Friday, August 26, 2016

Band Review: Rakunk

There is a really abrupt feeling to the start of "Trillionaire", like the song was started in progress.

That may be part of an overall band philosophy of sink or swim. There is no genre listed, nor any comment on their music on pertinent web pages. (I'll call it rock with a subtle funk influence, though the name had me expecting more punk.) They admit the names of who plays which instruments and that they are from Chicago, and that's it.

What stands out to me most is the sound of metal. I don't mean metal as a genre, but it feels like there are steel strings instead of nylon, and maybe some steel in the percussion. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it gives the music a sharpness and a resonance. Listen to the bridge on "Wicked Bible" for an example.

"Writing With A Knife" and "Banged Up" also stood out among the tracks. Overall a pretty solid offering from Rakunk.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Band Review: Lloyd Williams

Lloyd Williams is a British songwriter. He came to my attention via Richard Hughes of Keane.

Primarily considered a folk musician, Williams uses both guitar and banjo to create his sound. There is a quietness to the music, almost receding enough to be haunting. Delicate textures accentuate, as on "No Silence Left". One notable exception is the lively plucking on "Long Way Down".

Negativity feels prevalent in the music - a darker sensibility - which is not exactly unusual for folk or roots music, but it feels more modern in this case, which may make it more accessible for some audiences.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Random ghostliness and the work of Anna Sarhling-Hamm

There might be something worth saying about the reporting on Ghostbusters, but that is part of a bigger trend on reporting around news and politics and sports, too, as the Olympic coverage has highlighted. I'm going to put that on hold for now.

I haven't reviewed any comics for a while, but there are a few that I am reading avidly. Some of them have been mentioned before, but there is also a new one:

I'm not going to review it now, because it's not quite finished yet, but as the story nears resolution the wait between new pages has become ever more maddening.

The author, Anna Sahrling-Hamm, has come up before for a shorter piece, Hearts - an adaptation of M R James' "Lost Hearts".

It was another M R James adaptation that leads to this next story.

I feel pretty comfortable saying that for James, "Lost Hearts" is a better story than "Wailing Well". He wrote "Well" for the Scouts, and that added some length that slows down the story.

I find it harder to compare the comics, but "Wailing Well" was the one that sent me ghostly dreams.

Yesterday's post hit at some frustration that there doesn't seem to be much of a market for original screenplays, but one possible exception to that is horror. Still, I had been thinking that continuing to write feature length screenplays, rather than maybe trying to get a short film made - or anything other than what I have been doing - might be a better strategy. But dang it if there's not a story in those ghostly dreams, and if the appropriate format for it isn't a feature-length screenplay.

Maybe I can't help but revert to type, but inspiration is a special thing. Following those story threads to see how they come out is a big part of who I am. It may explain my affection for artists and authors and musicians, who express their creativity in their own ways. And often they inspire me.

Besides, maybe this is the one that will sell.

Anna Sahrling-Hamm is available for commissions:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


On the same weekend that we watched the original Ghostbusters, I also read a review for the remake of Ben Hur.

I had not been interested in going anyway, but the review would have cemented that pretty well. It sounds terrible, but also pointless. I spent some time thinking about that.

With so many sequels, reboots, and movies based on existing material from other sources, you could take that as a sign that Hollywood does not trust viewers to give a new and unfamiliar story a chance.

That may be true (and very frustrating for someone writing original screenplays), but it seems odd to me that today's audiences are more likely to choose a film because it has the same name and story of a film from 1959. Yes, it cleaned up at the Oscars, but on that basis I might be more likely to seek out the original than the remake.

There still has to be some way of choosing which thing to reboot. Could something in that process predict whether they will be able to make a good movie, a successful movie, or maybe one that is both?

I suspect in the case of Ben Hur, part of what cemented its spot in people's hearts the first time around was the thrill of the chariot race. It was visually new, and there was a real sense of danger reinforced by rumors (apparently false) that a stuntman had died.

That can't be replicated. There is so much action now, with CGI allowing sequences to get ever more improbable, that I'm not sure you can give the audience much new there. Some action films will go the ridiculous route with a more comic approach, but for a serious film with religious elements that's less likely to work well. Maybe it will be successful, but it feels like it's barking up the wrong tree.

I remember reading years earlier that instead of re-making good films that people had fond memories of, what they should really do is remake bad films and try and get them right. I have felt this strongly about Head Over Heels. Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it. I only know about it because it was playing on television, and I kept catching odd parts of it as I was doing other things.

A lab worker (I think) who rooms with models falls for a guy she may have seen kill someone, and conflicting evidence keeps making him look wonderful and scary. Themes you have can include the insecurity that you could have from being surrounded by models, how insecurity affects new relationships, or concerns about trusting someone new. He is an agent, and helped a woman fake her death as part of a case, so work and personal life conflicts, and trust and honesty could come up on his side.

They went with poop jokes targeting the models. They got sprayed with sewage. They hid in the shower trying to silently hold their noises while Freddie Prinze Jr. conveyed pooping by the most vacant look I have ever seen on a human face. Of course it has no name appeal - nor should it - but it's hard to imagine anyone getting offended by a remake.

All right, fine, we want to stick with movies that were successful at least once. In that case, the gender switch Ghostbusters did makes sense. It changed the relationships and tone. It felt much more fresh than it could possibly have felt with another four men from Saturday Night Live.

That doesn't have to mean only changing films that were led by men to films now led by women. What would Terms of Endearment look like if it were a father and son whose already rough relationship was upended by cancer? There could be a good movie in that.

If you feel a remake is the answer, that can be okay, but what are you going to do differently with it? How are you going to make it yours? If the answer is just more extreme attitude and CGI, maybe think again.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The remake is better than the original. I know that's a controversial position, so I wanted to just get it out of the way.

I should also get out of the way that I liked the sequel to the original better than the original, another unpopular opinion.

I hadn't been thinking that specifically. I enjoyed the 2016 version a lot, and would love to see a sequel for it, but I hadn't been thinking too much about comparison.

I was reading fascinating pieces on the new movie, and I was enjoying that about it. For example, one article went over each of the four women and how their academic paths would have gone, from self-educating due to a lack of opportunities, relying on mentors, and the politics involved with getting tenure.

Part of what impressed me was realizing how much they conveyed without spending a lot of time on it. It was accurate to academia, but also efficient. I appreciated those little touches, which I hadn't thought about during the movie.

I liked the remake then, and want to see it again now, but I hadn't thought of it as a great movie. There were some parts where they would stop and be a little self-indulgent. Those sequences were funny, but not relevant to the plot. I enjoyed the asides, but could see them as possible flaws. Then I re-watched the original. Okay, I know audiences have a shorter attention span today, and we are used to quicker editing, but the initial set up really drags.

I knew that there was chauvinistic creepiness - some that I remembered myself, some that I was reminded about in other articles. It was worse than I remembered, but what really stuck out was how inconsistent Venkman is. He is a super creepy jerk in the lab test, differently creepy, but then really sweet, and all over the map. My best guess is that they were setting it up to have his story arc be one where finding actual proof of the supernatural (along with attraction to Dana) forces him to cast off his immaturity and obnoxiousness and become a real romantic hero. That would not be an unreasonable plot.

However, put the uneven pace and the uneven character together and I think there is also a basic writing issue, where it is plot-driven instead of character-driven. Some of the scenes felt so different from each other, as if they were from different films with different directors. Perhaps coming from a sketch comedy background makes that happening easier, because you are used to switching gears anyway.

That may have also been an issue with the believability of the villain. I don't know if everyone finds the remake's villain believable (I thought he seemed fairly credible) but there is no way that an EPA bureaucrat is going to come over and unplug possibly radioactive equipment without having some kind of containment plan. Peck was just the villain about whom you could make dick jokes, and was not well-conceived beyond that.

(Also, I thought the first time "Don't cross the streams" was brought up was really muddled considering how important it was going to be to the final resolution.)

So it occurs to me that maybe the reason that I liked the sequel better wasn't merely the fun of the Statue of Liberty and Jackie Wilson saving the day, but also maybe that having more familiarity with their characters, and more experience under their belt, Ackroyd and Ramis did a better job of writing.

That shouldn't take anything away from the thrill of seeing giant Stay-Puft the first time as kids. It made an impression and that lasts. There is nothing wrong with that.

The remake is still a better movie.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Band Review: Trash Talk

Trash Talk is a Hardcore / Punk band based in Los Angeles, California. I put them down for review after they were recommended by Benny Horowitz of The Gaslight Anthem.

There were times in the listening where they reminded me of Direct Hit!, but without the jokes. Trash Talk feels very serious, and yet they are often still fun. This especially comes through on "Leech". They are enjoyable, but there is an intensity to the songs that makes me think their concerts must be exhausting. They perform a lot, though, so maybe they just have good energy.

"Locked in Skin" is a good starting point for what listening to the band is like, but I have a special fondness for "Amnesiatic". A short instrumental, there is a primal, pulling force to it.

Trash Talk does not have a strong social media presence that I could find. Even their Twitter link is to a store site,, rather than to a site specifically about them. Nonetheless, what they are doing seems to be working.

Truly the best hardcore band I have heard so far.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Band Review: Marina City

Marina City describes themselves as an aggressive pop rock band from Chicago.

The guitars do drive somewhat aggressively, but the word that comes to mind more is earnest. This comes from the way singer Ryan Argast uses his voice, sending it soaring and turning.

The band is currently playing many dates, including stops with Warped Tour and Riot Fest.

While the music videos they have tend to be lackluster, they also have videos on the road, inviting fans to get to know more about them and tour life.

I feel like there is room for more depth, but continuing to play and product gives them opportunities for that.