Archive for the 'movies' Category


Mystery of Chess Boxing: Flippin & Trippin

May 24th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Memory lane: my grandfather has been going to the video store every Tuesday after work for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I could make requests or beg him to come home before going to the store. Sometimes we’d go a couple times a week. When I was older, I could drive myself over there, but the bulk of my video store memories are of the two of us walking into the video store and splitting at the twin metal detectors.

He broke to the left to check out the new releases. At $2.50 for three days/overnight, that was a little rich for my blood. I broke right, because that’s where the trash was. $1.50 got you a five day rental of the finest — or maybe just “readily available,” my taste as a kid was and remains suspect — low budget no budget exploitation flicks. I tore through the Carnosaurs, ate up the Roger Cormans, and pretty much anything that might have had some blood or part of a boob in it.

The crown jewel of the video shop’s collection, at least for me, were the kung fu flicks. They came in garish boxes, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle green and sickly yellows. You can see a lot of the cases in this photobucket account. I don’t recognize each and every one of them, since tearing through two or three movies a week for a few years isn’t really conducive to making lasting memories, but I love them nonetheless. I’d buy the Wu-Tang Collection on DVD if I could, and every other flick I rented back then.

As a general rule, I really enjoyed every one of these as a kid. I’ve rewatched a few and I still like a lot of them, though some are utterly bottom of the barrel. Chinese Super Ninjas 2 is trash, sure, but Hell’s Wind Staff is great fun. Sometimes they’re outrageous enough to be entertaining despite their flaws, as in the case of Super Ninjas, but the good ones are genuinely good, like Drunken Master.

My favorite flick from this era is easily Mystery of Chess-Boxing, aka Ninja Checkmate. Joseph Kuo directed it, Ping Han Chiang wrote it, and Mark Long stars in it as Ghost Face Killer. He’s the villain, not the hero. It’s hard to put my finger on why, because I don’t think I’ve ever tried to explain why it’s so good. It just clicks for me, from the stunts to the jokes to the choreo. It’s funny, it’s plenty charming, and the fights aren’t the best, but they are great to watch.

Amazingly, it’s streaming for free on youtube. The video is marked with “official,” so I assume it’s legal. You can watch it here:

It’s well worth the 90 minutes. It’s overdramatic, full of musical stings, and a bunch of familiar characters. It’s got my favorite kung fu kitchen fight, too. You want spectacle? Watch Ghost Face Killer and his Five Elements kung fu tear a swath through the countryside. The joke with the table that’s about ten minutes in is great, too.

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Still Learning How To Walk: The Following

May 8th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

The Following, created by Scream writer Kevin Williamson, is easily the least defensible show I watch at the moment. It’s trashy, violent, occasionally disgusting, and occasionally forgets about the main gimmick of the big bad guy. But in a way, that’s a strength unto itself. Things happen, and keep happening, on The Following. The usual way I describe the show is that it’s willing to “go there” several times an episode. The exact location of “there” varies from episode to episode, but in a show featuring people getting shot with spear guns, serial killer threesomes, two separate love triangles with one woman, one serial killer telling another serial killer “You’re crazy!” and meaning it, and Kevin Bacon straight-up murdering a couple dozen people.


The series feels like a Batman pitch in a lot of ways. Ryan Hardy, a retired FBI agent, is an alcoholic and burnt out. Years ago, he captured Joe Carroll, a serial killer, professor, and novelist with an Edgar Allen Poe fetish. Carroll went to jail, Hardy wrote a book, Carroll languished in jail, Hardy had a brief relationship with Carroll’s ex-wife Claire, and life went on. The series kicks off when Carroll escapes from jail a short time before his execution, murders a lady he considered unfinished business, gets captured again, and then sets about unveiling his “sequel.”

You see, while he was locked up, Carroll met a few fellow travelers that he quickly turned into minions. Imagine a serial killer sleeper cell full of people with specific instructions who are hiding in plain sight and utterly, terminally dedicated to the worship of Joe Carroll and death. He bestows his adoration of Poe upon them, and they take to the streets in Poe masks, with Poe-themed crimes, or with Poe’s work on their lips. Carroll wants Hardy — dead, alive, or in his bed, I’m not sure which — and his followers want to show their lord and master how dedicated they are. Hardy and Claire want to both stop Carroll and retrieve Joey, Claire and Carroll’s son. I want to see what comes out of this meat grinder.

The glue that kept the show together for me was Emma, who was played to the hilt by Valorie Curry. She’s by far the most interesting part of the show on almost every level. Ryan Hardy is depthless, and every attempt at giving him depth was more bathos than pathos as a general rule. Joe Carroll ranges from tedious to incredibly tedious on average, though he has his moments. Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, who play Hardy and Carroll, are talented, and perform well, but don’t have much to work with that you haven’t seen before. Claire, played by the fantastic Natalie Zea, is crucial, and I think a solid #2 for the show.

Emma has a lot going on. She’s part of a surprise love triangle between herself, her boyfriend Jacob, and her boyfriend’s accidental boyfriend Paul. (They had to pretend to be gay for a couple years so Carroll could spy on Claire. Paul was and is gay. Jacob was not, but might be bisexual now.) She’s in love with Carroll, the prototypical powerful male mentor. She doesn’t hate Claire, which I thought was a nice touch, but that doesn’t mean she’s totally fine with Claire being in the picture, either.

But what really clicked for me was that Emma is both ruthless and intelligent. She’ll cut you open from ear to ear if you give her a chance, but she also knows when to cut her losses and run. She struggles with her love, but she knows what she has to do. She has dueling commitments, and the bulk of her drama derives from how those commitments conflict with each other. When she finally chooses, it’s cold-blooded and sad, but appropriate and logical.

Claire, on the other hand, has one goal: her ex-husband does not get to ruin her son like he ruined their marriage. Everything she does in the show can be traced back to that motivation. Zea is a solid enough actress that you believe it, especially when she does something unbelievable. We’re privy to the thoughts of Hardy, Carroll, and Emma, by virtue of their mountains of screentime. But Claire is often left to react to what the other characters do, instead of doing things on her own, so she remains a slight cipher until she picks up a gun and makes a decision.

That makes her exciting in a way that Ryan Hardy, who is all Guilt and Shame and Anger, is definitively not. We know how Hardy’s story plays out, but Claire? She’s in a position to do something new and different, and she does. Repeatedly. The gun, the knife, the fight in the hallway, the screams, the submission, the betrayals — she works. Claire & Joey vs The World plays better, and more honestly, than Hardy vs Carroll ever could. Their conflict is a game of wits, a conflict between two men who are determined to prove that their way is the right way. Hers is simple: “Not my son.”

Carroll wants his family back, Joey and Claire included. He wants to live with them in his serial killer paradise, and he wants Ryan Hardy to die or submit to him. He’s playing the “I’m smarter than you, de-tec-tive” game, in addition to fetishizing death and murder. He’s a cult leader, and full of that pompous swagger that makes these dudes so boring. He’s all about how important he is, how remarkable his ideas are, when the opposite is true. It’s not Carroll that matters. Carroll is tedious. He wants sex and power, but he dresses it up with words like “family” and “literary” and pretensions of following in Poe’s footsteps. His big hideout is a light house. Why? ’cause his hero wrote a story about one.

His big revenge plan is not a scheme or outline. It is a novel, that he is writing, about exactly what’s going to happen. He is, when you break it down, writing fanfic about himself and Ryan Hardy with a smug omniscient narrator telling the tale. At one point, Hardy gets a copy of the manuscript and begins reading aloud… a passage about him finding the manuscript and reading it aloud!


Hardy’s not much better. Kevin Bacon plays him well, but believing in Ryan Hardy means believing in a whole bunch of nonsense. He’s retired FBI, and deputized at one point in the series, but not before he catches five or six bodies. By the end of the season, he’s killed so many cult members that the cult has to kill a bunch of people semi-offscreen just to balance the scales for the viewers. He’s an old and tired character type, and the writers refrain from doing anything new with him. The revelation of his sad past is more of an eye-roller than tear-jerker, and by the time he gets to the point where he tortures and then murders a defenseless cult member… well. You’ve probably already checked out by that point.

The Following succeeds when it’s indulging in spectacle (spear guns, threesomes, gaping throat wounds) and well-executed emotional content (Emma and Joey’s relationship, Claire and Emma, Emma/Paul/Jacob). Those parts range from good to great, and satisfy on a very basic sex/violence level. But when the series tries to do anything with Edgar Allen Poe, or Hardy and Carroll’s motivation, it stumbles. There’s not enough to Carroll or Hardy. They’re both sad old men who don’t see people as humans so much as tools.

Hardy is presented as the one man that can stop Carroll, both by Carroll and the show itself, and that isn’t right at all. Hardy is nothing. He’s just a dude, an object of Carroll’s affections and the object of his obsession. But Carroll wants him, and that works to shine a spotlight on him. But just outside of that spotlight, where Emma and Claire live, is where the real action happens. That’s where the heart of the series is, but The Following is so in love with the idea of clever twists and two men battling each other for pride and justice that it misses the mark.

The season finale was the worst episode of TV I’d seen in a while, though the weird and worthless incest double bluff episodes of Sword Art Online I saw this weekend actually beat it. It’s everything that’s awful about The Following, and precious little of the good. Ryan Hardy goes full heel, Joe Carroll becomes even more insufferable, and the focus is on the spectacle and the boring conflict between the men. It makes sense, since that’s where the story was headed anyway, but it feels so empty and tired, like reruns of a story you already know well.


The supporting cast shines, though. I really liked the experience of watching The Following, especially when chatting with #TeamBeloved member David Wolkin and my friend Keri, but I can’t say as I’ll watch it again. Season two might get a glance or three, just to see if it turns into The Following: Emma & Claire, but I don’t have high hopes.

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monday mixtape garou

April 29th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape garou from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. The list:
-The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
-The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work
-The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
-Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
-The Smith – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
-The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
-Blur – Trimm Tabb
-Blur – Under the Westway

My friend Amy hooked me up with a playlist she called “Madchester and Manchester.” You can listen to it here if you have Spotify. I was going to embed it here, but it turns out you need Spotify to hear the songs, so… I did a lot of extra legwork and turned the tracks I like best (plus two more) into an 8tracks mix.

I say I like britpop, but what I really mean is “I like Damon Albarn-led or -related projects, like Blur, Gorillaz, and so on.” Albarn’s work has been the main way I’ve experienced britpop, even down to it being the lens through which I learn about britpop history. Oasis exists in relation to Blur. I was introduced to Justine Frischmann not through Elastica but via “Oh, she’s Damon Albarn’s girlfriend, some songs are probably about her, and the best Blur albums are post-breakup.” It’s not that I’m a superfan — I own a lot of his stuff and I figure his name is enough to get me onboard, but I wouldn’t say I’m obsessive about it — so much as I’m ignorant of the context. I wasn’t there, I was a kid when all of it was going on, and frankly, there ain’t a lot of young black kids in Small Towne, GA listening to The Smiths or whatever. I didn’t even hear an entire Beatles song, and recognize that it was The Beatles, until high school.

So I reached out to a few friends who’d know. Amy hooked me up weeks ago, and it took me forever to listen for stupid reasons. (I wanted time to be able to really listen to figure out what I liked, which is typical of me.) I got Ron Richards to kick me a lot of album recommendations in a few different genres, too, since we have so little overlap in taste.

I’m trying to broaden my horizons, and the best way I know how to do that is to do something new and then see how it makes me feel. In this case, I took Amy’s playlist and listened to it a few times on shuffle while walking around the city and commuting home. After an hour or so, I started starring whichever songs caught my ear for whatever reason. Maybe I liked the melody, maybe I liked a particular line, or maybe I liked something more ephemeral.

Whichever way it is, the star means I need to pay attention, and paying attention means either checking out more songs from the album the song originates from or asking friends what else sounds similar.

I don’t really have an endpoint for this. I just wanna know more, and spider-webbing my way to more seems good enough to me.

Thanks Amy. Sorry it took so long.

The two songs I added to round out the mix are a couple Blur joints I like a lot. The only Blur album I don’t own/haven’t heard is The Great Escape, I think. I passed it over when I was heavy into Blur, by accident maybe, and haven’t had a chance to go back yet. Which is weird of me, but hey.

I wrote about Frank Quitely & Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy. It’s soft like baby butts, but also the best comic Millar’s written in recent memory.

I wrote about Ananth Paragariya and Yuko Ota’s Johnny Wander. I like it a lot. Website.

ComicsAlliance is closed. To my knowledge, it wasn’t because of hits or performance or controversy. It didn’t fit, or something. Dunno. Either way, I spilled 477,770 words on 317 posts over about three and a half years.

-I watched Matthew Vaughan’s Kick-Ass finally, the adaptation of the odious Millar/JRjr comic. It was eleventy times better than the comic, but still pretty dumb. It’s like they intentionally shied away from making a good movie in favor of a weird quirky… thing. Hit-Girl was the most interesting part, and they botched every single action scene with her, including the big introduction where she rescues Kick-Ass.

It’s weird. It wanted to be an action movie, but the action was shot poorly almost as a general rule. The hallway run toward the end had so many good parts, like Hit-Girl dodging bullets, but it was delivered in the laziest, stupidest-looking way. Why cut every time someone moves an arm? I mean, maybe it was because they needed a stuntman (stunt-girl?) for Hit-Girl, but people have been using stuntmen for decades without it look like crap.

Anyway. The trailer for Kick-Ass 2 was funny, but ehhhh. Figure I’m good.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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monday mixtape futuristic

April 15th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape futuristic from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. The list:

-Bone thugs-n-harmony – No Surrender – Creepin On Ah Come Up
-Method Man – Meth vs Chef – Tical
-Notorious BIG – The What – Ready To Die
-OC – Time’s Up – Word…Life
-OutKast – Funky Ride – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
-Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun – Superunknown
-TLC – Switch – Crazysexycool
-69 Boyz – Kitty, Kitty – Nineteen Ninety Quad

Y’all remember 1994? I barely do, personally. But, here’s a few joints I was feeling at the time, a mix of predictable choices and maybe a couple dark horses. (I got “Black Hole Sun” off Beavis & Butthead.)

I have a dumb Method Man story. When I was a kid, I didn’t know that songs got edited for radio and music video play. I mean, I knew there were songs with cuss words, and songs without cuss words. I just didn’t realize that there were also songs that had at one point had cuss words.

At the time, I was really into that “All I Need” video with Mary J Blige. It was creepy and weird and Mary J’s part was beautiful, so when I found out my uncle had the CD, I snuck into his room when he was at work (or maybe college?), turned the volume knob way down on his receiver, and loaded it up. I went straight to “All I Need,” ’cause that was the move.

AND WHOA. Is this the same guy? This guy is cussing all over the place. I listened to some other songs — more cuss words? Maybe it isn’t the same guy? So I put the CD back where I found it, confused.

A few days later, the music video came on while I was chilling with my uncle and I found it in me to ask about it. I don’t entirely remember the whole conversation, but I remember being pretty smooth about it. But I was probably ten years old, so I couldn’t have been that smooth. I was like, “Hey, is this the guy whose CD you have? The scary one?” and he said yeah. “But… he cusses?” Yep. “Oh.”

Their name sounds like a joke today, but it’s hard to overestimate how big Miami Bass was at the time, especially 69 Boyz. Nineteen Ninety Quad is the 1994 equivalent of like Rick Ross’s Teflon Don or Jay’s Blueprint Who Cares. It was all bangers, and every day on the way to school, we were singing either 69 Boyz, Tag Team, or them Bankhead Bounce dudes. Or making our own radio edits — “We don’t need no water, let the mother mother burn!”

TLC’s CrazySexyCool is one of the hardest albums ever. It’s cool if you disagree, but go back and re-listen to it. It’s super good. Despite a childhood ban on cussing, me and my cousin knew all of Bone’s “No Surrender” by heart. We wore that tape out. Liquid Swords, too.

-I liked Dylan Todd talking to Jim Rugg about Rugg’s new project Supermag. Rugg is one of the sharpest dudes in comics, in terms of both talent and knowledge, and it’s nice to see somebody interview him who can keep up.

-I liked this drawing Angie Wang did of a Billie Holliday lyric.

-I laughed at this story of goons getting scammed out of a bunch of money because they wanted to hook up with AKB48 girls, even though I understand that it is technically a bad thing. But it’s so funny. I have so many questions.

-I liked Sloane Leong talking about tips to avoid getting murdered by a slasher. Must-read. Take it to heart.

-I loved this Russell Westbrook photospread in ESPN the Magazine. Westbrook been knowing how to dress.

-Writing? I didn’t write ANYTHING this week.

-Psyche, I’ve been on tumblr, thinking out loud. Rick Ross dropped a line about rape in a song, backlash ensued, and eventually he apologized twice and Reebok dropped him from a sponsorship deal. It was a whole thing, I guess, but it sorta bugged me. I’ve spent some time trying to talk through it on tumblr, so follow the bouncing ball: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and then it stopped because some dumb Apple apologist wanted to be a dick to me but didn’t realize I invented being a dick, and then ends with this, on Rawse & Context. Maybe you’ll dig it? I dunno, but I wrote it.

This weekend, I watched Place Beyond the Pines and Seven Psychopaths. Pines was really very good, sort of aimed directly at my heart (it’s about daddy issues and criminals). Psychopaths was still good the second time around, and it was nice to catch things I missed the first time. In hindsight, it’s not so much a crime movie as a Hollywood movie, which is interesting. I’d say more about Pines, but it’s totally worth going in cold. The most I knew about it was Liz Barker’s review, which you should also probably read, if you’re curious about what the movie feels like.

My dude Mahershala Ali is in there, too. I like that guy a lot, whenever and wherever he shows up. Eva Mendes, too.

I also started rewatching Chappelle’s Show, which is still absurdly funny. I think I’m well into season two at this point.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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monday mixtape edification

April 8th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape edification from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. The list:

-Esperanza Spalding – Black Gold – Radio Music Society
-Lana Del Rey – Off to the Races – Born To Die
-Bobby Womack – Dayglo Reflection feat. Lana Del Rey – The Bravest Man In The Universe
-Otis Redding – Satisfaction – Live On The Sunset Strip
-Curtis Mayfield – Miss Black America – Curtis!
-Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM – IRM
-D’Angelo – Cruisin – Brown Sugar
-Jessie Ware – Wildest Moments – Devotion

Strictly sangers this time.

I missed out on Lana Del Rey when her hype machine was in full swing. The machine didn’t make her music sound like something I wanted to hear, I think. The sticker on the vinyl I bought said something like “’50s Hollywood style with emcee swag,” which is as repellent as it is nonsensical. Worse than that, the vast majority of the criticism I found tended to be about how she’s a faking faker with another name, and a bunch of other dumb ideas I don’t remember. I think I caught that weirdly sad SNL performance on youtube, too. So I tabled the idea of paying attention to her.

She showed up, of all places, on Bobby Womack’s album. It was my first time listening to her, as opposed to just hearing her. It was nice. Her voice is in that range that puts me in mind of other lady vocalists I dig. I poked around on Twitter and people said her album was pretty good, but I still held off.

Liz Barker wrote about digging Lana Del Rey recently, and she made her sound very cool. I like the idea of “sexy music that feels like being asleep,” so I checked out Born to Die and was pretty impressed.

Liz nailed the feel of the album. Her piece got me into the right space to appreciate it, and I copped the vinyl shortly after I listened to the album. I’m into it. I was surprised to hear “Y’out there? Louder!” on the first track, since that’s one of my favorite rap samples. I don’t usually associate that with singers, even today, so that was a nice surprise. It’s mixed way down in the track, too, which is interesting.

Now that I’m comfortable with this album, I want to know more. I want to know what’s up with her album having two separate references to Nabokov’s Lolita, assuming you include the bonus tracks. That seems like a lot, right? There’s something there. I’m on the look for more now. I liked this Jessica Hopper piece my dude Chris Randle linked me. I need to find more. I kinda wish I lived near the musically-inclined people I like online. I’d love to be able to just sit in a dark, smoky room and chew the fat over this and everything else.

I love Otis Redding’s performance on “Satisfaction,” from the intro to the outro. Curtis Mayfield’s “Miss Black America” makes me wish I had a daughter.

-This week was short on reading material. I’ve been doing research for a big project, which means reading, rereading, watching, and rewatching things that are hard to link. In the meantime:

I dig Strawberry Fields Whatever, created by Jen May, Laura Jane Faulds, and Liz Barker. They’re all really good, and I’m routinely impressed by how they approach music and the way they talk about music’s place in their life. They’ve been really helpful to me, both directly and indirectly. Even when I don’t know the nitty-gritty of what they’re talking about, I dig the way they talk about it. I learn things.

I dig Maura Magazine, edited by Maura Johnston. Johnston is a writer whose work I’ve dug for a while now, and she launched this iPad magazine earlier this year. Thirty bucks gets you a year of weekly issues, $0.99 gets you a one-shot issue. Each issue has a new roster of writers and new subjects grouped under a loose umbrella idea. The magazine, like SFWhatevs, routinely writes about things I’m ignorant of, but I eat it up. There was a piece on teenaged girl Olympic swimmers that was fascinating, and I’m not the type of guy who particularly cares about Olympics or competitive swimming.

I dig Comics of the Weak, written and organized by Tucker Stone, with regular assists from Abhay Khosla and Nathan Bulmer. Abhay absolutely murders the Rick “Hobo Piss” Remender situation this week. I have a lot of thoughts on that even still. But I hate talking about it, so I’m going to try and just leave this here and leave it alone.

I did like this read on being sober for a year by Kristina Wong, though.

I wrote about David Hine & Shaky Kane’s Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred for ComicsAlliance.

-I saw Jurassic Park in IMAX 3D this weekend. It’s not as life-changing as it was when I was a kid, but it’s still an incredibly ill movie and utterly enjoyable. Even if you can’t see it in 3D, you should probably watch it again pretty soon. The animatronic dinosaurs aged extremely well. The CG ones still look good, but not quite as good as they once did.

There’s one shot I love, when Lex is in the grates above the control room and the raptor bumps the grate she’s crawling on and then the camera cuts to an overhead shot of her falling through while the raptor recovers on the ground. Makes me smile every time I see it. It’s so immaculate.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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monday mixtape david

April 1st, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape david from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. The list:

-Adina Howard – Freak Like Me – Do You Wanna Ride?
-Aesop Rock – 6b Panorama – Float
-Anthony Hamilton – Sucka For You – Back To Love
-Arrested Development – People Everyday – 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of…
-Asher Roth & Nottz – Gotta Get Up – Rawth
-Atmosphere – Good Times (Sick Pimpin) – Seven’s Travels
-Angie Martinez – Live at Jimmy’s
-Al Green – I Want To Hold Your Hand – Love Ritual

Originally, I had wanted to make this eight songs about death or dying, but then I woke up this morning and it’s gloomy out, so instead these are eight songs about enjoying your life, though some songs are more down than others. That strain runs through it, though — “life is beautiful.” It’s why we put up with all this nonsense that life throws at us. One day somebody pretty is gonna smile at us, we’re gonna see some movie we like or hear some song we love, and smile by accident.

Aesop Rock’s “6B Panorama” is one of my favorite songs. I love storytelling joints, and this one isn’t a story so much as a scene. It’s just what Aes Rock sees when he looks out of his window, and it’s so simple but deep that I can’t help but love it. I honestly love Aes’s delivery on “I saw a blind man with a dog screaming ‘someday I’ll see it all’/ and then he sat down with his hammer and saw.” It’s delivered like the stinger at the end of an episode of Peabody & Sherman on Rocky & Bullwinkle.

“6B Panorama” is about appreciation, I think, and that’s something I have a hard time with. When I’m in a bad mood and everything tastes like ashes and I hate everything I love, I wallow. I try to focus more on appreciating what I see on a day-to-day basis these days. I moved last year, and while I can’t see the sunrise or sunset, I can stand on my balcony and still enjoy the morning. There’s always something to look at and appreciate, right? I forget that sometimes.

It helps that “6B Panorama” is a killer bit of writing from one of rap’s best writers, too.

This mixtape is smiley face music, even if it’s a sheepish smile. “People Everyday” is probably the outlier, but it’s such a happy-sounding song about whipping somebody’s behind that I couldn’t resist, not to mention that flawless outro.

The instrumental version of Atmosphere’s “Good Times” was my alarm for two or three years, and it’s strange how weird it sounds to me now. I associated it with snapping awake and being late to work for so long that just hearing the opening of the song makes me physically anxious, though I know in my head that it isn’t a big deal. It’s like a spike of anxiety that slowly fades into suspicion. Basically, don’t make your favorite songs your alarms. I ruined Aesop Rock’s “None Shall Pass” that way, too.

I do a mean version of “Live At Jimmy’s.” Get at me.

Alex Pappademas interviewed DOC for Playboy, with a hat-tip to taterpie for the link. This interview? It’s fantastic. It’s wide-ranging and it put me up on things that I never even knew. I had an uncle who was into MC Breed as a kid, and finding out that DOC worked with him was a revelation. This is must-reading, but maybe not if you’re at work.

I liked Kiel Phegley interviewing Jim Rugg about his new project Supermag. Rugg is ferociously talented.

I liked Andrew Wheeler & Joe Hughes’s take on the Rick Remender Hobo Piss Avengers thing. It’s got an… academic approach, I guess is the best phrase to use, that I’m no good at. I don’t process this kind of conversation that way, which is why I rarely (a brief search says “never” on 4thletter! and mostly in jokes on twitter) talk about like, “white privilege” as a concept. It’s not what I’m good at, but Wheeler is, so give it a read. I also dig this more fan-oriented take.

Here’s a link to a transcript of the diversity-oriented panel I was on at ECCC, if’n you’re curious. I think the panel was pretty good, but I also think that I talked way too much. It was nice, though. The panel is continuing over here on Tumblr, if you’ve got questions/want to discuss things.

I reviewed Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon’s BPRD Vampire, which is very pretty but thin. I wrote about a scene I like a lot though. It’ll be a good book, I think, but weak first issue.

I wrote about… me? Kind of. It’s about learning to trust my taste and accepting the connections my brain draws between otherwise disparate projects. My brain’s smarter than I am. Next week’s I’m David will focus on a similar subject, but with a bulletproof twist.

I saw GI Joe Retaliation. Here’s the first trailer I found on youtube:

I still love that reaction to the North Korea joke. “Bro! What?! C’mon! I just GOT this job!”

I loved it. I’m sure people are gonna say it’s stupid or “turn off your brain” or whatever, but trust me: stay engaged, especially if you’re into the Joes. It’s a treat, and it’s exactly what a toy/comic movie should be. Is delightful a weird word to describe a movie? ’cause GI Joe was a delight on par with Fast Five or Dredd/The Raid. It’s a proper action movie, basically, with some devastatingly good jokes, shockingly solid casting (keep an eye out for dude who played Dick Casablancas in Veronica Mars, for instance), and some well put-together action scenes. A few fights were a little too blurry for my tastes, but by and large? Utterly, completely enjoyable. I saw it in Imax 3D and had a time.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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monday mixtape chthonic

March 25th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

monday mixtape chthonic from brothers on 8tracks Radio.

Eight songs here, which should play in random order. I don’t know where the title came from. I found it on a list of c-adjectives and liked how it looked. Anyway. The list:
-The Weeknd – Life of the Party – Trilogy
-Pulp – Party Hard – This Is Hardcore
-blur – Death of a Party – blur
-STS – We Threw A Party – GOLD RUSH
-Regina Spektor – The Party – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
-Prince Paul – War Party feat. Horror City – A Prince Among Thieves
-OutKast – movin cool (the afterparty) – big boi and andre present…
-Method Man – Party Crasher – Tical 2000: Judgement Day

One thing that gets lost when people try to legitimize rap by going on a crusade about how it’s poetry is that rap is so much more than rhyming. It’s the way you enunciate the words to the beat (flow), it’s the way those words sound (voice), it’s the way those words are put together (skills), and something indefinable, like charisma or coolness. It’s ad-libs and asides and hooks and everything. “Rap is poetry” doesn’t work because it files off everything that makes rap different from poetry.

Method Man’s “Party Crasher” is one of my favorite joints on Tical 2000. It paints an incredibly vivid picture of one night at the club, from the pushy douchebag doorman to the dudes looking for someone to jack to enjoying the night. There are so many moments in here that can’t be talked about like they were poetry but totally make the song. Mef talking about choking while smoking, “million dollar broke niggas” being an incredible turn of phrase, that “you know what this is” aside just before dude gets done dirty in the bathroom, and — my favorite part — “Niggas! yeah, gon’ turn the party out!”

“War Party” is something else. It’s like the ultimate Goon Theme Song. This is what the nameless dudes in movies and music videos who mean mug at the camera listen to to get hype. Some of my favorite rap songs are joints where a bunch of dudes just get in and get out, and this song is a good example. I’m also a sucker for a song with an outro composed entirely of threats, pimp.

I’m not sure who wrote this, but I really dig this retrospective of Earthtone III and their place in the music industry. They’re incredible, first, and they’re Big Boi, Dre, and Mr. DJ, second. OutKast. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that Dre and Big produce, too, because it so rarely ever seems to come up. With good reason, I think — Organized Noize deserves more acclaim than they get, which is a lot — but it’s still sorta weird. This piece does a great job of placing them in context.

Maddie Collier wrote a pretty interesting essay about rap and cunnilingus. Not safe for work, obviously, but more for language than pictures. I don’t think I’d have had as much trouble as she did finding rappers who are all about putting some south in their mouth, but maybe that’s selection bias. I notice it more when rappers say they don’t than when they say they will. One seems normal, I guess, and the other is weird. There’s a G Rap line she quotes that struck me as weird even when I was heavy into KGR. Like — son, you’re down for killing how many people? But you’re the chicken of the sea? Yuck. Either way — fascinating essay. There are all these nooks & crannies of rap that go underexplored or are approached in asinine and blatantly untrue ways, so I really get into seeing stuff like this. It means I’m one step closer to reading someone’s groundbreaking piece on white girls and rap.

I wrote about Mike Allred & Peter Milligan’s run on X-Force and how good it is. Wrote about Air Force 1s, too.

-I wrote about this Miley Cyrus twerk video and linked the Grantland piece on my tumblr, too:

This is real fascinating to me, even once you take her getting it out of the equation. I’m from Georgia, right? Ying Yang Twins’s “Whistle While You Twurk” hit when I was in 10th grade. The last two songs I really remember popping off super hard and killing the radio before I left for Spain was Luda’s “What’s Your Fantasy” and Ying Yang’s “Whistle While You Twurk.” Luda was the new hotness, but Ying Yang were on some whole other thing. They shouted out a strip club in my hometown, and flipping Whistle While You Work for a song about strip clubs was an amazing choice. This song, and twerking by extension, reminds me of a very specific time and place in a very visceral way. It’s a time machine.

And now, in 2013, we’ve got ex-Disney stars twerking on camera. Life is crazy. It sorta puts me in mind of when Dave Chappelle told everybody what skeet means and then everyone ran that into the ground.

I saw Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers this weekend, featuring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Gucci Mane. It was terrible, but terrible in a way that I thought was interesting. Not interesting enough to be happy about paying train fare and movie ticket prices for it, but interesting like “I’m glad I saw that so that now I don’t have to watch it ever again.” A few notes:

-Is this what spring break was like? I missed out on that experience, but if it’s just a bunch of goofy looking white dudes pouring beer on topless white chicks and their token black girlfriend in a pantomime of peeing… I’m good, bro. Surely there is a better way to get into some debauchery.

-Selena Gomez looks like somebody’s little sister. It’s really distracting. She’s the babyface di tutti babyface.

-James Franco: utterly ridiculous, but I forgot he was Franco for a while, so maybe it was good? He was equal parts excruciating and perfect.

Spring Breakers is tedious, but tedious in an almost exciting way. It feels like it’s three hours long, and I was definitely checking my watch at the end. But I liked some of what I saw. I would see something awesome — the girls in prison, posed around the room like dolls — and then I would have to wait thirty minutes of troll-looking twins and excruciating voiceovers before the next cool thing.

-The shot composition was great. There were a gang of shots that I thought were really, really fascinating. You could probably pull a lot of visual inspiration from this flick.

-The editing was awful. It felt like the movie was an overlong music video set during one hellish Spring Break moment of bouncing boobs, bikini-covered butts, dudes with guns, and alcohol. There’s no sense of place, not at all. There’s no geography. It’s all one place at one time.

-The party’s over once the black dudes arrive, and I’m pretty sure every single black lady in the movie is either naked, silent, a stripper, or all of the above. Gucci Mane is blank. There’s some interesting subtext going on, but the text is like… I made a joke about this movie being Set It Off for white people to friends ages ago. It kind of is? It is coded very, very white in terms of POV, even down to the worst thing that could happen being black dudes treating you exactly like white dudes treated you about thirty seconds before that scene.

-The most concise review I can think of: Spring Breakers is like Vice Magazine putting on a production of Belly entirely in the form of tumblr posts.

Open thread. What’re you reading/watching/hearing/enjoying?

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My Trouble with Disc Binging

March 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Every geek has to have some kind of collection, right? It’s practically mandatory. Me, I don’t really have anything of note on the comic end. I don’t so much collect comics as I just keep some. I don’t really buy figures often unless I’m at New York Comic Con and feel the need to get a souvenir or there’s a sale at the local comic shop. I don’t even really collect much in terms of wrestling.

What I do have is an extensive DVD collection. A disgustingly extensive DVD collection. Now I’m gonna talk about it.

I guess it started to take shape in my senior year in high school, 1999-2000. I spent a year working at a local video rental chain West Coast Video. It was a laid back job. The most laid back being the time me and a friend were forced to work during the Superbowl. Pretty sure we had two customers the whole day, so we just watched Clerks because who was going to yell at us? It was such a different time back then because DVDs were new, so the store was 75% VHS tapes and another big chunk was video games.

We always had to have some kind of DVD playing, though at times we were able to just put on music and let it slide. The problem with the DVD mandate was that, like I said, DVDs were new. And we were in public. There are NOT a lot of DVDs you can show when you Boolean that. Suffice to say, I must have watched Yellow Submarine a million times without never truly watching it at all because I was busy with other stuff. Weirdly enough, I had Amazon’d a copy of obscure B-movie Six-String Samurai (about Buddy Holly as a samurai in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas) and played that all the time despite us never even carrying the movie in the store.

When I went to college, I expected to come back every break and work at the store again. Unfortunately, I came back Thanksgiving to discover that my store was closed. Apparently, they didn’t pay the rent and got locked out one day. That was that. I shouldn’t be surprised with management’s lack of competence in that regard, since I’m suddenly recalling how on my first day at work, the manager showed me her brand new back tattoo of Animal from the Muppets wearing an Austin 3:16 t-shirt while drinking a beer. How did that place not burn to the ground?

In college, I had some friends to hang out with every now and then, but I never led a very active social life. It was all video games, writing and watching movies in my spare time. Over the next few years, my DVD pile grew quite a bit. At this point it was about having your favorite movies catch up to the new hotness. They’re finally releasing Night of the Hunter on DVD? Sweet! Count me in! Pulp Fiction is being rereleased as a two-disc set with a buttload of extras? Great! I’ll just give my “interactive menus listed as the only extra” copy to my roommate!

After college, I ended up falling into my job at Barnes and Noble, which I only left last week after seven and a half years. That compounded my collection quite a bit. For one, twice a year they’d have “buy 2 get 1 free” DVD sales and that became a reason for me to eventually own the entirety of Batman: The Animated Series and all of its spinoffs. Then they’d have me cover breaks for the Movies and Music department, which meant a lot of standing around a half hour at a time and seeing stuff that looked worth picking up once the shift was over. With other sales and new releases that I felt the need to get immediately, my collection got bigger and bigger over time.

The Movies and Music section of my B&N did pretty bad business for a long time. It didn’t help that it’s in a large mall and directly under it was an FYE store that sold the same DVDs for less. Eventually, that store went out of business itself and that’s when it got dangerous for me. It’s one thing to buy DVDs that you go out of your way to find. It’s another thing where a store that specializes in DVDs is closing down. The DVDs all get crazy discounted and I’d visit there and pick up a bunch of stuff. Then a few weeks later, the discounts would get crazier and I’d buy more stuff. It becomes me realizing, “Why yes, I would like to own the complete Dolemite if that’s what you’re selling it for.” I still haven’t watched a single minute of that box set. The prices get lower and lower and by the end, I bought a shitload of stuff.

Coincidentally, with FYE out of the way, the Movies and Music section of B&N has been making money hand over fist for the last couple years.

By this point, my collection’s gotten out of control. I look like a goddamn hoarder. There’s a literal wall of DVDs stacked in my place and it has to go. So I got rid of it all.

Not the DVDs. I got rid of all the boxes. What do I need them for?

I picked up some of those disc wallets via Target, each enough to carry 224 discs. It took me hours, but I was able to alphabetize the entire library and stick them in FOUR of those bad boys. Though the one thing I haven’t added to the disc wallets is my set of CHIKARA wrestling DVDs. The only information on the tops of the discs themselves is the date of the show, so I’d rather just keep the full package on that.

Suffice to say, I already have my hands full. Whenever I got a new DVD or two, I’d keep the box aside and eventually re-alphabetized the whole mess a year later. With the improv stuff taking effect in my life, the DVD buying kind of dried up because I actually had something that I cared about spending money on.

Then about a month and a half ago, I saw the sign at a nearby Blockbuster store that I only see because it’s next to a grocery store I frequent. The place is finally closing down after all these years of Netflix kicking its ass. Like the vulture that I am, I went in and picked up a bunch of $7 DVDs.

A few weeks later, I returned again and got a bunch of $5 DVDs.

Then $3 DVDs.

Then $1 DVDs.

It’s a crazy experience because it’s like a barter system. Buy Damage starring Stone Cold Steve Austin? No thanks. What if it’s $7? No thanks. $3? Eh… still no. $1? Sure, why not.

Once things wind down some more, it’s amusing to see what’s left on the shelves. Apparently they overestimated the success of Zack and Miri Make a Porno because there’s like 50 copies of it. Not to mention a bunch of copies of the Spirit and other tripe (not counting Punisher: War Zone. That shit is awesome).

Then you see movies that you’re completely shocked nobody else has picked up. Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman? Clue? Raising Arizona?! Big Trouble in Little China?! The Never Ending Story (aah-aah-aah aah-aah-aah aah-aah-aaaah)?! What’s with you people?!

After weeks of bouncing back into the store, I’ve garnered about 50 DVDs. Now I need to buy a new disc wallet. I don’t think that’s so much a cry for help. What is a cry for help is that one of the DVDs I just bought is Monster Brawl. I’ve already seen it before and it’s as bad as you’d expect.

I think I only did this so I can force myself to review it one of these days.

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Ellen Wong as Knives Chau: Ecstatic, Devastated, & Very Takahashi

March 14th, 2013 Posted by david brothers



“I’m too cool for you anyway.”
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

This image showed up on The Great Subject, a tumblr I dig. Seeing it reminded me of a few things, #1 of which was that Ellen Wong is amazing.

I liked the movie version of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comics, but I loved Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. I liked her so much that I wish the end of the movie featured Scott trying to get back with Knives and getting totally dissed when she’s like “Nah… I’m good.” I wanted more of the movie to be about her, basically? That’s how much I liked how she portrayed that character.

What really struck me was that Wong totally sold her role. She lived in it. She was incredibly energetic and so into it that I couldn’t help but be warmed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, but I remember a shot of her peeking in a window and flopping on a bed as being the most Knives Chau-iest things ever. They were amazing little bits of acting, perfectly pitched for the heightened reality of Scott Pilgrim. Hey look, I found it on youtube:

That flop onto the bed is real I Love Lucy. I can’t help but love it.

I liked Knives in the book — I liked pretty much everyone in the book — but she wasn’t one of my favorite characters. After Wong portrayed her in the film, I became a really big fan of both the character and the actress. It clicked.

Wong regularly appears on Carrie Diaries, which I guess is Batman Year One for Sex & the City. (“Yes. Mother. I shall become something something.” I don’t know enough about SATC to make this joke work. Sorry.) She was on Combat Hospital, as well, which I haven’t seen. I’m sorely tempted.

Man, you know what it is? I think her approach to Knives reminds me of the extreme physical and emotional drama that Rumiko Takahashi employed in Ranma 1/2. I look at Wong-as-Chau and I see Akane or Shampoo going ham on Happosai or Ranma or each other or any of the Kunos. Every new event is the end of the world or the birth of a glorious new one. She’s in a near constant state of devastation or ecstasy.

Ellen Wong. She’s the real deal.

If you somehow missed it the first time, you can buy Scott Pilgrim Color Hardcover Volume 1: Precious Little Life, a new version of O’Malley’s original series with colors by Nathan Fairbairn. I don’t own any of these (I still have the old trades), but I want them, especially the con-only Evil Ex editions. The movie is over here, too.

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Crossover Celebration Part 6: Turtles Forever

February 8th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

It’s really pretty amazing how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the more versatile properties in comic history, ranking up there with Batman and Wolverine. Remembered mainly for the popular 80’s and 90’s children’s cartoon, you have to remember that the foursome started out in a comic where Leonardo impales Shredder with his katana in the very first issue. He even drinks some beer a few issues later, which feels off in retrospect. The property has taken some strange turns over the years, even to the point where the more kid-oriented comic series by Archie Comics featured a storyline where they go back in time, beat up Hitler, convince him he’s in Hell and trick him into shooting himself in the head. Around the same time, Michelangelo was teaming up with the Muppet Babies, Alf and Bugs Bunny to get a kid off drugs on a Saturday morning TV special.

When the Turtles fad died down, the cartoon still remained on TV for a long, long time. How long? There was an episode that featured April O’Neil looking stuff up on the internet. Jesus. I even remember stumbling upon the very last episode one Saturday morning, surprised that it was still around. The ending was rather nice, with Splinter telling the four that he had nothing left to teach them. They were all his equals and would no longer be able to call him “Master”. They tried to keep the franchise around just a little bit longer with a live-action show, but with that failing, the Turtle stuff took a break for a few years.

In the early 2000’s, a new Ninjas Turtles series was created by 4Kids that revitalized the concept. It decided to go back to basics, throwing away all the ideas and characters from the 80’s cartoon and basing everything on the original Mirage comics. In fact, there’s an almost purist distaste you can feel from the series in their refusal to pay any lip service to the first cartoon, outside of a couple Easter Egg references. Though it is rather cool that by revealing their version of Shredder to be an Utrom alien, he’s essentially Krang and Shredder in one character. Regardless, it was a good show and lasted a rather long time, even after jumping the shark and going into the future for a season.

It was announced that Nickelodeon was buying the rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and if the 4Kids series wasn’t already on its way out, this made it definite. The creators decided to go out the best way possible: an animated movie in the style of a crossover between the 4Kids TMNT and the 80’s cartoon TMNT.

The movie begins with Hun, leader of the Purple Dragons and go-to muscle for Shredder, as he steals some tech stuff at a lab. The Ninja Turtles appear to stop them. Later that night, the situation makes the news, distressing Splinter, who can’t believe his students would be so careless. What’s extra strange is that all four turtles have been home in the sewer all night. They figure out that the Purple Dragons are involved and go to find out what’s going on.

We find that the Purple Dragons won that little pre-credits skirmish and have the Turtles as prisoners. Hun sees them and is completely confused.

“You were expecting maybe someone else?”

Read the rest of this entry �

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