Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 80 – 71

March 6, 2010

Sorry for the long delay in posting this. Life and laziness can slow down a guy.

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

80.  M.I.A. – Kala (2007)

M.I.A. actually has a whole lot in common with most rappers. She talks about how awesome she is (“Nobody on the corner got swagger like us”) whenever she isn’t espousing on the ills of her misbegotten home. In this case home is the World and it’s going to shit, slowly and surely. Obviously, dance party. M.I.A. front loads the bangers (“Boys”, “Bird Flu”) and leaves the spacey brilliance for the second half. “Paper Planes” you know, I know, everybody knows. But the best track is “$20”. The Pixies reference is great but that beat is goddamn goddamn.

79.  Girl Talk – Night Ripper (2006)

The first listen is mainly gasps and giggles. Subsequent listens range from “how’d he do it?” to “He fucking did it, son.” It’s almost best not to think about it too clinically. The man was/is able to take all your favorite songs, least favorite songs, and songs you just generally recognize and swirl them together into a mindmelting, smile inducing mix of sound. Everyone has a favorite moment; mine is the “Tiny Dancer”/”Juicy” mash. Or is it the Ying Yang Twins/”Regulate” mash? It’s like Sophie’s Choice only awesome.

78.  Les Savy Fav – Inches (2004)

Do Les Savy Fav even make sense on record? The difference between the recorded work of the Fav and their live performances cannot be further apart. Imagine a group of a practiced gentlemen led by a nude maniac. That is Les Savy Fav live. Inches justifies the existence of Les Savy Fav by running front to back great songs. They might be about something, they might not. Even without Tim Harrington entering your home dressed as Sherlock Holmes in a diaper, these are all great songs.

77.  Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (2006)

Y’know, the beats on Hell Hath No Fury bang. They’re wicked and awkward and strange yet they still bang and stomp while the Clipse spit gold all over them. Listen to “Momma I’m So Sorry“. It’s like the descent into The Rectum in Irreversible with Miami Vice references. “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)” combines a swaggering monster beat with Clipse’s most braggidocious lines to become one of rap’s greatest songs while “Mr. Me Too” has one of Pharrell’s best bad/great raps- “Just last week I was out in Aspen/Me and Puff hopping off the plane/Both us laughin”. The sheer gall of two multi-millionaires laughing at their private joke while walking off a private plane (in Aspen!) is hip hop audaciousness at its best.

76.  Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release (2007)

Hustler” is “Hustler”. Sexy and sublime, it is one of the best songs ever. This is just a fact and I am merely restating it. Attack Decay Sustain Release has other songs on it that are not “Hustler” and they are just as good. Great, even. But at the end of the day everyone will only remember “Hustler”. Which is fine, but the other songs, really good.

75.  Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)

Your mileage regarding Fountains of Wayne will vary depending on whether you think they’re clever or stupid. It is a fine line. Welcome Interstate Managers sounds sincere and these guys can write some hooks. I think calling out FOW for not actually being middle class salesmen and for writing a concept record about living middle class is like calling out Led Zeppelin for not actually being from Middle Earth. You can’t have it both ways. Well, sure you can. Songs like “Hackensack” and “Valley Winter Song” are achingly sincere and devoid of irony and cynicism. I had to have one record on here like that.

74.  A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder (2004)

A.C. Newman writes most of the music for The New Pornographers, who are great. Is it any surprise that his first solo album would also be great? Of course not, no surprise at all. Perfect indie pop songs, every single one of ’em. I’m sure that whoever Newman is shaming on “The Town Halo” probably agrees with the harsh take-down but is thrilled to have inspired such a great song.

73.  Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash (2003)

Kish Kash is Basement Jaxx’s creative peak. “Good Luck” is hall of fame, best of all time, MVP shit. “Plug It In” makes the idea of a J.C. Chavesz solo career seem plausible and “Lucky Star” is still the craziest track to ever feature Dizzee Rascal. The second half, yes, is more subdued and relaxed than the first half. It’s called having range.

72.  Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Arcade Fire have been grouped in with the other Canadian collectives like Broken Social Scene and Stars. The notable difference is that Arcade Fire songs all don’t sound the same. Funeral is aching yet wistful, an album about overcoming grief and moving on and up. It is never anything less than transcendent. That they acquired such a devoted following from the result of this album is not surprising but inevitable.

71.  The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Chutes Too Narrow is the high benchmark for sensitive indie albums. Every other album in this category will forever be dismissed as “Not Chutes“. Sorry. The Shins drop ten perfect songs here and make that shit sound effortless. When this album came out I bought it at F.Y.E. for $18 dollars and thought I had overpaid. Hardly. It is priceless. On the album after this one you can hear The Shins practically give up as they realize they cannot equal Chutes. After listening to this album you also realize that Conor Oberst is trying Waaaay too hard.

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Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 90 – 81

February 7, 2010

To prep for this list I re-re-re-listened to all of these albums, some all the way, some just skipping through to reacquaint myself with the music. I could have done this forever and reordered this list into oblivion. But you have to stop yourself at some point at admit when you’re beat. Plus, this list would look really stupid if I posted it in June.

Albums 100 – 91

90.  Slipknot – Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)

Slipknot by definition are dumb. Heavy metal guys in ridiculous horror show masks trying to scare your parents. This is not something I will fight or debate. But those first two albums showed hints of promise. A singer who could actually sing, a tendency to write hooks and hey, they kinda rocked in spite of all the theatrics. Rick Rubin turned out to be the guy who could rein these maniacs in and say “Let’s focus on good songs, you guys. You don’t need to get graphic, let’s focus on just rocking faces, let in a little subtlety, it might be fun.” I’m guessing that’s what Rubin said. Whatever that dude did, it worked. Clean, crisp production so you can hear every note and instrument, songs and subject matter that’s a touch more nuanced than “THE PAIN THE PAIN YOUR PAIN!”, and hey, still rocks faces. Good job, Rick Rubin. (This will be Rick Rubin’s last good work as of press time. Dude is responsible for this, this, and THIS.)

89.  Eagles of Death Metal – Peace Love and Death Metal (2004)

Funny story: While re-listening to this album for this list, Rachel deemed herself OVER Eagles of Death Metal and she never wanted to hear them ever again. She got over it, but it still cracked me up. Peace Love and Death Metal is riff city, population sleazy come-on’s. Jesse Hughes was just figuring out how to do this rock n roll thing on this one, but he was a quick learner. The production is a bit thin at times but the tunes are never less than solid and honest to the rock ethos of ladies, ladies, ladies.

88.  The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

My old roommate McCarty played “Seven Nation Army” for me the first time, screaming “Bass! This song has bass!”, the whole time. He played it on a loop right up until the release of Elephant, which didn’t change the world with additional “Bass!” but had more great songs from The White Stripes. I can’t emphasize how important this record seemed at the time of its release. I feel like it means less than a lot of people wanted it to mean. I just hear a great rock record, which I guess is all someone should hope for from these guys.

87.  The Rapture – Echoes (2003)

I wrote a review of Echoes for my college newspaper upon its time of release. I gave it 3 stars(out of 4) saying that I wished that it had more songs like “House of Jealous Lovers“. I mean, it has other great songs on it, but can you blame me? I was so young. In my old age I’ve come to appreciate “Olio” and “I Need Your Love” for the classics they are. But “House of Jealous Lovers” is still the shit.

86.  Lillix – Inside The Hollow (2006)

If you head to my Last.Fm page, you’ll see that Lillix is my sixth most listened to band. This is because of this album, which I could not stop listening to. I listened to it when I would work out, I listened to it before I went to bed, I listened to it so much yet I never got sick of it. Clearly. Inside The Hollow is a pop rock record, a little angsty and hung up on girl issues like bad boyfriends and that is fine. The songs are irresistible. It sounds like the kind of pop rock that Max Martin is going for when he crafts a “Since You’ve Been Gone”, but for a whole album. Shockingly, this never received an American release. Our loss(well not mine, I’ve heard it. Obviously).

85.  Passion Pit – Manners (2009)

Happy songs about sad things. That is Manners in a nutshell. Sometimes I can’t tell if Passion Pit are being optimistic or just putting on a brave face, but the enthusiasm is contagious. Also, they’ve clearly taken Justice’s lead on the whole child choir thing. Never thought that would be a source of quality music, but what do I know?

84.  Radiohead – Amnesiac (2001)

Remember when people dismissed this album as Kid A b-sides? Silly people. Get this: Amnesiac is awesome. “Pyramid Song“, “Knives Out“, “I Might Be Wrong“; this a Radiohead Hit Parade, people! What is also crazy is how listenable all those “experimental” tracks sound these days, turns out they are great too. Don’t sleep on Amnesiac.

83.  The Icarus Line – Penance Soiree (2004)

Listening to Penance Soiree, I cannot tell if these slithery bass-lines and screaming guitars are come-on’s or threats. On the one hand, when Joe Cardamone is asking you to “take off all your clothes”, that appears to be self-explanatory. And song titles like “Virgin Velcro” carry their sordid message right out the gate. But you consider opener “Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers“, which stutters awake like some long slumbering creature hungry for your soul, fear appears to be the logical option. So, let’s agree be frightened but a little aroused at the same time.

82.  Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)

Rockin’ The Suburbs is enjoyable simply because when you cut through his bullshit, Ben Folds can write some doozys. Rockin’ has more than its share; “Annie Waits“, “Zak and Sara“, “Fired“, “Not The Same“; classics all. He should make another album like this. One that is short on the bitterness and long on the fun.

81.  Mastodon – Leviathan (2004)

Mastodon crush. They craft these technical, intricate songs that are just metal massacres. Y’know when someone says, “These guys are the real deal”? Mastodon are the guys, and Leviathan is the real deal. Not to mention it is inspired by Moby Dick. Looks like we got ourselves some readers.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 100 – 91

February 5, 2010

When Pitchfork first announced their intention to rank the best singles and albums of the last decade I expressed admiration towards their efforts to attempt to complete such a herculean task. When they actually posted the lists, I realized that I just had to do one of my own because I couldn’t believe how low they ranked The Black Album. It took me awhile and I almost gave up a few times, but nobody likes a quitter. Embarking on my own journey through the last ten years of songs and full lengths, memories and stories flooded back. I’m not saying every album has a story attached to it that I’m going to tell you about, but more than a few gave me the ol’ warm fuzzies. I started with a list of around 150 albums and just snipped and prodded it down to a still massive 100. 100 albums that shaped me or just made me happy. Albums I sought to share with others and others shared with me.

100.Phoenix – United (2000)

“Too Young” was my going out Jam with a capital J in the winter and spring of 2004. First discovering it via the Lost In Translation soundtrack, I was thrown by the unbridled joy and that chorus where “…everybody’s dancing'”. The rest of United is just as joyful, where even the sad songs are actually fun, Thomas Mars barely able to keep a smile off his face. For a debut United isn’t tied down to a singular sound as Phoenix take dips in faster guitar rock(“Party Time”) and whatever the heck “Funky Squaredance” is. While I agree that they’ve expanded their sound on later records, United is so much more than a rough draft. It is a declaration of fun to come.

99.  Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

When I worked in at my college radio station, we were deluged with literal mountains of promo CDs. This is not surprising or unique. What was surprising and unique were the rare times a randomly grabbed CD (literally) pulled from the bottom of a teetering stack of jewel cases would not only catch your ear but have you grabbing people aside to play it for them. Make Up The Breakdown was discovered just like that, a random choice from a random pile of categorized albums that would later either be tossed or lazily marked “Alternative”. Catchy is the first word that comes to mind when talking about MUTB, jam-packed with hooks, sharp riffs and angular guitars back when people liked that sort of thing. Moving at a quick clip (31.9 minutes according to iTunes) Hot Hot Heat don’t waste any time, moving breathlessly from dance anthem to dance rocker and back again. The lead singer has one of those “Is this annoying? I’m not sure yet” voices that actually could be annoying but the music is so good you never really care if it is or not. I think the later albums affirm that it is annoying, but those albums suck so there you go.

98.  Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero (2007)

I can fully attest that for about two years I would swear up and down that this album wasn’t very good. I liked a couple songs but “something feels off”. I used to blame the drum sound, but I’d always head back and realize that that wasn’t the case. The drum sound is actually pretty awesome. But I always came back, threw it on again trying to figure out why it wasn’t clicking with me. When I began making this list I didn’t initially consider it because, well, I had already officially told people I didn’t like it. But why was I listening to it so much, even more than records I actually attested to like, such as those last couple Morrissey albums? I mean, Morrissey is arguably as big if not a bigger downer than Trent Reznor. Well, when I was giving this a listen a few weeks ago, not even considering it for this list the fucker cracked me in half. Right then I understood it all and Year Zero understood me. We were one and the universe moved in sync with our movements. Then I went to bed without writing anything down and here it is at #98.

97.  John Mayer – Room For Squares (2001)

John Mayer isn’t very likable now. On Room For Squares however, Mayer is empathetic and self-deprecating; witty and wistful.  The subject matter of awkward dates, childhood nostalgia, and the pressure of going out into the world as an adult and proving yourself are all topics that in the right hands can’t be anything less than appealing. I’ve been struggling to think of how to describe the music. Spare for the right moments and never overproduced, Room For Squares tends toward a sound I’ll call attractive and familiar. Plenty of tracks have an old familiarity to them, sounding less like original works and more like old standards passed down. The most important feature of the album is that John Mayer comes across as a guy still figuring it all out, making mistakes and trying to just be a better person. Jeez, how did that turn out?

96.  Cody ChestnuTT – The Headphone Masterpiece (2002)

Cody ChestnuTT is a guy who can do anything. That appears to be the main subject of The Headphone Masterpiece. ChestnuTT jumping from style to style, genre to genre proving not only that he can do r&b/rock/soul, he can do it well. At two discs, The Headphone Masterpiece is bloated; bloated with ideas, jokes, riffs, garbage, misogyny, apologies, family, and more than few mentions to ChestnuTT’s sexual prowess. It’s also very funny, catchy and frankly a goddamn masterpiece. All of ChestnuTT’s contradictions just make him more appealing and his decision to record the whole thing on a 4-track sounds like a dare that he won.

95.  Deftones – Deftones (2003)

The culmination of their career at that point, Deftones’ self-titled album is the band at the peak of their abilities, finally achieving what previous efforts had only hinted at. The ambient tracks that Chino always forces the band to put on their albums tend to be the weak moments(see Saturday Night Wrist) but on Deftones those tracks shine. Of course, no one who listens to Deftones is there for those slow moments, they want the throat scorching fury. “When Girls Telephone Boys” might be Deftones most blazing moment on record, while “Bloody Cape” possesses their most indelible riff and shrillest finale. A compliment. Considering their tendency to be heaped into the nu-metal category, Deftones is a defiant embrace of hard rock, metal and punk influences. Definitely a good look.

94.  Spank Rock – Yoyoyoyoyo (2006)

The beats make the difference between a wack track and a banger. You could be the dopest, freshest, wittiest, most energetic MC in the game, but if your beats suck, you suck. You could also be a pretty mediocre rapper and ride out to fame on some hot tracks. Those are just facts. The rhymes on Yoyoyoyoyo are largely focused on the familiar hiphop tropes of women and fame, but they hang over such innovative musical beds. Producer XXXChange isn’t exactly a genius but he’s certainly a master of making the best of a small budget(so I’ve read of this album’s creation). XXXChange doesn’t take any shortcuts to repeat himself so every track is a new idea. Be it the funk guitar and 60’s girl group vocals evoked on “Sweet Talk” or the video game sfx on “Rick Rubin”, XXXChange is seemingly a master of all styles. The mind reels of what he could do with a Kanye budget.

93.  Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song (2005)

I just love these bands full of energy and enthusiasm, writing songs about songs, and also songs about keeping people’s bodies in freezers. Is it bad that I’ve listened to this album a ton of times, know it’s songs extremely well but only can tell you it’s peppy, fun, and catchy?

92.  Clipse – We Got It 4 Cheap, Volume 2 (2005)

Pretty much the greatest mixtape ever. If you’ve heard better, don’t shame me, educate me. In the meantime, goddamn. The Clipse have a swagger and attitude that is the epitome of cockiness. While their sales might not echo it, Clipse are kinda the best, so this attitude makes sense. On this mixtape they rap over plenty of top shelf beats including “Daytona 500” and “Hate It Or Love It” and murder it all over the goddamn place. It’s seriously disgusting how good they are, and criminal how ignored they’ve become commercially.

91.  The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle (2003)

Greg Dulli is a indie rock god. He wrote Gentleman, he wrote “Uptown Again”; his legacy is written. Yet Blackberry Belle is arguably one of his finest works. A tribute to deceased friend Ted Demme, Blackberry Belle is as dark as any mid career Afghan Whigs album, but often quieter and more somber than the Whigs ever were. When Dulli suggests we “black out the windows/it’s party time” we know we’re in for some melancholy vibes. Yet tracks like “Teenage Wristband” evoke a sense of rebellion and nostalgia that is one could almost confuse with “fun”. Easily the least obvious eulogy for the creator of Yo! MTV Raps.

Spurred on by the world

October 1, 2009

Motivated by Pitchfork’s end of the decade lists and various other blogs devoted to counting down their favorite songs, albums, movies, and dance moves of the last ten years, Bad Guys Win will begin posting it’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the 2000’s. I’ve read a couple blogs that outline a criteria for their choices, talking about subjectivity versus objectivity and plenty other bullshit that sounds like someone covering their ass before they list off how much they love slow murder ballads and “Frontin'”. Own your shit. That’s what I plan to do. My list will consist of the one hundred albums I liked the most that came out between 2000 and the present. Albums I love that have good songs. That was my criteria. If you find as the list unfolds that you do not agree with all my choices and their placement on said list, remember that you are not me, I am not you, we are all unique individuals. Also, you are wrong, at least from my perspective. Feel free to disagree and make your own list, I would love to read it. Even if it makes me crazy. That’s what happened when I read the Complex Magazine list. I think their criteria was “Have it in by 5pm”.

Tron is for children, nerds.

August 14, 2009

445px-tron_poster

After reading a couple of reviews for Tron, I felt like an old churl. How could I not be charmed by the old fashioned computer graphics and the story of the little guy versus the corrupt Man? What can I say, Tron is corny. A bomb upon its release, Tron has grown a cult admiration, as a film that deals with battles inside a computer is wont to do. Tron plays best if you don’t try to think too hard and just enjoy Jeff Bridges performance.

Tron‘s most surprising aspect is that it is essentially the same old story you’ve seen and read a million times before, but in a computer game. And not even a very impressive one at that. Sure, the graphics were state of the art in ’82, I get that. But it makes the film look even more dated than films twice its age. Getting past that, the dialogue and performances are cheesy and laughable, with the exception of Bridges, who is certainly one of our finest actors. His presence is the only thing keeping the entire enterprise from becoming another MST3K episode. When he casts an incredulous pose when facing the most deadly game of jai alai, I had to smile.  Of course, Bridges has to take this all seriously or his character will die. I understand that. But the rules at play and the endgame of allowing a computer network to fully integrate with other programs as well as proving Jeff Bridges involvement in the creation of some successful video games comes down to much sound and fury signifying nothing. When two “computer programs” kiss, is it because they feel affection for each other? Are these evil computer programs actually “angry”? What do the guards and people talk about when they are milling about? Just about every character action in the computer world ellicted a “Wait, what?” response from me. But getting mad at Tron is fruitless. Sure the plot is derivative, Bruce Boxlietner’s performance is awkward and wooden, and they are clearly fighting with frisbees. That can be fun. For kids.

The Box and a Frisbee.

The Box and a Frisbee.

Because Tron is for children. I watched it because I had seen the dark and gritty new trailer for the sequel, which features ominous music, dark graphics and a decapitation. Whoops, you missed the point of your own movie. Based on this, I can’t wait for the Gummy Bears movie where they jump in the air for bullet time sword fights. You know, because we can.

Just two computer programs, nuzzling.

Just two computer programs, nuzzling.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra or “We’ll always have Paris- Wait! No we won’t, we blew it up.”

August 9, 2009

G.I. Joe does the badass walk.

"General Hawk, your beret is great. Just kidding, you look stupid."

For all the negative advance buzz, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a fun action movie. Dumb, overly violent, but still fun. Unlike the tedious Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or the painfully nihilistic Terminator: Salvation, G.I. Joe focuses on energetic action sequences that are filled with verve and edited with a nod towards coherence. That cannot be overlooked or overstated.

The plot involves the sale and stealing of a special metal eating nanobot system, so powerful it could hold the world ransom. The guy doing the selling and stealing is McCullen whose main beef is that his villainous ancestors had hot metal masks shoved on their faces, Doctor Doom style. He’s assisted by the Baroness, Storm Shadow, The Doctor, Zartan and a seemingly endless supply of grunts called Neo Viper’s.  They are challenged by the forces of good that is G.I. Joe, consisting of Duke, Ripcord, General Hawk, Breaker, Scarlett, Heavy Duty and Snake Eyes. Now, these names are either exciting your memory and evoking nostalgia or confusing you to no end. G.I. Joe: TROC does not go out of the way to properly introduce many of these characters. Instead, packed in between the action sequences we are treated to quick flashbacks that either function to explain character relationships or in some cases just let you know what a character was doing 20 years ago.

The action sequences are wild and woolly, with an amusing disregard for collateral damage, to the point where it becomes impossible to stifle thoughts of Team America: World Police. That said, I’m pretty sure this is the first action film in awhile to actively acknowledge the damage done, when an adviser meekly informs the president, “The French are really mad.” The big set piece is the chase through the streets of Paris that gets the French so angry, where we are treated to a ninja hanging onto a hummer, a lady on a motorcycle, and two guys in super suits (Delta-6 Accelerator Suits if you’re nasty) flipping cars and dodging missiles. It’s insanely over the top and delirious fun, which director Stephen Sommers has admittedly pulled off in the past. Sommers has one big weakness that has reared its head in all of his films, a tendency toward shoddy CGI. G.I. Joe is sadly no different, with a desert shot so cheap looking I thought they’d run out of money 15 minutes in. Luckily, this tends to be the exception. The Paris chase is particularly sharp looking, and a undersea battle holds out for the most part, probably thanks to the murky conditions.

Yup, looks great.

Yup, looks great.

The performances are all over the place. Dennis Quaid’s General Hawk seems way too old for this shit, and tends to talk as if he is speaking phonetically, unsure of the actual meaning of his words. Other times he sounds like he’s recovering from a stroke. It’s weird. Channing Tatum is another great example of the anti-presence phenomenon currently sweeping Hollywood. His Duke is a largely expressionless block of wood whose greatest emotional moment is riding a motorcycle to a funeral in the rain, wearing sunglasses. Apparently Sam Worthington was the first choice, which would have given us the same result, but with a slippery accent. I know some people are wondering about Joseph Gordon Levitt as The Doctor. The guy is clearly having a great time here, hamming it up under a strange breathing apparatus and talking in a voice that evokes a certain villain without doing a direct imitation. His encounter with another old G.I. Joe villain (who shall remain nameless) had me in stitches.  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost) plays Heavy Duty with a slight unhinged nature that the film surprisingly does little with. At one point he’s shooting two giant chain guns, laughing like a maniac, and I wanted more of that. Marlon Wayans is jokey jokester, not that grating but I never missed him when he wasn’t on screen. Rachel Nichols plays Scarlett with about as much intensity as she can muster, but can’t compete with Sienna Miller’s performance as the Baroness. Miller is the big surprise. By no means a breakout talent, she still more than held her own, projecting great menace and authority and most importantly, is crazy hot. Insanely hot. You don’t know how hot she is in this movie. And it’s all the hair and glasses (ok, and the boobs). She has some flashbacks as a blond sans specs and I could have given a shit. Later she’s spraying defenseless civilians with machine gun fire as blood drips down her face and I wanted her to have my babies.

Sexy specs indeed.

She needs glasses to better shoot you in the face.

But I’m not talking about the guy everyone wants to know about: Snake Eyes. First, he’s in it, and he’s awesome. Second, he’s awesome. From what I could tell from some reviews, people unfamiliar with G.I. Joe aren’t picking up on the awesomeness of Snake Eyes. Let me help you out: he’s a ninja who never speaks, can fuck you up with any weapon(or his hands!), and the only person who can match him is ANOTHER NINJA! That would be Storm Shadow. I read a review that made the backhand observation that two ninja’s fighting is “kinda cool”. Yes it is, asshole. So what’s your problem? “Two ninjas fighting is pretty awesome, and these ninja’s fighting are very awesome. But I dunno.” Rest assured, for all the changes made to character back-story and the amount of meathead Duke this film has, the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes material is A+. Storm Shadow is fucking people up with ninja stars in like every scene! It’s wonderful! He does that when he isn’t running up and down hallways WITH A MISSILE LAUNCHER.

Which leads me back to the topic of collateral damage. So many people die in G.I. Joe: TROC. One grunt is killed by a giant drill coming out of wall. One of those Neo Vipers has a grenade blow off his head. Zartan stabs a lady through the chest with a giant knife, and then essentially calls Storm Shadow a pussy(I KNOW!) I already mentioned The Baroness shooting civilians, but I failed to mention when they drop the Eiffel Tower on a bridge full of people. To paraphrase my good friend Gerard, “France, you got got!” The Paris chase has so many cars being thrown and flipped and not once do any of the Joe’s say, “These normal people are fucked!” Heck, the Joes can barely pay any regard toward the safety of fellow teammates. During the Paris chase, Snake Eyes has been assigned to hang on to the enemy Hummer and stab it. This doesn’t work out quite as planned and Mr. Eyes ends up hanging underneath the vehicle, at which point the pursuing Joe’s take it upon themselves to shoot a missile at the Hummer, with a quick precusor of “Hold on, Snake Eyes!” Yeah, hold on to the truck we’re shooting with a missile. I know he can’t talk but damn.

Speaking of damn, damn.

Speaking of damn, damn.

You might find this hard to believe, but some of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a little far fetched. Plenty of things come to mind, but the most egregious is a super plane that can fly from the Arctic to Moscow to Washington D.C. in about eleven minutes. I might need to check my math here Houston, but that might be fucking ridiculous. But whatever, this is intercut with a ninja battle and an underwater gunfight that resembles a Star Wars X-Wing battle. So before you get a chance to ponder just how fast Mach 6 actually is, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are back on screen and you’re thinking, “NINJAS! GOD YES!”

God yes.

God, yes.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra manages to evoke it’s source material better than any other film of it’s breed. Roger Ebert calls it “a 118-minute animated film with sequences involving the faces and other body parts of human beings.” Nailed it.  Also, ninjas. Can’t say it enough.

Post script: I showed up to my screening about ten minutes early, yet I sat through nearly twenty minutes of commercials, hosted by a young man named Bradford Howe. His teeth gritting delivery and dead eyes belie a man with nothing left to live for. It was torture. Also, I saw a myriad of trailers for films of all stripes, including Shorts and District 9. The trailer that evoked the biggest audience response: Old Dogs. What a world.

John Hughes changed your life.

August 6, 2009

When I read that John Hughes had died, I wasn’t immediately struck by any immediate feeling of loss. But looking over his immense list of credits on the IMDB, I was surprised by how many of his films were touchstones in my life.  Home Alone was one of the first films I recall as an event in my childhood, where everyone in my third grade class had seen it and loved it. Some kid even pissed his pants during it. For a while, he had the magic touch. Many of his films still bring me fond memories. Dutch, with Ed O’Neil attempting to muffle fireworks with his jacket and getting the back blown out. Uncle Buck, where John Candy tells the asshole boyfriend to wait a minute while he gets an ax out of his trunk. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you know the scene. They weren’t pillows. As a writer and director, John Hughes influenced an entire generation to buck authority, embrace their individual spirit, and maim house thieves. He will be missed.