Friday, September 23, 2011

3D Movies Suck, And So Do You For Liking Them

There have been many disturbing trends in movies over the past few years. Remakes, reboots, Ryan Reynolds, just to name a few. The ungodly amount of movies about emo vampires is disturbing as well. But the worst, the absolute worst by far has been the sudden re-emergence of 3D cinema.

Every decade, this gimmick (and that’s what it is) comes back from the dead. I don’t know when it first made an appearance in movies, but I do know that it was around in the 1950s, as the Vincent Price classic horror flick House of Wax was originally 3D. For the most part, that is where 3D has stayed, in the horror genre. Who can forget classics like Friday the 13th Part 3D, Jaws 3D, or My Bloody Valentine 3D?

But seriously, that is where 3D should be, campy horror movies. It’s a neat gimmick for arterial spray, boobs, and blunt objects coming at people. The only other place it works is in amusement park attractions, since it is usually tied into rocking seats and all kinds of other effects best suited for a theatre in Busch Gardens. Otherwise, its pretty goddamn cheesy and completely unnecessary.

Movies like Thor, Captain America, Cars 2, and Harry Potter were all in 3D this summer and it was nothing more than a way for their producers to grab some extra cash at the box office. There was nothing in any of these movies that could be enhanced by a third dimension and the scenes that were set up for 3D were really obvious and kind of hokey. I say this having not seen any of these in 3D; it is just that you can tell even in a normal, real movie where the 3D scene is intended to be. It takes you out of the movie for a second, because you tend to notice things like “Oh shit, there’s a wand/shield/hammer shooting out of the screen” and not “Oh shit, Voldemort/Red Skull/ Loki is going to kill Harry Potter/Captain America/Thor.” You forsake plot details, acting, and skill as a filmmaker for a cheap thrill that looks cheap when you stop to think about it. Transformers 3 was also 3D, but that doesn’t really matter because that looked like a piece of shit no matter what way you see it.

A lot of this craze happened because of Avatar and how people were in love with the way it looked. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but that movie was all style and no substance. For all the raving about motion capture and effects, people need to just own up that it was just a fancy cartoon mixed with some real shit in it. After that, every movie was coming out in 3D. Most of them weren’t even filmed as such (like Clash of the Titans) and effects were added later to make it playable in the format. How stupid is that? Granted, it isn’t like we’re talking about True Grit or The King’s Speech or some kind of genuine artistic film endeavor, but you’re still taking an existing product and adding shit that wasn’t there originally just to be able to charge an extra $5 for a ticket. The only recent 3D release that can even be justified being as such is Jackass 3D, because well, that’s funny.

Luckily, it seems like people are starting to buy into the fact that they are getting ripped off. Attendance at movies that are showed in 3D is considerably lower than its 2D counterpart, and the number of people seeing 3D is shrinking. What needs to happen is that people need to realize seeing a movie in 3D is a waste of the extra money and deliberately avoid seeing it in any format other than the traditional one. It’s the first step to stopping Hollywood’s line of thought that you can sugercoat bullshit by making it pop out of the screen at you. Production companies think viewers are dumb enough that they can be swayed by seeing an object fly out of the screen that they won’t realize that the movie they are at probably sucks (Green Lantern) or could just as easily have been seen for less money in (the still overpriced, but not as bad as 3D) the 2D format. Of course, they may have a point. People are pretty fucking stupid, or why else would Sarah Palin have two bestselling books and a reality show? Come to think of it, that is actually scarier than 3D.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Free Palestine!

One of the biggest stories in the news this week is taking place at the United Nations. Palestine and its representatives are pushing for a UN vote on Palestinian statehood, much to the chagrin of Israel and the United States. This move is being seen as very controversial and a way to circumvent the peace process in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are hard at work trying to either A.) prevent the UN from taking the issue up for a vote and/or B.) urge Palestine to not force a vote on this. The United States has promised a veto on Palestinian statehood if it does come to vote, which would kill the resolution.

This of course would be a political and cultural landmine the United States would be stepping on. President Obama has already left his Jewish Democrat base and the Israelis feeling miffed by openly declaring his support for Palestinian statehood. The Islamic countries in the Middle East (and around the world really) are already in a great deal of turmoil and have long excoriated the US for its support for Israel. A commitment to a Palestinian state can go a long ways towards earning the trust and respect of Arabic nations in the hopes of scaling back some of the vitriol directed towards America. By stopping a vote or vetoing it, it sends the message (whether justified or not) that the United States is only paying lip service to Palestine’s aspirations.

Israel is condemning Palestine for going to the United Nations, claiming that it is just a ploy to get the rest of the world to bully and beat on Israel some more. This is preposterous. Israel condemns acts of terrorism committed against them and the use of violence as a means of solution. That’s fair enough; terrorism isn’t a solution. But to condemn them for taking it to the UN has nothing to do with it circumventing their negotiations with Palestine.

It has to do with the fact that outside of the United States, the rest of the world recognizes and speaks out on Israel’s complicity in limiting the peace process. Their responses to terrorism could be considered as such themselves and the economic and political repressions of the Palestinian people do not jive with the concept of Israel as victim. This isn’t even mentioning their constant expansion of new settlements on Palestinian territory and the severe restrictions they insist upon in any peace agreement. A vote before the UN isn’t kicking Israel around; it’s airing Israeli’s part in the hostilities in the region on a public stage.

For a supporter of a Palestinian state, this whole situation reeks of Obama kowtowing to a base he is afraid of losing to Republicans and an unwillingness to truly sway from decades of longstanding American policy of unwavering support for Israel. No one in American foreign policy is looking at a UN vote as something that could actually help to force a peace agreement between the two. If Israel is forced to have to recognize Palestine as an equal, it has to at least consider negotiating in good faith. On the other side, if Palestine is considered an actual state, it would be compelled to stop allowing terrorists to act on its soil, or at least try to stem that tide. If it wants to be considered legitimate, it would have to act like a responsible nation and negotiate as such with Israel. And at the very least, a vote and its consequences has just as good (if not more of) a shot at success than any other method. Its not like any other option has worked.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Nightmare, or How Bob Ezrin Sucks

Bob Ezrin built his reputation on Alice Cooper in the 1970s. He cowrote songs on and produced the great albums that defined Coop’s career: Love it to Death, Killers, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies, and Welcome to my Nightmare. He followed these up by working with KISS on their Alice Cooper-lite (and for some reason most popular album) Destroyer, and found his biggest success with Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Without a doubt, Ezrin was a very successful and skilled producer in the 1970s.

This all fell apart in the 1980s. He managed to force Ace Frehley out of KISS and talk them into recording the insipid concept album Music From The Elder, a piece of music so embarrassingly awful that even Gene Simmons admits it was a piece of shit. He also managed to produce a really bad self-titled album for Rod Stewart in 1986, as well as some utterly forgettable Cooper albums in the 1980s. He then managed to stumble into producing Revenge, the last great KISS album. I would attribute the success of this album more to the fact that Vinnie Vincent returned to the KISS fold and wrote some skull-crushing tracks with/for them than any kind of inspiration from Ezrin.

Since then Bob’s kept a low-profile and hasn’t really done much of note, until recently that is. In the beginning of the year, Ezrin and Cooper announced that they would be teaming back up and bringing some of the old Alice Cooper band from the 1970s with them for a tour and sequel to the aforementioned Welcome to my Nightmare. The sequel’s title? The rather unclever Welcome 2 My Nightmare. As someone who is a huge fan of Alice Cooper (I would easily put him into my top five favorite musical artists of all-time) and his classic material as well as his more recent work, I do not approve.

Since 1994’s The Last Temptation of Alice Cooper to 2008’s Along Came a Spider, the man has put out six albums that have ranged from decent (2005’s Dirty Diamonds) to excellent (Last Temptation). Most importantly, he hasn’t just continued to cash in on hits from the 1970s like a lot of his fellow classic rockers (coughKISS/Aerosmithcough). True, he plays mostly older hits live, but he always adds new songs to his set list and keeps them around for several tours. He also continues to put thought and effort into each album, rather than using them as a way to continue to tour. The biggest sign of someone who is a serious musical artist is that the person continues to record new material and doesn’t just rely on old standards to justify existing.

That’s why this new collaboration is so distressing. Cooper gave an interview recently where he stated that he wanted to make a sequel to Along Came a Spider, but Ezrin flipped out and wouldn’t let him, saying, “Why would you make a sequel to an album no one bought?” He then coaxed Alice into a sequel to Welcome to my Nightmare instead. Never mind the fact that a producer should be there to guide the musician’s ideas and not to dictate what the music should be, the bigger problem is that Ezrin is obviously unfamiliar with his dear friend Alice’s material. Along Came a Spider is a sequel to Welcome to my Nightmare. The whole point behind the album is that it can be taken as a sequel or as a stand-alone piece of work. In some ways, Last Temptation is a a follow-up of sorts to Nightmare, featuring a main character of Steven that may or may not be the same person as the one from 1975. Regardless, Alice has touched upon elements and themes from Welcome to my Nightmare a few times without having to do a blatant follow-up.

This is why Bob Ezrin sucks. He gets it in his head that HE is the brains of the outfit and knows more about what is good for the artist than the artist does. In fact, it’s the opposite. When he pushes something in a direction of his choosing, it is terrible. The prime examples would be his work with KISS. People love Destroyer, but when you look at it as a whole, it is good despite his production and not because of it. His production makes it sound like Billion Dollar Babies without the great songwriting and personality. The track he cowrote, Flaming Youth, is just a shitty retread of Alice’s Department of Youth. Destroyer can’t hold a candle to his work on Elder. Coming into that recording session, KISS brought in a bunch of heavier and more rocking material, which Ezrin told them was shit. He then said they needed to do a concept album so that critics and the world would take them seriously and brought in Lou Reed to help them write material for it. Yes, that Lou Reed. He paid no mind to the fact that unlike Alice Cooper, the members of KISS didn’t think in terms of concepts and themes and story arcs. They wrote straight forward, three to four minute, three chord rock songs. What came out of it was a concept album that made no sense and made them sound utterly ridiculous. Elder is clearly the worst KISS album, and possibly one of the worst rock albums ever made.

Now, I don’t think that Welcome 2 My Nightmare is going to be bad like Elder is bad. Alice is adept enough at concept album writing that he won’t unleash songs like “A World Without Heroes” or “Under the Rose” upon the world. It’s just that there are two things that “classic” artists do as a cash grab when they can no longer write good material or are too lazy to try: re-record a bunch of songs from that were popular thirty years ago or write a sequel to an album that was really popular thirty years ago (ex. Operation Mindcrime II by Queensryche). Alice Cooper is better than that. He can still write songs and still wants to. It’s too bad that Bob Ezrin doesn’t.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Music that puts hair on your chest, Vol. 1: Motorhead

During the course of my life, I have listened to hundreds of different artists spanning a plethora of styles. There are a select few that are so powerful that listening to them can actually make you manlier. This post is dedicated to one such band: Motorhead.

If Led Zeppelin is considered the blues on steroiids, Motorhead is the blues on speed and coke. Often considered to be a progenitor of the thrash movement, Motorhead is actually a blues band that plays really fuckin’ loud and really fuckin’ fast. From their inception with their self-titled 1976 album to this year’s The World is Yours Motorhead has been churning out R&B (old school Little Richard/Chuck Berry style) from Hell. Every one to three years, Lemmy and the gang, be it the “classic” line-up from the late 70s or the incarnation of the band that has stood for the past twenty years, can be counted on to release a new album that stays true to its roots and doesn’t throw the listener for a fucked up curveball with pan flutes or something lame.

While most people correctly consider Motorhead’s best material to have been released between 1978 and 1982 with the classic line-up of Lemmy on bass and lead vocals; Philthy Animal Taylor on drums; and “Fast” Eddie Clarke on guitar, it isn’t like the band just dropped off and made shit after that. The current roster of Lemmy, Mikkey Dee on drums, and Phil Campbell on guitar has been together for nearly twenty years and still make music that crushes souls. From the dawn of the band to now, a Motorhead song can be counted on to have the following: powerhouse four on the floor drumming, a buzzsaw guitar riff and tasty solo, a punishing bass line, and Lemmy’s distinct growl. Motorhead’s music should be considered a constant alongside life, death, and taxes.

Really, it can all be defined with this one quote from Lemmy: We want to be the band that if we moved in next door to you, your lawn would die. A manly proclamation from the second manliest dude alive (behind Vlad Putin). If you are doubting the sheer power of Mr. Kilmeister, you obviously have never heard his music, seen his ridiculously awesome mustache/sideburn combo, read his autobiography White Line Fever, or seen the documentary about him. The man needs to be seen and heard to be believed; he makes Ozzy Osbourne look like a milquetoast.

While the bulk of the Motorhead catalog can be described as at least “good,” there are three essential albums for anyone who wants to know and love the band: Overkill, Ace of Spades, and No Sleep Til Hammersmith. Rather than got bogged down in the minutiae of reviewing them, just trust me that they are savage rock journeys into sex, drugs, and mayhem that should be heard. As my brother would say, “It would make your balls grow balls.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Manliest Dudes Alive, Part Four

This is the next installment of the most homoerotic series in my blogging history, the Manliest Dudes Alive list.  It's been about a week since I last did anything with this, as I have been posting on the blog I share with my brother, Black Belt Basketball.  Go there if you care about anything MMA or NBA related.  With that being said, back to the list.

20.) Christian Bale [Actor]: Bale took DeNiro's method acting to a whole new level in The Machinist, and would have gotten himself down from his normal 180-200 lbs range to 120 if doctors didn't tell him he might die.  He got to 140, then put 80 back on to play Batman.  His intensity as an actor is legendary, even when on the set of a shitty Terminator film.  Homeboy didn't even break character while threatening to annihilate a lighting director.  Manly.

19.) Jesse Ventura [Wrestler/Actor/Governor/Conspiracy Theorist]: I'm probably in the vast minority of people that thinks Jesse Ventura is fucking awesome.  I would totally vote for him for President.  As a former Navy Seal, he was waterboarded and saw all kinds of crazy shit that he's more than willing to discuss.  He doesn't bullshit around.  He also takes it to Fox News every time he is on their network.  Plus, how can a man who says this not be considered manly?  Points off however, for thinking global warming is just a conspiracy.  And for possibly being insane.  But, the line between crazy and manly is a fine one.

18.) Charles Oakley [former NBA player]: As Bill Simmons quoted from an ex-NBA player in his most recent book, "Oak just don't give a fuck."  He was the enforcer on a 90s Knicks team that consisted of enforcers, Ewing, and John Starks.  He is currently an assistant on the Bobcats, where he got in trouble for grabbing an opposing team's player's shorts and trying to pants him on an inbound pass.  He is also Michael Jordan's wingman and muscle.  The best story about Charles Oakley is the time he went to another team's practice and got into a fight because their player, Tyrone Hill, owed him money from a card game because "A gentleman pays his debts."  I probably should have ranked him higher, but he was a Knick.  Fuck the Knicks.

17.) Kevin Garnett [NBA player]: Earlier, I mentioned their being a fine line between manly and crazy.  Garnett crosses it daily.  Dude just runs up and down the court swearing at no one and nothing in particular and when he cries, its because he is insane, not because he's a baby like Chris Bosh.  He wants to win so badly that he'll do anything, even punch Channing Frye in the balls or call players "cancer patients."  This dilutes his manliness and makes him petty, but he would cut his arm off like the dude from 127 Hours if it meant winning.  Gotta respect that.

16.) Tony Iommi [Guitarist for Black Sabbath]: Tony Iommi basically invented metal music with his style of playing.  The story of how he developed that sound is legendary.  He was a worker in a sheet metal factory and cut off the tips of a couple of fingers by accident.  He made up for this by making his own thimbles to cover the space where his fingertips were.  When he plays, he can't actually feel the strings because they are being pushed down by handmade prosthetics.  Chew on that the next time you hear "War Pigs" or "Supernaut," the song with the manliest riff ever.

15.) Randy Couture [MMA legend, fledgling actor]: Randy Couture is one of the greatest fighters in the history of combat sports.  He's 48 years old and still competitive in MMA and was a champion fairly recently.  He's one of only two people to win titles in two weight classes and he's done it by beating fellow legends like Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, as well as giants with massive size advantages like Tim Sylvia.  Randy is relentless in his training and fighting style and wears people down over the course of a fight while he stays fresh.  He also bangs, marries, and divorces cocktail waitresses on a regular basis, like a grizzled George Clooney that isn't quite smart enough to stay unwed.

14.) Terry Funk [Pro Wrestling Legend]: Terry Funk has done the pro wrestling thing for like 50 years.  He's still at it, even though he walks like Foghorn Leghorn and is old enough to be Ric Flair's father.  I've seen this dude get caught in barb wire, set on fire, and launched off dangerously high precipices.  He also has the most ridiculous voice ever and was the recipient of the infamous "It's still real to me dammit!" speech.  Points off for getting paid to go to a high school gym for one of these functions.  To quote Mark Jackson, "You're better than that."

13.) Mariusz Pudzianowski [World's Strongest Man/fledgling MMA fighter/Polish pop star]: Mariusz is a five-time winner of the World's Strongest Man competition and two-time runner up.  Anyone who can do things like pull a 747 with his teeth or throw several hundred pound kegs over a bar has to be manly.  His fighting career is very much a joke, but his music career is not.  Seriously, his band Pudzian, is huge in Poland.  I don't know how manly being a Polish pop star is, but it is certainly fucking awesome.

12.) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira [MMA Legend]: Nogueira is the greatest practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in MMA history.  Until very recently, he was known for being impossible to knock out.  He would absorb tremendous amounts of punishment in order to go for a knockout or submission.  As a small child in Brazil, he was run over by an ox car and paralyzed for a year.  He responded by becoming a Pan American Games worthy boxer and the man who taught Anderson Silva the ways of BJJ.  He also has one of the manliest faces ever, like a Brazilian Tommy Lee Jones.

11.) Henry Rollins [Modern Day Renaissance Man]: Rollins does it all, from music to spoken word to writing to acting.  He is possibly the most intense dude in alternative music history.  He's straight edge, so basically his whole career has been fueled by rage and angst.  Listening to his Rollins Band albums from Lifetime through Weight will actually make you more of a man.  The song "Do It" is a perfect example of the manly power of Rollins.  He also kicks copious amounts of ass in the movie Wrong Turn 2.  The man is a workaholic and doesn't bullshit around when it comes down to getting things done.

That's it for this installment.  More to come.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Manliest Dudes Alive, Part Three

This is a continuation of a countdown I started way back in October.  I didn't feel like writing about the Rolling Stones today, or about how Peter King is a racist douche who thinks it is ok to give to the IRA, but that Muslims are evil.  I decided to revel in masculinity in a (mostly) non-gay way.  You can scroll through the blog to find the other entrants in this list.

30.) Nick Cave [Musician/writer]:  Nick Cave is frontman for the Bad Seeds and Grinderman, two of the manliest bands ever.  All his lyrics with the Seeds were about violence and mayhem, while all his lyrics with Grinderman are about being sexually frustrated.  All manly topics, made even better by his crazy deep voice and insane vocal performances.  He also wrote the film The Proposition, the manliest Western this side of Clint Eastwood.  It featured the awesome tagline "This land must be civilized."  He also has the best scene in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

29.) Michael Jai White [Actor]:  Michael Jai White is probably most known for being Spawn, in the movie of the same title from the 1990s.  He has also been in several action movies of the direct to DVD variety.  He's a black belt in karate and could fuck people up for real.  Most importantly, he was in the most landmark film of the 2000s, Black Dynamite.  Seriously, greatest goddamn movie ever.  Also, he is playing Jax in some kind of new Mortal Kombat tv series.  He would have ranked a bit higher if he hadn't been in so many Tyler Perry movies.  Tyler Perry is not manly.

28.) Anderson Silva [MMA fighter]:  Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter in the history of MMA.  Anyone who has the balls to throw a front kick to someone's face and knock them out with it has to be manly.  Silva doesn't just beat people, he completely breaks their spirits and demoralizes them with a combination of taunting and pinpoint and devastating striking.  As Forrest Griffin said, "He makes you feel like an asshole for even trying to hit him."  There's no one in the world better than him at what he does by a large margin.  He's not ranked higher solely because he can be a bit mercurial and disengaged with fights that don't challenge him.  He kind of just toys with and makes a mockery of them, which is manly but not as manly as destroying them.  It is also more than a little bit disrespectful.  But besides that, he's a destroyer.

27.) Zakk Wylde [Musician]:  Zakk Wylde is a goddamn Viking masquerading as a guitar player.  Until recently, he was known for pounding a ridiculous amount of booze while jackhammering away on guitar.  He can't drink now, but he still crushes it on guitar.  He was Ozzy's lead guitarist for nearly two decades and was basically the only reason that Ozzy didn't lick balls.  Black Label Society is Zakk's band, and they are beastly.

26.) Fred Williamson [ex-Athlete/Actor]: Fred "the Hammer" Williamson is an ex-pro football player turned 70s blaxpoitation star.  His reputation as a player is best matched by his nickname, and the movies he has been in are fairly ridiculous.  He makes it this high because anyone who played football in the 60s is a total badass and he was totally awesome in From Dusk Till Dawn.

25.) Jason Statham [Actor]: Jason Statham is the star of the Crank and Transporter franchises and is the go-to guy for action.  I'm pretty sure it is written into his contract that there has to be at least five minutes in each film where he is shirtless while beating the shit out of a large group of people.  If you have to ask why he's on the list, you probably don't fully understand what being manly is all about.  To be honest, I'm not totally sure why I didn't rank him higher.

24.) Lyoto Machida [MMA Fighter]: Lyoto is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and until early last year was undefeated.  He is a karate champion and his family actually invented their own brand of shokotan karate named Machida Karate.  He probably isn't as good as Anderson Silva, but he never talks trash and he is always all about the honor and dignity of fighting.  And his knockout of Rashad Evans is one of the manliest beatings in the history of humankind.

23.) Bobby Knight [Basketball Coach]: Bobby Knight is a legendary NCAA basketball coach, known for being a bit on the crabby side.  He's known for his controversial career.  He has some of the greatest soundbites in history.  He was viewed as being abusive towards his players, but he always had one of the highest graduation rates for his students.  I think in the history of coaches, there is no other one I would rather not have to get into a physical or verbal altercation with.

22.) George Clooney [Actor/Director/Humanitarian/Sexiest Man Alive]: George Clooney is the man.  He is possibly the best looking dude alive, acts and directs in awesome movies, tries to help solve the world's problems, and bangs twentysomethings on a regular basis while he gets older.  If you can't figure out why George Clooney is on this list, you probably don't like the fact that he makes adult movies for adult people and not bullshit like Avatar.  With little to no exception, if Clooney's name is attached to it, it is quality be it movie or charity or what have you.

21.) Tony Jaa [Actor/Martial Artist]: Tony Jaa is the star of Ong Bak and The Protector, two of the best martial arts based action films in a long time.  He does his own stunts and whoops all kinds of ass.  He even directs his own movies now.  Anyone who can do this is obviously a total badass and manlier than the vast majority of people.

That's it for now.  I'll probably update this again soon.  Be sure to read my other blog, as that is getting updated more frequently.  The site is Black Belt Basketball.