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Black Sails – Pilot Review

Black Sails

Review – “Black Sails” Pilot Episode

Spoiler Warning –  Few things are a tragic as a spoiler. Popping someone’s delightful balloon of anticipation by exposing the important details of a piece entertainment is bad. You don’t stick your finger in the wedding cake, you don’t pee in the snow just outside the living room window, and certainly don’t let people know that a show called “Black Sails’ is actually a play on words referring to the origin of the Black Friday retail sales event. It was started in the Pirate age as a way to dispose of the dregs of the pirate booty on the last day of the week. Who knew?

Summary –  “Black Sails” is a pirate series set in the early 1700s from the Starz network. For years the English has commissioned privateers to harass and attach Spanish ships in the new world. The kept the Spanish from fully benefitting from the riches of the new world, kept some income coming to England while they established their own foothold. But, in the early 1700’s, the English had enough of a presence to gain the benefit of colonies. But they have a problem that the area is thick with accomplished thieves of their own making. Two empires, the English and the Spanish, seek to civilize the new world and reap its bounty, but the pirates stand in their way.

The Good – Let’s talk about the good parts first. Overall I liked the look of the series. The locations – Nassau in particular – looked not only realistic but they were original enough to surprise me. The town was lush, but it wasn’t a jungle. There were ships, but no big docks. The buildings were shacks and the work took place out in the open, but shaded. This all felt right to me. I don’t need a show to be a history lesson, but getting most of the details right helps.

I also liked the set up and the early plot. The period is very interesting with the English turning on their former partners, the pirates, and calling them criminals. They created a fighting force not fully under their control to hurt an enemy and now that they no longer need them they are inconvenient. Yes, Empires have been doing that sort of short sighted thing for a long time and continue to do so today. The interplay between the English, the Spanish, the colonies, the riches of the new world, and the pirates is rich with plot potential.

The early plot involves a Spanish treasure ship and its schedule for transporting the treasure. One person has come into possession of the page but only knows that it is important, not really what it is. Another person knows what it is, but not where it is. Layer onto this a pirate captain who is losing the confidence of his crew, the traders that turn the ill-gotten gains into money, and the teeming underclass of morally weak yet ambitions people looking to make their way in the new world. I really like the potential.

The Bad – The first thing that struck me was a couple of the actors were completely unbelievable. The daughter of the merchant seemed like she wandered in from the set of a CW series and didn’t realize she was in the wrong spot. She did not seem either tough or smart enough to be in the position she was in. Secondly, the “John Silver” character was in a similar position – a modern person who appeared on a ship and muddles his way through the lines. Lastly, there is a character, a roguish opportunist, who looks like he is from and 80’s keyboard band. It’s really distracting.

This being a Starz series, there is nudity and sex. Handling these aspects is critical. In the pilot, they sucked. The two sexy scenes didn’t make sense. First, a captive joins the pirates and the initiation involves the pirates putting him in a room with five women. I doubt pirate initiations were quite that enjoyable. Secondly, there is girl on girl scene that just popped in out of the blue. It has the potential to add quite a bit to character depth over time, but in the pilot it really felt cheesy.

The Other –Any pilot is a crap shoot. They have to show enough characters, plot and features to get the audience interested yet still tell a story that satisfies. This series suffers from a Game of Thrones number of characters all who only get a few minutes to be on screen.

The writers/producers have made the curious choice of choosing a mix of characters from the classic book “Treasure Island” and historical characters. In the pilot I was playing the game of “guess who will pop up next”. This pilot felt a bit like pirate fan-fiction. I hope it gets better.

Final Verdict – The pilot was good enough for me to pencil in two more episodes. The acting was disappointing, but that can get better. The plot potential and the setting are interesting enough for me to give this series some more of my time.

Kick Ass 2

“Kick-Ass 2″ – Movie Review

Kick Ass 2

Spoiler Warning – I am going to talk about the characters, situations, and dialog in this movie. If you don’t want to hear about those things, skip down to the paragraph labeled “Final Verdict”. If you are not afraid of spoilers, read on.

Summary – What happens when ordinary people don personas and costumes to match, then take it upon themselves to fight crime? You get the movie Kick-Ass, a fun decent movie if you didn’t examine it too closely. What happens when the people who made the first movie think they can make more money? Kick-Ass 2. In this movie our hero has stopped being Kick-Ass and is leading a normal life again, but he misses the life. There are others doing what he did, those that took inspiration at what he did and are doing good on their own. On the other side, Hit-Girl is not settling into normal life all that well. She really never was a kid, so expecting her to just slide into high school was a little nuts. She shows up at school, waits until her guardian leaves, then goes to her hide out/armory and works out, works on equipment, or researches. At night, she fights crime with her brand of brutal and efficient tactics. The villain the son of the last movie’s villain, bitter at this death. He takes the family fortune and sets out to become the first super-villain and to kill Kick-Ass in the process.  Add into this a plot where Hit -Girl tries to get into the cool crowd, another plot involving a group of super-heroes that Kick-Ass joins, and Kick-Ass’s father thinking he is doing drugs. There is a lot going on.

The Good – The good in this movie come is small chunks. Good lines delivered by Hit Girl and Colonel Star & Stripes, tender believable moments between Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass, and some really terrific monologging by the villain are the good parts. Hit-Girl is a pretty good actress, and at time she shines. When she is starting to accept her new life and she tells off Kick-Ass it is a wonderful scene. When she shows up at his house after a bad date, it is a wonderful scene. She just isn’t given that much to work with. Jim Carey is Colonel Stars & Stripes and he is so likeable and believable as a decent guy who is trying to make up for a bad past and trying to make life a bit better for people. Carey once again shows he can act in character roles. Finally the politically not even close to correct villain does a great job talking about his crew, his goals, and even his mother in scenes that the more sensitive will find hard to watch, but that I found really good. The movie has some fun sight gags, and a few more laughs here and there. That’s it for the good.

The Bad – This movie has two major flaws: who is the story about and tone. First, this movie is shot like a comedy, it feels a bit like a TV sit-com. The situations are silly – people dressed up like super heroes, a villain wearing woman’s bondage clothes, a 15 year old girl with an armed hide-out. Silly. A lot of the jokes are even silly. This feels like a light comedy. Then a secondary character is killed, graphically, slowly, with plenty of spurting blood. Now maybe the makers meant for you to feel the jolt of the death, but even then, it didn’t fit. At one point a villain kills 8 or so cops in truly comic fashion, yet your are frozen in your seat due to the graphic nature of each death. The movie continues putting silly juvenile jokes next to very real violence and it never works. The second major flaw in this film is that there are too many competing story lines. They barely relate to each other and the stories are all slowed down. You go through a long piece with Hit-Girl and the cool kids that barely resolves and it does not advance the story. You go through a long build up of Kick-Ass and the super team, but it only serves to make Colonel Stars & Stripe’s death feel stronger rather than add to the overall story. By the way, the movie could have been made without the Kick-Ass character and it would have been a better movie. You don’t get one whole movie here, you get two-thirds of two and a half movies all served on day old bread.

The Other – John Leguizamo is in this film. I haven’t seem him in quite a while and he is good as a gangster with a bit of a heart. The woman who plays the Russian villain is two parts sexy and eight parts terrifying. The audition dance by the cool girl is as good a pole-less pole dance as I have ever seen, but it was 5 times longer than the story needed.

Final Verdict – This could have been a good film if they had simple chosen to tell the story of Hit-Girl trying and liking to be a “normal” teen, yet being drawn back into her former life. It would have had emotional range, action, and an actual narrative arc. Kick-Ass and his crew could have been comic relief, like little funny sprinkles on Hit)Girls two scoops of thick rich story. But it was not to be. I cannot reccommend this movie, unless you have Kick-Ass movie posters on your walls and a green costume in the closet. I give it two stars and I might be being kind doing that.

Desolation of smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Desolation of smaug

The Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Summary

The Desolation of Smaug is the second movie in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Yeah, I know “The Hobbit” wasn’t a trilogy when it was written. It was a longer novel-type thing that meandered about an imaginary countryside and assaulted the reader with Hobbit travelling poetry. The book is actually better than I just described it, but I was scarred by the poetry. Anyway, Mr. Jackson has seen fit, or seen enough profit, to warrant stretching this one book into something close to 9 hours of cinema. This movie is the middle section, the “Return of the Jedi”, the morose middle child of the series. In the first movie, our hero, Bilbo Baggins, is talked into going on an adventure as a burglar to assist a group of dwarves to regain their ancestral home. Adventures ensue: escape from Ogres, escape from Goblin King, and escape from Gollum. Plot is layed: The vengeful orc, the Necromancer, Big Dragon in the mountain. Character is established: Bilbo has inner strength, Thorin is a bit of a dick, Radagast is a shroomer. So in this movie our party continues their journey towards and reaching the Lonely Mountain on the one day when they can find the keyhole to the secret passage. Along the way they meet up with the Slyvan/Wild Elf King (it doesn’t go well for the short dudes), get chased by Orcs, get smuggled into Laketown, meddle in local politics, get inside the mountain, and, finally, antagonize the dragon with dire consequences.

The Good

This is a heck of an adventure. There nothing left out, in fact most of this movie was not in the book. There are fights with orcs, fights with spiders, and a cat and mouse game in a treasure strewn dwarven citadel with a dragon. You get your money’s worth in this film. The scenery is lush, the settings are magnificent. The Elven king’s stronghold is only bested by the depth and scope of the dwarven home under the mountain. There is enough geeky eye-candy here to give you ocular cavities big enough to park a cave troll in.

The Bad

Two elves cut through about one-hundred and fifty orcs with minimal effort. I’m not so sure why anybody is scared of orcs being around. Maybe they move in to the neighborhood, never cut their grass and leave junk cars in their yard. The point is, they are not a threat to anybody or anything, except maybe property values.

The elf girl-dwarf boy romance  – I don’t buy it. I can see how she would be interested in him and his stories of the outside world since she has rarely ventured out and has a wider view than the elves around her. I don’t think they played up this part of her enough to make her seem like someone who would fall for the dwarf. As for the dwarf, well, they each have so little character that it’s hard to tell what they would or wouldn’t do.

The Other

This is a nearly 3 hour movie. A lot happens. In most movies, the narrative arc clues you into when the story takes turns, when it starts the middle section where things are difficult, when it starts the final battle, and when it starts the ending. There is so much going on in this film that I lost track of the narrative arc. I didn’t have any feeling, other than that from my bladder, as to when the movie should end.

I don’t get dragons. Something that huge would need a considerable amount of nourishment. Yet he simply sleeps under a pile of gold rather than heading out periodically to roast an Oliphant with his fire breath or raze a village and snack on the inhabitants like at atapas bar, or demand human tribute from the idiots who built Laketown right next to his home when they knew he was there. And the gold…why? He cannot spend it, he can’t buy a new Ipad with it, he didn’t do any dragon sized redecorating to his home which was built on a dwarf scale. He just wants to sleep in it? Hell, at least Scrooge McDuck invested his money as well as swam in it.

How did Bilbo keep a hold of his sword all through the barrel ride and getting captured in Laketown? And, I think that the ring keep hopping from pocket to pocket.

I saw this movie in 3D. The 3D is done quite well, but didn’t add much to the movie and I thought is made the movie feel a big small, like I was watching it through a window. I cannot recommend it.

Final Verdict

Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. Being a geek who first got hooked on the Tolkien thing in his teen years I really cannot help but enjoy this movie. I even liked the cartoon versions from way back when. It’s not art, it’s not great cinema. But it is a lot of fun. If you go, see it on a big screen, and avoid the big fountain drink. It’s a long movie so bladder management will be key.

Movie Review – Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 1 Pacific Rim 2

Summary

I like to preface things, so I am going to do so here. (It’s probably an ego thing, but lets not delve deep where I have no depth, ok?) While I do not consider myself a giant monster or giant robot fanboy, I have seen quite of bit of both genres. Maybe it’s because of Chicago’s UHF TV stations playing them during my youth, or my never ending search for odd films in the video stores in my 20s, or maybe I just in the closet about the whole fanboy thing. Anyway, this review will be viewed through the filter of someone who watches this stuff, not through the lens of someone who is out for seeing great cinema. Oh, and by the way this review may contain spoilers.

Now, Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters and giant robots that has more than a head nod to the Godzilla (or Gojira) movies from the distant past. The director, Mr. Del Toro, wasa big fan of these movies growing up and he apparently wanted to update the genre. The premise here is that an extra-dimensional rift has opened up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and that allows giant monsters (called Kaiju) to pop into our world and wreak havoc. (Why is “wreak havoc” the default mode for most extra dimensional beings anyway? Why don’t they ever come here to get some really good fudge, or catch Cirque du Soleil show, or even just spend a day reading on the beach? Their tourism bears a striking resemblance to American foreign policy actually…). In response Earth bands together to build giant robots, called Jaegers (German for hunter) to fight the monsters. We seem to hold our own for a while, until the critters come through more often and start to adapt their bodies and tactics to our efforts. We shut the Jaeger program down and start building walls around the ocean. There are a few Jaegers left, a few pilots left, and a leader who has a plan to end the monsters once and for all. That’s the basics.

The Good

This movie looks good. Yeah, that sounds stupid, but that’s the best I can do. Everything in it, all the set and prop details look really good. Much, much of it is CGI, but it is too the point where the CGI is not at all noticeable. I think this little fact goes a long way towards making this an enjoyable movie. Much like Lord of the Rings looked “real”, which made it easier to watch. Ok, now you are saying “it’s a movie with giant monsters and giant robots and this knob is going on and on about the scenery!”, I hear you, but don’t overlook the scenery here.

The giant monsters are cool, but I think that the robots are the better of the two. In the old monster movies you saw a lot of the monsters, full shots, as they smashed up model Tokyo. In this movie your rarely see a whole monster, or see them for very long. It is all in little bits and pieces, a bit like “Jaws” actually. Only here it does not build suspense like in Jaws, here I think it really only exists to keep costs down. You see more of the robots, but still a lot of the details are left out – I will get into an explanation of that later. The fight scenes between the Kaiju and Jaegers are fun, but a little confusing. When there are multiple robots or monster involved it is kind of hard to tell who is doing what to whom. The fights keep you in the story though, and why else would you watch a movie like this anyway?

The Bad

All that beautiful scenery is covering up a mountain of plot holes and impossibilities that are going to make George Lucas think he made this film, or at least make him mad that he didn’t. I am not going to enumerate them here, but I will talk about them further in the “Other” section.

Acting. I hear that people in movies do this. If that is so, this was not a movie. Interesting dialog. That must be something that happens in plays I guess. Characters with motivations who grow. If I squint my eyes and turn sideways, I can see where some of that may have been present in this movie.

The Other

If you willingly went to a movie that features the idea of extra-dimensional monsters on this scale, humungous robots piloted by pairs of pilots through mind control, and a dimensional rift on the bottom of the ocean then you are on thin ice when you complain about plot holes and impossibilities when it comes to the details. No debris or clouds of silt just after you detonate a nuclear weapon on the bottom of the ocean? Don’t worry about it… look a giant monster! 8 helicopters carrying a giant robot that weighs hundreds of tons? Whatcoo talkin ‘bout Willis – and hey look another giant monster! Not mentioning the giant sword weapon to your partner until it is narratively necessary? You are thinking too much… hey look, giant monster guts! An EMP shutting down parts of a city, but the streetlights are still on? Ok, well that’s just dumb.
My point is that this might be the ultimate suspension of disbelief movie, on par with professional wrestling or a presidential debate. It is one of those where to enjoy it, you have to tone down that critical thinking part of your brain, and just let the art wash over you.

Final Verdict

Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. I saw in on one of those giant 80’ movie screens and I am so happy I did. If you like this type of thing, and you can turn off that logic critic, go see this movie. Do not wait for it to be streamed somewhere, unless you happen to have access to a giant screen of your own. This movie will not move your emotions, tell you anything about the human condition, or even make you like any of the characters. It will give you the thrill of giant robots flinging giant monsters around a big wet neon infused city though, and if that isn’t entertainment I don’t know what is.

Defiance – Late Season Review

Defiance

I reviewed this show earlier this season, after two episodes. My take on the show at the time was that he show was very ambitious. They had a lot of backstory and new races to explain as well as introduce a huge cast of characters, each with intertwining stories and motivations. I didn’t think the lawman character was working at all, but this held true for many of the characters in the show.

I’m a sucker for a post-apocalyspe story, and with the advent of on-demand TV I don’t have to watch at the same time each week, so I decided to stick with the show for a few more episodes. This is my review after 10 episodes.

The Good

Again, this show is really ambitious. There is a lot here for a sci-fi geek to chew on. Different races, different cultures, advanced tech raining from the sky,… they could make a show that spends three seasons introducing us to aspects of this world without ever really advancing the story if they wanted to. The good part is that they haven’t done that or turned this into a monster of the week show. They are being pretty good about introducing a couple of big story arcs and then setting up a few smaller character arcs. There are two major political arcs (Earth Republic moving to take over Defiance, and the Mayoral race between Amanda and Datak), and one major mystery arc (what is the object from the mines and what does it do) that promise to keep the story moving along nicely.

A couple of the characters are developing nicely. Stahma, Datak’s wife, is showing herself to not only be a manipulator on a grand master level, but possibly also one on the tactical level. She is shaping up to be the most dangerous character in the show. Doc Yewll’s backstory and how it is effecting current events is also a pleasant surprise. Good to see a healer get to be interesting.

The Bad

Weak Characters – The lawman is still not interesting. Datak has more than one note, but he has not quite made it to two notes yet, and for a savy guy he is awfully blind to his wife’s manipulations. The Irisa character, along with most of the Iraths, are lame imitations of Native American stereotypes. Irisa has no emotional range. She is a shut down person, I get that, but she still needs to have more than one emotion at some point. The Earth Republic representatives have been nearly mustache twirling bad guys, with the exception of Amanda’s former love interest, and he got killed by the end of that episode. The choice of putting them in Gestapo-esque clothing was a bit heavy handed. Finally, Rafe McCawley. In the matter of a few months he has buried one son, had another leave to find his mother, and his daughter is marrying the son of his rival. He should be breaking up by now, but he seems to be just fine. Also, it seems that running the mine is pretty easy since he is always at the house.

Odd Elements – one episode featured “hell bugs” as a plot element, and it is understood that this world has all sorts of different flora and fauna now, but it really plays no role in the life of Defiance. It seems to me that if critters like this exist, they would be more of a problem for the town rather than a plot tool. A different episode used nanotech as an explanation for an Irath coming back from the dead. It was such a duex ex machina that it ruined the episode for me, one which could have worked to develop the lawman and daughter characters but failed to do that either. Nano tech would have likely survived much of the arkfall and be a persistent problem for the planet, much like any form of microbe, it should not be a surprise like it was.

Fan Service – The lesbian relationship between the Kenya and Stahma really seems to be put in for no other purpose than to titillate. It may prove to be a larger part of Stahma’s master plan, and if so I will cut it some slack, but until then it make no sense that Stahma would risk Datak’s wrath for this when she is otherwise so smart. (Before anyone calls me a homophobe, it is not that fact that the relationship is between two women, it is the fact that I don’t believe it would happen and it does not seem to serve the story that bothers me).

The Other

The town really doesn’t have a character yet – its more like a refugee camp setting for the character stories rather than a living breathing entity. The mines should be a bigger part of town life, assuming they are the major employer that is. There also seems to be very little city administration other than the mayor and the lawman, the mayor (like the mine owner) seems to have a lot of free time on her hands. So, who is doing the work? A place like this would also need have regular contact with the rest of the world in order for an economy to run. The mines are a source of export, but how do the materials get to market? We have seen that travel is dangerous, so how do these important goods flow? Right now the town just a setting, when it could be a vibrant character.

Final Verdict

Well, since this is the second one, it’s really not so final is it?

I am enjoying the show enough to stick with it. I read that it has been picked up for another season which is encouraging. There are enough interesting story elements going on to keep me watching, but without better characters it is going to be really easy for them to make a story mistake and loose me as their audience. I am hoping that the Stahma character can maintain this level of manipulation without becoming too powerful that it kills the other stories. I really want the Artifact story to play out, but his is also the one with the most risk. My pipe dream is that Datak does rise to power and actually wants to make things better for Defiance but he gets caught between his ego, his wife, and his new allies in the process then has to make friends with his former enemies.

So, in summary, the show isn’t Game of Thrones/Downtown Abby/Breaking Bad for the Sci-Fi geeks, yet. I really don’t think it will ever be either, but it is showing some promise in the story telling and in the background elements. I recommend it to other sci-fi geeks seeking some TV entertainment.

Movie Review – Star Trek Into Darkness. Who let the Trek out?

Star Trek – Into Darkness

Into Darkness 1 INto Darkness 2

Summary

Picking up a year or so after the last Star Trek film we find the re-boot versions of the original crew stranded on an island after a three hour tour hits a bad storm….no, wait. That’s not it. That was what I dreamt after eating strip mall sushi and seeing the movie. It wasn’t actually the movie. In the actual movie a villain commits terrorist like acts against the Federation and it is up to the Enterprise crew to find the fugitive and dish out a little justice. They come to learn more about their fugitive, about internal Federation struggles, and about how lax Klingon security is around their homeworld.

This is a different type of review. I am a Star Trek fanboy and long-coat-and-scarf wearing geek. We have a cat named Pippen and I can recite Rutger Hauer’s speech at the end of Blade Runner by heart. I also love movies of all types. So, if this review gets too schizo, flashing from movie geek to true geek, just think about Ginger putting some sunscreen on Uhura while they are trapped on the island…oh. Sorry.

The Good

This is a pretty rip roaring action film. Lots of big explosions, dizzy high speed action, beautiful scenery and space, the final frontier. Ol’ JJ can put a tent-pole movie together alright. He also has moved the franchise back into accessibility for most people. You don’t have to know anything about the “City on the Edge of Tomorrow” to understand and enjoy this film. The relationships are ok, but the one between Spock and Kirk, the most important one and the one that launched the whole concept of slash fiction, is pretty good. They are both intensely loyal people who come to recognize the value of someone who is not just like themselves. They grow during the movie, and that doesn’t often happen in movies. Scotty is another good point in the film. The actor, Simon Pegg, really knows how to deliver a line. His timing and delivery of some of the silliest lines is spot on. And there is Uhura. The camera could linger on Zoe for weeks and I would not get bored. All in all, this re-boot is very similar to the Bond film re-boots. They are good films that don’t require you to have seen any of the other films.

The Bad

While it’s a good film, it is not a good Star Trek film, in exactly the same way the Bond films are good films but they are not Bond films. This film has all the trappings of a Star Trek film without any of the soul of one. You might say, “Good riddance! All that soul every got us was a string of painful film experiences all in the name of staying true to the franchise!”. I will grant that most of the other movies spent too much time on the Star Trek and not enough time on the movie, but this one left me, the fanboy, flat. Dr. Merrick’s gratuitous skin shot didn’t belong in this movie, Kirk waking up with two cat girls didn’t belong in this movie, and Spock mind melding so he can experience death did not belong in this movie. The plot had more holes than a Tholian Web – Klingons letting a ship just pop down to their home planet? An admiral building a giant starship outside of Jupiter unnoticed? Scotty just grabbing a shuttle and going to Jupiter? You can beam someone into a cell in the Brig? AHHHHHHH! (Fanboy geek rage). Then, they go and ruin Holmes for me. Benedict Cumberbatch (difficult, but fun to type) please, show a bit of restraint. I adore you as Holmes, and your first couple of scenes were wonderful. Then, you had your second scene in the brig and you went all late years Al Pacino on us. Chomp, chomp, chomp, mmmm good scenery. Spoiler time: While the whole re-doing the Khan movie is an interesting idea, here is just seems like they couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to write and thought “Hmmm, if we leak that it is Khan, then the fanboys won’t be able to resist, thus strong opening weekend, then the rest of the populace will just flock to the poplular movie. Brilliant strategy. Damn, I’m brilliant. Where is someone eager to curry my favor by bringing me a mocha-hito?” I, for one, was disappointed.

The Other

There is no other. Well, maybe there is. Peine does some interesting acting where he seems to be mimicking some of Shatners movies and looks here and there. Maybe I was just imagining  it. The tribbles make an appearance, and maybe explain how they become what they later are. We get to see what is later referred to as a Jefferies Tube – a nod to old school trek lovers. And Kirk dies. It’s a bit like the Pan-Far accident, but different.

Final Verdict

This movie is on par with the Iron Man movie for entertainment value, but falls short on heart for me. I wanted a good Star Trek movie, but got a good movie using Star Trek sets and characters. Maybe I should have expected this as it was a logical direction given the first film, but still I had hoped for better. This does nothing the ease my mind about the Star Wars movie. In fact, it makes me wish the future of that franchise was still unknown. If there is a third Star Trek, it will have to get blisteringly great reviews or promise an Uhura mud-wrestling scene for me to spend money at the theatre to see it. I give this 1 and a half stars.

Engage, Make it So, Live Long and Prosper. Just don’t go see this movie with any Star Trek related expectations.

Ebony & Ivory Redux – The Black Keys and The White Stripes

Dan Auerbach El Camino Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Yes, I’m going to bring up Pandora again. I do so, because it has taken the place of radio for me in that this is where I hear about new music.  I listen, hear something I haven’t heard before, make a new station with that song/artist as a seed and I get exposed to a whole new world of music. This method has introduced me to Modest Mouse, The Editors, Beats Antique, Balkan Beat Box, Bon Iver, as well as reintroducing me to Foghat, Blackfoot, and Treat Her Right. It’s working for me, so you are going to hear about it.

I had already heard of the Black Keys before they came up on Pandora. They are two guys from Akron, Ohio that play rootsy, guitar driven music with biting, sometimes dark lyrics. They were recording and touring in the early ‘00s, but broke through to major audiences in 2008 with the album “Attack & Release”. They’ve followed up that album with “Brothers” in 2010 and “El Camino” in 2011. Each album has been more successful than the last. In 2009, Dan Auerbach released a solo album to critical acclaim.

The White Stripes were just two people – Jack and Meg White. He played guitar and she plays drums. Jack is the creative force in the band, and can be a bit of a divisive figure due to his rock n roll sized ego. I will say that he backs it up with great music output. They specialized in simple, almost sparse songs that still managed to come across with a sense of force. They have released a series of powerful and complex albums like White Blood Cells, Elephant, Get The Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump. Jack and Meg broke up but the band has continued on but with a reduced output due to Jack’s numerous side projects, like The Raconteurs.

Monday – The Black Keys “Tighten Up”, Ten Cent Pistol”

Tuesday – Dan Auerbach – “Mean Monsoon”, “Street Walkin”

Wednesday – The Raconteurs – “Steady as She Goes”, “Hold Up”

Thursday – The White Stripes –“We are going to be friends”, “Seven Nation Army”, “My Doorbell”

Friday – The White Stripes –  “The Denial Twist”, “A Martyr for my love for you” , “Cause and Effect”

Scott Weber

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