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Sunday, July 30, 2006

(Music) July in Review

Well, July has come and gone, and though it was not as impressive as I had originally intended, it was still a pretty cool month. Seriously, any month that can boast a Sufjan Stevens album in conjunction with albums from Muse and Thom Yorke is a pretty special month. Add in the fact that they all came out on the same day, and you're dealing with some serious music mayhem. However, I can honestly say I'm glad that it's out of the way. Reviewing 3 great albums for one day is tough work, to be sure.

Undoubtedly, the winner of album of the month has to go to Thom Yorke, who completely amazed me with his accomplished album, "The Eraser." Surprisingly, Muse has beaten out Sufjan Stevens in my book, which I never would have expected, especially since I hated the album at first. James Figurine's album came out too, and it was also pretty impressive. Though I didn't get to review Pharell or Alien Ant Farm, I can't help but feel somewhat accomplished for the month of July. It was a great month.

That being said, August looks like it's gonna be another long month. The month will see releases from, OutKast, Paris Hilton, Kelis, Cursive, The Roots, Amy Millan, The Zutons, Chad VanGaalen, The Dears, CSS, and Comets on Fire. I'd expect two or three of those to not make it to the ol' blog, but that still leaves a huge chunk of albums to go through.

I suppose I should get started...

July Rankings:
1. Thom Yorke: "The Eraser"
2. Muse: "Black Holes and Revelations"
3. Sufjan Stevens: "The Avalanche"
4. James Figurine: "Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake"

4 out of 5 Stars

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

(Music) James FIgurine: "Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake"

It seems as if Jimmy Tamborello just can't make up his mind. On some days he's glitching his way through elaborate musical compositions under the name Dntel, while on other's he's one third of the electro-pop trio "Figuring" or one half of "The Postal Service" (and let's not forget his days in "Strictly Ballroom"). Yes, if there's one man who has toured the far reaches of the electronic indie universe, it is undoubtedly Jimmy Tamborello.

Tamborello's latest album comes to us under the name of "James Figurine."

"Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake" gives those uf us who are Dntel fans, a little bit to be excited about. In many ways this album can be viewed as a Postal Service/Dntel hybrid, featuring many of the same qualities as a Dntel album, yet also boasts some incredibly catchy Postal Service-ish hooks. "55566688833" ("love" in text messaging language), for example, contains a pretty catchy hook that has been stuck in my head for days now, while "Ruining the Sundays" and many others on the album sound like songs right out of a Dntel handbook.

Though "minimalist techno" would be the best way to describe this album, it is much more complex than that. Featuring elements of pop, electonica, techno, and experimental electro, the album really delivers, even if it comes off as a bit unfocused at times.

Recommended for fans of Dntel, Figurine, The Postal Service, and Magnetic Fields or anyone who feels like exploring how far electronic music can go.

Key Tracks:
1. "55566688833"
2. "Left Overs"
3. "You Again"
4. "One More Regret"
5. "All the Way to China"

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Friday, July 28, 2006

(Movies) "Lady in the Water"

M. Night Shyamalan has never really been my favorite writer/director. Don't get me wrong, he's a pretty genius guy, and incredibly imaginative (minus "Signs"), but it has always seemed to me like his movies have focused a little too hard on the horror genre to be classics in my book. Yes, I have a book. However, I can honestly say that I am a huge fan of his storytelling. This is where M. Night Shyamalan shines. "Lady in the Water" is the writer/director/actor's latest attempt at greatness, and, next to "The Sixth Sense," it just may be his best.

The story revolves around a man by the name of Cleveland Heep, a maintenance man at a Philedelphia apartment complex filled with all sorts of eccentric characters. There's the single father with his son, a seemingly caffiene-addicted Asian and her overbearing mother, a movie critic who thinks he's a genius, and of course a ridiculous 20-something who insists on only working out one side of his body. While these characters may seem unnecessary in the beginning, they eventually all play a somewhat vital role in the story.

Heep, however, is a truly engaging character right from the start. A single, middle-aged, man with a terrible stutter, he is portrayed as a man who is respected by the people he serves, yet also rejected by them. In his small apartment, he spends his nights alone until one night he encounters a, as the title hints, lady in the water. Her name is "Story," and her character is very mysterious to Cleveland who can't seem to comprehend who she is and why she has suddenly appeared in his life.

As the story progresses, secrets are revealed and the people of the apartments come together to help Story, who is apparently a mythological creature who has lost her way from home. Paul Giamatti's performance is Oscar-worthy, and he does a phenominal job of portraying all of the different layers of his character.

Shyamalan branches out a bit this time around, as "Lady in the Water" tends to focus much more on fantasy and true storytelling than horror or thrills. However, it seems as if "Lady in the Water" is a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. There are times when you swear you were watching a thriller, and other times when the movie trys too hard (WAY too hard) to be a comedy. While some of these scenes are okay, at other times they are entirely distracting and unnecessary to the plot as a whole. This is really my only big complaint about the movie. It is a beautiful film, yes, but it can also be a bit deterring at times, and many Shyamalan fans might be turned off from this.

Overall, "Lady in the Water" is a fairly well put-together film about finding a place and a role in this crazy world. In that, the film does a fantastic job. Despite minor annoyances along the way, the sheer imagination of the story, and the lovable characters that fill it, make it a tough movie to not enjoy. This is one of the most creative movies I've ever seen, and I'd love to see it again.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

(Music) First Impression, The Mars Volta: "Amputechture"

The Mars Volta has, since its inception, been one of the most difficult bands in music history. Their full length debut, 2003's "De-loused in the Comatorium," was an amazing success, musically, as was 2005's follow-up "Frances the Mute." In fact, both albums are prominently featured on my top 20 albums of all time list simply because they are continually, listen-after-listen, mind-blowing. Therin lies the true appeal of the Mars Volta. Though "De-loused" and "Frances" were equally as satisfying the first time through, it was the layers of the albums that made them truly engaging. Both albums featured an underlying story that took an ridiculous amount of time to understand. Additionally, the music had so much going on, that you really couldn't experience it without giving it your full attention.

This is where "Amputechture" goes wrong.

I've only listened to it once, but I am already incredibly disappointed. At first listen, all the lyrics are all pretty understandable. From what I have gathered, there is no story here. So, in my mind, to make up for that loss, the music should be complex and interesting. Unfortunately, that's not happening much either.

Unlike its predecessors, "Amputechture" is more low-key, featuring very few "rock-out" moments, or anything that envokes a "wow." Of course, this is just my unbiased opinion. Already, the fanboys over at The Comatorium are running rampant, calling it "their best yet" and saying that certain parts of the album made them "jump out of their seats!" While this response is somewhat understandable, it's hard for me to react in the same way. The reason for this is because, to me, the album sounds more like watered-down, rehashed bullcrap from a band struggling to either recapture its early eccentricities or make something that is accessible to new fans without abandoning their old ones (I can't decide which). It doesn't take a complete genius to take notice that some of the really cool things on this album are just the same cool things on the band's other albums.

For example, making long, epic, multi-tracked songs was really cool and fresh in "Frances the Mute," but in "Tetragrammaton" it just feels old, and uninspired. Additionally, the 3 minute noise solos got old in "Frances the Mute" pretty fast, so on this album they are really inexcusible (The folks over at The Comatorium call it "ambience").

Overall, this album really lacks power. There are no moments that will have you jumping out of your seat, or rocking out behind the steering wheel. The next "Eriatarka" or "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" aren't on this album, so you might be a little disappointed if you expect to really rock out. It is a really flat, dull album that brings nothing new to the table and abandons the sounds that made Mars Volta such an amazing gem.

To be honest, "Amputechture" sounds like an album of a band in transition, a band desperately trying to reinvent themselves. While this is a respectable, and needed characteristic to have, it probably would have been more productive for the band to reinvent on their own time and not subject us to this album barely a year after their last was released.

The Mars Volta is a better band than this.

A full review when the album is released...

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(Music) 2006: The Year Thus Far...

This has been a pretty interesting year in music thus far. There have been a handful of notable releases, many of which continue to be stuck in my head to this day. So with that in mind, I'd like to present to you my top 10 albums of 2006 thus far. However, to keep the surprise for the 3rd Annual Cale Awards, the following list is in no particular order. Here's what I think:

Thom Yorke: "The Eraser" - Well this should be no surprise. I gave it pretty raving reviews about a 1 1/2 weeks ago and it is truly one of the most enchanting albums of 2006. Almost everything about this album is flawless, and it's an absolute joy to listen to.

The Elected: "Sun, Sun, Sun" - This album came out way back on January 21st, and it is still getting regular plays in my CD player. The reason? Blake Sennet is a brilliant songwriter that captures the heart of the music style that his band set out to conquer in their second outing. There is not a bad song on this album, and more than one contender for "Song of the Year." If you haven't heard this album yet, get after it.

Destroyer: "Destroyer's Rubies" - This little album took me by surprise early this year. Dan Bejar, of The New Pornographers, has crafted a schizophrenic amalgam of songs that are so good, they don't need chorus' to be catchy. In fact, Bejar, more often than not, opts to replace a typical hook with "La de da da" or "Da de dum da" on this album. It's really an amazing, yet difficult album. I love it.

The Flaming Lips: "At War With the Mystics" - The Flaming Lips have come through big time with their latest (ahem...12th) full-length album! Anyone who was amazed by 2001's "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" should have been pleasantly surprised, as I was, when this album came out back in April. Though a bit more disjointed than its predecessor, "At War With the Mystics" is, song for song, the best album the Lips have ever released...and that's a HUGE accomplishment!

Tilly and the Wall: "Bottoms of Barrels" - The fact that I'm not being objective here may be a little unfair, but seeing as this is my blog, I simply have to restate that I adore Tilly and the Wall. To be honest, I did not forsee improvement over their debut "Wild Like Children" in the band's future, but they proved me wrong. The band has matured both musically and lyrically on their sophomore album, and it is one of the most fun albums of the year!

Muse: "Black Holes and Revelations" - I really hated this album at first. Thankfully, reviewing it made me listen to it over and over again, and to be honest, I can't stop. Sure, there are a few downsides to the album ("Assassin," "Hoodoo") but the rest of the album is so breathtaking in its sheer magnificence that it's hard to put this one away.

Zero 7: "The Garden" - Getting Jose Gonzalez to sing for this dynamic duo could've possibly been a better decision than Sia Fuhrler. Crazy, I know, especially since I am a die-hard Sia fan, but Jose's mellow Croce-esque vocals blend so perfectly with Zero 7's flawless productions that it's hard to imagine him not singing on this album. This album is beautiful and worth buying, for sure. Is this one my #1? Honestly, it's up there.

Mates of State: "Bring It Back" - There's nothing that could make me hate this dynamic duo. If their next album was an 20-track, autoharp tribute to Adolf Hitler, I'm still pretty sure I'd snatch that album up and enjoy every minute of it. This album is by far their most accomplished to date, and though it may lack some of the twee/bubblegum nature of their previous efforts ("Team Boo"), the band is just as charming as ever!

The Streets: "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living" - Don't get me started on this. Don't EVEN get me started! Before this album came out, I couldn't safely say that there was a music act out there that I hated more than The Streets. This album, however, is one of the most clever, funny, and catchy rap albums to ever grace my stereo. More surprising is that the video for "When You Wasn't Famous" is getting regular airplay in the US. Make no mistake about it, this is probably the best rap album of the year...but I don't listen/like rap, so its hard for me to say.

Sia: "Colour the Small One" - We Americans had to wait this album out for about two years while the rest of the world was jamming to it all the while. Trust was worth the wait.

So there you have it! And now a look at some of my most anticipated upcoming 2006 releases:

The Mars Volta: "Amputechture"
Justin Timberlake: TBA
The Killers: "Sam's Town"
Cursive: "Happy Hollow"
The Shins: TBA

Enjoy the weekend.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

(Music) Sufjan Stevens: "The Avalanche"

Objectivity. Oftentimes it is an easy ideal to attain. Jean Piaget would claim that objectivity is something that is acquired by age and is an indicator of formal operational thought, and as such it is not possessed by all people. I, for one, have the ability to be objective from time to time. However, despite by conquest of objective thought, I find it increasingly difficult to remain objective when reviewing Sufjan Stevens. Why? Because he is my absolute favorite musician; possibly ever, but definitely currently.

For those unfamiliar with the "legend" of "The Avalanche," I will explain. Sufjan's 2005 release "Illinois" was a brilliant, moving piece of artistry that made dozens of top 10 lists across the globe (including my own). According to the Asthmatic Kitty website, the album was originally planned to be a double album, but was scrapped well into the production of the album. "The Avalanche" are the songs that did not make it to the final cut of "Illinois" plus a few extras. However, do not dismiss this album as a B-Sides album (Even though Sufjan humbly labels it a "Outtakes and Extras" collection). "The Avalanche" is an album that can stand entirely on its own.

The title track, "The Avalanche," is also the lead-off song on the album. For those fortunate enough to have obtained a copy of "Illinois" on vinyl, this song should sound extremely familiar, mostly because it's the same song that was featured on that release. For those of us who are without a vinyl-player, however, "The Avalanche" is a brand new song filled with precise instrumentation and beautiful lyrics. As a lead-off track, it serves its purpose in enticing the listener to hear more. What comes next only makes the listener happy that they did. "Dear Mr. Supercomputer" is another fantastic song that makes use of Sufjan's brilliant compositional skills, featuring exlaimatory trumpets and whimsical flute flutters that set the tone for what is undoubtedly the most up-tempo and musically exciting song on the album.

The next song, "Adlai Stevenson," gives a brief history of the former Illinois governor and twice-failed presidential candidate of the same name. Though brief in minutes, the soothing guitar riff and Stevens' haunting vocals manage to make this song a standout on the album, though, musically, it would perhaps be more fitting on "Seven Swans."

The next notable track is the acoustic version of "Illinois" favorite, "Chicago." In all honesty, I was never much of a fan of the original version of the song, though I know many people who have clamored over it on occasion. This acoustic version, however, harkens back to Sufjan's softer, "Michigan" side and, to me, outdoes the original in almost every aspect. For those who are fans of the original, the sheer fact that there are three new versions on "The Avalanche" should be enough to entice you to purchase this album. They are all equally as beautiful and entertaining. "The Henney Buggy Band" is the next song on the album, and it just so happens to be my favorite. The song is incredibly upbeat and uplifting, once again utilizing Sufjan's brilliant compositional skills and putting the full instrumentation to good use.

From here, the album seems to get much more somber as it goes along. Notable songs along the way include "Springfield," "The Mistress Witch From McClure," "No Man's Land," and "Pittsfield," all of which capture the soul of the state just as "Illinois" did. It's appropriate to note that this album is, at its core, very similar to the album that preceded it. The spirit and dedication that went into the creation of "Illinois" is just as prevelent in "The Avalanche." As such, "The Avalanche" isn't so much an outtakes collection or an entirely different album, as it is a sequel to the original. Like almost all sequels, there are things that it lacks in comparison to the original. Despite this fact, "The Avalanche" is still a must-own for any dedicated Sufjan fan and is sure to deliver weeks, perhaps months of gratifacation and Illinois-based nostalgia.

Make no mistake about it, "The Avalanche" is a fantastic album with songs that could undoubtedly be added to Sufjan's already-long list of greatest hits! With the release of "Illinois," and now "The Avalanche," one thing is for sure; I love this state!

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens and Illinois enthusiasts alike.

Key Tracks:
1. "The Avalanche"
2. "Dear Mr. Supercomputer"
3. "Adlai Stevenson"
4. "The Henney Buggy Band"
5. "Springfield"

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(Music) Thom Yorke: "The Eraser"

Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, is, by many accounts, one of the most brilliant minds in music today. Since Radiohead debuted in the early 90s, Yorke has been entrancing audiences with his evocative vocals and insightful lyrics. Since the release of “Hail to the Thief” in 2003, Radiohead fans have undoubtedly been waiting for something new from Thom and the gang. Though the next Radiohead is a few months down the road, Thom has been busy crafting his first solo album, “The Eraser.” Returning to the Kid A-ish electronics that originally made me a hardcore Radiohead fan, Yorke has made an album that is extremely memorable and accomplished.

The first song on the album, “The Eraser,” might be the best on the album. The piano and electronics on this track are truly entrancing, sending the listener into an extreme state of relaxation while, at the same time, keeping them fixed on what they are hearing. Yorke’s vocal capabilities, which are sometimes downplayed on many Radiohead albums, are showcased to their full extent here as he sings “The more you try to erase me the more that I appear.” He ends the song in a way that is incredibly reminiscent to “Song 4” on Sigur Rós’ “( ).” Without question, the song is beautiful and brilliant and an incredibly potent way to begin the album.

“The Clock” is a song that sounds like it could have been pulled right off of Kid-A, as it is extremely complex in production, yet seems surprisingly simplistic. In fact, it is this paradox, in many ways, that makes “The Eraser” so engaging and impressive. Almost every song on the album maintains this paradox, and does so brilliantly. “Black Swan” features a pretty steady drum beat with a funky bass line that will undoubtedly have your head shaking well throughout the song, especially as Thom nonchalantly declares “This is f***ed up, f***ed up.” Surprisingly, having this line as the chorus of the song doesn’t make it any less inviting. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive and radio-friendly songs on the album.

Thom once again displays his incredibly understressed vocal abilities on “Skip Divided,” so much so, in fact, that you may check the CD insert to make sure that it’s actually him singing “I’m your lapdog.” His voice is incredibly low on this song, making it entirely different from anything we’ve ever heard from him before. It’s quite startling. “Atoms for Peace” is the next song on the album, and my personal favorite. On this track, Yorke utilizes the other end of his vocal range gorgeously for the chorus as well as a lush environment to sing over. Again, the production paradox is in full force on this song and it’s simply staggering.

“And It Rained All Night” is another stand-out song on the album, featuring an intense drum beat and upbeat tempo. I can see myself, and countless other Radiohead fans, jamming to this one for months, especially when Thom’s hauntingly avows “I can see you but I can never reach you.” This line floats over the perfectly crafted music effortlessly as does Thom’s voice over “Harrowdown Hill.” The album ends quite surprisingly with the flowing chords and glitchy drums of “Cymbal Rush.” It’s not the best song on the album (possibly the worst), but it still manages to hold its own all the way until its abrupt ending.

Thom Yorke’s, “The Eraser” is a beautiful, captivating album full of insightful lyrics and amazing productions. Though Radiohead has been taking it easy the last couple years, it seems as if Thom has been hard at work. Truly, his work has paid off. “The Eraser” is one of the most original albums of the year, and, by far, one of the best. If you’re a Radiohead fan who’s been waiting anxiously for something new, wait no more. Though not a full-band effort, “The Eraser” is definitely something to get excited about and something to tell your friends about.
Recommended for fans of Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and anyone looking to open their minds to the most unique artist in music today.
Key Tracks:
1. "The Eraser"
2. "The Clock"
3. "Black Swan"
4. "Atoms for Peace"
5. "Harrowdown Hill"

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(Music) Muse: "Black Holes and Revelations"

If I were to say I’ve been a Muse fan for as long as I can remember, I’d be lying. Mostly because I’ve liked Muse since Summer 2004 when a friend of mine first showed me “Hysteria” from the album “Absolution,” and I can vividly remember 2003, 2002, and so forth. Clever introductions aside, I am really a Muse fan! Absolution and Origin of Symmetry are, in my opinion two of the greatest rock albums of all time and feature some of my favorite songs ever! Needless to say, I was really excited when I heard that the band was finally going to release a new album, titled “Black Holes and Revelations.”

“Black Holes and Revelations” is a much different album as their previous efforts. For Muse fans, it’s about the same as the difference between “Showbiz” and “Absolution.” In other words, very different. The biggest change for this album over their past works is that “Black Holes and Revelations” is more of a politically-charged, straightforward rock album than the epic, orchestra-laden nature of “Absolution” or the catchy, power rock of “Symmetry.” In that light, it could be viewed as a bit of a disappointment to many Muse fans, but it is undoubtedly sure to capture new fans along the way.

The first song on the album, “Take a Bow,” is also probably the most politically-charged song, just as “Apocalypse Please” was for “Absolution”. This time around, though, it’s much more intense and angry than its predecessor and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who Matthew is speaking of when he belts out “Cast a spell on the country you run. You will risk all their lives and their souls.” At the same time, one can’t help but agree when he proclaims “Our freedom's consuming itself. What we've become, it's contrary to what we want.” It’s a very powerful song, and poignant for those who share his views.

The next notable song on the album is the first single, “Supermassive Black Hole,” which superbly showcases Muse’s range of ability. Being a danceable, rock-pop song, the track is far different from every other song on the album. That being said, it’s also my favorite and I’ve been listening to it regularly for over a month. For Muse fans, it might be a tough sell, based off of the falsetto vocals and poppy guitar riffs, but it is by far the most accessible song on the album and is sure to win the band some new listeners. “Map of the Problamatique” seems pretty accessible as well. Though I didn’t really enjoy it too much, the lingering piano in the background for some reason remind me of really cool 80s music, and that makes it somewhat bearable.

“Soldier’s Poem” is another politically-themed song, but this time written from the perspective of a soldier at war (which I’m sure Matthew knows so much about!). The song really harkens back to 50s rock ballads. The Flamingos especially come to mind here, especially when Matthew sings, “There’s no justice in the world and there never was.” It really is a beautiful song and serves as a very nice intermission, or a break from the rock music.

“Invincible” is also a powerful song, whose military-style drum cadence helps build the song to its dramatic climax when Matthew declares “Tonight we can truly say ‘Together we’re invincible’”. The last or so of this song is beautiful, shocking, and amazing and really must be experienced to understand. My only complaint about the song is that Mathew seems to be over-singing throughout most of its 5-minutes. Despite this, it still manages to be a standout track on the album.

“Assassin” is a pretty driving rock song at the beginning, sounding surprisingly like Pantera for a while, but it eventually becomes pretty repetitive and, as a result, boring. Still, if there was a song on the album that “Origin of Symmetry” fans would enjoy, it would probably be this one, even though “Oppose and disagree. Destroy demonocracy!” is an actual lyric in the song.

The next notable track is “City of Delusion,” and is arguably the most impressive song on the album in terms of musicality. Matthew pulls no stops on this song and the rest of the band follows, even adding in the string-orchestration that made “Absolution” such a fresh album. There’s even an incredibly impressive trumpet solo about 3/4s of the way in that makes the song even better. “Knights of Cydonia” is the last track on the album, and it features one of the coolest choruses in recent memory; a heavily vocodorized harmonic declaration of “No one’s gonna take me alive! Time has come to make things right! You and I must fight for our rights! You and I must fight to survive!” Honestly, it’s really a very cool way to end the album and the guitars and drums that accompany it are also incredible.

When I first listened to “Black Holes and Revelations,” I was a bit disappointed. As a hardcore Muse fan, I have to say that I was expecting something much different than what I got. In a sense, I was expecting more of the same from one of my favorite bands. What I got, however, was the next evolutionary stage from a band that has evolved consistently since their inception. I should have known better, but I’m glad I gave it a few more listens. “Black Holes and Revelations” truly has some amazing songs on it, songs that could undoubtedly be considered some of the best of the year, thus far. If you’re a Muse fan who can’t decide whether or not to buy it, I say go for it! There’s really not a whole lot to lose by purchasing this album. It is breathtaking!

Recommended for fans of Muse, Bush-hating, Blair-bashing liberals, and anyone who really wants to be rocked!

Key Tracks:
1. "Take a Bow"
2. "Supermassive Black Hole"
3. "Soldier's Poem"
4. "Invincible"
5. "City of Delusion"

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

(Movies) "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

Back in 2003, when we really needed a great summer movie to get things going, we got "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," a surprising gem of a movie whose magic and fun was only overshadowed by the performance of Johnny Depp and a deep fascination with the beauty of Keira Knightley. The movie pretty much came out of nowhere and took millions of unsuspecting moviegoers by surprise. I, myself, was so amazed by the movie that I went back two more times over the 2 1/2 months that it remained in my theatre! So, needless to say, I'm a fan! When I heard that the sequel, "Dead Man's Chest" was on its way, I was undoubtedly excited.

Then I saw the trailer.

To me, the trailer made the movie seem like a hodgepodge of boring CG characters and bad acting from Orlando Bloom ("We have to go back for Jack...ok nevermind"). To say that I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. Furious and skeptical are, perhaps, better descriptors for the rage that consumed my soul. Despite this, I simply had to see the movie for myself, being a huge fan of everything the original movie had to offer.

The movie begins, by almost all accounts, poorly. We find good ol' Elizabeth and Will are to be married but are arrested for their involvement in the escape of Jack Sparrow (seen in the original). Will eventually strikes a deal with Cutler Beckett, the operator of the East India Trading Company in Port Royal to go after Captain Jack and bargain with him to return to ensure the safe release of Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Elizabeth escapes, herself, and leaves in pursuit of Will. Jack Sparrow, all the while, is being hunted by the notorious Davy Jones, with whom he has a debt to settle. This is essentially the plot of the story. Stated plainly in a few sentences, it actually takes the movie about 45 minutes to get to this point and this is why the first part of the movie is so dull. There is hardly any action for this period of time, and it's quite painful to sit through. Needless to say, I was regretting my decision to see the movie. However, when it finally picks up, it REALLY picks up.

The movie is filled with humor, just like the first, and Johnny Depp's performance is, once again, Oscar-quality (though the magic from the first film has worn off a little). There are numerous humorous references to the first movie, mostly about rum, which are funny at first but eventually wear a little thin. Additionally, most of the funny, quirky characters from the original have returned to serve as comic relief. It really is a fun, if not funny, movie.

additionally, the action sequences in "Dead Man's Chest" are top notch. Where as the first film essentially involved a lot of sword-fighting and cannon-firing, the writers of DMC rightly made sure to mix things up a little this time around. There are, of course sword fights and cannons (it is, after all, a pirate movie), but there are other circumstances that are happening simultaneously that keep things fun and interesting. Possibly the greatest addition to the action is the kraaken, a giant squid (or octopus. I'm not entirely familiar with the mythological beast.) When it's around, its one of the coolest CG monsters to ever grace the big screen, perhaps even topping those in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Additionally, the kraaken is truly creepy, almost frightening, as it engulfs ships like candy.

Another memorable newcomer is Davy Jones, played by Bill Nighy. When I saw the aforementioned trailer, Davy Jones looked ridiculous with his octopus beard. However, I must say that I was really impressed with his character. Nighy does a phenomenal job of making this otherwise plastic character seem utterly real and complex, and his performance is on the level of Depp's. Also, Bootstrap Bill, played by the always great Stellen Skarsgard, is another great character. As it turns out, Bootstrap, who we know died, is enslaved to work on Davy Jones' ship for an undisclosed amount of time. When he encounters his long-lost son, it really is a touching moment, and their relationship is really, at times, captivating. Additionally, the relationship between Will and Elizabeth is more interesting this time, as is the relationship between Elizabeth and Jack.

Overall, the movie is nothing more than a popcorn movie; a fun, big, exciting, phenomenal popcorn movie. Anyone going in to see an Oscar-caliber movie is probably going to be disappointed. Pirates of the Caribbean has never sought to be an epic movie like the Lord of the Rings, or other trilogies. It is simply a fun summer movie, one that you will undoubtedly enjoy for years and years to come.

Oh, and the aforementioned line in the trailer said by Will, it never actually happens. How about that?

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

(Misc.) Happy Fourth of July!

I really wanted to compile a list of the top 5 greatest songs about America in celebration of the holiday for two reasons: it would be patriotic, and I'm crazier about lists than John Cusack. Unfortunately, my ability to find enough quality songs for the list is somewhat evasive at the moment (mostly because I didn't want "God Bless America" in the list). So,'s what I came up with.

1. The Decemberists - "16 Military Wives"
2. Sufjan Stevens - "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders"

So, ok. It's not mutch of a list, I know, but they are good songs and if you haven't heard them, you really should.

Of course, my real reason for posting this is to let all of you know that this Friday will be mostly void of any legitimate postings. The reason for this is that Tuesday July 11th is really the biggest music day of the year. Sufjan Stevens, Thom Yorke, Amy Millan, Muse, and Peaches all have new albums coming out that day and I will be wasting all my free-time preparing for those articles.

So make a note of it, put it on your calendar! July 11th will really be something to celebrate! Until then....

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