Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Return of Portishead

For fans of may bands that made fantastic records in the 90's, it's taking some time for these bands to get back to it and release some new material. Last year, Dinosaur Jr. came out with the fantastic return to form after 11 years of nothing with Beyond while 2006 saw Evan Dando and the Descendants team up to release Lemonheads, another fantastic return to form. This year, Portishead joins this group of 90's groups to release a long long awaited next release. The new album simply entitled Third isn't as much of a return to form as the other bands I have mentioned, yet a welcome return to writing very moody fantastic music.

Portishead's first album Dummy and it's follw-up Portishead had a twinge of trip hop and jazz influences giving their music much more of a funky overtone, however moody it may have been regardless of this. Songs like "Mysterons" and "Sour Times" are perfect examples of the jazz/trip-hop influence with haunting vocals setting the standard for the mood and tone of the first album. Now, in 2008, Third continues in the standard of setting this mood, again with the vocals being the centerpiece, but the music has changed a slight bit. The group has traded in the sampling and such for more conventional instruments. That being said, the songs still have an unconventional sound to them as the instruments sound shipped from somewhere otherworldly.

Much like Radiohead's In Rainbows, Third is quite clean in production and allows the instruments and vocals do the work for setting the mood rather than the production as a whole. Songs like "Silence" and "Machine Gun" have a beautiful grit to them. "Silence" builds with a catchy riff and as the vocals come in the swirl of sound compounds until it cuts off into the spacey "Hunter." "Machine Gun", the first single off the record is a very difficultly beautiful composition with mostly electronic drums in an oppressive beat that pulsates and mutates as the track slugs on. The melancholy tone of the vocal performance brings the song out of the muck and into a thing of strange beauty. Definitely check the new album out as it's a thing of strange beauty.

Sadly the best quality version of the official video was disabled form embedding, so here is a link and a live version from the ATP Festival.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones Disappoints on an Epic Scale

Before you read this, see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That is, if you want to see it. If you don't care, don't worry.

Patton Oswalt has a bit where he says if he had a time machine, he would go back in time and kill George Lucas before he made the prequels to the beloved Star Wars films. I wold have to agree with him so Lucas could also not ruin the Indiana Jones franchise.

For me, Indiana Jones is one of the best blockbuster franchises out there. Indy is smart, badass and has many facets to his personality. The two sequels are far from perfect, although Last Crusade comes damn close. Action, fun and intriguing characters all come together with some interesting historical folklore attached to it.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from it's advertising seemed like it would fit right in to the rest of the series. The movie starts off on the right foot with a great opening in New Mexico. Communists are using Indy and his insider knowledge of a hangar that holds several powerful artifacts, specifically the remains of a charred body found in *gasp* Roswell?! Immediately, we can tell who is writing the story for this one. George Lucas and his vast obsession with space and everything that comes with it. This is strange territory for Indiana Jones and immediately we can tell where this film is going. Or do we?

The film slugs on with a really great scene between Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams (played really well by Shia LeBeouf) a 50's diner followed by the most believable and enjoyable chase scene of the movie. Once Indy flies to South America to the Nazca Lines, the movie starts to spiral slowly. A strange unexplained fight scene with some natives martial arts weirdos and the discovery of the crystal skull. Once the Russians meet up with Indy again, more ridiculousness ensues. A retarded fight/high speed chase through the jungle followed by another retarded fight amidst giant red ants followed by a retarded waterfall scene followed by the realization that Indiana Jones is no longer about finding ancient artifacts that have any semblance of history and we find out that it's all aliens. A stupid alien skull with other worldly powers. It ends in a spectical of retarded special effects and then a really really fucking cheesey wedding between Indy and Marion. BARF!

What ruined Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not the acting or directing (minus some phoned in scenes and the advent of CGI) but what ruined the movie was the writing. The story was so loose and full of huge holes that it resulted to really lame and bloated action scenes that verge on the edge of lunacy. The alien angle has to be the fault of George Lucas. Why on Earth would you put Indiana Jones into a fucking movie about aliens?! WHY? Indiana Joens wouldn't give two shits about alein life. He seeks historical artifacts! GAAH!

Ok I know I'm ranting here. Some of the action sequences are fun to watch, Shoo LaBoo is quite good as Indy's bastard son and the first half of the movie showed what the movie could have been like. Too bad it was ruined. Not even Cate Blanchett, John Hurt or Ray Winstone could save the movie. Their roles were either so over the top or were misused and underused. It's disappointing and hurtful to sit through. Don't bother wasting your time.