Friday, April 24, 2015

Band Review: Colton Brown

Colton Brown is a rapper and producer from Moore Haven, Florida, working in Hip-hop, Rap, and Southern Rap.

Interestingly, while the rap is there, it never feels like the defining part of the song. The Southern influence is definitely felt, especially on "Tough Enough" and "Whip Your Ass", but there is also a classic rock feeling. I think fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd might enjoy Brown's music.

While it is somewhat less typical of his sound, Brown does an interesting cover of "Wild World" that is worth checking out.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Band Review: Cugini

I admit to some confusion about Cugini. The descriptions make it sound more like a label or studio that works on developing talent. However, there are songs performed by Cugini, which makes them seem like a band. For the purposes of this review, I am treating them like a band.

There could also be some confusion about the genre. On Facebook they use the acronym "S.P.E.C.H.", for Sexy Punk Electro Contemporary HipHop.

I do hear the hip hop elements, but the electronic elements feel more critical to the overall musical effect. There is rapping sometimes, but there is always synthesizer. At times it is a little reminiscent of Real McCoy, but more moody and downbeat. I don't hear any punk, but I definitely see the possibility of the band doing well in contemporary.

The video for "Activity" gives a good feel not only for the general sound, but the type of dancing that might go with it. That is a good starting point if they sound interesting, and if they are, various tracks are available on iTunes.

They don't really stick with me, but I may be too old for them. Either I am missing something, or the shoes are way overly romanticized on "Converse Girl". That in no way rules out the possibility of them really catching on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Goodbye White Collar

I am happier now with the "White Collar" conclusion than I was initially.

Although Neal had an "ironclad" deal guaranteeing his freedom upon the successful capture of the Pink Panther theft ring, the Bureau had shown a pattern of not being completely trustworthy. If you consider that to be the main reason that Neal faked his death and disappeared, it's logical, but not satisfying. It felt disrespectful to the relationships that the show was built on. Not only will he not see Peter and Mozzie anymore, but they are left with intense grief, even if Peter ends up realizing what happened a year later.

I have come to accept it more as a way of sparing them. While the Panthers should no longer be a threat once captured, it is possible to pull strings from prison, and it had been stated earlier that if you cross them, they will go after the people you love. If Neal is sacrificing for their safety, and not just as a fail-safe for his own freedom, then the love is still there.

There had been a theme - somewhat throughout the series, but especially toward the end - that Neal's actions sometimes led to people getting hurt, and he could not fix it. Sometimes those were innocent people, and sometimes not, but it was a sobering thing for him, and it may have made flight seem more necessary.

That goes along with one thing that they didn't explore more, and I wish they had. It came up in episode 5.4, Controlling Interest.

A psychiatrist who specializes in former inmates is brainwashing them to commit crimes where she gets the spoils. Neal goes undercover, and it is disturbing for him. In their conversation she tells Neal that he's a sociopath. It is exacerbated by the tension between Neal and Peter over Neal's most recent deception, which again was undertaken with good intentions, but there was a pattern there.

It is true that Neal was a habitual offender, and you could legitimately question whether reform is a real option for him. If nothing else, it seems like the challenge and the thrill are important enough to him that any future plans for staying on the right side of the law would have to find ways to allow for that (one reason why working for the FBI worked so well for Neal).

However, as much as Neal loves those aspects of crime (he might also make a good member of the A-Team), he's not a sociopath because he has a conscience. He cares about other people. Their feelings are real to him. Their pain matters to him.

Neal is larcenous and he has an ego, but he will put that aside to help others. If he believed that stealing art from rich people truly hurt them, that might actually cause him to reform. (That would probably be hard to manage though.)

I would have liked to have seen more attention paid here. The tension between Neal and Peter calmed down anyway, and Neal seemed to be in an okay place emotionally at the end of the series, so nothing was horrible. If they had explored it though, if they had talked about his goodness, would he have been able to trust more? Would he have been able to choose a different life? Would he have been able to keep the old life instead of jettisoning it?

And if you are going that route, then probably the last season arc has to go differently, but there are always possibilities. I was often amazed at how seemingly insurmountable difficulties were met.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the show. It was a good cast. I remember watching the Monkeys In Space episode of "My Name Is Earl" and seeing Tim DeKay in it. I had seen the episode before, but never recognized that scruffy, not at all bright felon as Peter. That was fun to see. I think the cast and the show had a good sense of fun in general. I also had not initially recognized Marsha Thomason from The Haunted Mansion; that's not quite as impressive, but that's not her fault.

So here's wishing good luck to all of them. Matt Bomer. Tim DeKay. Willie Garson. Marsha Thomason. Sharif Atkins. Tiffani Thiessen. For Diahann Carroll, James Rebhorn, and Gloria Votsis too. I hope good roles are coming your way.

And good job Jeff Eastin. I may quibble with you on minor points, but I still kept coming back and watching your show, and not everyone can make me do that.

And they got six seasons. If the goal was six seasons and a movie, then I guess Neal will show up again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Television update, spring 2015

I might have more to write about movies after I finish the screenplay reading, but for now I have more thoughts on television. The last time I did this was 2012.

These are the shows I was watching at the time.

  • White Collar
  • Grimm
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Person of Interest
  • Modern Family
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Jeopardy

I wrote about it then because I was making decisions then. "Grimm", "Once Upon A Time", and "Person of Interest" all started in 2011, and I was committing to them about the same time that I was trying out and deciding against "Leverage" (without prejudice) and "Alcatraz" (with extreme prejudice).

For the three I stuck with, I started watching them all around episode 8, but I had been reading recaps and internet forums on them, because I knew I was interested. If I spend eight weeks reading about an interesting show before I actually start watching, perhaps it is not surprising that three years later my television schedule is essentially the same.

There have been some changes. "White Collar" has concluded. That seems like it could leave room for a new show, and technically it did, because I also started watching "Galavant". I tried not to, but the heavy promotion during "Once", and it's role as the hiatus replacement, pushed me there, and then I loved it.

I don't doubt that I could love other shows. I have had two separate friends recommend "Forever", and I am sure there is nothing wrong with it; I just don't want to take on anything else.

We have added some new re-runs. In addition to occasional re-runs of "Everybody Loves Raymond", we will also watch re-runs of "Family Feud" and "Newhart".

"Family Feud" is more of an opportunistic thing. It may be on before the next thing we are going to watch, or I am waiting for my sisters to get back before we start the recorded episode of "Jeopardy!" (The DVR is still invaluable.)

"Newhart" is different. Maria will look for episodes that sound interesting and record them to watch later. It is related to our other watching. I believe their interest started with Bob Newhart's turns as Professor Proton on "Big Bang Theory".

This is also pretty fun. I remember catching occasional episodes back when it originally aired, and I liked it, it just wasn't a priority. I think I prefer quirky patients to quirky rustics, but I don't mind spending some time in Vermont.

I do think that since "Newhart" entered the rotation, there is less "Judge Judy" being watched, but we have already seen quite a bit. Also, "The Rifleman" seems to have dropped from the rotation, and I don't know if that's a scheduling issue or if Maria lost interest. I'm okay with it.

I mention all of this because I have deep thoughts on the dramas at least, and intend to write about them. I have a lot to say about "Grimm".

Monday, April 20, 2015

The other Gotham

Periodically people will ask about favorite or best or most underrated horror movies. I always say Gotham, 1988, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen, written and directed by Lloyd Fonvielle.

Part of the problem is that I am not a huge horror fan. I don't seek it out, and what I do see is probably not something I like that much, so I don't really have other answers to give.

That could be an excellent reason not to respond, and leave the discussion to the people who know what they are talking about, but I still feel compelled to give my vote, because I love Gotham so much.

Not that many people know about the movie in the first place, so it truly is overlooked. It might not count as a horror film; though there is a supernatural element. Despite only seeing it once, on late night television, it has stayed with me. A ghost story should be haunting.

When the question gets asked, and I give my unimpressive answer, I will often go check out the IMDB page, and see what other people have said. There are some who love it, and got what I got, or wonder over things that I didn't, but at least they are thinking about it. One poster wrote at length on how it's all about the Jungian constructs, but he didn't have enough room to really get into it.

There are also posters who completely miss the point, and that just makes me want to talk about it more. Well, if you don't use it to expound on things that no one is interested in listening to you go on and on about, what's the point in even having a blog?

Spoilers will follow.

Tommy Lee Jones is a down-on-his-luck private eye. He is named "Eddie Mallard", which is exactly right, but I will stick to actor names for the most part. The movie is full of characters who we recognize from classic gumshoe films, but the movie is not set in the past; it's just about the past.

Colin Bruce hires Jones to get his ex-wife to quit bothering him. The tricky part is that the "ex" is through expiration, not divorce. Bruce points out Virginia Madsen, young and beautiful and tangible. Jones assumes Bruce is delusional, but that makes the job easy money; he can get paid to chat up a beautiful woman who obviously can't be the dead wife. She is the dead wife.

It takes Jones a while to believe it. The coroner photos strike the first serious blow. He may have been suspecting a con up to that point, but not this.

Jones' reaction in the scene is visceral, but there's a little detail I like in there. The photos are found by his friend Tim, played by Kevin Jarre. Every PI should have friends who are good at getting information, and Jones is no exception. He was going to pay Tim for the help, but Tim at that point says he doesn't want pay. He's Irish and superstitious and there is something bad here.

Superstition seems very reasonable at that point. You are in a modern city where no one is supposed to believe in ghosts, but the doorman knows that sleeping with a ghost is bad for your health, and the priest Jones visits later takes him seriously too.

There are little details that I could think about forever. Jones is told that the dead don't lie, but the priest tells him that the dead always lie. Both seem plausible. Both seem true.

Jones starts going downhill fast. Even though she is destroying him, you can still feel pity for Madsen. A trophy wife for Bruce, she drowned during a boat party (I wonder if Natalie Wood's death was an influence). You can question whether the other guests were as callous as she remembers, but the raw pain that she felt when she was dying and no one cared is real.

Her one request was that she be buried naked in her jewels. She haunts her husband because he took the jewels back.

If this was Sam Spade, Tim would probably end up dead, and Jones would end up sadder, wiser, and alone, though Debbie, the former girlfriend who was getting involved with Tim would still be around. This is where things get different.

Jones gives Madsen a choice: she can have the jewels or she can let them go and he will follow her anywhere, including death. She wants the jewels more.

And it was a false choice. They have been placed on a chalice in the church, blessed and protected on holy ground, because there have been some bad forces at work around them. The last we see of Madsen is her telling Bruce that he still owes her the jewels. The increased difficulty in getting them is his problem.

The grasping desires that led her into a loveless marriage and pitiless friends will not let her rest. We saw better sentiments in her more than once, but she ultimately turned them down.

He will remain haunted, and you feel the dread in that, but he could have stopped it at any point by just giving up the jewels when he still had them. He doesn't want to be haunted, but he still cared about the jewels more.

Jones is free. Maybe the jewels are cursed, but not for him. He can let go.

Jones goes away with Tim and Debbie. Symbolically they head off for tropical sunshine, leaving the gloom of Gotham behind. Their flaws were not fatal. It was a film noir, but they escaped it.

It's not a jubilant happy ending. Even the ending music, if I recall correctly, had a subdued and eerie tone while it played over pictures of the three in paradise. I was in a dark family room with the volume low so I wouldn't disturb anyone, so it could be that. Maybe it couldn't be too jubilant because you see that not everyone does make it. Some people would rather stay bound by hate.

But for the darkness that out there, and for the things that could have happened, the resolution was pretty good. You can choose friendship. You can be helped.

That's what has stayed with me about Gotham. That's what I keep wanting other people to have seen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Band Review: Liberty Deep Down

Liberty Deep Down is a five member alternative/pop band from Columbus, Ohio. Formed in 2011, their first full-length album, Blackout, was released in February.

My favorite track is probably "Bad Girl" which is on the new album, but first appeared as a single in 2013 and on the 2014 EP Love Worth Making. The rhythm and percussion work together well. There is a pronounced funk influence on the pop. Actually, I can see fans of 'N Sync really enjoying Liberty Deep Down.

The songs are overall enjoyable. I do feel that they lack heft. My instinct is that they need to take a good women's studies class so they can view male/female interactions at a higher intellectual level. It's the first time I have thought that specific thing about a band, but it's probably not a bad idea for others.

Of course pop does not need to be deep. They are stronger instrumentally than a lot of similar bands.

Some songs that get there more emotionally are "Best For You" and "Leaving You For Me", which not only have heart but nice musical detail.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Band Review: Avera

Avera is a band from Valdosta, Georgia, or at least they have been. Based on a broken link in their Twitter profile and not much recent activity, they may not be currently active. (The existence of another band named Avera that does Latin dance music does not help.)

I started following them when member Will Oliver followed me, so even six months ago the band may not have been active.

The ephemeral nature of young bands is nothing new, but sometimes it seems like more of a shame. This band had it together at least well enough to collaborate with Sleeping With Sirens' Kellin Quinn, get music embedded into their Facebook profile, and create five pretty-good looking videos. My favorite is "Leave As You Came", which with its quiet and earnest delivery becomes an affecting meditation on mortality and identity.

The other thing that stands out to me is that in addition to having some fairly hardcore songs, like  "A Life Worth Living" or "The Surface Beneath", that isn't all they do. They have two videos for "In Motion", including an acoustic version, and it may be that interest in interpreting the same material in different ways that leaves them more open to nuance.

Even if the band is no longer active, it is always possible that the members will end up in new bands. Along with Oliver, that includes Kade Williamson, Brad Singletary, Anthony King, Dalton Page, and Ryland Shipman. Here's wishing them well!