Archive for April, 2012

This past weekend was a great one. So great in fact, that this is part one of the weekend, focusing on the Sleigh Bells concert I attended on April 14th 2012.

The show started off with a band I’d never heard of, Elite Gymnastics, who’s presence on stage was muted yet exaggerated all at the same time. If that makes sense….

To start off with, when we arrived at the venue for the concert the Slowdown, near the beautiful Old Market in downtown Omaha NE, the stage was set up like this;

Then Elite Gymnastics came on. I must say I wasn’t that impressed when they first started but once you began to understand the type of music they were playing; more noise-pop than Sleigh Bells but also a lot more electronica added. The odd thing was the way they turned down the lights completely so you couldn’t really see the two band members as they played. Instead we were shown a Karaoke Music Video that played through the duration of their set. That in itself set Elite Gymnastics apart from almost all bands I’ve ever seen perform.

Next up on the docket was Brooklyn based electronic duo Javelin.

I’ve heard Javelin here and there over the past few years and was not at all ready for the awesome show they pulled off. The duo, cousins in actuality, rock out with a Bass Guitar and a single Ride Cymbal being the only ‘analog’ instruments on the stage. The rest of the music is played through prerecorded loops and melodies and beat out by the drummer on his electronic drum pad. It was a great show and if you have a chance to check them out you definitely should. Here’s a small excerpt of a song I was able to record.


And then it was time… Time for the thunder and the lightning and the more than off chance of getting Epilepsy from the strobe lights. That’s right Sleigh Bells. I have thoroughly enjoyed Sleigh Bells since getting turned onto them a little more than a year ago. I listened to the CD a few times then had the opportunity to pick up the Vinyl which me and my friend ‘S’ pretty much played through more than a few times a week. So I was happy when ‘S’ said she’d go along to this show too. It was incredible to see the energy that singer Alexis Krauss spread through the crowd. I always think of the line from the 2000 Cameron Crowe film “Almost Famous” when I see great shows. The line comes from singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) “You know what I do? I connect. I get people off. I look for the guy who isn’t getting off, and I make him get off.”

It’s the job of the singer, when they don’t also play an instrument, to make people enjoy the show, to move around, to . . . well . . . get people off! Alexis has a great understanding of this. I don’t believe she really stopped moving since the moment she stepped on stage.

The music was infectious, people were up on their feet, hands were in the air, laughter and joy was all around and that was only after the first song. As the set continued, you could see the crowd inching closer to the stage, but at the same time, there were stragglers, people sitting back in the bar area, just there to enjoy the music and that’s what bands like Sleigh Bells bring out.

 

 

 
I’ve been to rock concerts where there are more fights than enjoyment of the music, more screaming than listening, more wasted money than entertainment gained.

That said, I would follow Sleigh Bells around for a while just to see another performance like that. It sounded real, it looked real, it felt real and when all was said and done, the band was just chilling in back by the merch table smiling and laughing with their fans.

 

 
If you get a chance to see the Sleigh Bells on this tour, do it. It’s going to be hard to beat the tour as a whole including both openers. Great show, and a great weekend.

The next post should be pretty good too as it focuses on the foodie aspect of this past weekend. I miss my foodie weekends, maybe they’ll come back sometime.

 

Being one of the few people on the face of the Earth that has yet to see the Hunger Games (Although I have read it) I am catching up on the love of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss in the Hunger Games) as an actress.

2010’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ has been on my list of movies to watch for the past few months and this past weekend, it made a fast jump to the top of my list with the help of a friend who also wanted to check it out. It was without a doubt, one of the best decisions of the weekend.

The premise of ‘Winter’s Bone’ is this; Ree lives in the Ozarks in southern Missouri with her semi-catatonic mother and two younger siblings. Her father has been in jail for a while when the movie starts and the local sheriff stops by to inform the family that her father has posted bail by putting the house up as collateral. This would be fine and dandy only he hasn’t shown up around home since his release and he is required to make his court date the following week or the house is gone.

Ree sets out to locate her father and we meet the rest of the family as the film progresses. The film touches well on the fact that this is a back woods location where no one is really well off, and most of the families around share more than a bit of blood between them.

The film follows Ree’s journey to find her father and the interactions she makes with family and friends as well as a few people who couldn’t care less to be seeing her come around. It’s the interactions between Ree and her uncle Teardrop that set this movie apart from most other dramas I have seen in the past few years.

Not only does it star Jennifer Lawrence (Who got the Oscar nomination nod for best lead actress (Lawrence being the second youngest in history to be nominated for the category behind Dakota Fanning)), it also starred John Hawkes, one of the most under-rated actors to grace the silver screen.

As I scrolled through imdb.com when looking up names of the people that took part in Winter’s Bone, I was immediately drawn to check the history of Hawkes as he is one of the actors that you will always recognize in his roles and immediately forget about the second the movie finishes rolling.

I can’t even describe why people don’t think of Hawkes as a lead actor because he is, he is amazingly dedicated to the roles he is given, he graces the screen and the audience with his dedication and power that seems to ooze from the viewing to viewing.

The first time I recall seeing Hawkes was in his role as Cowboy in the 1993 Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted) film Freaked, and he always stuck with me. As he developed and got more roles as an actor, from ‘From Dusk Till Dawn, to various TV spots, to ‘Steel’, to ‘Rush Hour’ and ‘The Perfect Storm’, to his part in the critically acclaimed Steven Spielberg sci-fi mini-series ‘Taken’. Hawkes has paid his dues ten fold to get the lead roles in films yet he never gets them.

I can’t go into why he doesn’t get them, because I have no reasons why he should get them. He is the supporting actor every lead would dream of getting. He devotes every bit of his ability to his role and that shines through as his character of Teardrop in ‘Winter’s Bone’. While Lawrence is unstoppable in her role as Ree, the scenes in which she appears with Teardrop it is as though she has disappeared behind his presence. It’s hard for me to say I’ve seen more emotion portrayed in characters on film aside from the characters of Ree and Teardrop, but it’s the honest truth.

The pain they feel, the audience feels. The struggles, the beatings each takes, the internal struggle for survival and the knowledge of what is right and what needs to be fought for outweighs so much when watching ‘Winter’s Bone’.

This is the first time I’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence in a lead role and I am extremely happy that I viewed ‘Winter’s Bone’ before watching ‘The Hunger Games’. I’ve read that trilogy. I have not read Winter’s Bone. I have an image of what Katniss should be and up till now I didn’t think Lawrence could pull it off, but having seen ‘Winter’s Bone’ I am completely behind the decision to get her as the lead.

There are still times during this film that I was bored, but that happens with a lot of films that I watch anymore. My mind goes a mile a minute and doesn’t relax enough to just enjoy where I’m at. That has a lot to do with whom I’m watching a film with as well though. But with ‘Winter’s Bone’ I wanted to know what was going to happen from each second to the next. I’m happy to have seen it and stand full behind it for anyone who wants to enjoy a drama that embraces every aspect the genre should hold. Screw the stereotypes, this movie shows the emotion as it should be shown.

On a final note, ‘Winter’s Bone’ was directed by Debra Granik, a director who only has 3 films under her directorial belt but has a staggering 22 wins in various film award nominations, most coming from ‘Winter’s Bone’. It just goes to show, that even though it may take a film maker years to be shown the recognition they deserve, the wait is worth it. The faith in the person is worth is. According to imdb, there are no future endeavors in the chutes for Debra Granik, but after seeing ‘Winter’s Bone’, I can honestly say I will be at the next one as soon as I can, just to see how well she can show me characters like she did in ‘Winter’s Bone’.

When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought to myself…. “eh.”

now that i’ve seen it, it was slightly better than expected.

It is definitely a funny movie at times. It has a great cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and comedy veteran Fred Ward.

The major problem I have with 30 minutes or less, is just that fact, it’s funny… at times. It’s not constantly funny or even remotely consistent in the type of humor it tries to pass by the audience. There are moments of dire stress that really make you feel for Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) all while you really know nothing bad is going to happen.

Movies like this thrive on making the audience thing something bad is going to happen to the main character. The only problem is this is a comedy. Not a drama. Were this 2001’s Swordfish (A Review that will happen soon) we would want the hero to escape while reveling in the fact that the bad guy is winning for almost the entire film.

The general plot synopsis of 30 minutes or less is “Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else…” (Taken directly from imdb.com)

And that’s it. Jesse Eisenberg is our delivery boy, Aziz Ansari is his best friend, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson are the fledgling criminals. It’s honestly kind of futile to explain the rest of the plot as it really doesn’t matter. Nothing is short of cliche in this film and the film makers don’t do much to convince you otherwise.

This is the second “real” outing by director Ruben Fleischer. His last (and first) major film was 2009’s Zombieland which really made me want to like this one SO much more. I was honestly let down though, if that hasn’t already been made clear. The actors in Zombieland portrayed a chemistry that the boys in 30 minutes or less just could not muster. The interactions were forced at best for almost the entire film. But then again, it’s really hard to get stand alone comedians like Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari to really interact with fellow actors well because they are comedians at heart that are better at one liners and stand up than they are interacting with other people. They don’t like their lights to be dimmed, sadly this is portrayed the most in Ansari’s Chet. Chet is supposed to be the best friend of Nick, but every time they interact with one another you want to punch Chet through your TV screen. He’s just that obnoxious throughout the film, even when he is supposed to be having sincere heart to hearts with Nick, he just comes off like an ass.

I can’t say enough how much better this film could have been had they just changed out a couple of actors. But then again, the calibre of comedians they got for this project can’t be beat either. Stand alone, each actor is heads above the next choices that I could come up with. So while I wasn’t by any means impressed by this film, I can’t turn a blind eye to it.

It’s the best that could be done with the story. It’s the best that could be done with the actors. It’s the best that could be done with the director. The only question is why it was made. This story line belongs in an action drama film, not a comedy. There are story lines that are impossibly hard to translate to comedies and 30 minutes proves that to the greatest extent possible.