Monthly Archives: September 2012

Seven Psychopaths – Film Review

An intelligent, high-octane, self-reflexive joyride of a movie worth every penny you’ll pay to see it.

(I saw it for free, ha, sucks for you!)

(I’m sorry, that was douchey, I’ll go see it with you and pay ’cause it’s totally worth it.)

Famed playwright-screenwriter-director Martin McDonagh is best known for his last film, In Bruges, a film which I haven’t seen but know very well because all of my film school friends seem to quote it all the time. It’s known for its witty dialogue, action and outstanding characters. All of these traits carry over to Seven Psychopaths.

It seems McDonagh has been given carte blanche to creatively do what he wants after his Oscar nom for In Bruges, and has used it wisely. He creates a wild, uncontrollable, well-structured mess of a film that deserves a second watch to really understand the layers McDonagh has embedded in it.

To reveal more than the basic plot would be a disservice, so here’s the Wikipedia light synopsis:

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling writer who dreams of finishing his screenplay, “Seven Psychopaths”. Billy (Sam Rockwell) is Marty’s best friend, an unemployed actor and part time dog thief, who wants to help Marty by any means necessary. All he needs is a little focus and inspiration.

Hans (Christopher Walken) is Billy’s partner in crime: a religious man with a violent past. Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is the gangster whose beloved dog Billy and Hans have just stolen. Charlie is unpredictable and extremely violent and wouldn’t think twice about killing anyone or anything associated with the theft. Marty is going to get all the focus and inspiration he needs, just as long as he lives to tell the tale.

The dialogue is easily a highlight, riffing on crime film tropes and the struggles of writing a film in the modern age. The Ben Davis cinematography is quite nice, getting better as the film progresses. The performances are all spot-on, especially from Rockwell and Walken. Direction relies a lot on long takes, which is always a plus, as it shows the ability of the actors. Everything flows together quite nicely, and all expectations are subverted. The Carter Burwell score isn’t overbearing, and, as usual, gets the job done with a subtle, underplayed touch. The Lisa Gunning editorial work is well-paced and none too flashy.

Overall, an incredibly satisfying film with unexpected depth well worth the price of admission.


Dream Teams

I recently stumbled across a self-post on the /r/progmetal subreddit (an excellent way to find new music!) asking for progressive metal “dream teams,” and I jumped right into making picks. Several guitarists immediately came to mind as obvious choices, along with the handful of recognizable metal bassists, and I chose the drummer/vocalist last to best suit the style. Here’s what I came up with:

  • 6 String Lead Guitar and Keys – AJ Minnette of The Human Abstract playing primary melodies on both guitar and piano (The violin)
  • 8 String Rhythm Guitar – Misha Mansoor of Periphery handling low end riffs (The cello)
  • 7 String Guitar – Justin Lowe of After the Burial harmonizing with leads and riffs, playing chords when necessary (The viola)
  • Bass – Arif Mirabdolbaghi of Protest the Hero (The bass)
  • Drums – Lyle Cooper of The Faceless playing dynamically with thoughtful displays of chops (Percussion)
  • Vocals and Synth – Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me using growls sparingly and providing atmospheric synth sounds where appropriate
  • Band would play technical metal with classically-minded composition and a very slight djent influence.

So what’s your musical dream team? Any style, any number of members, living or dead! Leave a comment and let us know!


You Should Check This Out: The Post-Credits Podcast

Do you like movies?

Do you like smart people?

Do you like smart people talking about movies?

Well then boy, do I have the podcast for you. Four incredibly talented friends of mine at USC started the Post-Credits Podcast! Burgeoning screenwriter Cameron Evans, brilliant blogger Michael Chasin (of the excellent Story Is God), the hilarious Ty Sheedlo and the deep-voiced JT Hagaman, whose stop-motion videos have earned over 10 million views on YouTube, bring you excellent, well-articulated thoughts on the most recent releases in the cinematic universe. I’ve listened, it’s worth it, and their upcoming podcast on Looper is quite fantastic. They also bring on some excellent guests–award-winning filmmaker Michael Nader brings his expertise to the pilot, which tackles The Master. It’s spoiler-free for the first half, so it’s a nice place to go if you’re unsure about checking a movie out as well.

Please check it out, you won’t regret it.


“Merry Go ‘Round” – Kacey Musgraves

It’s very rare these days when you can find good modern folk music. Kacey Musgraves has managed to defy the odds and craft an exquisite folk song. It’s classified on iTunes as Country, but don’t let that fool you–Musgraves’ music very deliberately analyzes and slowly penetrates the incredibly sad truth of the small-town country lifestyle oh-so-glorified by the Jason Aldeans and Tim McGraws of the world with an honesty and a sensitivity that I wouldn’t expect, and, frankly, was damn impressed by.

The wordplay is sharp, and the arrangement is appropriately sparse, but not empty.

I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves. They are flawless–and that wasn’t hyperbole:

If you ain’t got two kids by 21,
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you.

And it don’t matter if you don’t believe,
Come Sunday morning you best be there
In the front row, like you’re s’posed to.

Same hurt in every heart.
Same trailer, different park.

Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.

Mary Mary quite contrary,
We get bored so we get married
And just like dust we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go,
Where it stops nobody knows…
And it ain’t slowin’ down, this merry go ’round…

We think the first time’s good enough,
So we hold on to high school love,
Say we won’t end up like our parents.

Tiny little boxes in a row,
Ain’t want you want, it’s what you know,
Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.

Same checks we’re always cashin’,
To buy a little more distraction.

Cause Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.

Mary Mary quite contrary,
We get bored so we get married
And just like dust we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go,
Where we stop nobody knows…
And it ain’t slowin’ down, this merry go ’round…

Mary Mary quite contrary,
We’re so bored until we’re buried.
And just like dust we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round…
Merry go ’round…

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
Jack burned out on booze and pills,
And Mary had a little lamb,
Mary just don’t give a damn no more.

Let that sit with you for a bit.


“Little Voices” – Scott & Brendo feat. Justin Williams

Little Voices cover art

If you haven’t seen the recent devinsupertramp video, it features this pretty fresh track called “Little Voices” by Scott & Brendo feat. Justin Williams. Now I have to admit, I would’ve never found this song without the video, but it’s alright, devinsupertramp has some pretty good music selections for his videos. The unicycle freestyling fits perfectly with the song and it’s fun to watch.

Alright, so the song is a little brief, but it’s short and sweet. You get that pretty sick mixture of Indie Rock along with a Hip Hop flow to it, so it’s tight. While not a traditional type of song you’d be doing that dancing stuff to, it’s still pretty nice to listen to and just kinda bob your head to. Now while I can’t distinguish who actually is singing what, the group, made up of Scott Winn and Brenden Bytheway, featuring the likes of Justin Williams, has made a pretty chill track. The contrast between the rapping and then the crooning of the chorus is pretty sick. The chorus makes the song for me in this, along with the beat, so take a look at it for yourself. You can stream for free and/or download it at their bandcampKeep an eye out for these guys. I can easily see them blowing up real quick. They got it. Your move Scott & Brendo (+Justin Williams too!) I’ll be keeping up on what you guys have to offer next.

NOTE: We managed to nab an interview with them. Get to know Scott & Brendo!

LYRICS:

Yo, hip hop and I’m turning feet 
Everybody’s outside and we’re lookin sweet 
Saving all the best tricks that are up my sleeves 
For the last ones left who can taste the beat 

Do you wanna come and take a little chance with me 
Come dance with me, make plans with me 

And I wish right now that we don’t ever stop this 
Because I just dont think we’ll top this 

Just so you know 
It’s impossible 
To die from overdose 
Of anything that feels this good 

Ok kids, listen up. Promise me that you WILL try this at home! 

Take a ratty black hat and try to wear it backwards 
Now pedal harder cuz we’re going faster 

Firecrackers at the crack of dawn 
Everybody gettin’ wetter from the dew in the lawn 

And I ask myself one question 
Everybody’s got a similar expression 
It’s high time that I’m asking why 
Is life supposed to feel this high

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Looper – Film Review

It’s one of the most emotionally engaging sci-fi films I’ve seen in recent years.

Rian Johnson‘s body of work is the prototypical film student’s wet dream. His first film, Brick, starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, became a minor critical and commercial success, and emerged fully-formed, just a few years after graduating USC’s undergraduate film production program in 1996. His second film, The Brothers Bloom, starred Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz, and despite middling box-office returns, premiered at TIFF in 2008. Following that, he directed two of the best episodes of one of, if not the best, TV shows ever made–“Fly” and “Fifty-One” of Breaking Bad. All of which contained incredible visuals and allowed him to form a distinct style, taking elements from that which he admired–theatrical realism. And then he got the call from a major studio to write and direct a project he’d been working on for over 10 years–Looper.

Looper is a great sci-fi time travel film, because it isn’t a sci-fi time travel film. It’s a brilliant character-driven drama guised with smart action sequences, gorgeous visuals and the presence of a deliciously ambiguous Bruce Willis. I won’t spoil the major plot twists for you, because the trailer has done such a nice job of avoiding them, but it should be noted that the film isn’t exactly what’s advertised. Suffice it to say that the film’s success hinges on an excellent child actor, playing a child character cut from a familiar mold but very unique to the theme of this film. The film is original and smart, and you should see it–all of those who I saw it with agreed, even if they didn’t love the kid.

The performances are excellent all-around. JoGoLev, Emily Blunt, Willis, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano all bring their a games and elevate a film that could have been much less good in shakier hands. The child actor, Pierce Gagnon, is a neat talent, and should definitely be watched closely.

The cinematography, by longtime Johnson collaborator Steve Yedlin, is inventive and glorious. The music, by Rian’s cousin Nathan Johnson gets the job done. The visual effects are smart and understated–no unnecessary flashes, but definitely eye-catching. The editing is solid, and the script is definitely original. It’s not perfect, but it’s emotionally moving, and poses interesting thematic questions that are answered in an absolutely incredible way in a thrilling climax.

It’s my favorite film of the year so far. Sure, there’re still a few months left, and Oscar season hasn’t even begun. Nevertheless, Looper is worth the price of admission and more.


New Becoming the Archetype album, “I AM” drops today

Via Solid State Records, the progressive metal veterans return just a year after their 2011 powerhouse “Celestial Completion,” and it marks their first release with no original members.