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Sunday, August 27, 2006

(Music) Top 10 Canadian Albums

O Canada! Your existence serves only to complicate mine and befuddle me. On the one hand, I despise you, your smug abhorance of America and your socialized health care. Then there's your music. It's creative, often-classic, and not hampered by the heavy hand of the American music industry. It is for this very reason alone that I compile the following list of the top 10 albums to come from Canada in the last decade (not counting my extreme level of boredom).

#10 - Broken Social Scene: "Broken Social Scene" - I'll concede on this one. Though I don't consider myself a BSS fan by any means, this album had some damn good songs on it (mostly "Hotel"). Though I've never outright declared hatred for the band, I do contend that they are the most overrated group of musicians in Indie music today. Take that one to the bank!

#9 - Tegan and Sara: "So Jealous" - What first seems like a tarty, pop-rock girl album soon unravels its petty charade to reveal what it truly is; a great rock album! Think Heart meets the Go-Gos and you'll get the picture. Sure we've had our share of sister-bands before (Eisley, etc.), but Tegan and Sara manage to capture the sound of classic girl-rock and fuse it with their own brand of feisty self-underestimation (ala "You Wouldn't Like Me") that make this album unforgettable.

#8 - K-Os: "Joyful Rebellion" - Apparently, people from Canada can rap. Well, at least this guy can. Add in the fact that he can also sing with the best, play guitar, drum, and keep it real and you wind up with one of the most honest hip-hop albums of recent memory, not to mention the best! K-Os will get you pissed off "Emcee Murdah" and them cool you down and read you poetry "Man I Used to Be." That's the kind of album this is. Respect.

#7 - Metric: "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?" - If I were old world underground, I'd answer Emily Haines' question with a resounding "Wherever you want me to be, baby!" Whereas Tegan and Sara take girl-rock back to its roots, Metric evolves it into something entirely unique that borders closely with the likes of Garbage, but with better musicians all around. Whether you're dancing to "Succexy" or rocking out to "IOU," one thing is for sure; you're enjoying yourself.

#6 - Stars: "Set Yourself on Fire" - The album opens with an audio clip of a man saying "When there's nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire." I disagree. When I have nothing left to burn I'll go swimming, or make pottery, or play tennis. In fact, I'm pretty sure setting myself on fire is right at the bottom of my list of things to do when I run out of things to burn. Regardless, calling "Set Yourself on Fire" anything but gorgeous is a mistake that, if I have my way, could prove fatal. "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" is one of the most beautiful songs to ever come into existence, and it alone warrants the purchase of this album. Add in a handful of other amazing pop-tunes and you're looking at one of the best pop albums ever. No joke!

#5 - Metric: "Live It Out" - When your experience with Canadian music isn't as deep as the toilet bowel, you kinda have to double dip. That doesn't apply here, because "Live It Out" is so awesome that it deserves a spot on the list even though its predecessor is also on here. On their second album, Metric largely abandoned the rock-disco sound of their first and broadly covered every corner of potential indie-rock greatness. It took a while to get used to, but Metric really hit their stride with this one, sounding more like a complete band and less like a backup band for Emily Haines' sexy voice and unequivocal hotness. That's good enough for me.

#4 - The Unicorns: "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?" - After one album, that question can finally be answered, because The Unicorns decided to call it quits and work on different projects. I'll be the first to formally object to this decision, which, by all accounts, is one of the most terrible of natures. Of all the bands on this list, The Unicorns are the one band that defies any type of logical description because, quite frankly, they are bizarre. A good chunk of the album is about ghosts, while the rest seems to be about anything random that they can think of. The album begins with "I don't want to die" and ends with "Ready to Die." I'm not sure what happened over the course of the album, but The Unicorns got what they were ready for, as they are now officially dead.

#3 - Stars: "Heart" - What's better than Stars' debut album "Nightsongs?" Everything! But thankfully for us, their label decided to keep them on for another album. That album just so happens to be their best, and one of my favorite adult-pop records of all time. Songs like "The Woods" and "What the Snowman Learned About Death" are enchanting while "Death to Death" borders on all-out rockdom without ever fully entering the genre. It's a memorable experience to say the least, and one that everyone should be subjected to before being able to listen to any other type of music. In Cale's Communist Regime, that will be enforced to the highest degree. Until then, it's just highly recommended.

#2 - The Dears: "No Cities Left" - If there were no cities left, I'd hope this album would still be around. Without question, it's one of the greatest albums ever forged north of the border. Murray Lightburn (who is surprisingly not an STD-bearing pornstar...get it, light burn?) sings with the grace of an Elk on steroids who failed his shot at singing opera and resorted to making indie rock. Is there any denying that "22: The Death of All the Romance" is one of the classic duets of our time, or that "We Can Have It" must be listened to at a minimal volume to avoid having your balls literally rocked right off of you? Answer: no, it cannot.

#1 - The New Pornographers: "Twin Cinema" - With a name that will scare away many potential fans, The New Pornographers remain on that thin line between moderate indie success and all out superstardom. Not that it matters to me, or to anyone else who has ever listened to "Twin Cinema," because we can all pretty unanimously say that it is one of the greatest albums ever and quite possibly the best pop-rock album ever! The New Pornographers are amazing, yet never take themselves too seriously. You'd think with a band that is compromised of three successful solo artists (vocalists, no less!) that there'd surely be some self-horn-tooting going on, but not here! Seriously, if you haven't listened to this album yet, do it. Just once. Like Lays potato chips, I seriously doubt you could stop after one...even though Lays potato chips suck.

There you have it. You may not agree, but you are undeniably mistaken.

Have a pleasant day!

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

(Music Blip) Leigh Nash: "Blue on Blue"

Leigh Nash is famous for her voice. Not in the same way as Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera, but rather the exact opposite. Nash's voice was always the most attractive part of Sixpence None the Richer, despite what some may say. It's not that it's the greatest voice in the world, but its more unique than anything else in popular music today. For Sixpence fans who were a bit disappointed by the break-up of the band a few years back, Leigh Nash's first solo album "Blue on Blue" might bring a bit of vindication.

Perhaps too much vindication, because it seems as if Leigh Nash is either too in love with her former band's sound or too afriad to branch out and let it go. While this is not a huge disappointment to a lot of Sixpence fans, it definitely bugs the heck out of me. For the last decade I've been listening to Sixpence songs, so I was hoping for something different when Nash decided to go solo. Unfortunately for me, these songs are almost indistinguishable from any Sixpence song. Arguably, they tend to be a bit more mellow, but ultimately this is the same music that Leigh Nash has been making for years now.

Don't get me wrong, these songs are good, its just that there's nothing new brought to the table. Hopefully, if Nash decides to release another solo album, she will try to make music that is out of her comfort zone. Otherwise, this once-cute, pixie folk rock stuff will eventually take its toll on her career. At least that's how I see it.

Recommended for Sixpence None the Richer fans and anyone who's still down with that sound.

Key Tracks:
1. "Along the Wall"
2. "Nervous in the Light of Dawn"
3. "Ocean Size Love"

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(Music Blip) Hellogoodbye: "Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!"

Stringing together a couple emo-pop hooks and calling it an album isn't too much of an accomplishment nowadays, but Hellogoodbye has a little something different up their sleeves. It's hard to tell exactly what that something is, but one could most likely assume that that special something exists only in the studio. While a song like "Here (In Your Arms)" will sound amazing to any 15-year-old girl, any experienced musician can tell you that that song is 95% production and 5% of what the band actually sounds like. Sure the song is good (despite the overabuundance of Avril Lavigne lyrics), but its these incredibly electronic-laden songs that makes this album so attractive! Take a listen to "Figure A and B" and you'll here what the band sounds like when they're left alone with their instruments. It's not pretty.

So sure, I'm a moderate Hellogoodbye fan, but I'm wise enough to know that this album is not a good representation of what the band sounds like or how capable they are of playing their instruments. Is it a good album? I suppose. But it's almost assured to find itself collecting dust sooner or later. Still, it's a good debut.

Recommended for fans of Hellogoodbye, The Killers, and Rooney.

Key Tracks:
1. "All of Your Love"
2. "Baby It's a Fact"
3. "Here (In Your Arms)"

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Monday, August 21, 2006

(Music) My Brightest Diamond: "Bring Me the Workhorse"

My first impression of Shara Worden came when she was syncopating "I-L-L-I-N-O-I-S" to Sufjan Stevens' "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the dead!! Ahh!!" It should come as no surprise, then, that I envisioned Shara's voice to be cutesy and poppy. Add in the fact that my first time to actually lay eyes on her was in a cheerleading uniform, performing as an Illinoisemaker, and it really just seemed to fit. My Brightest Diamond is Shara Worden; a very different girl than I imagined.

With the first note she sings on "Something of an End" I literally compared press release pictures of her to my Illinoisemakers poster to be sure that this was the same girl. Worden sings with the vocal presence of Fiona Apple or Kate Bush and takes musical risks that put her in the same category as Bjork. Consider my mind blown!

The revelation that Shara Worden was not the posessor of the cute, petite
voice I had imagined is perhaps why I'm so entranced by "Bring Me the Workhorse." The artist gives no clue that she was even involved in that silly Sufjan Stevens album and subsequent tour. The sound on this album is infinitely maturer than anything we've heard from her before. Sure, there's a stop on the "let's just have fun train" with the song "Freak Out," but everything else on this album is mesmerizing. Hearing Shara declare "Heaven and hell come c-c-crashing down!" on "Something of an End" is literally so Bjork-esque that one can't help but fall in love with the song and open up their ears to the rest of the album.

"Golden Star" eases the excitement a little until the song hits the 2-minute mark and Worden fully displays the extent of her vocal abilities without even sounding like she's breaking a sweat. "Gone Away," a soft ballad about a loverleaving and the difficulties that follows, is heartbreaking and enchanting, while "Dragonfly" is a dreamy-pop song that sounds like it could easily be a Sixpence None the Richer song if it weren't for Worden's powerful vocals.

"Bring Me the Workhorse" is one heck of an album! Before the final track comes to an end, you will have undoubtedly experience a range of emotions; from depression to happiness, optimism and fear. Truthfully, hearing Shara demand "Bring me the workhorse! Bring me the no good workhorse!" struck a bit of fear in me, followed by the absolute joy that comes with realizing that one line could bring about such an emotion. The album can, at times, be amazing, yet also seemingly unnecessary. However, despite these minor and rare flaws, I can't help but listen to "Bring Me the Workhorse" over and over and over again.

This is, by far, the best debut album to be released in 2006 thus far. I eagerly look forward to anything to come from My Brightest Diamond in the future and I suggest everyone go ahead and get on board with me!

Highly recommended for fans of Fiona Apple, Kate Bush, Bjork, Portishead and anyone looking to be amazed at one of the best combinations of creativity and talent that I have heard in a while!

Key Tracks:
1. "Something of an End"
2. "Golden Star"
3. "Dragonfly"
4. "Disappear"
5. "Workhorse"

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

(Games) After Wii...

Here's a random thought.

For Nintendo, what comes after the Wii?

The way I see it, the answer to this question can be determined by one of two outcomes.

Outcome 1: Wii Fails

Assuming that Wii fails, what comes next? Worse case scenario is that Nintendo goes the route of Sega, which is higly doubtful considering their large base of global support. What is likely, however, is that Nintendo will have to ditch the Wiimote idea and revert back traditional controls to maintain some level of competition with Microsoft and Sony. This is a possiblity.

Outcome 2: Wii succeeds!

If (and hopefully, when) Wii succeeds, what is the future of Nintendo, and gaming in general? Assuming that Wii takes off and opens up the gaming market to new consumers, will Microsoft and Sony follow? My immediate assumption is probably not, at least not right away, but rest assured that there will be some Wii copycatting going on, as has always been the case with Nintendo innovation.

But what is in store for Nintendo in particular? By the time Wii finishes its run, around 2010 2011, will the Wiimote still be fun, fresh, and exciting? I would assume that it will be second nature to me by then. In this situation, Nintendo must decide to either continue innovation, or stick with the Wiimote for the future console generation. I can't predict the technology of that time, but I would hope that Nintendo has the means to make something more innovative than the Wiimote and continue their path of innovation. I feel very strongly that by the end of this console generation, the Wiimote will no loger be as fresh as it is today, and developers will have exhausted many, if not all, possiblities of exploiting the wiimote's capabilites.


At this point, I do not consider a Wii failure as a possiblity. Thus far, the lineup of games and third-party support seems like the Wii will gain Nintendo some ground on their competitors and this should warrant a continual flow of quality games from developers.

However, what if people dislike the Wii controller? What if it comes off as gimmicky or hard to use? The simple truth is, people are afraid of lots and lots of buttons tht can mean different things in different situations (a game controller). The Wii definitely takes a lot of this fear away, but aside from Wii Sports, I haven't really seen Wii games that look like anyone could pick it up and immediately play it without having to push a lot of buttons and memorize what they do. If this is the case, and developers just start using the wiimote's motion sensing capabilities as "virtual buttons" or button-substitutes rather than building games around the capabilities, then the Wii will very much be a gimmick system.

The best hope for Wii's success is based on Nintendo's, or third party developers', willingness to step out of the norm and build games that allow the gamer to truly experience the capabilites of the wiimote with minimal button reliance (1 or 2 max). This will truly revolutionize the way games are played and made, and will really be a victory for Wii.

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(Music) Top 5 Songs of 2006 (That I didn't give proper credit to)

You know those little things at the end of every music review that says "Key Tracks?" Those are tracks on each album that I designate as being the best. However, the flaw in this feature of CITB!!! is that some tracks take a few listens before you (I) can properly assess the greatness of them. That's what this blog entry is about. If you go back in the archive and look at the key tracks, there are a lot of good songs that I just failed to recognize. So without any further hesitation, here are the top 5 songs of 2006 (thus far) that I grossly underestimated.

5. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" - The Flaming Lips

4. "Crosses" - Zero 7

3. "Coughing Colors" - Tilly and the Wall

2. "No Man's Land" - Sufjan Stevens

1. "Punchlines" - Mates of State

They are all great songs that I either hated at first, or simply overlooked when I was making key tracks. Go check 'em out, and if you haven't bought any of these albums yet, well...I hate you.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

(Music Blip) Christina Aguilera: "Back to Basics"

No. These aren't the basics. This is more of Christina Aguilera's trademark belting/oversinging style. Granted, "Back to Basics" is probably Christina's best, most accomplished album, but it's also a load of overblown nonsense. Christina desperately tries to capture the big band, jazz/soul stylings of, let's say, Ella Fitzgerald, but comes off as just that; someone from today trying to do a sound that is not suited for her. Therein lies the biggest problem for this album, Christina can't pull off this style of music, despite all her efforts. She's a talented vocalist, yes, but her vocals are not suited for this stuff.

Then there's other times where she backpedals, so as not to displease any of her fans, affirming that she's "Still Dirrty" and encouraging men to "Taste her sugar." Are these "The Basics?" I somehow doubt it.

Additionally, "Back to Basics" is a 2-disc release, which in itself begs for a couple songs to be cut. What's worse, however is that disc to only contains a couple songs, all of which could have fit on disc one. So why disc 2? A video feature. Honestly, why disjoint your album so grossly when its capable of being on one disc? I don't understand. Even without the enhancement of disc two, there are too many songs on here and it often feels like it's too much to handle all at once.

Like I said, this is her best album, and it seems as if she's finally come into her own, but seriously, this is bullcrap. It's far from her teen-pop roots, and a step in the right direction, but Christina should realize what her strengths are, her voice and beauty, and exploit them in a manner to which they are best suited. Unfortunately, this is not it.

Recommended for Christina Aguilera fans, or anyone with time to kill.

Key Tracks:
1. "Back In the Day"
2. "Ain't No Other Man"
3. "Candyman"

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Monday, August 14, 2006

(Music) Paris Hilton: "Paris"

Uh. Yeah. That's hot.

Sure, it's probably not the best way in the world to start a review, but I'm making a point. The point is just that, it's an awful way to begin a review, or anything for that matter. The reasoning behind this is simple, it doesn't attract your target audience, unless, of course, your target audience are a bunch of 3rd grade, back of the room, booger-eating idiots. In that case, and only in that case, may you begin your review, movie, letter, song, whatever with "Uh. Yeah. That's hot."

Paris Hilton's target audience is a large group of 3rd grade, back of the room, booger-eating idiots.

Of course, the lead-off track to Paris Hilton's debut album "Paris," "Turn it Up," is a club track, often filled with, uhs and yeahs, if only to emphasize a point. But when Paris says "That's hot" for no particular reason except to act cheeky and sexy, I literally cringed. Not exactly the first impression you'd like to make to an American audience who is already skeptical of your musical abilities.

As it turns out, Paris Hilton's musical abilities are extremely limited.

I know, it's incredibly surprising, but true. To make up for this fact, Paris floods every second of this album with her own particular brand of artificial sexiness, making her voice so airy that Jessica Simpson suddenly sounds like old-school Whitney Houston. There's hardly a moment that goes by when Paris isn't half-whispering her childish lyrics into the microphone over some, admitedly, catchy beats. Sure you can think that it sounds sexy. But when you're trying your hardest to make "Every time I turn around the boys fightin' over me/Every time I step out the house they wanna fi-ight over me/Maybe cause I'm hot to death and I'm so suh-s-s-sexy-uh" sound like anything but a preteen wrote it, you just wind up sounding a little dumb.

It's of no surprise that "Stars are Blind" was the first single off of this album, as it's really one of the only songs that really allows Paris to sing without having to work with a thumping hip-hop beat. Of course, leave it to Paris to claim that all guys want to commit suicide when she walks away from them, but what else can you expect from this girl? "Screwed" is a pretty catchy song, but it would be more suited for Hilary Duff, than Paris Hilton. Still, she does an admirable job on the track, singing as clearly as she ever does on the album.

At her best, Paris Hilton sounds like a bad impression of Gwen Stefani, but at her worst she's trying so hard to make her songs appealing that she kills any hope of redemption. Paris can sing. She has made me a believer in that. But for the most part, these songs are so poorly-written and poorly-executed that there's no saving "Paris" from sounding like a joke, which it often is. The album is extremely unfocused, as Paris can't really seem to decide who or what she wants her music to sound like. It's a shame. She could have done so much better.

Recommended for Hilary Duff fans, but only those who are over 18. Oh, and third graders.

Key Tracks:
1. "Stars are Blind"
2. "Screwed"
3. "Turn you On"

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Friday, August 11, 2006

(Music) Cursive: "Happy Hollow"

Leave it to Cursive to always find something to be angry about. Since the band's inception, they have always had a taste for putting people in their places, culminating with their 2003 modern rock masterpiece, "The Ugly Organ." As one familiar with Cursive would undoubtedly anticipate, "Happy Hollow" picks up this trend and runs with it, finding new targets for Tim Kasher's biting lyrics along the way. Though arguably less angry this time around, Kasher's undeniable ability to craft targeted tongue-in-cheek attacks on his victim of choice maintains its role as one of this band's most-admirable traits. This time around, Kasher largely places the ex-wives and ex-lovers aside, focusing much of his lyrically demeaning material on the Catholic church, war, and America.

From just the opening note of the lead-off track, "Opening the Hymnal/Babies," one should easily identify a stark contrast between "Happy Hollow" and its predecessor: horns. Yes, as it turns out, Cursive has lost its cello player between albums and decided to fill that void with some intense hornage (my own word, but it's fitting). It's a tough loss for Cursive fans like myself who recognize the fact that the cello in "The Ugly Organ" practically made the album as great as it was. However, despite this loss, Cursive still manages to play their hearts out, quite possibly out-rocking "The Ugly Organ" in the process. That being said, "Babies" (the non-intro part of the opening-track) fully utilizes the horns in such a way that it will undoubtedly excite the listener, forcing them to devote all attention to what is being heard.

The next track, "Dorothy at Forty," is the band's first single from the album, and for good reason. If any one song captures the focus and passion of the album, its this one, portraying a head-on collision between the American dream and reality while alluding to "The Wizard of Oz." One can practically feel Kasher's passion as he proclaims, "Dreams are all you have. Dreams have held you back. Dreamers never live, only dream of it." The loss of the American dream is the first of several themes presented in this album. Even the artwork and album title portray a picturesque, romanticized America, rather than reality. It's a fine point, and one that will be explored further in the album.

The next song on the album, "Big Bang," is the first direct attack on the Catholic church, in this case, regarding the creation/evolution debate. Lines like "There was this big bang once but the clergyman doesn't agree" are sure to ruffle a few feathers, while the line "It don't jive with Adam and Eve, idyllic garden, some talking snake giving apples away. What would that snake say if he could only see us today?" is sure to shut a few of those opponents up. Sure, the lyrics in this song can be a bit unnerving to a few people, but the music itself is explosive! The new horns are at their finest on this song as they render practically every other instrument in the song negligible. This anti-religious theme can be seen elsewhere on the album, primarily in "Bad Sects" and the undeniably creepy "At Conception," which tells the tale of a priest who counsels a troublesome young girl. Don't be surprised if your skin crawls as Kasher nonchalantly sings "What happens in confession stays in the confessional." Clearly there's some animosity here, but its the passion derived from this animosity that separates the album and the band from so many of its contemporaries.

Another subject that is brought up during the course of the album is war. While thoughts like "Oh not another one," "It's getting old," or "Musicians are largely uneducated people who have never been in the military and therefore should not be making bold statements on a subject on which they know little or nothing about" may fill your head with just the mention of a song against war, relax. Of course, Cursive isn't about to sing the Bush administration's praises, but they never call any politicians out. Instead they remain focused on Americans, lost in the imaginary American dream. "Flag and Family" tells the story of a young man who feels pressure to join the military from his town, his family, and his girlfriend. Sure, he calls her family (and in all likelihood, anyone who shares their opinions) "bigots and fanatics," but a line like "When you're down on your knees are you praying for Holy War?" is full of such subtle greatness that its hard to write Kasher off as a narrow-minded, bleeding-heart liberal. Consider the fact that the band has its roots in Omaha, Nebraska, and the possibility that Kasher might have some insight on the small town citizens that he describes becomes somewhat authoritative.

It should come as no surprise to any Cursive fan that "Happy Hollow" is one heck of an album. Like its predecessor, the album is full of angst, passion, and musicality that help set it apart from so many other bands today. Though a bit longer than "The Ugly Organ," and arguably, more unfocused, this album is anything but unsatisfying. For anyone holding out for a new masterpiece from Cursive, wait no more!

Recommended for fans of Cursive and for anyone looking for inspiration on how to direct their anger in a non-violent, yet satisfying manner.

Key Tracks:
1. "Dorothy at Forty"
2. "Big Bang"
3. "Flag and Family"
4. "At Conception"
5. "Bad Science"

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Monday, August 07, 2006

(Movies) "The Descent"

Its weird. I woke up yesterday morning and went straight to ironing the wrinkles out of a pair of pants I was going to wear. For some reason, while I was ironing, I started thinking about "Alien vs. Predator," and then "Freddy vs. Jason." I remember how lame "Freddy vs. Jason" was, but then I started thinking about how much Freddy and Jason both scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. With that thought floating about, I became a bit saddened by the fact that I am now an adult and would probably never be scared by a movie ever again. You see, for the longest time I have been adamant about my ability to walk away from a scary movie completely unscathed. I have worn this trait around as a point of pride.

No more.

In some ironic turn of events, I ended up seeing "The Descent" last night, you know, just for the heck of it. I can honestly, truly, say that this is by far the best horror film I have ever seen. Be sure to make the distinction there. While movies like "Boogeyman" or the upcoming "Pulse" will bill themselves in the horror genre, the majority of the films will rely heavily on scare tactics (pop out and scare you) and very little on actual horrific sequences.

"The Descent" is a film that is truly horrifying.

The movie starts fairly quickly. We meet a group of adventure-seeking women who meet up in the Apalachian Mountains to do some cave-exploring. Okay, so its a bit unlikely, but this is not as important as what happens once they are inside the cave. From the very beginning, the cave has a very chilling aura about it (One of the women even places her fingers in what appear to be claw marks in the rock). Despite the eeriness of the cave, itself, the women press on, squeezing through tight passages and enjoying all that the cave system has to offer. However, a collapse of rocks soon makes their exit plan unattainable. To survive, they must work together to find another way out of the cave. However, as they progress, they run across somthing that is truly horrifying, something living in the depths of the cave system. Together, they must help one another, fend off the terrifying creatures, and make it out of the cave alive.

By itself, the plot seems a little lame. But take my word for it, this movie is anything but lame. The setting of the cave is truly brilliant. With each new corridor that they enter, things get more and more frightening, and people with claustrophobia will undoubtedly be tense as can be watching these women barely make it through these tight cave systems. In addition, the creatures in the cave, though fictional (hopefully), are some of the most terrifying incarnations to ever grace the screen. The comparisons to "Alien" that were featured in the trailer are spot on here. There's a truly alien-like nature to these creatures, and they offer a much more terrifying experience than ghosts ("The Sixth Sense"), dead women crawling on the ground ("The Grudge"), imbred hillbillies ("Wrong Turn"), or flying witch-a-mahoosets ("Darkness Falls"). These creatures are horrific!

If you are like me, by then end of the movie, you will be so disturbed that you will contemplate not sleeping, you will be utterly amazed by how frightened you truly were, and swear off caves for the rest of your life. Though there are some scare tactics in the movie, there are much more frightening things going on here that are sure to get under your skin and stay for long after the movie closes. I never thought I'd like a horror movie so much, but this is truly a brilliant piece of terrifying cinema.

Recommended for fans of "Alien" and for anyone wanting to be scared out of their mind!

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

(Movies) "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

Will Ferrell has always managed to be one of the funniest men alive. Much like his contemporary, Jack Black, Ferrell can transform himself into a wide array of characters and always manage to bring hoardes of laughs in the process. This skill he undoubtedly honed back in his SNL days, but it has been Ferrell's movie career that has truly made him one of the most admired comedians today. Whether its a drunken middle-aged frat boy, a swinging, jazz flute enthusiast anchorman, or a womanizing funeral crasher, Will Ferrell always delivers! In "Talladega Nights," the comedian continues this trend and propels his stardom further into [insert clever noun here] than ever before.

Knowing that this is movie comes about courtesy of essentially the same group of people that gave us "Anchorman," should get anyone with a sense of humor excited about this movie. Like that film, "Talladega Nights" puts Ferrell in the role of a character so dumb, its likely impossible to out-dumb him. Ricky Bobby is a man who, from his infancy, wants to "go fast." In a chance occurrence, he gets his opportunity one day at a NASCAR race when, as a member of a pit crew, he is called upon to finish the race for a slothful driver. A few years, and a 2-minute montage, later, Ricky Bobby is the #1 driver in all of NASCAR, complete with a hot wife, two wise-cracking children, a mansion, and a couple million dollars to spare. However, at the height of his career, a new French teamate, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, threatens to steal his glory and dethrone him as king of NASCAR.

Sure, the plot may come across as a bit bland (and, in all honesty, typical), but if anyone can make this work its Ferrell. Add in the brilliant comedic performances of John C. Reilly and Michael Clarke Duncan, and "Talladega Nights" will far surpass any expectations of mediocracy that you may have. In fact, there's not a whole lot not to love about this movie. Ferrell practically makes every scene he's in worth watching, and his character's often-dry quibs will keep you chuckling consistently. The only thing that hurts this movie is Cohen's performance of a gay, French, Formula 1-turned-NASCAR driver. For once, he fails in portraying a foreign stereotype, largely because his portrayal of the character is so utterly obnoxious that you'll be beggin for him to get off the screen. Even scenes in which he and Ferrell exchange humorous jabs fail, largely because of Cohen's presence. It is a potentially funny role, but Cohen makes it absolutely unbearable.

In the end, "Talladega Nights" succeeds not because of the plot, but the comedic performances of the majority of the cast, who, except Cohen, perfectly play their roles. Like most Will Ferrell movies, there is enough comedic material here to warrant repeat-views, and a DVD purchase. Hell, any movie that can reference "Manimal" and mention butt cheek-spreading can't be all that bad can it?

The answer is "no."

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Friday, August 04, 2006

(Movies Blip) "You, Me, and Dupree"

Who can resist the all-American appeal of Owen Wilson, with his fugged up nose and undeniable charm? Certainly not I. It is for this reason, and of course Kate Hudson's obvious appeal, that I chose to see "You, Me, and Dupree."

Without any hesitation, allow me to emphatically proclaim that I throughly enjoyed this movie. Though I was a bit apprehensive about the casting of Matt Dillon in a comedy (because I have seen him try it before and it was truly awful), it didn't turn out that bad at all. In fact, Dillon's character isn't meant to have any funny moments, most of that is left to Owen Wilson. That being said, it is Wilson that carries this movie, filling every scene that he graces with so much charm and unsophistication that you can't help but fall in love with his character. The rest of the casting is flawless. Dillon and Hudson round out the characters from which the title derives its name, and Michael Douglass fills in as the overbearing, maniacal father-in-law with a personal vendetta against his new son-in-law, in Dillon.

The plot moves along rather sluggishly at first, simply filling scenes with multiple mishaps on Dupree's part, but it later picks up and fleshes out the characters and the situations in which they are placed.

This movie is a lot of fun, and has a lot of heart. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to see a good comedy that is both original, and endearing.

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(Movies) "John Tucker Must Die"

Don't let the title confuse you. John Tucker does not die, though I can't say how thrilled I would have been if this event were to have come to pass. No, as fate would have it, nobody dies in this movie. In fact, the only people who end up close to death by the end of the movie are the audience, who, in all likelihood, will be scrambling about in the theater, desperately searching for something pointy to impale themselves with.

Yeah, its that bad.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't walk into this movie expecting to see something that was Oscar-worthy. Hell, to say that I even walked in willingly would be a lie beyond comprehension. However, after the suggestion from my sister, who compared this movie to "Mean Girls," I thought I'd go check it out.

"Mean Girls" this move is definitely not.

If anything it plays out like a subpar episode of Salute Your Shorts, where everyone on the screen knows the stereotype of their character and exploits it to no end. There's the nerdy girl, who's way too hot to be nerdy, but apparently not too hot to develop complex computer programs to plan John Tucker's demise, or get her hands on oober expensive spy equipment to sneak a peak at Mr. Tucker's dating life. Of course, let's not forget the cheerleader who is assertive and sexually active, but not too slutty because that would tarnish her image. That role is filled by the vegan slut of the movie, who is dumb in every imaginable form, and gets by by her unfathomable ability to work a man over. Last but not least we have the poor, wholesome (yet unfathomably hot) girl, who like Lindsay Lohan in "Mean Girls," is just caught in the middle of someone else's evil scheme that transforms her from a nobody to the most popular girl in the school.

It all feels as if its been done before. That's because it has.

Clearly, this was a film pieced together for the dumbest of the 13-year-old girl spectrum. So dumb, in fact, that a line like "Slut in truck" will undoubtedly fill your theater with a roar of intolerable girl-cackles, simply because it kind of rhymes. Of course, if you're a normal human being, you won't go see this movie. But if you're on the fringe, teeter-tottering between seeing this movie or sawing off your face, let me highly recommend the latter to you.

Recommended for no one.

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