Friday, December 26, 2008

Action and year end lists.

Note: this was originally posted on the Mission District site but I thought I would post it here as well for anyone who missed out.

Since the new year is upon us, this means there has been the inevitable storm of year end lists from all the usual suspects. Time. Pitchfork. Spin. Rolling Stone. I am in no way qualified to write a year end list, as I haven't even come close to seeing every good film that's been released, nor have I heard every good album. But you know what, you're the one reading this so you're going to have to read my uninformed opinions and that's just the end of it. So here's my top ten films and top ten albums of 2008, in no particular order:

TOP 10 films

That damn robot almost made me cry several times. Almost.

The best comic book movie ever made. Unbelievable performances from all the actors, particularly Aaron Eckhart and of course, Heath Ledger who will probably win the best supporting actor Oscar for his unforgettable turn as the Joker.

Perfectly cast and expertly directed by Jon Favreau. Plus RDJ is entertaining no matter what he does so this was just a super fun ride. Can't wait to see how this universe continues to expand in sequels and the eventual Avengers movie.

I wasn't sure how the Coens were going to follow up No Country For Old Men, but they managed to knock this out of the park. A screwball CIA suspense thriller comedy about a bunch of pathetic losers that ends up going to some surprisingly dark places.

A genius concept executed to near perfection by director and star Ben Stiller. Far superior to most of his other bland, dumb leading man romantic comedies. A performance of a lifetime from RDJ (who I clearly have a massive man-crush on,) and Tom Cruise also gets some of the biggest laughs of the movie so clearly I love this.

A heartbreaking look at a broken down man trying to return to his glory days which have long since passed. I have great respect for professional wrestlers and the personal hell they put themselves through in order to entertain people and Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke clearly share that respect. This has been a fantastic year for acting performaces and Rourke's work here is right up there amongst the very best.

An amazingly creepy Swedish vampire film, rent this before they inevitably screw up the American remake.

Guillermo Del Toro is a living God and Ron Perlman actually is Hellboy. I hope we get a Hellboy III after Guillermo is finished with those two upcoming Hobbit movies.

David Gordon Green's other movie that came out in 2008, Pineapple Express, was great but this was better (I know, I know, it premiered at Sundance in 2007, but it made its limited theatrical run in 2008 so fuck off I'm including it.) Absolutely devastating story featuring captivating performances from everyone involved, especially Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale.

It's really cool to see Seth Rogen, James Franco and now Jason Segel (Freaks and Geeks) becoming big movie stars. Segel did a great job writing and starring in this and goes to some amazing lengths to get some of the biggest laughs of the movie (he shows his penis.) Russell Brand is also really funny in this. I am always pleasantly surprised when romantic comedies are actually comedic and not retarded.

Top 10 albums

I think to make this album, this French band actually travelled back in time to the 1980's, lived there for several months hanging out with the Thompson Twins and making this music and then travelled back to the exact point they left so no one noticed they were gone. And thank God they did because this record is incredible.

The comeback is complete. Circus is fantastic and I am amazed at the positive turn Britney's public image has made in the last few months. I am certain she is still completely insane though.

This came out in Europe in 2005 but was finally released in North America in 2008, yet for some reason no one really bought it. This is not cool, because this is actually one of the best pop records ever.

It gets included here just for not being a complete disaster as many were expecting (myself included.) The fact that this is even out still blows my mind. There are a few great songs, but it is mostly just fascinating trying to wrap your mind around the amount of time and money that was spent on this album.

A genius marketing move, the epic Brian Eno reinvention album that is really not that much of a reinvention at all. Fortunately that doesn't stop Viva La Vida from being really, really good.

A really expertly produced, well written pop album. Katy Perry has a great voice and doesn't irritate me like some other similar artists (Avril Lavigne.)

Maybe the best party record of all time.

It's really interesting to hear these guys take punk and hardcore into strange new directions. This record is great but there is a good chance I am including it in this list just for indie cred.

If there is any justice in the universe, this Danish 6-piece will soon be everywhere. They deserve it, this record is a modern pop masterpiece.

More immediately accessible than Sam's Town with some filler but still really great overall. There is some interesting sonic experimentation but it feels much more natural and organic this time around. Brandon Flowers finally sounds like Brandon Flowers and not Springsteen or Morrisey.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas gift ideas for a zombie enthusiast.

Well, we are rapidly approaching Christmas, and if you are a chronic procrastinator as I am, right now is the time when we finally have to get around to buying some gifts for our loved ones. Although the true meaning of the holiday has become severely distorted in our postmodern, consumption crazy society, at its core, it still is a time of giving, sharing, and generosity - and the best possible gift you can provide for someone this season is a zombie-themed one. Fact. So here is a list of some of my personal favourite examples of zombie pop culture, which could maybe help to prepare a special someone for the inevitable day (or night) that our loved ones return from the grave to devour us alive.

And if you think this is just a shameless ploy to get someone to buy me zombie-themed Christmas presents, this is untrue, because I already own all these things. That's how I'm able to tell you about them, silly.


Zack Snyder's Watchmen adaptation looks to be pretty faithful and true to the source material, and it makes me wonder what exactly went wrong with his Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. Athough it was fairly popular and did well at the box office, it doesn't hold a candle to George Romero's 1978 masterpiece. Although the remake has a pretty decent opening 20 minutes, after that it essentially sacrifices all the character development and social commentary that make the original such a landmark horror film. And seriously, why the fuck were Snyder's zombies running around so much? I mean, these things are physically dead. Their skin is decaying and falling off, their brains have lost all their higher reasoning and most motor functions, and yet Snyder has them running around like an undead Olympic relay team. Anyways, the original Dawn of the Dead is my favourite movie of all time. Yes, some of the acting is a little cheesy. It is, after all, a low budget 70's cult film, shot guerilla style in a mall in Pittsburgh during closing hours over the course of several chaotic weeks. But since there are only 4 main characters who carry the whole movie, you find yourself liking and caring about all of them as the narrative plays out, which makes it all the more painful when terrible things inevitably start to happen to them. Some people might also find themselves cringing at some of the special effects and makeup, but these people are wrong, and they also suck. All the effects were handled by horror legend Tom Savini, who also appears in the film and did a lot of the stunt work. These are my favourite type of movie effects. No CGI or other modern bullshit, just tons of fake blood, prosthetic limbs, and of course, pig intestines. Incredible. This ultimate edition dvd has pretty much anything a zombie fan could want: three seperate cuts of the movie, plus a long and informative documentary that details the making of the film, has modern interviews with the cast, and is generally pretty fucking cool. I received the Dawn of the Dead director's cut on VHS for Christmas 1998 from my brother Matt, and it was one of the best gifts ever. You can provide someone with the same happiness by buying this dvd here.

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

Max Brooks (son of Mel,) has come from out of nowhere to be one of the predominant authorities on the undead, and is now taking the elements of zombie fiction that we all know and love, and steering it into exciting, uncharted territory. First he wrote the Zombie Survival Guide, which is both a really fun way of looking at all the classic conventions of the zombie, and a ludicrously detailed guide on how to survive the coming undead apocalypse. He then followed it up with World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War, which totally knocked me on my ass with the sheer power of its awesomeness. The book is written in the form of a postwar survivors account, the idea is that the author has travelled around the world years after humanity was able to narrowly survive a long and bloody war against millions of undead, and he interviews various people - scientists, soldiers, politicians, civilians, and more - both to hear their personal accounts of what happened to them during this horrible time, and to get to the bottom of both how and why this zombie holocaust was ever able to happen, and how humanity managed to turn the tide and retake the planet just when everything seemed to have been lost. This book is insanely detailed, it covers many different aspects of the war, from the experiences of various soldiers in some of the gruesome battles that they were involved in, to government officials describing in detail the various reasons why they failed in stopping the apocalypse before it really took a turn for the worse, or the interesting ways that the political system functioned during the crisis. There is plenty of Bush-era paranoia and government mistrust which allows World War Z to function as a superb political allegory and provide plenty of social commentary and satire and this, and not people being devoured, is what makes any zombie fiction great (although the people-devouring helps too.) Also, Brad Pitt's Plan B productions secured the rights to the film version of World War Z which is being developed right now by director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) from a script by J. Michael Straczynski, and from all accounts it is going to kick unholy amounts of ass. Buy World War Z here.

THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirman has done something very special with this ongoing series from Image Comics: he's created a perfect Romero-esque apocalyptic universe, populated it with some very real, interesting characters who occupy various positions on an increasingly grey moral scale, and then instead of attempting to cram the narrative into a 2 hour movie, he has allowed their story to play out as the weeks stretch into months and years and they are forced to attempt to survive in this nightmarish world. The last I checked in with how the story is currently progressing, things were looking extremely grim. There is not very much left of the once-diverse cast of survivors led by Officer Rick Grimes. Absolutely no one is safe in this book, not even Rick: as he is forced to commit increasingly dark deeds in order to ensure the survival of his family and the people that he has commited to protect, and is still not always successful in preventing extreme devastation from being inflicted on himself and others. One thing this book does really well is really explore the depths of depravity that lies dormant inside everyone, and how otherwise good people can commit terrible atrocities when all of our social rules and regulations are taken away from us. This is what sets the George Romero Dead films above any other in the genre, (except maybe Twilight of the Dead, which kind of sucked,) and it's something that Robert Kirkman has accomplished here in spades. Whether your possible target for this gift reads graphic novels or not, any fan of horror fiction, or really any intelligent, sane person, will love the Walking Dead. If they don't, then you should stop being friends with them, because they don't deserve you. Or if they are part of your family, cut them off for a minimum of one year, because that's the only way they'll learn that you take this shit seriously. Buy the Walking Dead here.

Well that's the end of the list. Sure, there's plenty more zombie goodness I could add in here: Shaun of the Dead for instance, but everyone knows Shaun is amazing and mostly everyone has seen it so I don't feel like I should have to tell you about it. Or I also could also mention something like Return of the Living Dead, but it's a little known fact that Return of the Living Dead fucking blows. So enjoy your holidays everyone and eat as much food as you can. It will wind up being a comforting memory someday when you are locked in your attic with a few remaining cans of creamed corn for nourishment, and the people that used to be your loving family are scratching at the entrance at all hours of the day, desperate to break in and eat your intestines.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Akonnot stop listening to this song.

The musical stylings of Akon are perfect for people like me, who have very little understanding of what actually constitutes good hip hop. He has racked up an impressive number of hits (and probably a ridiculous amount of money) in the last few years by following a very simple formula where he has someone do some rapping over a synthy beat and then sings a hook in the chorus that is so catchy and drenched in auto-tune that you are forced to give him all your money. He also made a splash in the tabloid world last year when he dry humped a 14-year-old a few weeks before he threw a kid. You stay classy Akon. Anyways it is very likely that his new album, Freedom, is an attempt to clean up his image a little after these unfortunate incidents, as there is really nothing controversial at all about it. It is really catchy though, and I kind of love it. It's sort of a combination of Eurotrash techno, R&B from the future, and pure pop in a cheap disguise trying to convince you that it's hip hop, even though it's really obvious that it's not, but you don't want to say anything about it in case it becomes awkward.

FUN FACT: it took me approximately two hours to come up with the appropriate bad pun I would use as the title to this post. I feel like it was time well spent.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

i need some motivation.

Well I have certainly been pretty lazy recently when it comes to this blog. I make no excuses (but for the record this is due to jetlag, some personal issues, and chronic, crippling laziness.) Anyways I need a motivational speech to get me out of this funk. But not just any motivational speech. I need the motivationyest speech that was ever given. What do you say, internet??

I feel much better.

Monday, December 8, 2008

momma's boy.

Chromeo are another group that I now love, but have avoided listening to until really recently, literally for no reason other than the fact that I am an idiot. And these guys are from my fucking hometown. I suck.

Friday, December 5, 2008

they have a secret world in the twilight.

Sometimes I am really terrible at discovering new music. I generally try to avoid bands that are receiving hype from the music press out of general principle, and friends of mine can even tell me over and over again about bands that I would like and should be listening to, but I usually end up just not listening, and waiting to hear artists that I like through a more organic process. Admittedly, its a flawed and rather closed minded way of learning about new music, and as a result, I tend to miss out on some bands that I really should have been listening to months, if not years before. M83 is one of those bands, their record that came out this year, Saturdays=Youth is fantastic, and I find that I am actually kind of annoyed at myself that I didn't start listening to this French shoegaze band a long time ago. So here's Kim and Jessie by M83, one of the best songs I've heard in a long time, which also has a pretty cool video:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

techno viking.

This video is both the reason I love Europe, and the reason I love the internet.