Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Straight Outta Compton, Crazy Motherfucker Named Nina..."

A person is always one click away from incredibly crazy shit on the internet. And it was one such click that led me to this video for a Nina Gordon song, which just happens to be a cover of "Straight Outta Compton" (Yes, that "Straight Outta Compton"):

I like Nina and all, enjoying her work with Veruca Salt and on her own, but Nina is waaaaaay too...well, she's way too a lot of things to be singing this song. I believe if you look up "irony" in the dictionary, this video is there.

I hope this shows up on her next album.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Worst Movie In The History Of Movies. Ever.

I've made it no secret my dislike of the works of Eli Roth. Most people would just ignore his career entirely if they didn't like him, but I keep tabs on him just out of pure hate.

I've seen all of Roth's previous "movies," so it should come as no surprise that I'd see his new opus, Hostel 2, just to see how shitty it is. (If you remember, when I saw the first one, I was pissed that I paid $3 to see it, so I made sure to see this one for free. And I'm still pissed.) And I was not disappointed. In fact, I was more than pleased, because Hostel 2 is so awful that it almost made the experience worth it, just so I can say that Roth has once again proved that he has no business being anywhere near a film set.

It might not be so bad if Roth had tried to do something original or different with this one, but it's the exact same movie. Same plot, same locale, even the same ending. The thing that's changed is that the guys from the first film are now girls (and no, this change does not lead to any "hot lesbian action"). He's also thrown in the unwelcome addition of a subplot involving two members of the Hunt Club, both played guys from Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, both characters are so annoying that you spend most of their screentime praying for their inevitable deaths. Add it all together, and you have a movie that has less entertainment value than a snuff film, except this is fake. (In one article I read, the reviewer referred to this as "gore porn." Apparently, he's not familiar with the work of Joe D'Amato, which actually was gore porn. This is nowhere near as entertaining.)

Now, I don't want to come off like one of these people, who would rather have no sex and violence in their movies; quite the contrary, actually. One of the best movies I've seen in the past few years was The Devil's Rejects, a movie just as unrelentingly grim and violent as Hostel 2 (possibly even more so), but it at least had the decency to be well-made and entertaining. Hostel 2 is just shit.

There's something else that bothers me about this movie. When you make a violent, bloody, exploitative movie like this, the MPAA is going to cut it to shit. Roth throws a lot of blood on the screen, and still comes out with an R rating (a pretty hard R, but an R, nonetheless). I'm guessing that the movie he made did not make it to the screen uncut. As queasy as the MPAA is, I'm sure they made him cut out something. Which tells me that Roth threw everything and a Home Depot full of kitchen sinks in there, and whatever the MPAA let stick, he ran with. Here's what bothers me about this: If you look back at the history of movies like this, movies that are extremely grim and violent, and look at genre forefathers like the original Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they were all released unrated. They were too violent to receive a rating, but the filmmakers released them anyway. Nobody saw them, but, over the years, they built a cult following, and are beloved by genre fans. (Even Pedro Almodovar does this, and he gets nominated for tons of awards every time he puts out a movie.) Yet Roth's movie, which seems to be an homage to those old exploitation movies, gets an R. Why? Because NC-17 or unrated movies don't get 3000 screen releases, nor do they receive any advertising, and, consequently, no one goes to see them and they don't make any money. (Ah, there's the rub.) Not that this is surprising; Roth appears to be following in the footsteps of his bitch-out mentor Quentin Tarantino, who has a history of cleverly editing his movie to avoid the dreaded NC-17.

The only good thing about this movie is that, while it has turned a small profit, its continual -60% diminishing returns means it will probably be all the way out of theatres by this weekend. (There's only one theatre within 50 miles of here where it's playing.) Maybe the fact that Hostel 2 cost twice as much as Hostel 1 to produce, yet grossed less than half as much will cause the studios to reevaluated Roth's status as a "golden boy," and stop giving him money to make any more dreadful movies. Or, better yet, maybe his next movie will cost so much to make and gross so little that it bankrupts a studio, and the suits will pull the old "Michael Cimino" and toss him right out of Hollywood.

That would be the sweetest thing in the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Shooter" Beck: 1968-2007

Rod Beck, one of the best closers in baseball in the '90s, was found dead today in his Phoenix home at age 38.

Beck was somewhat of an oddball in baseball. In an era when players were becoming more physically fit, athletic, and clean-cut, Beck actually went the other direction, turning into more of a fat slob with each passing year. His penchant for drinking and smoking, his walrus-like horseshoe mustache, and his scraggly mullet would not be out of place on your Beer League softball team. Yet, there he was, one of the best closers in the majors.

He was also a pitcher with some strange statistical anomalies. He is one of only four pitchers to have saved more than 48 games twice. He once held the major league record for most consecutive save conversions with 41 (a record since obliterated by Eric Gagne). He is also only one of three pitchers to have converted 100% with at least 20 opportunities, a feat he accomplished twice, including the "Comeback Year," where he went 20 for 20 filling in for Trevor Hoffman. (I won't lie and say some of these categories haven't been tailor-made to fit Beck's stats, but, well, there they are.)

By all accounts, Beck was an all-around good guy, even if he did look like he might run you down with his chopper on his way to a meth buy. In these times when everything is tainted by a possible steroid connection, it makes you appreciate a guy like Beck, who succeeded with nothing but talent, beer, and the occasional trip to the weight room.

We'll miss ya, Shooter.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Year Of The Bad Record

There's been a lot of albums that have come out in these first six months of the year, and a lot of those have been from artists I like; highly-anticipated stuff, if you will.

Yet, as I mentioned a second ago, we're six months into the year, and nothing has come out that I would recommend people go spend their money on. It's an all-around terrible year for music:

You've got The Smithereens, who put out their first new record in quite a while, and, turns out, it's a Beatles tribute record;

Saliva, possibly deciding their last album was too loud and angry, put out a record more along the lines of Winger, or possibly Nelson;

The Stooges put out their first record in ages, and prove that guys in their late 50s just can't bring the punk rock thunder;

Fall Out Boy put out an album that is, well, a Fall Out Boy album;

Trent Reznor cranked out, in record time (by Nine Inch Nails' standards, at least), Year Zero, a concept album that serves as little more than the payoff for the music world's version of The Lost Experience; (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, set aside about two hours and start clicking.)

Linkin Park, who had gotten nu-metal down to an artform, decided to switch gears entirely, and went with puss rock as their "nu" genre;

Maroon 5 released an album where all the songs sound exactly the same;

Chris Cornell had no problem breaking up a great band (Soundgarden) to record his first crappy solo record, and followed pattern by breaking up another (Audioslave) to record his next crappy solo record;

Even my beloved Queens of the Stone Age must have decided their music was getting too "normal," and decided to crank the weirdness (/unlistenability) factor way back up there.

And it only stands to get worse. I'm sure the new White Stripes album will be more obscure and obtuse than their previous one. Bon Jovi has forsaken its Jersey rocker ways and is putting out a country record. Kelly Clarkson, whose career appears to be disintegrating before our eyes, may or may not have a new album coming out. And the new-and-improved Smashing Pumpkins...well, we'll see about that one.

Just not a good year for music fans so far. There is one bright spot, though: Beyond, by the newly-reunited Dinosaur Jr. After being broken up for nearly 20 years and the name "Dinosaur Jr" having become synonymous with "J Mascis solo project," the original band got back together and put out one hell of a noisy record. J Mascis shows us that even though his hair went grey and he got really fat, he still knows how to rock.

I wish I could say the same for everyone else.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Irrelevant Sequel Summer

So, we're officially a month into The Summer of Sequels, with four of the 98 scheduled sequels having premiered. And, as expected, they're the only movies that have made any money so far.

As a money-making venture, I understand why we have sequels. If you paid to see the misadventures of The Ocean Gang the first two times, you're more than likely going to pay to see them a third time. What I don't get is why some movies even have sequels.

There are some movies that almost require sequels, because you can't cram the whole storyline into one movie (like Harry Potter or Star Wars). Or, there are movies which, due to the previous history of the characters, have near-infinite story possibilities (like Spiderman and The Fantastic Four). But is there anything we couldn't piece together from Daddy Day Care that would require it having a sequel (and one that appears to be completely unrelated to the original)?

A good example of this theory, having just announced plans for a third and fourth sequel, is Shrek. The only reason the first Shrek movie was made was because Jeffrey Katzenberg was pissed at The Walt Disney Company, having just come off a massive lawsuit against them. So, he produced a movie with a slight variation of the Sleeping Beauty/Cinderella theme, filled with bitter references toward Disney. (If you look on IMDB, the working title for Shrek was Fuck You, Disney! True story.) And it was very successful. Yet neither sequel was as clever (or as bitter) as the original; they were basically reworkings of the first movie, made solely to make money.

Same holds true for the Die Hard franchise. If ever there was a definition of a high-concept movie, it would be Die Hard. Its basic premise, an action movie taking place entirely in one building, was so seminal that subsequent action movies got pitched as "Die Hard on a (fill in the blank)." The sequel followed that premise, expanding it slightly to an entire airport. The next one (which, I suspect, started life as the third Lethal Weapon sequel, and was actually more entertaining than what eventually became Lethal Weapon 4) expanded further to include the entire island of Manhattan. This new third sequel takes the concept...well, I don't think it even has the same concept, but it's got John McClane in it, so I guess that makes it a sequel. Once again: Just a case of making a movie just because the previous installments made money.

The worst offender is the Rush Hour series. In Rush Hour 1, you've got Jackie Chan as a fish-out-of-water in Los Angeles, and, because he's Chinese, he doesn't understand anything about America! Hilarious! Then, there's Rush Hour 2, which is the exact same movie, except that now Chris Tucker is the foreigner in Hong Kong. Pure comic gold. But are there really enough variations of the "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?" joke to merit a Rush Hour 3, where both characters are out of place in Paris? I suspect the only reason these movies are still being made is because Brett Ratner, who killed a perfectly good X-Men franchise, can't get any other work in Hollywood, for fear that he might kill someone else's money-making venture.

But this is all Hollywood economics: The first one made money, so subsequent installments will, too (and usually moreso). We're pretty much stuck with sequels (which are still preferable to remakes), whether we like it or not. So, enjoy Ocean's 13 when it opens this weekend. I know I will.