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



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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


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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:
http://www.badreligion.com/mailinglist.html

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.

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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!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Song Facts Part Two


Nirvana "Serve the Servants"
This is Kurt Cobain's most autobiographical song. The lyrics contain references to his father, his wife Courtney Love and his own success.
The witch reference about Courtney Love in the first verse was Cobain's frustration with the press for constantly vilifying Love as a horrible house wife, mother, drug addict and detriment to Nirvana.
The divorce of Cobain's parents inspired the line "That legendary divorce is such a bore."

Radiohead "Paranoid Android"
Lead singer Thom Yorke decided to bar-hop in L.A. one night, but what began as a festive evening soon became a nightmare as Yorke found himself surrounded by parasitic scenestalkers intent on extracting a pound of Yorke-flesh. "The people I saw that night were just like demons from another planet." That night inspired "Paranoid Android", a song that sums up "OK Computer's" claustrophobic blend of melancholic beauty and nerve-rattling aggression.
Yorke: It's about being exposed to God. It was that one night, really. We'd been rehearsin the song for months, but the lyrics came to me at five o' clock in the morning. I was trying to sleep when I literally heard these voices that wouldn't leave me alone. They were voices of the people I'd heard in the bar. It turned out to be a notrious, coke-friend place, but I didn't know that. Basically it's just about chaos, chaos, utter f--king chaos".
The song's structure is patterned after "Happiness is a warm gun" by The Beatles. Both clearly a collection of other, shorter pieces of songs put together into one.
Many radio stations asked for a shorter version, but Radiohead refused.
The guitar solo at the end of the song was written by guitarist Jonny Greenwood. It was not originally intended for the song, but something was needed to close the song and this solo was in the right key and right tempo. Some parts of this closing solo are played forward and other parts are played backward.

Alkaline Trio "Stupid Kid"
This song is about how miserable life can be if you develop a crush on one of your teachers in high school. The video tells a story of a little boy in elementary school who is in love with his teacher, doing whatever he could to please her. He gets made fun of my the other students, and soon the teacher ridicules him in front of the whole class, making him a laughing stock. After he leaves outside the room toward her window, he takes off the hat that he's been wearing the entire video, revealing two horns. The teacher can be seen struggling, surrounded in flames. Of course this video lead to controversy, and it was banned until it got edited so the student has no horns and the teacher is wrestling with nothing

Blind Melon "St. Andrew's Fall"
This song tells the story of a man who becomes overwhelmed with grief and throws himself off a 20 story building.

Faith No More "Epic"
This is a mix of funk, white-boy rap, crunchy heavy metal, and faux-Classical keyboard/piano. It contains utterly nonsensical lyrics. The lyrics frequently allude to "it," without ever explaining what "it" is. The chorus simply consists of the band shouting, "It's it!," while vocalist Mike Patton responds with "What is it?" The title is not mentioned in the lyrics.

Kings Of Leon "Molly's Chamber"
This song is about a girl that is very attractive and can make any man drop to his knees and worship her. She can be a tease: "And when you think she's let you in that's when she fades away." And if you're thinking about abstaining from sex, she'll break your will: "Molly's Chambers goin' change your mind."
The title comes from a line in the Thin Lizzy version of "Whiskey In A Jar": "Being drunk and weary I went to Molly's chamber.

Nine Inch Nails "The Perfect Drug"
The "Perfect Drug" is Absinthe, which is a French green liquor. One of the ingredients contains wormwood. Wormwood contains a substance called thujone, which is an epileptic and can cause renal failure in extremely high doses. The effect of absinthe is sometimes compared to the effects of opium and marijuana.

The Rolling Stones "Paint it Black"
This is written from the viewpoint of a person who is depressed. He wants everything to turn black to match his mood.
The song seems to be about a lover who died:
"I see a line of cars and they're all painted black" - The hearse and limos.
"With flowers and my love both never to come back" - The flowers from the funeral and her in the hearse. He talks about his heart being black because of his loss.
"I could not foresee this thing happening to you" - It was an unexpected and sudden death.
"If I look hard enough into the setting sun, my love will laugh with me before the morning comes" - This refers to her in Heaven.
The Rolling Stones wrote this as a much slower, conventional Soul song. When Bill Wyman began fooling around on the organ during the session doing a takeoff of their original as a spoof of music played at Jewish weddings. Co-manager Eric Easton (who had been an organist), and Charlie Watts joined in and improvised a double-time drum pattern, echoing the rhythm heard in some Middle Eastern dances. This new more upbeat rhythm was then used in the recording as a counterpoint to the morbid lyrics.

The White Stripes "Icky Thump"
Jack White explained that he had heard his British wife, model Karen Elson, use the expression "Ecky Thump," a Northern English phrase that means "What The Heck." He changed it to the more American sounding "Icky" (meaning disgusting) so that teenagers would get it, citing how Led Zeppelin dropped the "A" in "Lead" for the same reason. Jack liked the expression and wrote the song around it with his bandmate Meg White.
The song is a commentary on immigration, and how immigrants are treated unfairly in America.
The lyrics, "I'm gonna sing around the collar" is a play on "Ring around the collar," which refers to the tough-to-remove sweat and dirt stains on the inside of shirt collars. It is typically used in laundry detergent commercials.
Candy cane is a traditional American red and white striped Christmas candy. The White Stripes use only these colors (often in stripes) and black in their sets and costumes.
The "Dry Ice" mentioned in the lyrics refers to solid carbon dioxide, which is typically used in horror films to create artificial fog.


The Beatles "Blue Jay Way"
George Harrison wrote this in a house he rented in Los Angeles on a street named Blue Jay Way. He was waiting for his friend Derek Taylor when he came up with the song.
The line "Don't Be Long" is repeated 29 times.
The vocals, organ, and drums were played on 2 tape machines slightly out of sync to get the phasing effect.
When the ending is reversed, it sounds suspiciously like "Paul is bloody." This added to the "Paul is Dead" hoax.

Saving Abel "Addicted"
Vocalist Jared Weeks wrote this song about sexual escapades in the early days of Saving Abel. He recalled on the band's website: "I used to work at a hospital. I'd have to be there at 4:30 in the morning drawing blood. I'd wake people up and stick a needle in their arm. I'd be walking around the hospital, singing 'Addicted' in my head, writing down the lyrics on patients' clipboards and doctor script pads.
"Saving Abel got its name from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Guitarist Jason Null explained on his band's website: "I googled the story of Cain and Abel and found a line about 'there was no Saving Abel,' which just jumped out at me."
Abel was a son of Adam and Eve. As a shepherd, he made burnt offerings of meat to God, which were more acceptable than the fruits offered by his brother Cain. The jealous Cain then murdered Abel.

Local H "Bound for the floor"
This song is written from the viewpoint of someone who is concerned for another. The verses are this person mocking what he thinks the other is feeling, saying that the person he is concerned about is acting as if there is no point to life, that he was born to have bad things happen to him. The chorus is the concerned person telling the other to fight against it.
The key to unlocking the song is understanding the chorus, and in order to do so, you must know the term "copacetic." Copacetic is a slang term meaning fine, completely satisfactory, and okay. The lyrics, "And you just don't get it, you keep it copacetic" mean that this person doesn't understand that he can't keep it all inside and pretend that everything is okay. The lines, "And you learn to accept it, you know you're so pathetic" mean that this person is pathetic for trying to hide his true feelings and accept all the bad things that are happening to him.

Thrice "The melting point of wax"
There are references to Greek Mythology in this song. The speaker is Icarus from The Flight of Icarus, who created wings made of wax that melted when he flew too close to the sun. The song is about determination and the joys of flight, both literally and metaphorically. The Thrice song "Daedalus" is written from the perspective of Icarus' father.

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Can't Stop"
For this song, lead singer Anthony Kiedis wrote the lyrics around the music. The words are a somewhat random collection of thoughts, with some creative rhyming thrown in to fit the rhythm of the song ("Can I get 2 maybe even 3 of these, come from space to teach you of the pleiades"). The song encourages the listener to live with passion and individuality ("This life is more than just a read-through"), something the Chili Peppers have done throughout their career.

Devon M

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!

Chick Flick Alert: "Remember Me"


On March 26th, I took a trip to the movies with my significant other. Me being me, forced him to sit through the new, cute, Robert Pattinson film Remember Me. He seemed extremely hesitant, but I still managed to coax him into the theatre. I think, I can honestly say that he was surprised by the outcome of the film. Neither of us foresaw our reactions.
The story line seem like that of any other chick flick. Bad boy meets Nice girl. Nice girl has disapproving father. Bad boy somehow screws everything up. Nice girl forgives him. They all live happily ever after. But in this modern tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, little twists give the story life. Death, poverty, and even wealth make the characters easier to connect with and the On-Screen chemistry that seems to pulse between Pattinson and his co-star, Emilie de Ravin, really draws you in and certainly puts Twilight to shame. Pattinson, who plays Tyler Hawkins, son of the very wealthy Charles Hawkins, played by Pierce Brosnan, is a hot-tempered college student who lives in a rundown apartment with his best friend and roommate, Aiden Hall, played by Tate Ellington.
One night, after a party at a local bar there in New York, Tyler and Aiden witness the brutal mugging of two fellow party-goers. Unable to stand back and watch, Tyler leaps into the brawl, which leads to a nasty run-in with Police Sergeant Neil Craig, played by Chris Cooper. Unbeknownst to Tyler or Aiden, Sgt. Craig is the overly-protective father of Allyssa (Ally) Craig, portrayed by de Ravin, a spunky, intelligent, down-to-Earth girl from Tyler’s class.
Seeking revenge on the crooked cop, Aiden sets Tyler and Ally up to get to know one another with plans for Tyler to break Ally’s heart, but as expected, the plot backfires when Tyler falls in love with the daughter of the enemy.
This tear-jerker is filled with steamy scenes, twists, both good and bad, and side plots that everyone can relate to and get lost within. As the final turn of events unfolded, gasps filled the silent theatre, followed closely by sniffles as the audience fell into realization of the familiarity of the conclusion. I must say, even I found myself dabbing the never-ending tears from my cheeks long past the hike through the parking lot. Although this film was certainly a sad story at the least, I will expect to be seeing it over and over, tears on high.

Molly Z.