Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THREE COMEBACK ALBUMS that are worth a listen

Roadhouse Blues (1970)
In 1970, the Lizard King died. The Doors, once the dark side of Flower Power, had been overtaken by younger, more eclectic artists like the Who and, more significantly, Led Zeppelin. The rock scene which Morrison and co. had gate-crashed in January of 1967 was dying. In a rare moment of clear thought, the old act was tossed out. And so the dark psycho-delia and more intellectual posturings were dropped, along with Jim’s famous leather duds. In the place of Jim’s old persona the singer took on a persona that he would ride out to the end: The Old Blues Man.
Aside from the changes affecting the rock scene, a lot had changed since 1967. After two fantastic albums, the Doors had begun to fall into a quagmire of creative and personal hurly burly. Jim Morrison's alcoholism, always a problem, had begun to affect his performance on and offstage. His relationship with his bandmates, always a thorny issue, had been broken completely. 
Out of this mire, ROADHOUSE BLUES represented something of a reappraisal, both creatively and personally. Remodeling themselves on the blues bands of the Fifties, the Doors boiled their sound down to it’s roots, returning to the hi-octane stomp of such work horses as ‘Soul Kitchen’ and scintillating cover ‘Back Door Man’.
The album is not perfect. But as a penultimate album, ROADHOUSE BLUES lays down the template that LA WOMAN, released the following year, would follow. Its success not only rejuvenated the band, however briefly, but put them in a place to realize a suitable finale to the brand of ritualized psycho-erotica which they were famous for.
Key tracks: If I was brutally honest, I would say it’s worth it for the title track alone, with its fantastic bass and harmonica. ‘Peace Frog’ is a funky Krieger riff lent a playfully nihilistic edge by Morrison’s disturbing eulogy to the late Sixties and his own personal demons (‘Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile, eggshell mind’), while ‘The Spy‘ is an eerie ditty that seems to have escaped from some decrepit saloon on the road to Hell.
Midnight Love (1982)
After three 'interesting' albums of decreasing quality and relevance, Gaye bounced back with this, his first album released outside of Motown. Tragically it would also be his last, as his comeback was brutally cut short by his murder less than two years later.
If IN OUR LIFETIME saw Gaye lose his muse then 1982's MIDNIGHT LOVE saw him reclaim it with a vengeance, and some absolutely bangin' tunes. Reclaiming lost loves, regaining your mojo, getting some sexual healing, MIDNIGHT LOVE is all about personal redemption - spiritual, sexual and creative. 
A tight set clearly designed to meet the challenge of Jackson, James and Prince, MIDNIGHT LOVE sees Gaye merge the stylistic trademarks of Eighties RnB with his own concerns to create a more streamlined and commercially oriented sound distinct from his more insular and weird work of the late Seventies.
Key tracks: ‘Sexual Healing’ is the centre-piece, and became Gaye’s last big hit, but there really isn’t a duff track in sight. ‘Midnight Lady’ and ‘Rockin’ After Midnight’ are dance tunes every bit as good as anything on Rick James’ STREET SONGS and ‘Joy’ is a rather glorious combination of sanctified soul with Eighties trimmings. The best track of the bunch though, and the one most indicative of Gaye’s mindset is ‘Turn on Some Music‘ with its lyrics highlighting the singer’s renewed belief in the power of music to save him from his demons.
Heaven & Hell (1980)
How do you replace Ozzy? If you are Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, you pull in the man with the golden tonsils, one Ronnie James Dio, and lay the ground work for one of Sabbath's best albums.
Key tracks: The title track is a monster, and opener ‘Neon Knights’ is a great shout out to the true believers. Sabbath was back, armed and ready to meet the young bucks of thrash and speed metal with renewed vigor and power. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

THE GIRL WITH ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: A movie pitch


With THE AVENGERS soon upon us, I’ve been wondering what kind of potential crossovers I would like to see on the big screen. And then I came up with this...

  This idea popped into my head on an exceptionally bland drive home after an utterly bland day and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

While I initially dismissed it as utterly ridiculous, my brain started to do what it usually does with pointless minutiae and I began to seriously contemplate the implications of my diabolical scenario.  Soon the parallels between Stieg Larsson's dark mystery thriller THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and Mitchell Hurwitz's classic mocdocsitcom ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT became too hard for me to ignore.

  • Both stories centre around a family once renowned for their wealth and status 
  • Both families are now isolated from the rest of society
  • Both families are composed of competing factions who belittle and bicker among each other
  • Both families have dark secrets with potentially catastrophic consequences
  • Both families require an outsider to come in and uncover these secrets
  • Both stories, though completely different in tone, take on the subject of the family's bizarre sexual peccadillos as a major theme 


Juts imagine the chaos if Michael Bluth hired Mikael Blomkvist to investigate his family's dodgy business practices (with Lisbeth Salander going undercover at the family real estate company). 
  • Would perpetual horn dog Mikael sleep with Lindsey? Or Lucille? 
  • Would would-be horn dog Gob come on to Salander?
  • Would Salander run Gob down with his segway?
  • Would she get on with Michael?
  • Would she get on with Lucille?
  • Would she get on with anybody?
  • Would Tobias completely misjudge the situation and decide to get a job as a crusading journalist at Millenium magazine?
  • Would Salander kill Lucille?
  • Would Oscar lose his hair?
  • Would Salander burn down the banana stand?
  • Would Buster tuck himself in a ball and wait for it all to be over?


It makes me so sad that this meeting of the titans will never take place.

Here's hoping someone in the know has a similar idea and posts a fake trailer for this masterpiece on FUNNY OR DIE. It would be a good cross-promotion for the ARRESTED crew's new movie and the sequel to last year's TATTOO (re)adaptation.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD

    For a change of pace, here’s a trio of filmmakers who exist in the strange nether regions between commercial art house cinema, starting with the man known (generally by himself) as the ‘King of the Mammaries’...
    Russ Meyer

    In terms of images of generously endowed women, if the 1950s belong to Hugh Hefner, then the 1960s belong to Russ Meyer. From 1959 to 1979, Meyer dominated the exploitation game, adding movement and his own gloriously unhinged Looney Tunes sensibility to bring magazine centre-folds to life.
    Which doesn't deny the fact that Meyer's films are really friggin' weird. Based in a bizarre nowheresville of desert, back-water hell and rather suggestively shaped hills, Meyer's films set the dubious stage for showcasing his particular brand of Superwoman.
    His female characters may look nice, but they certainly don't play nice. Manipulative, scheming, pouting, self-obsessed omnisexual nymphomaniacs, these ultra-vixens prowl Meyerland for whatever they can get - and aren't above breaking a few heads along the way. In the ultimate irony, Meyer is now upheld by feminist film critics for creating strong female characters at a time when no one else was.
    And who are the men to tame these she-beasts? Well, they fall into two categories: the evil dumb neanderthal with an overactive libido, and the simpering impotent cuckold. And if you're expecting Meyer to side with either of these paragons of masculinity, you'd be mistaken. Often or not, both these two categories of American-brand idiot are mere puppets in the hands of Meyer's femmes.
    Short on plot, character development and edits, long on bat shit craziness and sheer exuberant lust, Meyer's films are a unique schism in independent cinema - never repeated and never bettered.
    RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!; Vixen!; Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; Supervixens!

    Seijun Suzuki

    Probably the only studio director fired for 'incomprehensibility' (Michael Bay can only dream of such a fate), it goes without saying that Seijun Suzuki is the king of a mountain of crazy. 
    A contract director sick of churning out Yakuza movies, in the early Sixties Seijun Suzuki decided enough was enough - since he couldn't turn down every assignment, he'd have a little fun with the generic dreck he was given. Maybe a few screws were loose after his bizarre and short-lived career as a sailor in WWII, maybe someone dropped something in his morning coffee, or maybe it really was the fact he could not give a damn, but the results turned out to be a bit... radical.

    Death by sink. Singing corpses. Sandstorms. Animated butterflies. Real butterflies. Random shouting. Rice-induced sex. An upside-down punch up on a chandelier. Thank Christ he had a sense of humor.
    I would call it insane, but that seems a bit cheap. His movies may not make much sense, but they always look good, and he retains enough professionalism to deliver some comprehensible moments (the car battle that ends YOUTH OF THE BEAST is fantastic) to interrupt the weirdness. One thing I can guarantee: After one dose of Suzuki’s madness, you’ll never look at a gangster movie the same way again. 
    RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Youth of the Beast; Tokyo Drifter; Branded to Kill

    Jean Rollin

    Jean Rollin made movies with vampires in them, which is to say, he made movies that just so happened to feature vampires. Female vampires mostly, with very little in the way of clothes. 

    More reliant on atmosphere than scare tactics and gore, Rollin just seems to be really, really obsessed with the image of female bloodsucker wandering around the corridors of decaying castles. When combined with a visual sensibility that can best be termed 'impressionistic' and at a pace that could be generously termed 'leisurely', even Rollin’s best films can be highly divisive for viewers. Some people really love his films. Most people would prefer they never existed.

    I’ll admit, I only like two of his films, and they were the only ones I could get through to the end. However, to the few who can get in the right mood, Rollin's work can be incredibly haunting and, especially in the case of LIPS OF BLOOD, romantic. This may sound like a somewhat half-assed recommendation, but Rollin's work is that kind  of animal.


    RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Lips of Blood; Fascination

    On that rather ridiculous note, I leave you to more important activities, like sleep. Good night!

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    They can't be stopped!

    Welcome to the first entry of my new blog. You're probably wondering why this hasn't happened earlier, but I really can't come up with a decent explanation. 

    For this initial foray, I'm going to focus on a breakdown of the rogues gallery assembled by one James "Suck it Lucas!" Cameron.


    The Cameronator's films are known for their strong female characters, focus on the limitations of technology, special effects and, latterly massive box office. Oh, and the obligatory mushroom cloud.

    What I've never really seen is an analysis/review/rant on the merits of his antagonists. After all, a hero (or in Cameron's case, heroine) is only as good as the villain s/he faces. Thankfully, Cameron is more than up to the task as I'll try to show in the following spiel.

    The Cameron villain is generally defined by a few key factors.
    1. If they are not male, then they are excessively masculine to the point of parody (Schwarzenegger's Terminator being the prime example)
    2. They are smart. They generally have a plan and are capable of rolling with the punches and improvising their way out of trouble.
    3. They are not that smart. Every Cameron Big Bad is defined by an ability to focus on a goal and carry it out until the task is completed or until they are completely and utterly dead. In this respect his villains are more akin to forces of nature than human (looking) beings. 
    While there are probably more characteristics I could list, I'll cut the crap so you can move onto the list. 

    Colonel Miles Quaritch, AVATAR

    Though he shares some DNA with THE ABYSS’s Coffey, Quaritch is more akin to the professional grunts of ALIENS. He’s got a mission, he has the guns, he just needs to be pointed in the right direction.

    SIGNATURE MOVE: Ignoring the fact his plane is about to crash, and the fact his arm is on fire, Quaritch marches down into the hold, straps himself into a massive battle suit, and jumps to the jungle floor, ready for combat, while the ship crashes behind him. The Cameron badass in a nutshell.
    Lieutenant Hiram Coffey, THE ABYSS

    The typical Cameron military man turned demented psycho, Cameron re-envisions the professional soldiers of ALIENS as the antagonists, throwing a curveball in the wall of the scientists trying to escape a sinking aqua lab.
    SIGNATURE MOMENT: The lab is sinking faster and faster, but Coffey decides now is the perfect time to engage in a little knife fight with the other survivors. Batty, batty boy.
    Salim Abu Aziz, TRUE LIES

    Racial stereotype? Uh, well you see, uh....zabababa supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Okay I'll leave that to you. However as a Cameron villain he fits the standard, as the following example will prove.
    SIGNATURE MOMENT: He's so hellbent on destroying the hero he jumps onto Arnie's Harrier Jet and points a gun at him. If that doesn't scream "I'm the King of the World!" then I don't know what will.
    The T-1000, T2: JUDGEMENT DAY

    I could go into details, but he's just really, really cool-looking doing the things he does. 
    SIGNATURE MOVE: Walking through a barred door without a blink.
    The Alien Queen, ALIENS

    The Alien may have come from the mind of Dan O'Bannon, but the uncompromising, unstoppable Queen is all Cameron. Coming on like an unholy combo of his strong female mother-figures (Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley) and the sheer, brute force of the Terminator, the Alien Queen is the passionate, vengeful yang to the colder, more cynical villainy of Cameron''s male antagonists.
    SIGNATURE MOMENT: Alien uses elevator. Shit, there goes the neighborhood.
    That damn iceberg, TITANIC
    Less dialogue than the Terminator. Bigger than the Queen. I could have gone with Billy Zane, but there's no room for pouting in the Cameron badass, only an implacable, unstoppable sense of impending doom. And on that count the 'Berg KOs Zane (and everything else in the movie). 
    SIGNATURE MOMENT: The duet with Celine Dion. Just kidding.
    The Terminator, THE TERMINATOR

    The big kahuna. This one lays down the template for the Cameron bad 'un. Intelligent. Simple. Direct. Ruthless. And efficient. There's no bullshit to the Cameron antagonist, and the Terminator encapsulates that ethos to a T.
    SIGNATURE MOMENT: As if getting shot, burned, and stabbed wasn't enough, it gets blown in half and STILL keeps going. 

    And that's it. Right, I gotta go do grown up stuff now but I'll catch you later. Good morrow!