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Monday
Jul212014

Found Footage Movies

They're cheap, they're almost always horror films, and they usually suck.  They're Found Footage movies.

Movies.  Never films.

The Found Footage boom got its start when 1999's sleeper hit The Blair Witch Project (which, for the record, is a movie I enjoy) grossed $248 million in the box office after only costing $25,000 to make.  Movie studios quickly realized they could slap together these cheap cash cows in a few months every winter and brunch with Mr. Moneybags all summer long.

The reason most found footage movies stink is no mystery.  They're about 90% horror films, and horror films don't need to be good to make money.  Like explosions in an action movie or a shirtless Matthew McConaughey in a rom com, as long as horror movies supply a few jump scares they'll get in the black.  Why spend the money on Mercedes when people are willing to drive a Honda?

Still, just because a town might not have a law requiring you to clean up after your dog doesn't mean its cool for you to leave's your dogs poops on everyone else's lawn.

Not every found footage movie has been a cynical crappy cash grab. When the genre is used as a necessity rather than as a gimick it can be endearing.

Low budget gem Chronicle is one of the best super hero movies of the last 15 years.

It's a genre that, when used correctly, is a really nice touch to a low budget film.  Unfortunately, it almost never is.

Found Footage Movies: Overrated.

Friday
Jul182014

Will The New Weezer Album Be Good? An Investigative Report

So, it's happening again.  Weezer, for the 9th time in their tumultuous history, are releasing a studio album Everything Will Be Alright in The End.  Now, if this was 2004, I and many other Weezer fans would be shaky with excitement.  But, it's 2014, and we've all been down this road too many times to pretend we don't know what's waiting for us around the bend:  A big fat disappointment.  

Or is it?

The History

Weezer fans can essentially be divided up into two groups:

A: Fans who look at everything post-Pinkerton as a colossal disappointment and despise it all equally.

B: Fans that don't hate post-Pinkerton Weezer but generally agree that there has been diminishing returns as the years have gone by.

Personally, I think the A fans feel the way they do because they experienced Weezer's prime in real time, not retroactively.  They were mostly in their late teens/twenties when Weezer's debut album and Pinkerton came out, and they loved both (something not very common at the time).  Then, Weezer (2001) was such a let down for how long they had waited for it that they tuned out.  Imagine if you saw a TV show that had two of the greatest seasons of television you've ever seen in your life, then you had to wait five years for season three and it was only "pretty good".  To top it off, you've heard that later seasons of the show have only seen it get worse.  Would you still watch it?

I get it.

STILL a staple of dorm room sing-a-longs

I, however, was only seven when Weezer (1994) was released.  My first experience with Weezer was that "highly disappointing" 2001 album.  For me that wasn't the epitaph, it was the prologue.  In spite of this, I like many other younger Weezer fans agree that their first two albums are unquestionably their best works (as I wrote about HERE and HERE) and it isn't even close.

Regardless of what group you classify yourself, if you've stuck with the band you have been burnt by your own expectations.  The most egregious let down probably being 2009's Raditude, which fans let themselves get excited over thanks to a spunky first single only to discover an overlong mess of an album that was directionless and featured some laughably awful songs.  Truly, no Weezer album since Pinkerton has been flawless, but none as riddled with the cancer of bad music as Raditude.

The ultimate difference between these two groups is that B fans still believe Weezer have a good album left in them somewhere if all the stars align.  A fans have long tuned out, most of them probably don't even know Weezer is still together.

The Evidence

Weezer, by any measure have been a massively successful rock band.  They've been around for twenty years and have five albums receive a distinction of Gold or better by the RIAA.  This doesn't mean that they haven't noticed their dip in appeal.

Their album sales have dropped markedly over their last three LPs, with the most recent failing to even break 100,000 domestic.  Now, while this doesn't mean they're going to magically start writing better songs, it hopefully will mean that they at least realize the need for a fresh approach.

It is hard to argue that Weezer hasn't been on a steady downward trajectory for the last 15 years both musically and popularly (with A FEW, NOTABLE, EXCEPTIONS).  But their last release, Hurley, shows some promise.  It was warmly received by critics and features some of the passion that made Rivers Cuomo's song writing so compelling in the 90s.

Now, there haven't been any full songs released from this upcoming album just yet but the band has been teasing it like crazy on their Youtube page.  These teases have by in large been very, very promising.  Mostly because they seem to hold in them that same passion and angst that once went hand in hand with Weezer rather than the cynical attempts to be "pop" Cuomo has succumbed to in the last decade.  The samples actually most remind me of scrapped pre-Maladroit demos Weezer were churning out in the early 2000s.

Verdict

I really, really, really, want to believe.  The samples do sound good, the album art looks cool, Hurley was a step in the right direction.  But the truth is, it can't be as good as those first two albums.  

It's impossible.

Weezer (1994) and Pinkerton are more than just really good albums (even the B-Sides were inspired).  They're a part of people.  They're too connected to memories and nostalgia.  They were exciting and new.  Even if Weezer released exactly what fans want, it wouldn't be the same.  The only way they could ever do that is if they did something completely different, evolved into a whole new idea.

Weezer are not going to do something completely different.  But, it can still be good and very early on - and I know I've been fooled before - but very early on, it looks like it will be.  Good, that is.

Please don't make me look stupid in two months, Rivers.

Thursday
Jul172014

Gentlemen's disAgreement - July 16th - 2014

 

Here it is!  At long last.  The Rated Wrong podcast, Gentlemen's disAgreement.  In this (first) installment, comedian Phil Casale joins me (KH MacLean) to talk about Comic Book movies and the state of the big summer movie.  Take a listen below!

0:00 - Phil and I open things up talking a little bit about the World Cup and Bands on the Run.

14:10 - Comic Book Movies and Summer Films

52:20 - Word Game:  Your Opinions!

LISTEN HERE!

 

Tuesday
Jul152014

Bands on the Run Revisited: The Bands Who Would Be Kings

The Year was 2001.

The Show was VH1's Bands on the Run.

The butt was glued to the couch.

I loved watching every minute of this show during the summer before my sophomore year in high school.  Having mastered the art of playing guitar while singing probably only about 2 years before, I was at the peak of my ambitions with my own future, inevitable rock stardom.

It was a fun show that gave music fans a fly on the wall (or at least, what seemed like one) view of what it was like to try and make it as an indie band, hustling from gig to gig around the country, politely informing bar patrons the No, you do not know any Offspring covers.  A solid show with a repeatable formula.

But it was never repeated.

That first season was the only one we got.  And none of the four bands on that first season ever went further in fame than their time on the show.

What happened?

13 years later, I did a little research and downloaded 3 of the 4 bands albums from the time to see how their music holds up today.

Josh Dodes Band


You really only need two words to describe Josh Dodes Band musical stylings: Ally McBeal.

The first band eliminated from the show and upon revisiting their music, it is no mystery why.  JDB sounds like every band on 1996 college radio had an easy-listening jazz fusion baby.  If you had Ben Folds, Counting Crows, Hootie and Blowfish, and Dave Matthew's Band but less edgy.  There's definitely a Walking in Memphis, Piano Bar style to their sound.  Like they belong on the soundtrack for the movie The Firm.  Even in 2001 they must have sounded dated as hell.

Still, everyone in the band is clearly very skilled and from what I can tell from a Google search Josh Dodes is still active as a solo artist and studio musician.  Even if I'm positive they suck right now, I look forward to my 60th birthday when I'll revisit their album, "Get Up", and love it's smooth sound.

Best Song: Be My Friend, But Be Naked

Lasting Memory: Thinking all of their songs sounded like rejects from Rent.

Recommend?: No.

 

Harlow


It's hard to remember much about Harlow.  It doesn't help that their music is almost impossible to find (they were the one band I couldn't recover an album to listen to).  They were an all girl group.  They looked like goth but had a sort of grungy sound.  They seemed like a bunch of alcoholic fuck-ups on the show but had a spunky attitude.  No one seemed to like their music and they were soundly defeated in the battle of the bands that saw them kicked off the show.

I was able to recover one song from youtube, "Still Haunting".  Which has a distinctly similar sound to Smashing Pumpkins (and more tellingly, Hole).  It's not awful, but nothing to get excited over, and definitely shouldn't be a band's best song.

Sadly, for Harlow, their greatest legacy aside from Bands on the Run, is being part of the punchline in a David Cross joke.

Best Song: ???

Lasting Memory: One of the members flirting with an Englishman only eventually leave him behind shouting "I think you're cute but I won't sleep with you because I heard Englishman are crap in bed."  Classy broads, Harlow.

Recommend?: No.

Soulcracker


Now we're getting into the quality of Bands on the Run.  Soulcracker were, for all intents and purposes, the villains of the show.  They were talented and fun loving, but they came off as a bunch of arrogant, corporate minded, jerkoffs.

The primary objective for bands on Bands on the Run was to make money, and in this area Soulcracker were unparralled monsters of efficency.  I don't think there was a single week that they weren't atop the leader board for money raised.  They were smarter than the other three bands combined, the only problem was, they knew it.

The focus of most fans' ire was band member Beastie Ulery.  Who's main occupations in the band were trash talking, selling merch like a mad man, obnoxiously jumping around on stage, and I think playing the trumpet once.  In a very interesting article I came across, lead singer Sutton Althisar defends Beastie (along with how most of the bands and their members were portrayed on the show) saying VH-1 tried to play up small things and minor conflicts for ratings.  That is undoubtedly true, but in the moment Beastie was a total dick, and no one, not even the members of his own band liked him.

A face all too easy to hate.

Soulcracker's sound is a kind of pop punk/post-grunge hybrid.  Something about them definitely reminds me a lot of Blink-182 and Sum-41 although thet aren't nearly as pop or catchy.

The two bands they most remind me of are Sublime and Home Town Hero.  The Sublime connection is more in spirit than sound, but it is undeniable.  Home Town Hero was another post-grunge band from the west coast active in the early 2000s.  I would say Home Town Hero was a little more polished and radio-friendly, but both definitely occupied the same place on the dial.  

While their dated sound makes it hard for me to recommend their album, At Last, for You, I will admit I don't hate it and it is possessing of the quality to grow on you with repeated listens.

Best Songs: "Greatest Generation", "Two Little Boys"

Lasting Memory: I always thought the band's decision to not attempt to raise money leading up to the final battle of the bands against Flickerstick wreaked of Producer's influence.  Had they raised enough they could have rendered the final battle of the bands pointless.  But they didn't and then they lost the battle of the bands and lost the show.

Recommend?: Free Download Yes.

Meanwhile, check out what they look like today... wow.

Flickerstick


When Bands on the Run finished it's first season with Texan indie-rockers Flickerstick crowned champions many suspected foul play.  It certainly is a possibility.

The objective of Bands on the Run was to make money.  The entire time on the show, the bands were told repeatedly that the band that raised the most money would be awarded first place and all that came with it at the end (a major label showcase, 50k in prize money, 100k in guitar center equipment).  Them was the rules, that is, until the final episode when the two remaining bands - Soulcracker and Flickerstick - were told that there would be a final battle of the bands worth $5,000 for whichever won.  For Flickerstick, who were trailing Soulcracker in merch sales by a whopping $3,000 it was a life line.  For Soulcracker, who had worked their butts off for three months, it was a death sentence.

Flickerstick had already attracted interest from VH-1 for a show about bands featuring siblings (two of the members were brothers).  When Bands on the Run came along, Flickerstick was selected and some believed that the other bands were merely cannon fodder thrown in at the last minute so they could be knocked down on Flickerstick's road to stardom.

Let there be no confusion: Flickerstick was the best band on Bands on the Run.  At the time they would have fit right in on a modern rock station with a sound somewhere between the Goo Goo Dolls, Bush, and early Radiohead.  They were by no means great, but they were fun and catchy and still have a few songs that hold up strong to this day.

There's no question VH1 wanted viewers to root for Flickerstick.  Unlike the other bands featured, Flickerstick were never shown taking cheap shots at their competition, they were too preoccupied with their own drama. Portrayed as a group of lovable ne'er do wells, Flickerstick were a sort of quixotic bunch of drunks that just couldn't quite get it together enough to ever really make any money.  They were the mixture of talent and self-destruction that rock n'roll has romanticized over and over again.  They would skip gigs, cheat on their girlfriends, sleep late and party early, but it was all forgiven when they got on stage.

Like all the other bands from Bands on the Run, they have since broken up, and also like the rest of the bands, their high-water mark came and went with the show.  They recorded one major studio album, and their one lasting legacy is a live album recorded in 2002.

They may not have found the fame and fortune that VH1 promised them, but for one summer, Flickerstick was everything.

Best Songs: Smile, Chloroform, Direct Line to a Telepathic (live recording)

Lasting Memory: Lead singer Brandin Lea flipping out on bandmates in the van after they wouldn't stop arguing about something.

Recommend: Yes to their live album, Causing a Catastrophe

Friday
Jul112014

World Cup 2014: Love It While You Have It

For exactly 16 days, the United States was in love with football.  Excuse me, futbol. Excuse me, soccer.  What ever name you give the fever, America had it.  People chanted that they believed, groaned at offsides calls, asked the person next to them what offsides was, and cheered, loudly, proudly, obnoxiously.

Since the start of the tournament, it was clear that the United States was invested in this World Cup to a level dwarfing past support.  Many pundits have logged several hours and cups of coffee wondering aloud whether or not this excitement will translate into sustained support for the game.  Most of the factors that supporters of the game point to as indicators that the game is about to boom in the US have been chirping the same talking points since the mid-90s (we're still waiting).  But not even the games greatest detractors can deny that soccer is receiving unprecedented attention state-side.  The two sides will most likely continue to argue about it until the rapture, but that shouldn't keep you from enjoying soccer in the here and now and all THIS very special World Cup has given us.  Cherish it, because you may find, history is not certain to repeat itself.

"American" Score Lines

If Motely Crue had been a band outta São Paulo they may have released a song called Goals, Goals, Goals.  It would have made a good theme song for the 2014 World Cup.  You know, it isn't every World Cup that Brazil loses.  And it certainly isn't every World Cup that Brazil (or any team) loses 1-7 in the semi-finals.  There have been a lot of goals this World Cup.  In fact, despite a whopping 7 different games making it to penalties after a 0-0 120 minutes 2014 is on pace to be the most goalful World Cup in history.  Americans have long bemoaned the lack of scoring in soccer, while it hasn't been a problem during this very exciting World Cup, there are no guarantees that it will be the same in the future.

 Prime Time Viewing

You know something really awesome about having the World Cup in Brazil?  It is in the Western Hemisphere.  Allowing most everyone in the United States to be able to watch the games during the day or early evening.  Being able to watch the games at a reasonable hour is a great rarity when it comes to the World Cup.  Remember the time delay of the Sochii Games or China's Olympics in 2008?  Networks are going to have a difficult decision in 4 years when games are being played at five in the morning East Coast time in Russia.

This guy could be dead of old age before the United States hosts their next World Cup.

 U.S.A. May Not Get a World Cup For a LOOOONNG Time

With the explosion of excitement around the 2014 World Cup, a lot of added attention has come to the growing controversy around the site for the 2022 World Cup:  Qatar.  With the myriad of issues arising from the selection (untenable heat, rampant corruption allegations, slave labor) it seems hard to believe that FIFA will not pull the plug in the next few months.  But, the 2022 World Cup may not leave Qatar, or it might... for China.  FIFA will think long and hard before pulling the World Cup from Qatar.  To do so now, after the country has already committed billions of dollars to the project could see FIFA's relationships in the region disintegrate.  Remember, the entire reason FIFA ostensibly chose Qatar was to build its relationships and popularity in the Middle East.  The prevailing feeling is that if FIFA head Sepp Blatter has the balls to cut the cord on Qatar the United States is next in line. But word is that Blatter's dream locale for a World Cup isn't sponsor rich USA but largely untapped China.   While less likely than USA, it should surprise no one if Blatter pulls a fast one, after all, this is the same guy that gave a World Cup to Qatar.  The United States has vowed not to bid for another World Cup until the rules in the bidding process are changed and if they don't get the 2022 Cup retroactively, Tim Howard could be an old man before one comes state-side.

The U.S.A. Isn't That Close to Greatness

Added Interest in the sport does not ensure success, just ask England.

This goes back to that original debate:  is this World Cup fever a summertime dalliance or is it an indication of growing love for the beautiful game?  My heart wants to say yes, but my head says the U.S.A. is probably still eight years away from having a realistic chance of winning the World Cup.  The truth is the United States has led the charge on youth level soccer world wide for years now, but it has continued to struggle to keep those young players involved as they grow up and are given more visible and lucrative domestic sporting options.  Even if the United States does begin to see a sustained growth in talent, it would probably be at least 6-8 years before they are able to really reap any benefits from it on the global scale.  Remember, the World Cup only comes once every four years, and even the best teams can do poorly (see Spain 2014).  The United States might be dreaming big but in the reality of sports only two things are certain: there are no guarantees, and there is no crying in baseball.