Monday, December 29, 2008

The Wrestler - Movie Review

Randy "The Ram" Robinson is a washed up wrestler who was a big hit 20 years ago. Now he's struggling to make ends meat and he ends up having a heart attack that sets him back from doing the one thing he knows best, Professional Wrestling. Mickey Rourke hasn't done much lately, but I have to say he is awesome in this movie. I think he plays the part just right, getting into the role and doing an amazing job. He almost looks like he might have already been pretty beat up from his own professional boxing career and whatever else he's been up to for the last 20 years.

I'll get a little more into the movie, but have to say that the soundtrack to the movie was an 80's hair band delight. Some Bang Your Head and Cinderella's Don't know What You Got fill the background along with other favorites like Round and Round from Ratt. Bruce Springsteen even has a new single that plays during the closing credits.

Evan Rachael Wood plays the estranged daughter who Randy wants to try to make amends to and Marisa Tomei gets naked once again for us as a stripper that Randy has a thing for. Not that it made the movie or anything, just had to point out that Marisa still has it going on these days.

Watching the start of this movie where they are all in a gym maybe 100 people watching them just beat on each other. It makes you remember back to the old wrestling, the true wrestling of The Crusher, Baron Von Raschke, Andre The Giant, Rick Flare, Adrian Adonis and even the original Hulk Hogan and all the greats of the time before the WWF rook over the world.

Rourke really does a great job of playing this guy who works in the grocery store during the week and on weekends wrestles because he it's his life. When he has a heart attack, he realizes that he needs to walk away from it all, but when things don't go right in life he turns to the one thing he knows best and it's all on the line for a 20 year reunion match between him and The Ayatollah.

The funny thing about Rourke is that he used to really get into the character mode. He's live the character like in Barfly. Now he really seems to be in character again and really hits it. Awesome job on this one. I don't know if this will be of the right nature to get him at least an Oscar nod, but from everything else I've seen this year, I do think he deserves it.

Well worth seeing for sure, when it comes out in wide release I would highly recommend seeing Rourke at his best and also Marisa Tomei, who really does a great job of playing a very guarded stripper, who likes Randy, but can't let it go past that. She too realizes that her days are numbered and wants something better. A very good performance for Tomei.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dave's Top 10 Cds of 2008

So here is my list of my top 10 cds that were released in 2008. This will include deluxe reissues and live music releases as well as studio recordings. You can think what you want, that's your deal. This is what I like, so let's beging:

1. The Heavy Circles - Self Titled This is Edie Brickell and Harper Simon collaberating efforts along with a pretty strong cast of characters like Money Mark, Sean Lennon, Martha Wainwright and Yuka Honda. This CD came out early in 2008 and really didn't have a lot of press around it and no tour at all, but to me it's one of my favorite of the year. I might be a little biased being an Edie fan, but still I think that they did an amazing job of putting this one together. There is a really nice mix of music styles throughout the CD and with Edie on vocals it all comes together nicely. It shows that between Edie's ability to write songs and Harpers ability to add and mix the music they sure came up with a winner. Although you won't see this on many of the big media top 10's it really deserves to be there.

2. Jack Johnson - Sleep Through the Static In a little different fasion Jack Johnson added some electric guitar to the music and recorded this whole cd all on solar power. On his tour he even created a Green Village to promote the 3R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. There were also other things there like Vote the Environment and Just getting folks to register to vote in general. This CD again was an early 2008 release and has some great songs on it. Jack tells some funny stories on how some of the material was written, but the songs are fantastic. Jack has an amazing voice and can put together some cool lyrics togehter making up one of my favorite cds.

3. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinalology Ryan has been really adding a lot to his creativity this year. He spent a good amopunt of time out on the road playing and released this CD along with a new book called Infinity Blues. I wasn't sure after hearing Fix It that I would like the direction Ryan was going with this new CD, but after hearing the rest, he has an amazing new CD on his hands and I would certainly recommend going out and getting this one. You can't go wrong, there's a bit of the softer side of Ryan as well as some more Alt Country songs on this. Some of the highlights on this one are Born Into The Light, Cobwebs and Natural Ghost.

4. Zach Gill - StuffZach Gill released his first solo CD after working on the last couple Jack Johnson CDs as well as the two with his original band ALO. This to me was one of the best CDS of the year because it really has a good mix of styles that all compliment Zach's soulful voice. He hits some reggae as well as some blues and many more. Call it pop or call it what you like, but Zach is really talented and this was certainly a gem of 2008. Zach recently was out on a solo tour and will be finishing off the year on tour with ALO doing a bunch of West Coast shows together. In the summer he plays with Jack Johnson, so he is pretty much busy all year long.

5. Neil Young - Sugar MountainClassic old Neil Young playing solo acoustic to me is him at his best. this was recently released and has a bit of a hiss in the recording, but for a 40 year old show that took place right before his first solo album was released, it's a pretty cool show to hear. He does a lot of talking between songs telling funny stories. Great tunes, this one is a must for the Neil Young fans out there.

6. Kings of Leon - Only By The NightI wasn't a fan of Kings of Leon when I first saw them live opening for U2, but I think this new CD really grew on my. It really, to me, isn't a hard rock CD, but it certainly has a nice selections of different songs. For their 3rd release I think they have made it passed the sophomore slump and continue to produce some rally good music. I reall y have enjoyed listening to this one.

7. Coldplay - Viva La VidaColdplay has been a band that I have really liked over the years. You can certainly tell that this CD took a lot of thought, time and effort to produce. It wasn't a throw out 10 songs and let's make a few million. there's some heart put into these recordings. Now they are being sued over one song and so maybe it was stolen or maybe an idea came to Chris Martin based off another song. Either way it will get worked out. They are fantastic in live performance as well as in studio recordings. This is a great one to have from 2008.

8. Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old SunI wasn't really sure at all about Brian Wilson coming out with a new CD after the remake or finishing of Smile. But I have to say he really did a fantastic job of capturing that same old sound from 40 years ago and he still sounds pretty good as he mixes it all together. As a single voice, I don't think he's the best performer, but with the musically talent of puttiong the whole thing together, this was a real winner for me this year.

9. The Verve - FourthAfter a long hiatus from the music scene or at least the American music scene, The Verve exploded back with their fourth cd titled Fourth. Can't go wrong with that title. The songs are great and Richard Ashcroft really put it together with the band on this one. I don't know how well it has done, but it's one that is certainly worth a listen. They promoted it by releasing a few sessions and other things and then went out and played a bunch of festivals in Europe. I'm glad to hear them back making music.

10. The Racontuers - Consolers of the LonelyNot much in the way of advertising or promoting initially for this CD. It sort of just showed up and that was that. They did tour the US and Europe in support and eventually started to get some play time for this CD. I like the beat and I like all the stuff Jack White has done with these guys. This second release is as good as the first and I have to say that they show a wide range of talent as a band. I have yet to see them live, but have heard them live on NPR as well as other live downloads. Can't wait to see them live as they really have a great sound.

Honorable Mention: Vampire Weekend - Self titledThe debut cd for this college band really hit the charts and fits right into that Panic at The Disco style of music, not sure exactly what it's called. I have to say that on the downside, I have not heard many good things about their live performances. I have heard they play about a 45 minute show of just their CD tunes and really don't stray. So for me the question is how did they produce such a great first time CD? Will we see them for a second and will it be good or did they just happen to strike the right chord in 2008. Let's see what 2009 brings us.

Honorable Mention: David Byrne & Bryan Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen TodayI had to add this one because as hard as it was to choose a top 10 of 2008 because there were some really good things that came out, but David Byrne and Brian Eno put together this fantastic collection of songs. I haven't seen this one stick around on any charts, but it really is a classic and will be one people will be pulling out and having a listen to for many years to come. Both Byrne and Eno are so talented and together they are amazing.

There are many more I could have added including Lucinda Williams, The Roots, Ra Ra Riot, Nine Ince Nails, Conor Oberst, Old Crow Medicine Show, Old 97's, but I really picked the best as well as I could from my opinion. There's a lot of people that would say I missed the mark or whatever, but to me this was a good year of music and so many to choose from and only 10 plus spots to fill. I may change my mind over the next couple of weeks, but my top ones won't be going anywhere. Edie Brickell was fantastic in her new adventure, Ryan Adams is amazing as always and Jack Johnson is a just superb.

Please feel free to comment and add what you like, I'm always open to suggestions of new or different styles of music.

The Day The Earth Stood Still - Movie Review

The remake of the 1951 thriller The Day the Earth Stood Still came out in theaters on December 12, 2008. the movie stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu and Jennifer Connelly as Dr. Helen Benson. Jaden Smith plays Helen's stepson Jacob. The movie mainly reveolved around the three of them, but also stars Kathy Bates as the US Secretary of Defense.

So the basis for the story if you haven't heard or read anything about it is that Klaatu comes to Earth to save the planet. The Alien took the form of Keanu Reeves, who it ran into in the Karakorum Mountains in India, while climbing a mountain. So now as it returns travelling 30,000 km/s it's going to crash into Earth or at least that's what they think.

They bring Dr. Helen Benson in as one of the experts to study what's going on and then study Klaatu in it's human for looking like Keanu Reeves. She develops a relationship with him and realizes what she needs to do to convince him that people can change and that in order to save the Earth, Klaatu doesn't need to exterminate the population.

These spheres show up all over the world collecting different species as to be like Noahs Ark. Then as everything gets collected the plan is to wipe out the universe and all man made structures with some sort of nanobots. The graphics of the film were pretty cool I must say.

In the end Helen convinces Klaatu that people can change and he stops detroying the humans and lets things return to the way they were.

I'm not sure why they always decide to remake old movies, but maybe it just has to do with the new technology and graphics they can display to make it seem cool vs. original.

The whole story about coming to destroy humans because they are killing the Earth and not doing their part to become "Green" and self sustainable is always a cool thing. I just wish people would take it upon themselves to do more to help save the planet and not go see this average film that they won't even get the message from.

I would wait for this one to come out on DVD. It has already grossed more than it's $80m price tag, but not really worth paying to see. I say Red Box Rental!

Rating: 2 out of 5

Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon - TV Movie Review

Set in the Grand Canyon back in the days of the gold rush, this movie tells the tale of an ancient Aztec civilization that is living behind one of the rock walls of the Grand Canyon. The Sci-Fi original movie stars Shannen Doherty of 90210 fame as well as Michael Shanks of Stargate SG-1. I love the fact that they show these things in HD now. So awesome to watch the cheese of all cheese in HD.

Not nearly as bad as last weeks thriller Sharks in Venice. This movie actually has a bit of a story to it. There's an ancient civilization that hides in the Grand Canyon and there is some alien monster that controls the people forcing them to make sacrifices as if it were a god.

Shannen Doherty plays Susan Jordon who is an archaeologist, who is working for the Smithsonian and is planning to meet up with her Father, but he doesn't show. So now they go looking for him and find that he has discovered the lost city and they need to save him.

Personally this was probably the biggest waste of 2 hours time, but it has the cheese factor and that's what made it worth watching.

Not sure when it will play again, but if you get a chance, catch it for sure.
I loved it when Michael Shanks self sacrificed himself, by pulling out his heart and then after coming back to life killed the alien god and became the new god.
Too funny!

Rating: 1/2 out of 5

The Punisher: War Zone - Movie Review

This Punisher movie is really not a sequel to the 2004 movie with Thomas Jane. It's more of a new version that was adapted from one of the spin-off comics called The Punisher WarZone that was written and published in the early to mid 1990's.

This version of the Punisher doesn't get heavy into the past and what made Frank Castle into what he is, but more of a jump into a story with Frank Castle, played by British actor Ray Stevenson, who was in the HBO series Rome. The Punisher is out to take down all the crime families in the city and in this particular story he turns Billy Russoti(Dominic West, from The Wire) into a warped criminal with a twisted messed up face called Jigsaw.

So the movie has some pretty graphic violence and some good action sequences. The Punisher certainly takes no prisoners, but in this movie he ends up taking down an undercover cop, who had infiltrated Jigsaws organization. Now he feels he owes a debt to the wife and daughter. He then finds out they are in danger and now need to protect them and take care of them until he can take down Jigsaw.

Well Jigsaw and his brother Looney Bin Jim get the family and draw The Punisher to the hotel that is heavily armed and he has to come up with a plan to save them. Part of this is to team up with the police and FBI to run some interference for him to get in the building and to the woman and her daughter.

The whole next part of the movie plays out as a wild and crazy gun battle action scene. Bullets are flying and people are dying, it's quite insane. Then as he approaches the room with Jigsaw old Looney Bin Jim goes one on one in a pretty cool fight with The Punisher. From there Jigsaw puts him in a place to chose between friend or kid and he does an awesome job of taking out the brothers with sacraficing his friend.

Overall I thought it was a pretty well done movie with a good story and a lot of action. I know most critics blasted it, but it was a lot better than what they said. If you are looking for a good action shoot'em up movie - check it out!

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dexter - Season 3 Review

Season 3 of Dexter has come to a close and the cool thing as of now is there are plans for a season 4 in the works.

Michael C. Hall stars once again in another awesome season of the show. We ended last season with Dokes getting framed for the murders Dexter committed and some craziness. So why not start the season with some craziness as well.

Dexter once again gets himself into a bind by going to kill a drug dealing killer named Freebo. He comes in to the house take him down and ends up killer the DA, Miguel Prado's brother Oscar. Jimmy Smitts plays Miguel Prado in this new season. He's powerful and has a lot of connections all around to get people to investigate the murder of his brother. Also Miguel's other brother, Ramon works in the Sheriffs department and he really wants to find this killer.

Along with having to deal with how he can keep the murder of Oscar Prado under wraps and get it blamed on Freebo, he finds out his girlfriend Rita is pregnant with his child. Dexter is going to be a dad - Holy Shit!

So the new players this season are the usual suspects with the addition of Jimmy Smitts and a new Detective on the team as well, but he's not worth talking much about because I really didn't feel that overall he played a big role in the show. She was connected to a bunch of events, but nothing to major.

So Freebo is on the loose and Dexter needs to find him before Miguel or the rest of the force can.

So now Miguel finds out Dexter is getting nosey and confronts him only to get a Dexter BS story to satisfy Miguel. From there the relationship develops and before you know it Dexter is killing Freebo at his girlfriends house and guess who shows up? Good old Miguel - now a bond has formed and Miguel is really interested in working with Dexter.

After Dexter runs off to take out another poor sap, Miguel figures it out and now wants to be a part of the vengence.

So while Freebo is dead, someone else continues on killing people the way Freebo did it. It's not Dexter and at this point who knows who it is or why.

Deb continues to investigate the death of a mysterious woman and it seems to be done in the same way as Freebo did it, so everyone still thinks this is freebo, but it's not because he's dead. Dexter helps Deb in a subtle way figure out that the dead girl is Freebo's girlfriend and now it's all back to one big case.

Now Dexter and Miguel are becoming good buddies and killing the bad guys who get off is their thing. Could this be good or could it be all wrong. Well Dexter soon finds out that Miguel has his own agenda and kills off a lawyer out to get him. This isn't part of Dexter's code and from their the relationship turns bad. Everything Dexter thought Miguel was turned out to be all lies.

So now he needs to deal with this. So Dexter is once again in a predicament. He is forced to make Miguel feel vulnerable and nneds to hold onto his own secret. So there's only one thing that can be done, kill him. In good old Dexter fasion he take s Miguel down and ends up dealing with his brother who thinks Dexter killed Miguel.

All of this is going on and Dexter is going to get married, keep his hidden identity and save the day. But there's one more twist, the skinner is out there and his next target is Dexter. Turns out the Skinner was working for Miguel. So now Dexter has to get out of this mess and get to his wedding. Of course he does and throws the Skinner in front of the moving Police car to make it look like a suicide. He breaks his hand, but plays it off like he fell, gets married and remains the worlds most loved serial killer in the end.

I might have left soem things out in my summary including some of the other peoples stories, but the big focus was on Dexter and Miguel. It was a good vs. evil match once again.

Awesome season, be sure to pick it up on DVD if you don't get Showtime. They are renewed for a fourth season so be looking for more next year.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sons of Anarchy Season One Review

So I started off by writing a review of the Pilot episode of this show and wasn't really favorable of that particular episode. Here's was my review with and update: Sons of Anarchy Pilot Review.

I originally felt it was just a little too much with the drugs, violence, death and wasn't sure if it would ever really develop a story line. Since that first episode it did pick up and developed some pretty good storeys dealing with relationships, character development and second thoughts.

There were a couple of key stories going on the main was Gemma, played by Katay Sagal, tries to control just about everyone on the show. She wants to control her son Jax's life and who he has a relationship with. She plays Jax's ex-wife off against his girlfriend and even tries to kill his ex-wife with a needle full of drugs. She gets what she wants and she's one tough bitch. Sagal really does an awesome job in this role as a cold hearted wife of the president of Sam Crow who really is pulling the strings of a lot of people.

Jax is played by Charlie Hunnam, who played the thug brother in the movie Green Street Hooligans, which is a great film and well worth seeing. It's funny seeing a Brit play a biker from the Sacramento area town of Charming, CA. Jax starts to question a lot of what's going on as his son is born to his drugged up wife. He lives and is in intensive care. The wife is sent off to rehab and Jax will be resonsible for raising his son. He goes to storage to get some stuff and finds a box of stuff that was his fathers. There was a book that his father wrote about how Sam Crow lost its way and he had a different vision of what he wanted it to be. Jax starts to question things and challenges Clay, the president of Sam Crow, who is also his step father. This continues to get at him through the series. Jax's dad is John Teller who along with Piney Joe started the motorcycle gang. Teller died when Jax was young and Clay Morrow stepped in to raise him.

Ron Perlman plays Clay, the president of the Club and is the mastermind behind all the gun running. He sells to the 9ers, a black gang out of Oakland and he's always at odds with the Mayans, a Mexican rival gang. He controls his arms from the IRA and even deals with the Chinese mafia. He's into a whole bunch of stuff as long as it happens outside the borders of Charming, it's fair game. He has the police chief and the sheriff department on his payroll.

All seems to be going well until the Mayans blow up the gun storage and revenge comes. From there the whole season is a balance of power and struggle to keep the violence out of Charming, CA. There's a local Police officer who is working against the Chief and trying to nail the Sons, but he always seems to come out on the wrong end. The Feds even get involved and in the end after they think they have a great case, it all goes away.

The show had a little violence, but it for the most part dealt with a wide variety of situations and struggles of individuals. Jax isn't sure what he feels is right and Opie wants back in, but doesn't want to got to jail again and in the end he comes back in and his wife ends up getting killed. Gemma plays Jax's ex-wife off the doctor who comes back to hide and be with Jax. She doesn't want the Doctor helping screw with Jax's mind.

These guys really know how to work the system and more connections than anyone I know. In the end they keep rolling, but it's time for some change.

If you missed it, pick it up on DVD when it's released. After my little rant on the first episode, I really think it came on strong and was well written. This one will be around for at least another season to see where Jax goes and if there's an uprising.

There's a lot more stories going on that I might have forgotten, but watch it and Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Neil Young - Sugar Mountain - Live at Caterbury House 1968 CD Review

40 years after the original performance Neil Young has released Sugar Mountain: Live at Caterbury House 1968. This comes as a CD/DVD combo package. The DVD in this package is actually an audio DVD, not a video like the Massey Hall show. The only video on the DVD is a preview of the Archives Vol. 1 Trailer. This is the 10 DVD/BlueRay box set that will be coming out. So just a pre-warning if you are buying only to see the DVD, you might want to buy it on iTunes and get the bonus song, which you can buy individually anyways.

This is a 40 year old recording done on the old reel tapes, so even with the clean up done, there is still a slight hiss in the recording. For me it just adds a little of that history kind of like listening to some of the old Grateful Dead Dick's Picks.

This performance was done just after the break up of Buffalo Springfield and just before the release of Neils first solo album. In typical Neil fashion, he plays songs and tells stories between the songs as well. There's one about him getting fired from a job in a bookstore and how he took some pills and was wired one day and down the next. It's pretty funny. There are other funny one liners as well.

Great song selection for this performance, a nice 3 minute version of a song that took 5 minutes to write, Mr. Soul. Nice versions of several songs such as Old Lady Laughing and Sugar Mountain as well as Broken Arrow.

It's a small venue with an intimate setting and it comes out in the play of the songs, a little rough, but fantastic.

This is a CD worth picking up either from iTunes with the bonus song or to have the CD/DVD version if you like. You can't go wrong either way.

Track List:

1. On The Way Home
2. Mr. Soul
3. Expecting To Fly
4. The Last Trip To Tulsa
5. The Loner
6. Birds
7. Winterlong (excerpt)
8. Out Of My Mind
9. If I Could Have Her Tonight
10. Sugar Mountain
11. I've Been Waiting For You
12. Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
13. The Old Laughing Lady
14. Broken Arrow
15. I Am A Child (iTunes Bonus Track)