Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life in Vacuum - Nothing Ever Stays Secret

You know when you've hit the big time? When bands approach you to review their new EP, that's when. This band came to me and asked if I'd review their album. That, my friends, is star power and critical success.

Or maybe they took a look at this website and said "Wow, this guy needs help" and threw me a bone. Either way, I was yet again introduced to a new and cool band thanks to the Internet.

I've been listening to this album for a few days now, getting it down and feeling out the band's style. My first and continuing impression is that Life in Vacuum is very much like a modernized Dead Milkmen. Although, admittedly, with more musical ability--no offense to the Milkmen, one of my favorite teenage bands.

Their lyrics are a little more thoughtful than the Milkmen, for sure. While their music isn't as technically advanced or as some of the progressive Prague bands like Tool or my recent favorite The Isosceles Project, it's not simplistic and lame either.

In fact, one of the drawing points of this band, for me, is their continual use of change-ups and creative sound-effecting with various instruments. Even after listening to this album in continual rotation (the EP contains only four songs), I'm not bored with it. It's that different.

Life in Vacuum is a little bit crazy, but not as crazy as System of a Down (another of my favs). They're a little bit nuts, but not as nuts as the Dead Milkmen. They're a little bit progressive, but not as progressive as Tool. In short, they're kind of like a lot of bands I like, but not like any one of them more than another.

They're unique.

Life in Vacuum might have to grow on you, but I think this new band will gain a following in the near future. They're definitely worth checking out. You'll find them on Myspace at this link.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Lives of Others

Awesome German-made movie set in the 1980s East Berlin. The plot follows a play write and his girlfriend, a leading actress. The main character, however, is a Stasi captain assigned to watch them.

This is definitely a movie worth watching. The film portrays the police state for what it is and the politicking that goes on when such apparatus are in place.

The main character, the Stasi man, is an idealist whose life revolves totally around his devotion to the state and his belief that his job is to protect its security. His idealism towards the state comes into question, however, when he sees the actions of the GDR's leader and his own superior officer.

During his surveillance of the couple, he begins to understand and empathize with them.

The movie is all about this man's journey and change of heart. It is extremely well done and the actor who plays the Stasi man (Ulrich Muhe) does a beautiful job of showing character and emotion without words.

This movie is definitely high on the list of great films and is well worth the watch. There is some brief nudity and the movie is in German with English subtitles.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Retro Review: Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A utopian world of socialism, genetic engineering, and mindless happiness is questioned by one of its inhabitants upon finding love. In this world devoid of individuality, Bernard Marx (the main character) finds himself questioning the world around him and on a quest to find what is missing.

What is missing is individuality and self-awareness, something which Marx has but does not realize. A truly fascinating look at a future which is both wonderful and terrible, this book should be on everyone's shelf.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Wrestler

The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke

To be honest, I didn't have a lot of expectations for this movie. I don't particularly like Mickey Rourke and didn't really think this flick could be that great and figured it was a lot of hype. It won some awards, though, and then a friend of mine said he'd seen it with his girlfriend and thought it was great.

So I got it and watched. I ended up watching it twice, back-to-back.

Two things stand out in this movie: Rourke is hideous to look at. I don't know what happened to the guy, but he's UGLY now. Strangely, that fits this movie perfectly.

The other thing is the overall cinematography and theme-setting. They try to set the story with some clips of what The Ram's (Rourke's character) life is like, but most of this is actually done through the lighting and locations. Excellent work there.

Turn out that Rourke isn't a bad actor either. The story line is fairly basic, but has a deep theme and strong cinematics. Rourke is in excellent physical condition and the wrestling actually, while well-done, is a background interest in the movie. I doubt he's actually "in the ring" for more than fifteen minutes of the whole film.

Mostly, the movie revolves around the character and those close-in around him. His prospective girlfriend (a stripper), his daughter (who he's neglected throughout her life), and his drug addictions ("juice," various pain killers). And, of course, the cusp of the movie: The Ram's failing health and lackluster career.

Overall, the movie is really well done and totally worth seeing. It's definitely rated R, though, so no kids. There are long nude scenes with the Ram's girlfriend (Marisa Tomei), being as she's a stripper. Nothing overly gratuitous and it fits right in with the plot and movie.

Definitely a movie worth seeing. Go get it!

Official Trailer:

The great song from Springsteen for the movie (much of the same footage, but the entire 4 minute song included):

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Best of the Destroyer (3 novels in one)

Best of the Destroyer by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

This book includes three of the early Destroyer novels, "Chinese Puzzle," "Slave Safari," and "Assassins Play-Off."

I have to confess that I'm a big fan of the Destroyer series, starring Remo Williams (Sheva reborn, the Destroyer) and Chiun, Reigning Master of Sinanju. Sure, they're "pulp" novels, but they're like no others. Halfway between comic books and deep-thought philosophical pieces, these are the greatest series of pulp novels ever written. Ever.

I was first introduced to Remo and Chiun through a book on tape back in the day. Then I saw the movie, which was pretty good, but not great. Then when I was a truck driver, I discovered the Graphic Audio Destroyer series. HOOKED!

Now that I'm no longer in a truck, I have started to discover the novels themselves. I started with this 3-book series to get an early introduction and to find out if the early books are worth reading.

Holy crap! They rock!

Murphy and Sapir manage to mix politics, mysticism, gritty real-world action, and tons of humor (dry and witty mostly) all into each book. Friikin' awesome. Of the three in this book, I think Chinese Puzzle is the best (it's book #3 in the series), but Assassins Play-Off has a lot to offer in the way of mixup and Chiun-based humor.

If you've been dubious about these books, have only seen the movie and judged the novels based on that, or have no idea what I'm talking about: you NEED to try these. They're available all over the 'Net (I got mine from a used Amazon seller). Definitely worth it.

Even if you don't like them, at least you gave it a shot. Trust me, though. You'll love 'em!

I've since bought 12 more books from the series. I promise not to fill this blog with reviews of them, though. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009


This movie was originally made for TV on BBC, but is one of the most well-made television movies I've seen in a long time. It's three hours long, so expect a long (but entertaining) sit.

If you aren't a fan of the Discworld novels from Terry Pratchett, then this movie is probably not going to be to your liking. You never know, though.

It's loosely Christmas-based. The satirical comparisons to our own Western stereotypes and rituals are hilarious and insightful, as are most of Pratchett's satire-laden fantasy novels in this series. The Discworld itself is a flat, dish-shaped planet that rides on the back of four elephants who in turn ride on the back of a giant sea turtle who swims through space. That's where things just get started.

Pratchett is endlessly humorous and full of surprises and funny comparisons. If he hadn't gone into novel writing, he would likely have given George Carlin and Mitch Headberg a run for their money on the standup circuit.

The story is basic, but full of little themes and great cinema from both the camera and the acting perspectives. The Hogfather (like Santa Clause) is a Yule deity that distributes presents on Hogswatch Night. He rides a sleigh pulled by a group of flying boars and wears red and white.

Well, the Assassins Guild of the city of Ank-Morporkh are commissioned to murder the Hogfather and employ their most efficient (and lunatic) assassin to do the job: Mr. Teatime, who'll quickly correct you with the pronunciation of his name as "Tay-a-tim-ey."

Death (appropriately named Mort) finds out about this and attempts to stop it, with the reluctant help of his niece. Most of the movie involves Death (you know, skull, bones, black garb, a scythe) masquerading as the Hogfather and Teatime's brilliant plan to go after the Tooth Fairy as an in-road to the Hogfather.

The movie must be seen to be fully appreciated. I highly recommend it and it's definitely family-friendly and fun for all.

Here's the first three minutes of the film, which pretty much lays out the humor therein:

Friday, June 5, 2009


This film stars Jason Statham, who in many ways has become one of my favorite actors. Mostly because of films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

This movie is at least as good as those two great films, though in a different way. While the other two are gangster films set in London and with a more indie-film feel to them, this one is set in Las Vegas and stars big names like Ray Liotta.

The plot is relatively simple, but extremely well done and the twists that go on will keep you going "What the..?" throughout. I had to watch it twice before it all came together for me. Most of it makes sense the first time through, but you notice some little things you didn't see before on a second run.

The basic plot is this: Statham plays a gangster who goes to prison rather than turn in his boss. After seven years in solitary, spending his time passing notes between the two men locked up next to him: a master chess player and a con artist, Statham is released. The other two released two years before him and Statham finds himself cleaned out. They knew his secrets and they emptied his accounts.

Starting from scratch, Statham rebuilds his little criminal empire and before long, he's getting into the big leagues. Meanwhile, Mr. Gold, a mysterious underworld gangster whom no one's met, but everyone fears, latches onto Statham's ex-boss, Ray Liotta's character.

At the same time, Statham decides to consider his options for revenge on his old boss. Thus, the plot ensues.

I won't give away the surprises, so I'll leave it to you to watch the film to get the rest.

This movie is highly recommended and well worth watching. It's on my short list of favorites.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Isosceles Project

I'm going to just let the cat completely out of the bag on this one. This band is the best band I've heard since I discovered Tool in the 1990s. Really. You all know that I consider Tool to be the greatest band of all time. Well, this one is right up there in the top 5 and may get into the top 3 when I've listened to them even more.

The band is from Canada, but I don't hold that against them. Their music is probably niche'd as "heavy metal" in the same way that Tool is, but it's definitely much more than that.

The Isosceles Project is not Prague Rock like Tool, but more of a progressive heavy metal instrumental group. If your favorite song is Metallica's Orion, like mine is, you'll love this group.

I'm probably completely hacking up the praise for the Isosceles Project, but I'm trying to get across not just what they play, but how great they play it.

Once more: this is the greatest band I've found in over a decade. Really.

Right now, they have no label and their album isn't available on Amazon or iTunes, but you can get it directly from their website at Their music is all over the Internet as well. I've embedded a YouTube of one of their songs below.