well as your sense of humor. The author tries to explain his weird obsession with Penguins, followed by his odd obsession with cute animals. Feeling sick of being sucked into these animals cute and cuddly looks. He decides to write a book and exploit these animals as if they were doing this image for attention. "F.U. Penguins" starts off very humorous, but as you gradually read on in this novel.  The humor feels as if it were forced. There's nothing wrong with it. Although you'd wish that most of the short stories didn't feel forced to be funny. This approach sort of takes the edge out of the book in many ways. While at the same time leaving you wanting to read on. This book is highly recommended and does contain strong language.

Radiohead "Pablo Honey"

Radiohead's first album seems somewhat stellar compared to their other albums. This album contains their most overplayed song "Creep". This song became popular because guitarist Jonny Greenwood felt the song was too soft and decided to play his guitar very loud and aggressively during the chrous. Somehow this gave the song that angry tone and was considered the best. But there's more to this album that just that song. "You" (the first song on the album) has a very nice approach in terms of melody and lyrics. Very dark and moody track, Thom displays more emotion in this song than he does in "Creep". The lyrics aren't as depressing as "Creep", but they're a bit more dark and disturbing. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and "Ripchord" are two other tracks that are very well worth listening to. Radiohead's guitar heavy days are well far behind them. But their first album could arguably be the least favorite by fans. With some songs sounding similar to Nirvana. Even in this case, Radiohead manages to put together a album that's entertaining to listen to and worth buying on iTunes.

iPad just an oversized iPod Touch
Apple iPad ($499)

Likes: The simplistic approach to touch screen technology, plenty of apps to choose from, light weight design makes carrying it more portable than your conventional laptop.

Dislikes: Priced very high, even with Wi-fi from At&t, not enough memory to justify asking price, can't fully replace a laptop, battery life is just down right horrible, looks like an oversized iPod Touch.

Overall: The iPad is a good stylish chooses to the tablet PC. There's plenty of apps and much fun is offered with the iPad. But the lack of memory and the high asking price may push some away from it. Plus it looks like an oversized iPod Touch.

Devon test drives a Jeep
2010 Jeep Cherokee 4X4 ($37,400*)

Likes: Solid on road feel, comfortable well adjustable front seats, great veiw out, plenty of passing power when you need it, plenty of cargo space and all-wheel-drive system that intelligently shuts on and off when needed to save gas.

Dislikes: Engine sounds gruff when pushed, some road surfaces sends shivers into the cabin, interior materials are just plain horrible for a vehicle near $40,000, even with all the technology - there are competitors that offer it all in a better package.

Overall: Check out the 2011 Jeep Cherokee, which addresses all the complaints that I've made about this one.

Devon M

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Summer Live Part III: Against Me! @ JBTV

Felipe M

The following is part of a series to wrap up the 2nd half of my 2010 concert calendar. It is proving to be a long winded afair, but DAMMIT, I will finish it up. By the time you read through this story, we would be half way done with this journey. Coming up next: AGAINST ME! on JBTV.

July 3rd, Against Me! Live @ JBTV Studio:

Well, well, well Against Me!, we meet again! I've seen this band 5 times in my lifetime, more than any other band (I have seen both Thrice and Bad Religion 4x's). The 5th time left such a bad impression with me that I decided that I would never follow this band again. Seriously! I was going to be done with them. Their major label debut known as New Wave was pretty solid, but for Against Me! standards, it would be pretty subpar. I can sit here and talk about how mediocre New Wave is, but that would be stating the obvious. The fact is, I wasn't going to even give the new, much anticipated album White Crosses a chance either as I decided to completely turn my back on this band--well, not too complete... maybe 3/4 of my back was turned....

... Made it a lot easier to face forward when Ricardo's brother, Gabe informed me that he had an extra pass to see Against Me! perform an acoustic set at the JBTV studios, but wasn't sure who he should take.....

For those who don't know what JBTV is, it is a local TV show here in Chicago starring a hippie-looking, Gandalf the gray wizard look-a-like, Jerry Bryant. The show is awesome as it showcases local and established music acts and other bands in the world of underground, indie, punk, alternative, or simply put non-mainstream music world. The show also airs live performances from their sweet-looking soundstage where a few lucky people can see a band live perform in the most intimate of settings--and lots and lots of cameras. And it gets juicier music fans, especially if you do not live in the Chicagoland area, as not only are the previous aired episodes of JBTV availabe FREE OF CHARGE on i-Tunes, but their website is full of videos of performances, interviews, episodes and more! It's the coolest thing since All Ages Radio aired on Friday nights with Kevin and Gordon!

The most beautiful phrase in the English language is as follows:

Against Me! to perform a live acoustic set

If at any point in your lives you come across these words, your first reaction is to pounce at the opportunity like a Love Smith Bears defense pounces on a football after a forced turnover (NORTH DIVISION CHAMPS!). There is nothing like an Against Me! acoustic set. Heck the band started off as an acoustic band and to this day, there are fans out there that are still mad at the band for switching to electronic guitars for Reinventing Axl Rose. So after trying to convince my friend Gabe that I was the right person to go with, I won out because it turns out Gabe is a loser and has no friends whatsoever!
Good weekend so far: Streetlight Manifesto the night before, Against Me! the following afternoon.
Based on the episode that was aired on November 10, 2010 and based on my fuzzy memory, the set went as follows:
  1. High Pressure Low
  2. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
  3. Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong
  4. Spanish Moss
  5. White Crosses
  6. Sink Florida Sink
Initially, before the band even got on stage, the coolest part of it all was Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms was on stage introducing the band. How cool is that? Turns out, he actually is one of the hosts on JBTV. Tre cool!
If you have never heard any Against Me! songs before in your life, they're easy to get into as sing-alongs are a plentiful. For example, the first time I heard the song "Thrash Unreal" was in April of 2007 before I even knew it would come out in the very mainstream album New Wave, as I made the misguided notion that the song was a track released pre-Axl Rose days. Turned out it was a new song, and even then fans at the show were able to sing along to it because that's just the way the songs are structured. Hell, I used to hate the song "Walking is Still Honest" until i heard it live at my first Against Me! show in DeKalb, IL (the very same one where I first heard "Thrash" and found out that I can sing along to the "whoa, whoa, whoa" parts (Observe). First time I heard "High Pressure Low," I found myself in the same situation as I was, at the very least, able to sing along to the "whoa" part of the chorus. You can't help but to sing-a-long with the band.
"Teenage Anarchist" came up next and even though I never considered myself an anarchist when I was a teenager (or even through my college years), I easily found myself relating to this song. I do remember when I was young and was ready to set the world on fire, but the revolution never came because it was indeed a fucking lie!!!!!!! I almost cried listening to this song. That's the other thing about Against Me!, besides their catchiness, they write some really good songs that people like me can actually relate to. (That's why I still look for bands "who play loud and hard every night").
Despite the new songs being great listens theretofore, great disappointment in the set came when one of the band's staple songs "Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong" was next on the list. Before the show started, we were told by Brendan Kelly I believe, that this was a real concert venue and just because there were cameras around, that we should feel free to liberally do what we normally would do at "real" shows. Unfortunately, we as the audience must've either forgotten that rule, we were tired from the night before, maybe we are nervous when there's cameras around, or maybe we were all critically judging this band as only this band can get judged, but I was gravely disappointed when we all pretended that we didn't know the song that the band was performing on stage. I mean, I sang along, but even then, if I were to really sing, you could have probably heard my voice on one of the many live mics. After the song's performance, a stellar job as always by the way, Tom said something that you will not catch on any of the online episodes (and I paraphrase): "Fuck, even when we decide to play an old song, you guys just stand around like zombies. So we're just gonna keep playing the new songs." I'm sure it was meant to be half-serious, half-facetious, but it's insulting to get called out by one of the most influential people in punk rock today. But Gabel was right.

We move on to "Spanish Moss" and following "Guiness" is a tough task, but following "Guiness" AND being called out by Gabel, I still haven't gotten over it and I really don't enjoy "Moss" when I listen to it because of it. Gabel then introduced the next song "White Crosses" as a personal song based on an event that occurred to him in St. Augustin, Florida and had to do with abortion clinics. The final reason why people get into Against Me! is that the band, and most notably Gabel, wear their hearts, their social and political views, on their sleeves. They finish the set with "Sink, Florida, Sink," another fan favorite, to little fanfare as the band finished the set and left the stage faster than you can ask, "is walking still honest, Tom?"

The crowd, was one of the worst crowds at a show, but with the cameras around, I can see how people were more reserved with their actions, but with a band that is action packed like Against Me! why would we do that to ourselves? Maybe we were just in awe of a band that was not on the decline on the heels of releasing their second major label album, rather at the pinnacle of their careers. Regardless, the moral of the story is that I went out and bought White Crosses a few days after the set (along with The Gasligth Anthem's American Slang. YES, both self-titled tracks from both ablums sound extremely identical). So far, I have been pleasantly surprised on how much I have enjoyed Crosses. As cheesy as it will sound, the album has become the soundtrack to my 2010 summer. Unfortunately, this show is nowhere near a contender for SHOW OF THE YEAR. Hope they had a better crowd opening up for the Silversun Pickups that night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Summer Live Part II: Streetlight Manifesto

Felipe M

The following article is part of an ongoing series to wrap up my 2010 second half concert calendar. The next band to be featured is ska band (the term ska will be used interchangeably to describe the genre of ska-punk music) STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO.

July 2nd-Streetlight Manifesto @ The Metro: I’ve been waiting for a very long time to see this band live and finally had the pleasure of catching their performance over the summer. In an effort to hype this band to get more of my friends to attend this show, I created a few taglines to generate interest:


For those that don’t know who Streetlight Manifesto are, they are obviously a ska-punk band (that’s how I would categorize this band) whose biggest contribution to the scene is how easily their music transcends and streamlines from one music community to another. Their musical releases have received very high critical acclaim and strong word of mouth from not only the “ska community,” but also from music fans who loathe the musical genre (including this particular author). I believe the thing that separates this band from other ska bands like Reel Big Fish (I hate those guys) is that Streetlight have a more intricate, complex sound with relatively dark lyrics and subject matter, ironically done from an upbeat rhythm, that go beyond the typical ska songs (the ones that I have heard at least) about love, partying, and white, middle class, teenage angst. It’s like listening to Rancid, but--with a horns section (just kidding)—without the over-the-top Joe Strummer-like vocals. Their latest release is a collection of cover songs called 99 Songs of Revolution.

Coming at the heels of success from having so many people come out for the Thrice concert, I was able to talk a co-worker and her boyfriend to come out to the show, only for them to cancel at the last minute, which left me with two extra tickets in my hand. That would open the door for my girlfriend to come out for our SECOND SHOW EVER AS A COUPLE! Wow! After 5 years not attending a single show, we’re together for two in a row? “Wow” is definitely the word! So she was able to snatch one ticket, and I was able to sell the other ticket to a friend of a friend of a friend—of a friend? Plus my usual posse, Ricardo and Devon, were there as well bringing the total to four in the group.

For this show, I just stood on the sidelines and watched from a flanked position. It was hot at The Metro that night. I wasn’t even in the pit area and I was profusely sweating. Naturally, as the show went on, it got muggier, more boiling, sweltering, sultry, scalding, oven-like, (add your own adjective here). And of course, the reason it was so hot for the standing-room only crowd was because Streetlight Manifesto was lighting The Metro on fire from the stage.

(For this show’s setlist, click here) The band did a good job balancing out the song selection from both Everything Goes Numb, Keasbey Nights, and Somewhere in the Between. (If I were this universe’s sultan, I would proclaim that every band that wants to perform live HAS TO find a way to balance their setlist in this manner). The only song done from Revolutions was a cover of the Dead Milkmen’s song, “Punk Rock Girl.” During their performance of the song, I slyly used that time to serenade my girlfriend:

Punk rock girl give me a chance
Punk rock girl let's go slamdance
We'll dress like Minnie Pearl
Just you and me punk rock girl

Not even an artist would have been able to erase the smile from her face as I sang to her. Take notes fellas. Other highlights of this show was something that has gone on without much of my attention as it has become clearly empirical that the songs “Point/Counterpoint” and “Keasbey Nights” sound pretty damn similar. Observe if you will:

  • Point/Counterpoint-- “I've got a gun in my hand but that gun won't cock
And my finger's on the trigger but that trigger seems locked
and I can't stop staring at the tick tock clock
and even if I could I would never give up.
With a vest on my chest, a bullet in my lung
I can't believe I'm dying with my song unsung.
And if and when I die won't you bury me alone?
'Cause I'll never get to heaven if I'm singing this song.”
  • Keasbey Nights—“ When they come for me, I'll be sitting at my desk
With a gun in my hand, wearing a bulletproof vest singing
"My, my, my, how the time does fly, when you know you're going to die
By the end of the night." And said hey”

Streetlight did a great job putting both songs together and seamlessly streamlining from “Point” to “Keasbey” and finishing strong with “Point.” It was a very cool experience to have both songs played together in that manner.

Another highlight of this show was when they played “We Are the Few,” which starts out in a fast-paced, verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern before it slows down. Right before it gets to the “slow” part, I turn to my girlfriend and tell her, “This has been the best night of my life.” She grinned and asked, “Why? Because I’m here with you tonight?” The timing of the whole sequence was perfect as lead singer/guitarist Thomas starts crooning “This has been the best night of my life…” The look on her face as she rolled her eyes away from me was priceless. It is little things like this that makes going to these shows so enjoyable.

One exchange that occurred during the show happened between my girlfriend and I when frustrated and bothered by the heat and the long, unfamiliar songs, she turned to me and asked “All these songs sound the same! How can you tell them apart?” I thought about it for a second and replied “Repetition. How else do you tell apart one shitty Brittney Spears song from another? You hear the songs 40-50 times per day on the radio. The same rule applies.” I don’t think she was satisfied with that answer, but by the end of the night, my bubblegum pop-oriented girlfriend was observing how the people in the pit were dancing along to the songs and she picked up on it rather quickly and started emulating the dance rather well. She’s such a closet skank.

Overall, it was a great show, but I do wish they would have played “Failing, Flailing.” I also thought I could go on without having to listen to Keasbey Nights, but now I’m more curious about this album and will probably go get it. This show has potential to end the year in the top 5 of my rankings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Summer Live Part I: Thrice

Felipe M

The following is an installment for my wrap up of my 2010 second half concert calendar. I've been in the process of moving for the past few months or so, but I finally have Internet and my own laptop! So without much further ado, here's THRICE.

June 12th-Thrice @ Chicago House of Blues: I have seen the band Thrice live, thrice in my lifetime, but the first two shows, coming on back-to-back tour dates at The Metro a couple of years ago came on the heels of them releasing the weird experiment known as The Alchemy Index. As a punk rocker, it was a very surreal experience seeing a band go from traditional guitars, bass, and drums to using keyboards, drum and other electronic machines, and other musical instruments that one would expect at a rave or some other similar form of entertainment. The third time I saw this band, they opened up for both Alkaline Trio and Rise Against at the Congress Theatre, but I was too drunk to enjoy the band as I was starting to grow fond of already-mentioned album. Needless to say, I was too immature to appreciate the talents and musical progression of this band.

In comes the fourth installment of my Thrice experience and this time, I came with an open mind and with a different outlook on this band as Beggars proved to be a memorable album for this band and I couldn't wait to see them live. Also going for me that night was that my usual running mates, Devon and Ricardo were with me that night so the show is already off to a good start before it even begins. Plus our friend Donnie ("Wood Sugars" reference!) was joining us that night as he, outside of yours truly, is the biggest Thrice fan I know. Plus my co-worker and her fiancee were there too. However, the biggest news of the night is that I got my girlfriend to attend marking it the first concert we've ever attended together. After 5 years! She might just be the one! All in all, SEVEN people from my circle showed up for this show. That's a new record for me, but the real winner is mankind as I believe that I'm doing my small part in introducing good music to the rest of the world, one person at a time.

Predictably, Thrice played mostly new songs from their Beggars album and with songs like "All the World is Mad" and "In Exile" thank God! One of the few times in my life that I actually want to hear a band's new material at a show.

From The Alchemy Index, "Child of Dust," "Firebreather," and "Daedalus" were part of the setlist. Vheissu was well represented with songs like "Dust of Nations" and "The Earth Will Shake."

However, just when I thought the night couldn't get any better, they played one of my favorite songs ever from one of my favorite albums ever, "To Awake and Avenge the Dead" from The Illusion of Safety to end their set before the encore. The only song that Thrice still plays consistently from this album is "Deadbolt" as the crowd ALWAYS begs them to play that song, but I had a feeling that they would play "Awake and Avenge." Nevertheless, it was one of the most pleasant surprises ever! I've seen clips of them playing this song live and I have longed to be part of that experience. It definitely was everything that I expected and then some! There are songs that you listen from underground musical acts that change your life from a personal and, of course, a musical level and as soon as you hear it live, it transcends your being to an even higher level--this was one of those songs and moments. Without a doubt, one of the most special moments from a live performance I have ever experienced in my life.

Thrice at the House of Blues, Chicago definitely is in a heated competitiong for Show of the Year. Will definitely look forward to seeing them live for a 5th time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

'The Suburbs'

The Suburbs is the upcoming third album by Canadian Indie Rock band Arcade Fire. The album was announced May 27, 2010, and is scheduled for release on August 3, 2010 in North America. Coinciding with the announcement the band released a limited edition 12-inch single containing two tracks from the album, "The Suburbs" and "Month of May". Band Members Win and William Butler discussed the album in an interview with National Public Radio on May 27. The album, which will be relased by Merge Records was recorded in win Butler and Regine Chassange's residence in Montreal, in the band's recording studio in Quebec, and in New York City. The Butlers indicate that the album's title and songwriting were inspired by their upbringing in the Suburbs of Houston, Texas.

Devon M

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Summary to end all Summaries

Felipe M.

The following is a recap of movies that have been reviewed on this website (by yours truly) along with the score given to each film and a quick synopsis:

Ninja Assassin-- 1 Star (out of 5): Marketed as a blood bath, you get exactly what you pay for--and not much of anything else.

Sherlock Holmes-- 2 Stars: Robert Downey Jr. takes a break from being a robot to portray the world's most famous detective--in the vision of director Guy Ritchie. Think an ultra-intelligent person with the fighting skill set of an MMA fighter.

The Princess and the Frog-- 4 Stars: Charming, old-fashion, hand-drawn animated feature from the Disney company full of memorable characters, toe-tapping musical numbers, and inspiring images of New Orleans in full nostalgic form.

Up in the Air-- 4 Stars: Basically the biography of the country we love in post-911 era.

Avatar-- 5 Stars: After seeing Oscar nominated films, District 9 and The Hurt Locker, I am more and more convinced that James Cameron was robbed big time from getting the Best Picture award for this film.

The Lovely Bones--1.5 Stars: This film was better off left to be showcased on the small screen, preferably on an obscure cable channel (coming up next after Project: Runway, it's the Lifetime Channel Movie Event of the Week: The Lovely Bones).

Shutter Island-- 3.5 Stars: Solid effort by legendary director Martin Scorsese and great performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, but the suspense/mystery genre is unfortunately over-saturated with films just like this one.

Alice in Wonderland-- 3 Stars: See Tim Burton and Johnny Depp running all the way to the bank with this one.

The following are movies yours truly has watched at the movie theatre, but has yet to review along with their scores and a quick summary:

Death at a Funeral-- 3 Stars: It is full of cheese, but the acting cast is a phenomenal collection of talent that overcomes Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence's blase performances.

Iron Man 2-- 3 Stars: Robert Downey Jr. was great as Tony Stark, but not as interesting when he was Iron Man. On the other hand, Don Cheadle, without much effort by the way, was outstanding as War Machine. The disappointment came with the inclusion of Mickey Rourke as Omega Red as he didn't have many lines in this film and most of the things that came out of his mouth were Russian grunts. Makes me wonder what the point was of getting an actor of Rourke's caliber if all he was going to do was just make grunting noises. They could have just gotten some no name Eastern European male to do the same thing and the movie still would have made a killing at the box office. Besides the acting, the storyline was dull and something about robots fighting other robots is such a major turnoff, but the great acting from the two headlining actors makes this, at the very least, much better than Transformers and proves to be this film's saving grace.

Shrek Forever After-- 3.5 Stars: I had my doubts when I first heard that there would be a 4th installment released this year. Even though this film is still full of cheese and unnecessary "awwwww" moments, the fantastic voice-over acting and dialogue among characters, the solid visuals, and the endearing (though far-fetched) storyline was enough to overcome my doubts and made for a great movie theatre experience. Of course, the best part about this film was falling in love with the Shrek series all over again!

The following films are movies that were watched much later than their original theatrical release along with score and short synopsis:

District 9--4.5 Stars: Amazing Sci-Fi film, but I'm not buying the parallels with South Africa's Apartheid era as I refuse to make the comparisons to human lives with those of insect-looking aliens that we gleefully were cheering for their destruction in such Will Smith films as Independence Day and Men in Black. I'm not even convinced it should have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, but regardless, in terms of acting, character development, storyline, etc., this film deserves all the high marks and praise it has received thus far.

The Hurt Locker--3.5 Stars: Even though I enjoyed the political and social commentary that this film was extrapolating, after watching this film after it had won the Oscar for Best Picture, I still didn't see the hype that was surrounding this movie.

If this film is Oscar-worthy, then other war films such as Blackhawk Down and The Kingdom should be nominated as well, right? I appreciate the first-hand look that this film gives the viewer to the current state of foreign affairs, especially in Iraq (better than anything Fox News Channel or CNN can muster up when reporting the Wars in the Middle East), but it just didn't feel like we were watching the reincarnation of Platoon and even the overt message that this film was trying to send didn't not have the same bite or venom as Full Metal Jacket.

The characters were expendable and even the most interesting character, Staff Sgt. William James (played by Jeremy Renner) was hit or miss in terms of war film characters. The fact that this film won the Best Picture Award is leading me to believe that the only reason it won was because it dealt with the hot topic issue of the past 5-7 years--should the U.S. launch a war against Middle East nations who are accused of harboring terrorist groups who were held responsible for the Twin Tower Attacks of 2001? The answer is a complicated one, but the question about this film's win for Best Picture can be answered with one word: no!

Fashionably Late Review: Alice in Wonderland

Felipe M.
Alice in Wonderland is one of the most enduring stories in the history of Western Civilization, helped with the golden touch of Disney who has decided that they needed to revive the already popular tale about a girl who falls down a hole after her undying curiosity attracted her to an albino rabbit.
Tim Burton is famous for showing his audience some of the most bizarre plots, visuals, and settings ever known in Cinema. However, in “Alice” he feels right at home—a little bit too comfortable with just settling for his own standards of status quo as this film’s aesthetics is missing a lot of Burton’s weirdness. As if Burton had decided that he was going to rest on his laurels and take a lackadaisical approach in directing this film. To his credit, he did, predictably so, made this new “Alice” into a very dark world, which undoubtedly was one of his goals. Mission Accomplished!
The real treat in this movie was in the wonderful performances from all actors involved, especially the voice acting, beginning with the always fantastic Alan Rickman (as a hookah smoking, blue caterpillar), Stephen Fry (awesome performance as the Cheshire Cat), and Barbara Windsor (providing the voice of Dormouse). Also worthy of note was the stellar performance of Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen as the author never got tired of hearing her famous catchphrase, “off with their heads!” And of course, Johnny Depp was being Johnny Depp, proving why he and Tim Burton should always be attached at the hip.
The movie, undeniably entertaining, was however missing something. There was no hidden message to decipher as this film should be taken at face value meaning everything that happened in the film should be taken literally. The closest the film comes to commentating about any social issues, past or present, occurs before she falls down the hole and her future mother-in-law asked Alice, at her upscale engagement party, if she knew what her biggest fear was, to which Alice sharply replied, “Is it the decline of Aristocracy?” That’s as far as satirical this movie gets as the rest of the film is very clichéd and has very little originality and creativity (good vs. evil, dark world vs. light world, ordinary protagonist needs to tap potential to save the world, etc.). Also, the film’s supposed bread and butter, the CGI, is not used to enhance the movie, but rather it feels like a gimmick—worse if you paid the extra money to see it in 3D—a style that was implemented because that style is the status quo of the current era.
Nevertheless, let’s not forget that this film was not a vehicle for Tim Burton to take risks; rather it was a chance for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to make lots and lots of money for the Dinsey (sic) Corporation. Mission Accomplished!

Fashionably Late Review: Shutter Island

Felipe M.
Martin Scorsese takes a break from directing movies about corrupt cops, aspiring gangsters, and the crime bosses that are the epicenter of most of his films and went ahead and adapted Shutter Island into the big screen, a novel originally written by Dennis Lehane. The film’s trailer makes it seem that Scorsese and his latest “franchise player” of the last 10 years, Leonardo DiCaprio, are teaming up to release a horror or perhaps a hack-n-slash film. No matter what the trailer was trying to sell us, let’s face it, we as movie-goers would have supported this film because it is Scorsese and DiCaprio after all. Lucky for us, this didn’t turn out to be a horror film, rather a mystery/suspense/thriller about two U.S. Marshalls who are sent to investigate the disappearance of a murderess from an isolated, prison island for the criminally insane (cue Slayer).
The acting is solid at worst as every character in this film is memorable. That’s the greatness of Scorsese’s work whose attention to character detail is second to none. The best character of this film is without a doubt the protagonist being portrayed by DiCaprio as he fights the prison—err, hospital--and its red tape, his violent past, and his mind to maintain his sanity while staying in this insane asylum.
The film’s plot itself takes you through so many twists and turns that, as often is the case for the genre’s viewers, you’d think you were part of a roller coaster. Arguably the film’s biggest achievement is making the audience believe that they’re part of the prison-hospital, either as part of the staff or as one of the prisoners/patients. It sometimes felt as if the author was playing a video game. The viewer can only succumb to the feeling that they are being put in DiCaprio’s shoes as he navigates through the crazy world that Scorsese put him in.
The problem, and it’s a big problem, is the fact that this film is so full of clichés apropos to this genre of films. It doesn’t feel like the original, film-watching experience one would get from watching a Scorsese film. Rather it feels as if one is watching a summary of all the tricks one would expect of the suspense genre of the last 10 years. It was like watching an episode of Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and having M. Night Shyamalan reminding the audience about the “the twist” of the film that will predictably come near the end. When the aforementioned twist finally arrives, it doesn’t feel like the film has reached its climax, rather it has reached its punchline.
As many more critics have mentioned before, this film literally leaves you guessing throughout its entirety, however, despite the film’s unpredictable story, the film’s structure is very predictable and plays like a standard checklist for the suspense genre.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Man with a Mission

By: Felipe M.

For those looking for free music, punk rock legends are giving away free downloads of their live album 30 Years Live to celebrate the band's 30th Anniversary. All you have to do is check out the following site:

Sign up to their mailing list and in no time you will receive an email with further instructions, which will eventually land you to the new, 17 tracked, live album. There is no catch!

Album consists of three songs from 2007 album
New Maps of Hell & 2004 album The Empire Strikes First; 2 songs from How could Hell be any Worse? and Receipe for Hate with surprise track "Man with a Mission."

And there are even two new songs included! Which is appropriate because at their shows in San Diego, they have announced plans to release a new album later this fall as the band begin their new project to continue to rock for the next 30 years!

Coming Soon to a Home Theatre Near You—The Lovely Bones

By: Felipe M.

The first thing that grabs you about this film was the impressive trailer that was released to hype this movie up. When you hear the voice of a young girl named Susie Salmon (“like the fish!”) announce that she was murdered at the age of 14--way back in 1973--it brings a chill down your spine. Plus we find out that Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame and Producer of the amazing District 9 will be the director. As the trailer continues, you see these beautiful worlds that Susie traverses. We quickly realize that this film is a suspense/thriller; it looked promising. What was quickly realized is that not only is this film an adaptation of the novel written by Alice Sebold, but it’s also a novel that many people have read and felt a connection with it. Everybody knows at least one person that swears that this novel is incredible. Unfortunately, the movie would fail to live up to the hype.
Susie, played by young actress Saoirse Ronan (who gives a solid performance), is your typical suburban teenage girl. She goes to school, likes to shoot pictures, tries to enjoy life, is falling in love with the new boy at school, and, of course, is growing distant from her family, especially her mother. Mark Wahlberg (who looks and sounds like his John Holmes character in Boogie Nights), plays Susie’s father Jack—the wannabe Charles Bronson who will stop at nothing to solve her daughter’s murder. Susan Sarandon provides much needed, though very limited, comic relief to this film as Grandma Lynn. But the one actor who stood out in this film was Stanley Tucci--who plays the murderer George Harvey--not only had the best performance in this film, but also had the most interesting character as Harvey was not your run-of-the-mill hack-n-slash axe killer, but a master craftsman of doll houses and intricate animal traps (two things that all Tweener girls find hard to resist apparently).
Movie starts out well, but after Susie gets murdered, the movie just drags to an almost standstill as Susie aimlessly walks from one digital graphic to another in the afterlife (which as many, many movie critics have mentioned before, a lot of these worlds are reminiscent of allergy medication commercials), and mulls over perpetually if she should stay in a state of purgatory or heaven as she is accompanied by an Asian girl about her age who is constantly talking in unintelligible riddles. Even when Susie is alive, as mentioned before, she is playing the role of your typical teenager—full of angst, uncertainty, frustration, as well as youth, optimism, and curiosity—who you have probably seen in many generic, adolescent TV shows before. You’ve seen one teenage girl who’s either an outcast or Ms. Popular, you’ve seen them all! Meanwhile, back on Earth, we watch the cat and mouse game that Mark Wahlberg plays with himself because he’s just too stupid to catch the cunning and surprisingly resilient Harvey, who lives across the street from him.
The film did attract some controversy as Peter Jackson (seemingly) decided that it was best to remove the rape and murder event of Susie for the film adaptation of the novel (supposedly, one of the most graphic and chilling events in the novel itself). This omission would create countless discussions in the following months among peers. Should it have been kept? Why would anyone want to see a little girl get killed? There are no clear cut answers to these questions, but one thing is for certain, this movie had its target audience set and adding the murder would have easily given this film an R-rating, something that had to be avoided by any means. An R-rating would have made this film pointless because their target audience wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it anyway. Credit is given to the studio for having direction as to where they wanted this film to go, but the bottom line is that their safe, but gutless approach would have made more sense to appear on a channel like Noggin, The CW, or some other popular “Tweener” Channel (undoubtedly to be scheduled in front of the latest popular primetime vampire show).
The after school special feel for this movie is very uninspiring, but it streamlines very well with the uninspiring performances from the actors, especially Wahlberg, and let’s not forget the horrible CGI that was used throughout this movie. In conclusion, this movie shouldn’t have made its way to the big screen. At best, this movie had the potential to be a “Lifetime Movie of the Week.” It is meant to be avoided , at all costs!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

1st Quarter Concert Calendar Wrap-Up

Felipe M.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few rock shows this year. The following is a list of shows I have seen so far and I will list them from the worst show I have attended, to the best show. Things to consider when ranking these shows: Length of Show, Atmosphere (i.e. crowd, buzz, and other intangibles), Opening Acts, and Songs Played.

7. Jan 9, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: BATTERY (Tribute to Metallica); Supported by SKULLS (Tribute to The Misfits):

In a show that would be later dubbed “The Fake Misfits and Fake Metallica Show,” this concert kicked off the 2010 version of my Concert Calendar. The way I felt about this show was that I’ll probably never see the real versions of these bands so the next best thing was to pay $9 to see their doppelgangers. Devon, my friend Ricardo, Officer Mike and I showed up early where we saw a band that featured a guy who sounds and sings like John Mayer, another guy who looks like every person I used to despised in high school, and a bearded bassist who was in charge of screaming his vocals. Devon liked them at least. Fake Misfits played next and they played mosh pit music for a lame crowd that was not going to start moshing. A shame too, because they played great songs such as “Astro Zombies,” “20 Eyes,” and “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight.” The bassist was a woman, which was a nice twist, the drummer looked like he forgot the beat of a couple of songs, and singer/guitarist was struggling to keep his voice midway through the performance and I thought he was too slow when playing “Green Hell.” Overall, it was a solid performance from the trio and ultimately, they ended up being the highlight of the show. Up next was a local band who sounded like a metal-fusion band (a cross between Deftones, System of a Down, and name a Death Metal band here ___________). The lead singer had these big glasses and had very long, spiky hair. They were probably the most talented band of the bunch, but nothing memorable about their music. Finally, Fake Metallica came up and there was an overweight James Hetfield, a taller, not as thinned-haired Kirk Hammett, and the bass player looked like the dug up remains of Cliff Burton. At this point, there were a lot more people in attendance, but the place still looked sparse. Fake Metallica played a lot of old and new favorites from the band’s extensive catalog, however the act got boring rather quickly (perhaps after the third song) as the mystique of the Metallica songs were washed away by the fact that it was a doppelganger Metallica band on stage, the older crowd that continued to throw up “metal horns” every 30 seconds, and there was nothing special about middle-aged men duplicating songs, chord for chord, melody for melody, by a legendary Metal act. Instead of feeling like every 7-8 minute song they played was something of epic proportions, every song felt like a never-ending death march. This was the first show that I actually left before it ended, this show also wrapped up my Metallica renaissance that I underwent when Death Magnetic was released, and afterwards, I promised myself that I would never see another tribute band for as long as I lived.

6. March 26, 2010: House of Blues, Chicago, IL: UNEARTH:

I absolutely love Unearth and have wanted to see them live ever since I watched Alive at the Apocalypse. However, the buzz I felt at this show was the same way I felt when I last saw Silverstein live and felt like the oldest person at the House of Blues. Plus I had just gotten off a plane from San Diego and I was dead tired. However, as soon as Unearth came out, a big empty circle formed in the middle of the mosh pit. I looked around and a lot of people were just standing around, including myself, who at this point, was suffering from lead feet. Unearth’s energy and set list was spectacular as I counted 5 songs that were from their album The Oncoming Storm. However, after the first song was played, lead singer Trevor Phipps started to beg the audience to start moving, blow up the roof of the House of Blues, and reminding people that “our stage is yours stage! Our stage is yours stage, Chicago!” as the house lights shone on the people in the mosh pit. However, the crowd would get riled up for the start of every song, only to calm down for the rest of the song. The only time I ever saw a lead singer beg the audience to do something was when I saw fellow metalcore band (and part of “The New Wave of American Metal” movement) Darkest Hour’s lead singer, John Henry asking if we were all dead and reminding the crowd that we were at a Metal show, way back in February of 2008. Since then, I have made a note that when a lead singer has to beg the audience to move around and do something; the show usually ends up sucking. Not that the bands are horrible, but when the crowd just isn’t feeling the music that night, they’re not going to feel it anytime soon, no matter how much the band begs them to do so. Songs that were played: “Giles,” “One Step Away,” and “Bloodlust of the Human Condition.” Obviously, I haven’t felt so disappointed after a show since Darkest Hour in 2008 and they only played for 45 minutes, but if Unearth decides to come back into town, I will definitely see them again.

5. March 21, 2010: House of Blues, Sand Diego, CA: BAD RELIGION:

After spending my entire time in the mosh pit for the Saturday show, I was still sore all day on Sunday. I was more intense and worried about making it on time on Saturday, finding the venue, searching for parking, and finding a way back from downtown San Diego back to my hotel in Chula Vista. On Sunday, however, I was more mellowed, relaxed, and confident about making my way back to and from San Diego from my hotel. I strolled to the House of Blues, arriving 15 minutes late and finding a nice spot around the perimeter of the mosh pit, not too far from the stage, but not close enough to get hurt. Already satisfied from seeing them the night before, I was content witch just singing along to my favorite songs from afar.

4. January 16, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: 88 FINGERS LOUIE (with support from the BOLL WEEVILS and AGENT ORANGE):

After spending 10 years on hiatus, the band that launched the career of mainstream act Rise Against, was back together after appearing sparingly in local shows here and there. It was just Ricardo and me at this show as the frigid Chicago weather was a distant memory because this show was burning up the joint. The show started with local act She Likes Todd who I enjoyed listening to because they kind of reminded me of other former and current local acts such as Jinxpack, First Class, Fall Out Boy, and Counterpunch. The next band was The Hallowed and I’ve seen them before and I absolutely hate them. There’s nothing special or unique about this band and the lead singer sounds like he’s drunk and comes off inaudible throughout the band’s set. The show really starts cooking with punk rock legends, Agent Orange. Even at their advanced age, they still know how to rock the house playing a cover of “Secret Agent Man,” “I Kill Spies,” “Everything Turns Grey,” and “The Last Goodbye.” The thing that irritated me the most about the show happened when I went to buy an Agent Orange CD. Normally CDs cost $10 at a show, so rather than buy an album on i-Tunes, I would just pay the fair price for a CD that contains music I want to listen to. Like a punch to the gut however, I was charged $15 for Living in Darkness. What the hell?

Moving on, up next is the Boll Weevils who I have never heard of before, but it looks like they are a Chicago band as well, lead by the tallest vocalist I have ever seen in my life. Very rarely do you ever see a black front-man in punk rock, but this dude was crazy, stage diving several times during the set. I don’t know how the crowd was able to sustain him without dropping him on the floor!

Finally, 88 Fingers Louie, during their performance, announced that they were back together, have released a live DVD, and played classic favorites such as “Blink,” “Summer Photos,” and “Pent Up.” The crowd was great for all 5 bands that played that night; there was an atmosphere of punk rock camaraderie that I haven’t felt in a very long time at a show.

3. March 20, 2010: House of Blues, San Diego, CA: BAD RELIGION:

The Saturday show of my Bad Religion weekend in San Diego was a tough one because I had just gotten off the plane from Chicago that very same day and after sightseeing all afternoon, I was ready to go to bed. Nevertheless, I arrived at the House of Blues at 9PM and was able to see one of the opening acts—unfortunately, I still don’t know the name of the band that played, but apparently in 1982, Bad Religion had opened up for them for a local show. Cool fact and the lead singer sort of reminded me of Lou Diamond Phillips from La Bamba. This show was crazy! I saw a pregnant woman standing too close to the mosh pit for the opening act get punched in the stomach (and that was just the opening act!). Finally Bad Religion shows up and I’m there front and center. I’ve never seen so many fat people in the mosh pit area of a concert before in my life as they would prove to be troublesome in navigating around the pit, but overall, despite being pushed around like a rag doll, getting punched and elbow all over my body, bumping my right knee with somebody else’s in a span of 15 seconds (giving me two gimpy knees for the rest of my trip in California), and struggling to keep my voice together for most of the show, it was a fun time. Just a bunch of Bad Religion fans singing along to classic Bad Religion songs such as “You,” “Infected,” Sorrow,” and the surprise of the night occurred when they played “Man on a Mission.” They also announced that they were recording a live album to commemorate their 30th anniversary as a band, they were getting ready to tour Europe soon, and a new album would be released in 2010. What more can a Bad Religion fan ask for? How about catching my first drum stick from drummer Brooks Wackerman? Awesomeness!

2. April 2, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (with support from DARKEST HOUR):

The last time Darkest Hour was at Reggie’s was way back in February of 2008 when lead singer John Henry had to basically beg the crowd to get a mosh pit going and to basically wake up the Chicago crowd that was just not into the band that night. Fast Forward two years later and I asked John about the 2008 show after the band’s set on April 2, 2010 and he responded by saying that he doesn’t remember saying anything of that nature at that show and if there was an issue with people just standing around doing nothing, he probably didn’t notice anyway. Right! Then why go through all the begging of getting us to move around and act crazy to your songs, I thought to myself. Either way, talking to the lead singer to one of my favorite bands, buying my first t-shirt at a show, and helping a new Darkest Hour fan decide which CD he should buy from this band (the obvious choice was Hidden Hands of the Sadist Nation, duh!) would have been enough to leave me satisfied. But let’s talk about Darkest Hour’s set first. So after eating a satisfying meal and spending most of our evening in my version of Dinsey (sic) World, Chicago’s Chinatown, Devon, Ricardo, and I arrived at Reggie’s in time to see Darkest Hour and the place was packed. There was barely any place to stand! They played a lot of classic songs such as “The Sadist Nation,” “With a Thousand Words to Say but One,” “Doomsayer,” and new favorite “The Tides.” On one of the songs, John told the audience, “On this next song, I want everybody to just slam into each other so hard that somebody ends up getting pregnant! “ There’s John begging the audience to move around again, but he didn’t have to do it as much because the crowd was great as people were slamming into each other, singing along, air guitaring, and even Devon, who listens to more alternative than metal music, couldn’t stop head-banging. Darkest Hour was simply terrific!

And then comes out The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dear God, this band just grabbed everybody by the throat and refused to let go of us! I’m not well-versed with TDEP’s catalog, but I was enjoying myself regardless, shouting out words to the few songs that I did know, jumping and head-banging for most of the show, and dancing—yes, dancing!—to songs I have never heard before. As I looked around, I know I wasn’t the only one because the entire crowd, whether in the pit or not, was moving around like I was. First time I have ever seen that! The entire night, TDEP was performing in the dark, a cool, appropriate aesthetic for a band I’m very unfamiliar with. The light show was impressive. On one of the songs, there was a red light background that would blink on and off in perfect sync with the band’s drummer, there was these two, fluorescent lights hanging from the stage which the band would punch causing the lights to twirl around the stage, creating a cool effect. Lead singer Greg Puciato constantly dove into the crowd, one of the lead guitarists somehow made his way to the bar, which is on the opposite end of the stage. After the song, I was able to pat the guitarist on the back, which I would eventually realize that my hands smelled nasty because I just patted a sweaty man on the back (so I stole a couple of lemon slices from the bar to get rid of the smell. The bartender did not like that at all though). And the chaos, ultimately ended when bassist Liam Wilson started climbing from the stage up to the balcony, stopping to hang around from his legs on one of the venue’s ceiling pipes. He sort of disappeared only to reappear again, hanging upside down and then, dropped down to the crowd below. It was insane! Never, have I experienced anything like it. The dude fell from the ceiling! I was so impressed with the show that I was more than happy to spend $15 on TDEP’s newest album Option Paralysis at the merch table. So if this show was so great, why isn’t it #1?

1. January 24, 2010: House of Blues, Chicago, IL: BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME:

Ricardo, Devon, and I arrived late as I was hoping to get to downtown Chicago at 8PM. We arrived at 8:30PM and I could hear the beginning of “Obfuscation.” Dammit! So after spending 5 minutes trying to get our tickets at the will-call booth and getting checked by security, we finally arrived to a full house. I was bummed out because not only did we miss the beginning of a song, but we were standing by the bar and my view was obstructed. But after leaving Ricardo and Devon behind and making my way to the mosh pit area, it was all good to go as I was able to get a clear view of the band through the midway point of “Disease, Injury, Madness.” What makes this show so special was the crowd. We were jumping up and down throughout the entire set. We all hummed in unison to Paul Waggoner’s jazzy solo from “Ants of the Sky,” when “Alaska” played, the guy next to me knew the exact part of the song when the triangle part hits (at the 1:34 mark, of course!) and he would slap my left shoulder with both his hands when the song’s double bass parts were at their most obvious (anywhere else, this would be grounds to punch a guy in the face for invading your personal space, but at a BTBAM show, it’s just a display of appreciation for the music). We all were happy to hear the organ part in “Disease.” We all sang along to the clean vocal part of “More of Myself to Kill.” We all endured the 18 minute marathon that is known as “Swim to the Moon.” And we all felt as if we were the driving force in helping the band finish the last 5 minutes of “White Walls.” BTBAM’s set lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes, a very rare occurrence at any show that I watch as most headliners are lucky to get 45 minutes. I mulled it over as to what the #1 show of the first quarter of 2010 would be after I saw TDEP and almost had them at #1 on this list. But seeing BTBAM for the first time ever and finally finding people just like me who enjoy the complex, but quirky nature of their songs, and actually knowing all of their songs is what ultimately put this band over the top and #1 on my list. I look forward to the rest of the year in music!