Friday, June 28, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: The Purge, Spring Breakers and Olympus has Fallen

MOVIE REVIEW: The Purge, Spring Breakers and Olympus has Fallen

"The Purge": broody and intense; whatever ethical questions are brought up by it are moot since the movie would crumble under scrutiny. However: taken as it is, it works.

"Spring Breakers": colorful and depressing; like drug laced cotton candy and the inevitable self loathsome hangover. James Franco's character has to be seen to be believed.

"Olympus Has Fallen": Die Hard in the White House. 
There is something satisfyingly cathartic about these movies; the bad guys are sneeringly sinister and loathsome and deserving of their come-uppance and the solitary good guy is good natured (and usually in a strained but loving relationship) but EXTREMELY good at inflicting damage- even after getting his butt kicked repeatedly. When the showdowns inevitably happen we are exhilarated at the violence- in essence, we are part of it. It's emotional manipulation at it's core, but a welcome one because we all want to see the villain get what's coming to him. REALLY get what's coming- basically, we want vengeance, we want retribution and we demand justice from these characters that are stand ins for whatever causes we believe in. By projecting us into the action, the moviemakers make us use their characters (broad ones, at that) as projections of ourselves. Now, the success of these films all depend on just how effective the respective good and bad guys are, and they are quite effective here. The main villain leers and sneers and the hero dominates but is still vulnerably human with his own emotional hangups that will resurface occasionally within the film only to resolved at the climax. Every piece of this movie has been done before in plot and in craft - some to the point of mockery- but it's the equivalent of an In and Out burger after being on a diet: it's well made, better than most and tastes really friggen good even though you'll be over it after you're done.

My report on the Steve Miller/Primus shows at the Fox theater, Bakersfield

My report on the Steve Miller/Primus shows at the Fox theater, Bakersfield

It's become clear to me that there are three events in Bakersfield that bring people together that haven't seen each other in many years: funerals, weddings and shows at the fox. I've seen two shows there in four days: Steve Miller and Primus; both had their own distinct vibe, their own distinct approach to their shows and their own distinct crowds. Let me compare them.

Steve Miller is a man about to clear 70 this year. His major successes happened around his thirties and his stage persona is jovial and sometimes goofy; he's better at recreating his guitar lines than trying to raise the roof with his game audience. He played a no-nonsense two hour set of his greatest hits and a few tracks from his 1973 album the joker (still housing one of the most fascinating album covers of the 70's) and two tracks off his latest album consisting mainly of blues covers. His band was tight, professional and didn't waste a single note. Besides a backlit mural in the background, there wasn't anything even remotely close to enhance the simplicity of a band ripping through about a dozen songs that anyone who's been listening to rock radio for the last 20 years is familiar with. 

If Miller's sparse design was on one end of the visual spectrum, the Primus concert might as well have taken over the opposite side completely: it was sensory overload the entire time. Utilizing a huge screen in the background, it played a series of 3D images (seen through the same kind of glasses that you use to see modern 3D movies using some technology that is more advanced than anything I've ever seen) over random videos ranging from clips from old sci-fi films to that of an elephant jumping on a trampoline all synced flawlessly to the music. I used to think that Primus was more akin to Rush and like prog bands but I have completely re-evalulated this opinion: they're the Bizarro to their twin in band size and alliteration The Police. Primus's music is like peering into the bad dreams of an LSD casualty that was raised on a lifetime of Looney Tunes cartoons, psychotropic drugs and claymation whereas The Police (especially in their later stage) is a London wall street banker on a cocaine bender vacationing in the Caribbean; both of these bands have a sinister and subversive perspective sonically and lyrically- touching on distrust, paranoia, disenfranchisement, solitude, and a casual detatchment in their observations, but where Primus wears their weirdness on the outside, The Police kept it bubbling in the dark- just under the surface; secretly and dangerously. Rush is their goofy Canadian cousin who wears a trenchcoat and plays D&D. 

Performance-wise, they were superb. Their drummer had one of the most beautiful snare sounds I have ever heard live and his Ludwig set was one gong drum away from being a facsimile of Herb Alexander's kit. Even as rich as the 3D effects were, I had to give my eyes a rest every few minutes or so and I had to sit down to give my legs a rest. For Primus super fans, this show was great, but for those that stopped listening to them after "Pork Soda" it could have been a bit wearisome. Most of their songs have a pretty linear construction: riff/ ecclectic (normal to them) subject matter/musicianship/solos/riff. By no means should you add a bridge, hell they barely have choruses. The biggest emotional kick of the entire show happened during their last song when Les Claypool commanded "Go!" before the breakdown in "Jerry was a race car Driver". They didn't play "my name is mud" and almost got away with not playing "Jerry was a race car driver" if it wasn't for a particular audience member. If Steve Miller's show and crowd were Heineken and pizza, the Primus show and fans were definitely weed and Bud Lite, and if I could find a metaphor for Primus the band it's this: they are the musical equivalent of Andy Kaufman. 

Appropriately, during their intermission they played four popeye cartoons. Appropriate since Les Claypool is a cartoon character all by himself (at one point coming out on stage wearing a pig mask) with the personality to prove it. He reminded me onstage of the Reverend Horton Heat- in the sense that you get the sense that these onstage "personas" aren't too far off from their real life ones. Claypool's mumbly, aloof, mildly caustic sarcasm (especially with members of his audience) shows that he's in on the joke- whatever it is- and he's not telling us what it is. Maybe hints of it; little by little, but we're not worthy of the entire punchline.

my reaction to the Boston marathon bombing april 16, 2013

my reaction to the Boston marathon bombing april 16, 2013

To every single person already turning this tragedy into a political statement, to all of you pointing fingers or commiserating to make this into an exercise of using it to promote some partisan point of view: shut UP, SHUT UP! SHUT. THE FUCK. UP!!! I try to never curse on my page but you have all driven me to give up on you. It's the same bullshit on both sides. If there was ever anything to bring us all together it's this tragedy, but thanks to the complete caustic cynicism dripping from a lot of you, it feels like the worst heightened high school emotions coming through my computer and smacking me in my face. If you take this and turn it into some forum to spout off some ideological bullshit you are at the best selfish, at worst a ghoul. Get off my page; or I will do it for you. If you don't see me as a friend anymore, it's because you're sounding like an asshole; if you blame me for it- you were never a friend and good riddance. We all have questions; as of now none of us have answers. Please don't pretend that you have them.
I've been touched by the heroism and the nobility that human beings are capable of, along with utter devastation at the exact opposite. Remember the end of Jerry Maguire where Rod is injured on the field and his brother is criticizing him and talking smack even though no one knew just how bad his injuries were? That's you. All of you. Please, shut up before you realize that ,whether you know it or not, we are all in this together- and I can guarantee you that if you were one of the runners that had a limb blown off or worse- the LAST thing you'd be worried about is politics.

MY MOVIE 43 REVIEW, january 29, 2013


I have been to the mountaintop; I have seen the summit. I have seen bad movies- the kind that are "so bad they are good" movies, the ones whose content goes beyond the pale and goes for the extreme, the ones made with the direct intention of being a bomb (*cough, cough!* Uwe Boll *cough!*), the ones that were phoned in, cashed in, sold out, maligned; failures due to any amount of inconsistency, incompetence or any amount of words starting with "in". All of these movies are mere shadows compared to the most towering turd ever committed to the big screen: MOVIE 43.

This is the worst movie I have seen. Its sole reason of being is to either be a punishment to losing a bet or, I'm assuming (based on the sheer star power of some of its actors) , blackmail. 

It's a testament to the ultimate ethic of creating a movie going beyond utter incomprehension at what you're watching. Making you audibly cry out "WHAT... THE... #@&$?!?!?!" It creates incredulity and sometimes nausea. I won't even bother to start on the minutia of what it does in cinematic terms- this isn't a movie that even bothers to competently make a case for its existence- it throws you in a bucket, defecates on you, lights you on fire and dumps a gallon of cat spray to put you out. 
It's the closest version of the aristocrats joke ethos ever put to film- go for the worst, grossest, gnarliest scenario and hit with a ludicrous punchline. Here's the kicker: there is no punchline- some segments have endings but nowhere is there any resolution at all. If you want a comparison here it is: it's the sickest most offensive stuff on FAMILY GUY cut together as skits with a real cast. Oh, and a cartoon cat.

I have got to hand it to everyone involved with this: you all truly committed 100% to make this utter piece of crap the worst one ever made in the history of utter pieces of crap. This isn't a movie- it's an initiation, an extreme one-like drinking your own pee. A bonding experience in the same way people connect with others who have shared a traumatic event. I am utterly convinced this movie was either the most effective act of revenge directed at a movie studio or a huge tax write off for everyone involved ("Hire the biggest actors you know, pay them whatever they want and make a movie guaranteed to post a loss.") Either way, spoiler alert: YOU SUCCEEDED! 

If you are going to watch this- don't bring kids, go in fully knowing that you are going to see an abomination- the cinematic equivalent of a tumor. Do not watch it alone, (DEFINITELY not with a date, unless your significant other and yourself have either been together for a long time, or are on the same wavelength) preferably with one to four friends. The louder the better, and maybe as a drinking game because if any movie begs for chemical enhancement it's this one.

It took four years to make this atrocity based on all the actors' schedules- it will take that long to forget it. Some things seen can never be unseen- this truly applies here: it is unforgettable in every way possible- none of them good. The only way I will ever see this again, is just to prove to people that it even exists; that there is a movie where Hugh Jackman has a scrotum growing from his neck, Anna Farris wants her fiancee played by Chris Pratt (a real life married couple) to poop on her, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber (ANOTHER real life couple- man, what dirt did the filmmakers have on these guys) bully, torture, humiliate and sexually harass their home schooled son, that attempts to make Chloe Merentz's first period into a skit, Jason Sudekis plays the douchiest Batman EVER and helped Halle Berry make a movie worse than CATWOMAN. In fact, that movie is the original Star Wars compared to this one on the fail scale. The best part of this movie is the laughs you will have with your friend (or friends) about just. how. bad. this is. It does linger, in fact- it wafts. God, does it waft...

NO redemption; truly made as a curiosity piece and as a companion piece for cancer, because if there is anything that will make you welcome death it's this. The mountaintop is mount everest and the summit of pure shit is MOVIE 43. Welcome, and I pity you. You have my sympathy.

Repost: Article about the San Diego Comic Con for Bakotopia 2009

Repost: Article about the San Diego Comic Con for Bakotopia 2009

The San Diego Comic-Con has been going on for forty years. It is essentially nerd-vana for anyone who loves anything geek-centric. I'm talking about comic books, video games, genre movies (horror, fantasy sci-fi I'm looking at you!) Japanese Anime and all manner of toys. I've been to small conventions before (in the 80's in Palmdale and Bakersfield) but those were NOTHING to prepare me for the Leviathan spectacle of what is the San Diego Comic Con. To give you an idea, I will refer to it furthermore as just COMIC - CON.

I've been to big conventions before, specifically NAMM (which was written in BAKOTOPIA magazine earlier in the year by good old JR at where tens of thousands of freaky musicians gather to see all the shiny new gear that they can't afford. Nay, folks. COMIC-CON is wherre over ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND people gather to fawn over all things fandom. I guess it would be fawn-dom.

I've been reading comics since the late seventies and have been an avid collector since the beginning of the 80's. I was aware of the COMIC-CON but just never got around to it, like talking about a vacation that never happens because life always gets in the way. COMIC CON was just Comic-con until around 2000 when Hollywood found out that fanboys ( the typical name to describe us) are the ultimate test group for their movies. Remember, comic book movies died in the mid nineties with BATMAN AND ROBIN, a movie so atrocious that it killed off an entire GENRE of movies. Once X MEN became a success, the suits went and bought any and all comic book properties they could their hands on. The same thing is happening with video games now.

A movie that generates buzz at COMIC CON will open BIG. Guaranteed. Every year all the movie companies pimp out their upcoming movies by having the films' main cast and crew in a panel and introduce new footage in Hall H (A HUGE hall with four massive plasma screens that seats 6500 people yet always fills up) where atendees can also ask questions to the stars and filmmakers.

For example: this year had panels for NEW MOON, AVATAR, IRON MAN 2 among many many others. NEW MOON in particular had people waiting in line for two days before the COMIC CON even started. This has inspired a new breed of geek: the Holly-nerd. A nerd that instead of showing his authority by reciting facts and figures based on fandom knowedge, instead tries to assume it by name dropping celebrities an agencies.
OLD SCHOOL DOUCHE NERD: " I think that the only Daredevil worth reading is the Frank Miller run. All else is garbage."
NEW SCHOOL DOUCHE NERD: " my good friend over at William Morris said that Frank, You know...Frank Miller? He said that Frank just signed up to make a new movie for Fox."

The con has two levels: an upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs is just a massive hall with booths from different companies. The upstairs has many halls with different programs happening every hour. To the east of the main hall is the aforementioned Hall H that has the BIG movies. The smaller halls upstairs have TV shows, anime and panels on actual COMIC BOOKS!

You can meet up-coming artists and creators and get original art at artists alley. You will see the BEST costumes. Have you ever overheard a conversation where someone's talking about a movie you love and you can't help but include yourself into the discussion? Not only are you included but welcome. That's almost EVERYONE there. Everyone's polite (most us geeks are) and welcome to company. Now, it's not all great, the food is incredibly expensive and walking through a big crowd is never fun. I would recommend brown bagging it if you decide to go. You're allowed a backpack but nothing that has wheels.

Also, a few things for anyone that wants to go:

It will sell out from now on. Get your passes MANY months in advance. Like, NOW. Remember, this is now a Hollywood thing and they are on their shit boys and girls.

#2: ATTEND PREVIEW NIGHT. For those that get a four day pass (Thu-Sun) you get an invite to Wednesday preview night. Trust me, get your badge on that night instead of having to wait in line on Thursday morning with (literally) ONE THOUSAND other people in line.

#3: BRING YOUR OWN FOOD. See above

#4: HAVE A PLACE TO STAY WITH CHEAP PARKING AND STAY THERE. Parking on Thursday? $10. On Saturday? $30-$40 if lucky. Trust me, sleep in your car if you have to. Unscented baby wipes ROCK!

#5: GET THE PROGRAM AND DECIDE WHERE TO GO. It's like Disneyland. If the program is at three, get there at two at the latest. There's so much to do that you must choose. Don't take it for granted that you will get into where you want to go. If you see a line, brave it. Once the doors close then it's back to being a con zombie.

#6: BRING MONEY. San Diego is fun but will always take its toll one way or another.

#7: BUY YOUR PASSES NOW. they will be sold out.

Also, sunscreen, vitamins, talcum powder (don't chafe!) a backpack/bag and a CAMERA are gospel. They give a lot of stuff away. Go with an open mind, a few bucks and a game plan and all will be well. Remember: If you're there for the comic books then you'll have ample opportunity to wget your whistle on one of the most amazing art forms in the world. If you're there for the movies then get in line as soon as you can to Hall H. They don't kick anyone out, so if you want to catch something at three, get there at noon.

Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Comic books have been a huge, huge part of my life. I feel no shame saying that. In fact, I hold that admission as a matter of pride, much like a fan who champions an unknown band that becomes well known: the feeling that I was on the ground floor before the crowd showed up. Comic books jump started my imagination, inspired the artist in me, colored my world view and even helped me bond with my daughter. From the start of my love affair with comics, my world has been painted in a four color comic scheme, in amazing multiple panels and spectacular splash pages.

I've written about my experience at the San Diego Comic-con (or the "COMIC-CON!!!") and my love of all the things that gave me joy in my youth but I wanted to write about the main reason why these little funny books mean so much to me. For a long time, they were my best friends and led me to my other best friends. I looked forward to picking up the newest issues at the local liquor store every week. My close friends at that time collected and read with the same fervor I did. They were sons of the workers on a ranch owned by my dad's friend. I knew what it was like, first hand, to stay in a trailer on a ranch, or to stay in the ranch hands' house because my dad was a ranch foreman himself. The ranch hands' homes were rows of tiny houses where whole families would live crammed and waiting for their dads to come back from a hard day in the fields. I still smile at the sight of a sunset over the vast green fields, being sprayed with two foot tall sprinklers; power lines humming steadily while the sky turned into a golden/purple hue. The daily business of the night pushing the day into the ground. It looks in my mind like one of those splash pages I was talking about. Those friends have disappeared over the years, their houses abandoned and rotted; still decaying off the 138 towards Lancaster.

I drew joy in reading, rereading and remembering those issues that still are burned in my mind: discovering Frank Miller's run on DAREDEVIL and HEAVY METAL magazine (waaay too young) in 1981. Reading Alan Moore for the first time in SWAMP THING in 1983 then in V FOR VENDETTA in 1993 and WATCHMEN and FROM HELL a few years later. Finding the unique wonder of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series; marveling at the mutant massacre in X MEN, buying THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT all in 1987. Reading Wolverine's beginnings in ORIGIN, rediscovering Spider Man and crying at the 9-11 issue back in 2001. Imprinting the work of Bill Sienkiewicz (pronounced sin-KEV-itch), Moebius, Richard Corben, Drulliet, Jack KIrby, Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, John Byrne, Liberatore, Alex Ross, Neal Adams, Mike Zeck, Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison, Mike Zulli, Mark Millar, Frank Frazetta, Berni wrightson and so, so, so many others into the core of my being. When I was 10 years old I wallpapered my entire room with all my comics, their mylar bags holding them in place. It was GLORIOUS!

It's not all sentimental though, there's a real sense of power in getting a particular issue or set at a bargain that gives you a sense that you got away with murder. For every "I could have paid twenty, but I got it for five" it's balanced by " I payed ten, but it was worth five." Regardless, those bargains have a particular aura of their own. they've inspired the frugal, tenacious, aggresive and intrepid collector in me. Whether it was collecting my early toys, magic cards or even CD's the collector in me was always looking to complete the collection/set/run and to get it for a "deal."

Thus, I come to the main focus of this blog: The Bakersfield Comic Convention at the Double Tree on November 8th.

One of the main guests is Sergio Aragones. I was first introduced to his work not in MAD magazine (I discovered that the next year thanks to this) but in a book my mom bought for my dad titled SERGIO ARAGONES ON PARADE. My father was born in Spain in the Aragon region, so my mom thought it was cute to buy my dad a book with the word ARAGON in the title. My wonderful well-meaning mom. I don't think it ever got to my dad- I keelhauled it. A few years leer I discovered GROO which is the ongoing saga of the world's DUMBEST barbarian and the world's most loyal dog (and ironic minstrel, like sir Robin's in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL). Imagine Al from HAPPY DAYS with long hair and dressed like CONAN with an IQ of 2. or for you youngsters John C Reilly with a big nose acting the same way.

If you want to see someone that ebraces their love of the comic book medium look no more than John Dolmayan, the drummer from SYSTEM OF A DOWN. The guy had each of his drums drawn on by different comic book artists (his snare drum was embellished by Neal Adams. Natch.)and he recently shelled out over $300,000 for an issue of ACTION COMICS #1-the first appearance of SUPERMAN. In my opinion, it sounds like a fine investment. There aren't a lot of those left in the world. Besides Kevin Smith he's probably the biggest comic book fan in the public eye that I can think of. Oh, I forgot Nicolas Cage, whose real last name is Coppola but changed it to Cage (after Luke Cage the comic book hero for hire first introduced by Marvel comics in the seventies and who should be hitting movie theatres in the near future. He's due.)
Mr. Dolmayan will be at the Comic con as well.

There will be other names there that most people that don't read comics wouldn't know (like Scott Shaw! and Alex Nino who I remember from HEAVY METAL magazine) but don't let that stop you from talking to them and hearing their stories. If you're already a fan, bring your kids to show where you come from. If your kids are fans take them to see where they're coming from. My fifteen year old daughter Tatijana and I trade comics sometime. She hips me to Japanese Manga and I prefer to share with her their cousins from the west. The fact that this is just one way of seeing the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree and that we can have this wonderful connection in common is a sublime fact that will keep me warm on my death bed.

I have seen comic fandom go from humble magazine racks, to comic boutiques, to comic conventions, to big business, to bankruptcy, to great success in the box office to the rise of Manga and to pretty much taking over popular culture as we now know it. From the golden age and the age of EC comics (where comics were seen as "seducing the innocent" and corrupting children) to the modern fables we see on the big and small screen, comic books have permutated through the fibers of the collective unconcious. Another guest of the convention will be Herb Jefferson Jr who played Boomer in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. How times have changed. In the ravamped series that was introduced a few years ago (and which to this day is still considered one of the most innovative, influential and revered dramas in recent times. Sci-fi or not.) Boomer changed from being played by a black man to a HOT asian woman. Starbuck went from being Face from the A TEAM (Dirk Benedict) to another hot blond woman with a drinking problem and anger issues who *SPOILER ALERT* also happened to be an angel (Katee Sackoff- too soon?), and Adama went from being Lorne Green to Edward James Olmos. Ladies and gentlemen: genre reinvention at work.

This is an unabashed love letter to the longest running relationship in my life: me and my imagination.I could literally keep going but it's time to bust out my GROO lunch box and a Sharpie. It's convention time again. Oh, and also Sergio Aragones killed Marty Feldman. It's true.