Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Hold Steady [live]

Blitzen Trapper: I missed a few songs from their set and I sincerely regret that. I had a few songs of these guys on my computer from senior year at Jesuit, but I didn't get too excited about them at the time and never really went back. Well, they were really fun to see live. Very energetic and dynamic. Their songs were pretty spastic but on most you could hear some country, Americana roots and I dug them a lot. They have a new CD coming out in June and its supposed to be really good. I met Brian the drummer after the show and I guess I was right in thinking they were a Portland band. He was super-friendly.

Rating: mMGravy

Heartless Bastards: I had just read reviews of these guys before going, so I was way off-base in telling Ken I thought they were supposed to be Death Cab-y. Not at all. The first two songs were very simple and boring, but I guess it was a pump fake because the rest of the set was good bluesy garage rock with some great singing from frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom. Rachel called it as like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and at the time I said yeah but without the insanity but I should have added without a great guitarist. The drums and bass seemed pretty utilatarian and unspectacular, but I thought everything added together really well. I'm definitely picking up their newest CD. Oh yeah, the violinist for that one song walked by us and I said good job and he said you too.

Rating: mMGravy-mMmGravy

The Hold Steady: Great show, great deal. These guys were made to see live and they didn't disappoint. Hell, they didn't want to stop playing. Craig Finn is thrilled to be a rock star, at whatever level he is, and he led his band through a really tight, fun set. He danced and jived and wanted us to know all the words. Of course, I was a scenester and hadn't listened to their first two CDs before I went, so while I liked all the songs that were new to me, none were as loved as much as those from their newest CD Boys and Girls in America. Stuck Between Stations, Chips Ahoy, First Night, Massive Nights, You Can Make Him Like You, Southtown Girls: they were all fantastic. Oh yeah, and we saw Franz, the suited, mustachioed keyboardist after the Arcade Fire concert. What a funny guy. Five song encore? Wild. They were too eager to come back on too. What a lovable pack of guys.

Rating: MMGravy-MMmGravy

Monday, May 28, 2007

Arcade Fire [live]

Set:
Keep the Car Running
No Cars Go
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
Haiti
Black Mirror
Neon Bible
Distortions (Clinic cover)
In the Backseat
Intervention
(Antichrist Television Blues)
Ocean of Noise
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
The Well and the Lighthouse
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)

Encore:
My Body is a Cage
Wake Up


Ian and I would have died for a Born on a Train cover, but I think everyone had a great time. Except when Magda and Cynda got sent back to their seats after invading the aisles. Every song was outstanding, so I don't feel like I can criticize the three or so that were just outstanding and not wholly superb. Each song in succession reminded me why I don't have a favorite Arcade Fire song like I do with most bands, I have a favorite ten Arcade Fire songs, in no immutable order. The set design and showmanship were fantastic, evoking a 1920's film shot at a carnival funhouse or something equally absurd and perfect. The songs started as boulders already rushing downhill, and just gained momentum. It was thrilling to be part of; a wild out-of-another-dimension punk rock orchestra. My life's biggest regret is now assauged having seen that show.

Sorry for the incoherence, felt like I had to write it pretty quick or it would never get done. And its late. Cheers.

Rating: mMMmGravy-MMMGravy

Thanks for snatching tickets Magda. (Send me the picture Cynda?)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Montana

...


Also, it's snowing.Tomorrow severe thunderstorms + South Dakota= more funtastic. I miss you guys.

Milwaukee in t-minus 3 days!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dinosaur Jr. [live]

Alright, so the Dinos just released a comeback album after over a decade and I super-dig it. It runs a little bit together, but its so solid throughout I can't help but love it. Its all Lou's delicious fuzzy mega-strummed bass, smart drumming, and J's genius guitar melodies which shift into some pretty incredible solos. And that's pretty much what it was in concert. They didn't really interact a helluva lot with the crowd, except when Murph the drummer went missing and we all chanted his name under Lou's direction. Lou also told us somebody stole his jacket out of the dressing room, and so he told us Portland was redeemed when it got handed up to him later. We cheered.

Back in the 80's when they rocked hard and didn't give a fuck:


It was a very interesting concert experience for me in that I really got to see some pretty agressive crowd behavior. I was two rows up when the show started but I backed off after awhile so as to be just on the edges of the moshing. I don't even know if what this was is actually called moshing. Maybe you can help. Between, depending on the song, twenty and thirty people running into each other, while the people on the outsides push them back into each other. It was odd. The music was great, especially the new songs. They really did look like dinosaurs up there, especially Lou who made the bass look like the coolest fucking instrument on the planet. J is a weird motherfucker. Murph is bald now and just looks like he wants a burger.

These days when they rock hard and don't give a fuck:



I got a copy of the setlist, and waited outside the Crystal for an hour to get it signed. But no one came out, so I was walking to my car (up the hill), when I turn around and see J walk down the hill towards Burnside. I go to catch up, but I kind of chicken out because J is the least approachable one, so I kinda followed him for awhile hoping he'd meet up with the others. But he just went into the Benson with some roadies he found. Ok, so I followed him for ten blocks. Sorry.

Alright, so in summary, not the greatest concert of my life, a little overpriced, a little wild, but very interesting and usually enjoyable nonetheless. Oh, and openers Awesome Color near instantly made me think of the Stooges if they weren't threatening but instead wanted to skate with you (which they told us they did.) They were mediocre but lovable. Y'all didn't miss a bunch I guess.

So just find yourself a copy of Dino's new CD Beyond and call it good, k? Maybe work the back catalogue after that, and share with me. Cool.

Rating: mMGravy

Friday, May 04, 2007

SPIDER-MAN 3

IMPORTANT: I posted this before I read Devon's post directly below, and if I had I would've held off on it. Obviously it's not the time for it. But it was a pain in the ass to put together, so I'm just gonna leave this here, but please do scroll down and read what Devon wrote. We all knew it was coming, but it's never easy when it does.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a long review, and I’m really sorry about that (I’ve been working like hell on my editing skills), but I had a pretty big reaction to this movie. I sprinkled some images in to break it up a bit.

I started this review three hours after walking out of the midnight showing of the movie, sitting in the airport, and finished it on the plane before I let myself sleep.

Almost three years ago, I walked out of Spider-Man 2 completely floored. The first thing I thought was “I need to see Spider-Man 3 RIGHT NOW.” Loved is an understatement. Spider-Man 2 raised the level of what could be achieved in superhero movies, had one of the best action sequences of all time (the elevated train sequence), and finally gave the action movie love story the attention it deserved and made it MATTER. The thing that most amazed me about Spider-Man 2 wasn’t its awesome story or simply jaw-dropping action sequences – it was that I CARED. For the first time in a superhero movie, I gave a damn about the girl. And when Mary Jane said “Go get ‘em, Tiger,” at the end, I just about lept with joy.



When the first trailer for Spider-Man 3 was shown before Superman Returns, I freaked out. I remember how happy I was by how RIGHT everything seemed.

So you’ll have to forgive me when I say I almost feel betrayed walking out of Spider-Man 3. Look, there is a LOT of the stuff to love here, and it’s definitely not as much a betrayal as X-Men 3 was (and it ain't half as bad as that was), but at least I kinda saw that one coming after Brett Ratner was announced as the director. There are moments in this film so good, so great, so just flat-out beautiful and amazing I almost cried. But there are moments in it so awful, so out-of-place and out-of-character, that I wanted to stand up and scream “What the FUCK?”

Maybe I had almost impossible expectations, but I think most people agree that there’s no reason to do a sequel unless it’s going to top what came before it. Sure, the studio was gonna roll one out anyway, and the cast was definitely at the top of their game to a surprising degree, so that means all the blame rests with the one man I really hate to blame for it: Writer/director Sam Raimi, who so successfully launched this series, one of the biggest superhero properties, and created something real and important and really worth all that was put into it.

So first, the good stuff. Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Thomas Hayden Church, and Topher Grace. I’ve always been lukewarm about James Franco as Harry Osborn, but then again he’s hardly had a damn thing to do besides be a little smug. But he’s just outstanding in this. He really is. Thomas Hayden Church plays Flint Marko, AKA Sandman (who, in typical Spidey fashion, is only called “Sandman” once in the entire movie), and he’s given almost nothing of any real consequence to do (seriously, I’m fairly certain he could have been written out of the movie and nothing would have changed, which is too bad because that's clearly the only part Sam Raimi cared about) but somehow creates this great character regardless. And finally, Topher Grace, who I guess a lot of people don’t like but I always have. And he’s great here as Eddie Brock/Venom (who, again…never called Venom). He has a great entrance and he just oozes charm throughout the movie. Classic villain stuff.



More good stuff – Harry Osborn. You have no idea what Harry’s gonna go through in this movie. I promise you don’t. The single best thing Sam Raimi did in this movie was with Harry Osborn, and it’s one of the few reasons I have to really want to revisit this movie (besides to check in again to see if I missed something…and to find out what the hell Stan Lee said while the crowd was cheering).

Beyond that, there are a lot of great moments that I can’t talk about lest I spoil it. Flint Marko’s rise into becoming the Sandman is a really beautiful moment, and the special effects team deserves a lot of credit (for the whole film, really, but that moment especially). The action scenes are spectacular, but don’t carry half the weight they did in the first two, and nothing in this film tops the elevated train sequence in Spider-Man 2.

The bad…and there’s a lot. I really hate to say it, but there is. Well, maybe not quantitatively, but the bad for me was so bad that it stood out way too much. Peter Parker being influenced by the Venom goo…there’s almost nothing salvageable here, except for his fight with Sandman. Look, I buy that the stuff is supposed to “amplify aggression” and make him sort of evil, but…and I’m really dancing around spoilers here, but there’s a lot of problems with this whole section to begin with, and then there’s a scene that’s clearly supposed to be a big confrontation between him and Mary Jane right before he decides to abandon the goo (and this is nothing that hasn’t been spoiled in every single trailer for this film ever), but instead of treating their characters (let alone the audience) with ANY respect, they just turn the whole thing into a massive joke. You know what, screw it, here’s what happens – Peter Parker dances. His big confrontation with Mary Jane as Evil Peter is a dance sequence. I swear to God. They add a bit of weight to it right at the end, but until that point it’s just…it’s just sad. And it tears me apart just thinking that THIS is what it all lead to, but it’s just…it really is just sad that this was the best they could come up with. Really, the whole thing with the Venom goo attaching itself to Peter is treated as nothing more than a joke. What should have plunged him into his inner depths and torn apart every relationship he had just became a VERY cheap attempt at a laugh (that they definitely didn’t get from me). They started it off right and they clearly knew the effect they wanted it to have on the characters, but they had no idea at all how to make that effect happen.



And that's probably the central problem with the script - the screenwriters completely knew the points they wanted to touch on, what had to happen, and where the characters had to be at certain moments. And as an outline, it totally works. But the way they get to those moments are impossibly bad.

And speaking of relationships, what the hell with Peter and MJ? Both of them are extraordinarily out of character, especially around each other, just so the filmmakers (and again, the buck really does stop with Sam Raimi here) could find a way to create a rift between the couple they so successfully brought together in over the course of two previous films. And I don’t mean out of character from the comics, I mean out of character from who they’ve been this whole time in the last two films. They ditched almost all of the goodwill and trust that’s built up between these two.



And then there’s Gwen Stacy, but my complaint there is all geek. Right before the movie I was talking with my friend Gray and I mentioned how excited I was for Gwen because they barely showed her at all in the trailers and she’s a really great character and I’ll always love Bryce Dallas Howard after being the only worthwhile thing in The Village. In the comics, she was Peter’s first love who is suddenly killed by the Green Goblin. Along with Uncle Ben’s death, it really is THE defining moment for Peter and really shows him that the superhero gig is a lot more dangerous than he thought. In Spider-Man 3, Gwen’s some chick who Mary Jane is jealous of, in spite of the fact that Peter pays almost no attention to her. I’ve grown fairly used to comic book movies name-checking minor characters to gain some geek cred, but…c’mon, really? One of the most important characters in the history of the series is relegated to basically the importance of…I don’t even know. I can’t explain how unimportant and disappointing her character is in this movie.

So I’m really just frustrated at this point. Like I said, and I know I’ve written a lot more about the good than the bad, but that’s just because I don’t want to spoil the real beautiful parts. There really is SO MUCH good in this movie, so many moments I just about exploded with joy or sadness or some wonderful mixture of the two. Pretty much everything up ‘til…there’s a very definite moment in which the film just turned on me, and it’s around the time Peter gets consumed by the goo, but everything leading up to that is just about perfection. And when they get Peter and MJ right, they really nail them. And Harry Osborn is just awesome, I can’t express how much I love what they did with Harry. And the fight scenes are, of course, spectacular, especially the finale. But almost all of the tension was removed from it because I just stopped giving a damn about anybody there, and any feelings I had for Peter or MJ at that point came pretty much from how much I just absolutely loved both of them in the first two films.

But there’s so much that’s just a mess. Like for the first time in the series, Raimi and his writing staff just had no idea how to handle everything. There were moments when I couldn’t believe that was the third Spider-Man movie I was watching; that’s how out of place everything was. It’s no secret in the movie/comic book community that Sam Raimi resisted putting in Venom and Gwen Stacy since the beginning – he simply had no interest in the characters. But oddly enough, and maybe due to Topher Grace, Venom totally works. Sure, they kind of brush aside the whole idea this shit CAME FROM SPACE. But there were times when Peter was being taken over by the goo himself, and the whole movie seemed to be going down the crapper, that I wondered if it wasn’t Sam Raimi’s way of getting back at us for begging him to put Venom in (and for the record, I couldn't have cared less if Venom ever showed up in this series; he's a one-note villain who's only really cool because they can do the Evil Spidey angle, but they kinda screwed the pooch on that one so what's the point?).

I remember when I walked out of X-Men 3, I thought about how great that movie must be for people who never saw the first two, or at the very least never gave a damn about the characters and just wanted to see Wolverine tear shit up. And that’s pretty much the way I feel about Spider-Man 3. If you didn’t give a damn about the characters in the first two (which seems impossible to me…Peter, MJ, and Harry have been driving this from the start), and you wanna see some sweet fight scenes (and Venom), you will win. But I expected more from these guys. I really did, and I hope most audiences are asking that much from one of the defining film sagas of this generation.

Sad News

I'm putting this up here for everyone who missed the email from Don Clarke. At 9 am on Friday, Lauren Alcantar passed away. I had thought, and hoped, that she had the cancer in remission, or at least that her fight was going better than it was. They're holding a mass at Jesuit at 9pm for her, and Don asks that any of you who are at college go to the chapel or a sacred space at that time. Its hard for me to believe that she is gone... seems so surreal, not only to lose someone from our graduating class, but to lose someone that we worked on plays with.