Tuesday, December 31, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 14. Arcade Academy: Untitled Acoustic Demos

14. Arcade Academy Untitled Acoustic Demo

This is the weirdest thing to appear on this list. Most of my write-ups as much as they are intended to be a peak into the inner workings of Matt Kelly (and a writing exercise to force myself to always have weekly content) it’s also intended to advertise and promote something I love. This is the first and only product that is physically impossible to own as it was never completely recorded and released.

During my last semester of college I had a serious break up through what I felt like was infidelity. I took the girl back (and then we broke up six months later, but that’s a moot point), during my heart-break I began talking to Mike Doyle of New Jersey Pop-Punk band Lanemeyer. I had met Doyle a year or two prior at a Weston/Lanemeyer reunion show. We talked occasionally about music but were never close friends. Regardless of this he happened to be online and thus became the person I vented too.

Doyle had gone through a similarly rough break up a few years before-hand. He had gone to a therapist and started writing his emotions out in some songs for his band at the time Arcade Academy. He sent me the demos to cheer me up (but also I’m sure for me to listen and give him opinions). The Demo is only 5 tracks, but it saddens me that more people won’t hear the five songs.

The opening track For Like Ever was my favorite. It begins with ‘Today I took all your things, your notes and our photographs/Dowsed them all, lit it up, watched our past fill up the sky in smoke’. Ben Folds covered similar themes in Smoke but regardless Doyle has set the ground work of a bad break up. One of my favorite lines in the album comes from this track in the lyric ‘And it’s all my fault/Cause I hate that we like the same songs’. There’s nothing worse than a break up that affects your enjoyment level of movies, books and songs, but it happens.

The next song I Need to Have a Chat With Doug Hopkins continues the as each day starts to feel better. Doyle begins reflecting on the negative aspects of their relationship how he ‘tried hard to impress’ and received ‘no love at all’. Meanwhile the next track I’d Rather Take a Bat to your Face is the angriest and spiteful of the five songs.

We see even more of the story in Hey California, Jersey’s Better Off when the mysterious and nameless girl seems to have gotten engaged after just seven months of her new relationship. The closing track Thanks Dr. DePaul ends on a happy note. Doyle has moved on, the power of songwriting has helped Doyle move on with his life. Ending with lyric ‘I have some songs that I will write and it makes this better/We stay up and follow our hearts’.

Doyle moved on and is now married. Meanwhile Arcade Academy broke up. While this demo was something that only a select few people have ever heard, it was one of the most important recordings I’ve ever heard. It got me through the first rough patch in the break up and Punchline: 37 Everywhere/Just Say Yes helped me through the final break up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 25. It's a Wonderful Life

Like most of the world I've been aware of this movie for as long as I can remember but I actually never saw it until a few years ago when I was 22.

The background to my viewing of this is crucial to everything that happened to me during my viewing experience. It was the week before Christmas, it came in the netflix, it was my first Christmas NOT living at home and my grandfather had died a few years earlier and vocally spoke his love of the movie in the past.

By the end of the movie I was crying my eyes out (thankfully late enough that non of my roommates saw). It's become part of my Christmas Tradition to watch this movie every year and without fail… I end up crying. It's that ending. It reminds me of every good hearted person in my life and the importance of friends and family. It is undeniably the most beautiful ending to any film (christmas or otherwise).

Yet I am the only person in my immediate family who has seen it from start to finish before. Weird.

Merry Christmas readers.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 24. Clone High: Snowflake Day A Very Special Holiday Episode

If I were to compile a list of the most painfully short-lived shows in TV history Clone High, USA would be in my top 5. One of the best examples of the shows satirical brilliance came in the Christmas special that never got to air (available only on DVD).

In the world of clone high it's been decided that to avoid showcasing a specific religion holiday they should celebrate the politically correct Snowflake Day. Without a doubt the most ridiculous holiday in TV history. It involves a pirate with a candy cane for a hand, getting spices and doing a yearly cabbage patch dance.

My favorite moment involves a parody of the Rankin/Bass christmas specials involving Snowflake Jack (the pirate I mentioned earlier) making Santa Claus, King Kwanza and Dredialstein to walk the plank.

If you can find a copy of this series on DVD you should purchase it immediately.

Monday, December 23, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 23. South Park "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" (Season 3: Episode 15)

I'm aware that most people love the Woodland Critter Christmas and consider it the best christmas special. While I enjoy how dark and demented it is, it doesn't make me laugh as much as the ridiculousness of Christmas in Canada or this special from Season 3.

Having sat and watched a ton of south park recently Season 3 is where I think South Park really started to begin to get more satirical and smarter (It would be full blown in it's witty satire/parody by season 4). This episode is one of my favorites of the whole season mostly because I love musicals and that's basically what this episode is.

The highlight is Christmas Time in Hell which is a song I MUST listen to every christmas now. Thanks Matt & Trey!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 22. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

It took me a long time to get around to watching this film compared to other christmas specials. I immediately fell for it (as most people did). There's so many random moments that crazy families can relate to but it also has the occasionally touching moment … for a few seconds.

The moment that I'll always love involves Clark going up in the attic and watching old home movies from Christmas past. It's a genuinely touching scene that comes to a comedic end when (with the help of his wife) he falls out of the attic.

That scene allow kinda sums up the movies entire tone, it's full of moments from your childhood you kinda remember but once you think it might be slightly sentimental they pull the rug out from under you (or open the attic door).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 21. Muppet Christmas Carol

Leave it to the muppets to make the most faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens novel while packing it with comedy, puppets and musical numbers.

This is best remembered for being the first project from Henson Productions after Jim Henson's death. It was based on an idea for Jim shortly after selling the Muppets to Disney. It's funny because while watching this there was so much I wanted to say and now all I want to say is go watch it!

I do want to call out one particular thing though, the song When Love is Gone. The song was cut from the theatric release for being too sad and serious for a kids movie. If you get the DVD watch the Extended cut, not only is the song beautiful but contains one of the best performance moments from Michael Caine as he sings along. The way in which he sings implies that while watching this moment from his past he is slowly remembering the exact words Belle said to him when she left him. It is simply heartbreaking.

Friday, December 20, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 20. Go

This one is a little bit of a stretch since the plot has nothing to do with Christmas. I mean there's Christmas elements (a Christmas rave, Katie Holmes talks about getting a present, one characters car is decked out in tinsel and christmas lights) but whatever I love this movie.

The film tells 3 seemingly unrelated tales that end up connecting in the end. It's stylishly shot, wickedly funny and constantly bizarre.

The three stories involve a group of teenagers going to a Christmas themed rave, a crazy trip to Vegas and 2 actors having to work undercover for the police.

If you've never seen this before GO out and pick it up (see what I did there!)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 19. Elf

I was late to the party for Elf. I had no real interest in the movie. Now that I've seen it I can't even explain why I thought that. It's a hilarious family film that's also one of the few Christmas movies I think you can watch any time of the year. This was also the film that started my crush on Zoey Deschanel that went on for about 5 or 6 years.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

25 DVDs of CHristmas - Day 18. Pee Wee's Christmas Special

Another special from my aunt's old VHS tape. My friend Eric has frequently called this the "Gayest Christmas Special ever" and he means it in the most positive of aways. Everything in this special is campy, over the top, flashy and filled with some of the strangest guests ever.

Where else could you find Oprah, Magic Johnson, Frankie & Annette, Little Richard, K.D. Lang, Charo and many more all in one 45 minute special?

The most interesting thing is that the special explicitly talks about the birth of Jesus in the middle of the special. Something that you rarely see in christmas specials past or present (the only other one I can think of was Charlie brown).

Regardless it's one of my all time favorite specials.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 17. Home Alone 2

I remember seeing this movie as a kid. I loved it at the time and probably even said it was better than the original. In fact a few weeks ago when I posted Home Alone 1 I immediately had a few people tell me that they prefer the sequel. While I love this movie, it's not as good as the original.

It's a fun and I laugh but it does something I hate that sequels do frequently. It's basically a carbon copy note for note of the original film. What bothers me is simply that while there are touching moments; those moments don't hit me on the same emotional level as Kevin's conversation with his neighbor Marley.

That being said the funhouse of boobie traps in this sequel is much better and more crazy. Regardless of all that, it's still a christmas classic.

Monday, December 16, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 16. Silent Night, Deadly Night

It's been a while since I covered another Horror Christmas film. Silent Night, Deadly Night is definitely the most notorious slasher film of the 80's. Sure it's not as popular as Freddy or Jason, sure there were a handful of Christmas horror films before this one, but this one created massive panics across the US. Mothers protested for the film to be pulled and for a few years it was banned in 48 states (according to the cover of the VHS tape I purchased).

What's particularly ironic is that the movie itself is noting more than okay. It has a decent psychological element, a handful of good deaths, a bizarre rape sequence and plenty of boobs but it's nothing better or worse than other films of the same year. If it wasn't for the controversy it'd probably have been forgotten and maybe we'd have been spared it's 3 unwatchable sequels (I'm actually a huge fan of part 5: The Toy Maker). 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 15. Chuck "Versus Crown Vic" (Season 1: Episode 11)

I never watched Chuck before this week. It all started the week before Thanksgiving when the show came up in conversation. My friend and I were recording a podcast and he mentioned that I reminded him of Chuck. He then began to explain the show and it sounded interesting.

Flash forward to Black Friday and the first season was $7.99 so I figured it was worth giving a shot. I immediately fell in love with the show. Now here's the tough part about discussing this episode. I want to avoid spoilers for people who've never seen this cult show and this episode is kinda the middle of a story arch, so I'm gonna do my best summarize without spoiling much.

First... breaking down the premise. Chuck is basically a Geek Squad member (they call it Nerd Herd), through a random email his brain basically downloads every government secret ever. He now must help the CIA solve various cases with his knowledge of everything. As a cover a sexy secret agent named Sarah poses as his girlfriend. Chuck has feelings for her (and it's implied she feels the same). There's three story arches in this episode.

Story 1: Chuck and Sarah trying to find an international counterfeiter

Story 2: Chuck's geeky best friend Morgan meeting his girlfriend Anna's parents for the first time ever.

Story 3: The planning of the annual Nerd Herd Holiday Party.

All 3 of these stories tie themselves together quite nicely.

Not much to say about Christmas in this episode (beyond the usual time spent with friends), I just recommend watching the show.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 14. A Garfield Christmas Special

This was another one of the specials found on that VHS tape my aunt made me all those many years ago. Garfield & Friends (and even the comic strips) don't specifically stand the test of time, but this is not the case with with Christmas Special. I have the same feelings when I watch it now at 28 that I did when I was 8.

The jokes still make me laugh, but more importantly the sweet moments are still sweet. The most difficult scene for me to watch (more so since my grandfather died 12 years ago) is the sequence where Grandmom rocks in her rocking chair talking to Garfield about dealing with the loss of her husband. It's a pure and beautiful moment in a cartoon about a "talking" cat (I realize no one hears what Garfield says).

Friday, December 13, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 13. Scrooged

I will always remember this movie as the first christmas film to actually scare me. I was really into the movie being a Ghostbusters fan as a kid. I was never too bother by the Ghost of Christmas Future like you'd assume but more so from the frozen dead body in the middle of the film. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Scrooged (as the title would imply) is a modernized version of A Christmas Carol. It's a combination of wacky 80's comedy and horror film really playing up the darkest elements of Dickens beloved tale.

I've read that the original tone was to be much darker and I'm always curious what that cut would have ended up being like. Regardless this is another eternal Christmas classic.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 12. Charlie Brown's Christmas

I don't think there's any special that's aired every year as long as Charlie Brown Christmas special. IT's basically an institution of Christmas now. That being said, it doesn't really hold up very well. Despite the fact that I consider this special to be the longest 18 minutes ever and not very good, it's not Christmas if I don't take the time to watch it.

Not much to say about this particular special as I'm really not a fan. Not all Christmas traditions are good.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 11. Home Alone

John Hughes had a ton of different moments in his career. This is extra impressive given that his career was relatively short. He had his Teen Flick period, followed by his films about love/marriage and then finally his family film phase. It's difficult to pick a best movie for him but Home Alone was definitely his best Family Film and his most profitable film.

It's funny that as a kid I found most of this movie boring except for the ending with all the booby traps. Now as an adult that element is my least favorite part. Now what makes me love the film is the beautiful dramatic pieces, specifically involving the lovely moment shared between Kevin and his creepy neighbor.

Last year I watched this as I sat alone in the house wrapping presents. It was the most lovely Christmas Eve I could have possibly imagined.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 10. Muppet Family Christmas

This is my all-time favorite Christmas special. No competition. I watch it every year and own it on VHS and DVD (Region 2 so I had to burn a copy of it to play on my DVD player). It's also one of the specials on the VHS tape that my aunt made for me all those years ago.

As a kid I loved it because I loved the muppets. As an adult I still love it because of the Muppets but also because of how much I love Jim Henson in general. There's not a moment in this special that doesn't fill my heart with joy.

At the end when Jim Henson begins washing dishes and says "I like when they're having a good time" I can't help but get a little teary-eyed. This is what Henson loved to do with his painfully short life and this is everything he loved in one magical special.

Monday, December 9, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 9. Community "Intro to Knots" (Season 4: Episode 10)

Season 4 of Community was a bit of a disappointment. Without Dan Harmon there was definitely something missing. While there were good moments and good episodes none of them were as entertaining as any of the previous seasons. That being said I still enjoyed season 4's christmas episode (despite not being nearly as good as the claymation or Glee christmas episodes)

The backdrop of this episode is the gang gathering for a party. Annie has discovered they failed their history paper and they work together to kidnap their professor and try to get a pass grade out of it.

It contains various other stories including Chang being a spy, Dean living next door to Jeff and everyone bringing gifts to the party except Jeff.

If you already like community you've seen this episode, if you've never seen community this is not a good starting episode.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 8. Beavis and Butthead's Christmas Special

There was no other cartoon my mother disapproved of more than Beavis & Butthead. The only time I was allowed to watch this show was at christmas. I always wasn't allowed to watch it technically but since every Christmas Eve I'd go to a family party and all the kids were allowed to watch the special (except me) my mom would let it slide so I could at least try to fit in (Thanks Mom!)

There's no new ground here. It's the same old B&B (2 shorts, music video commentary) just with a few little skits of Santa Butthead. The highlight of the show is their commentary to Buster Poindexter's Zat You Santa Claus. I've met a ton of people who know all the words to this song and I can only assume it's because of this Christmas special.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 7. Parks & Recreation "Citizen Knope" (Season 4: Episode 10)

Parks and Recreation started off as one of the worst TV shows I'd ever seen. It's a good thing the first season was short because those first episodes are nothing but a terrible Office rip-off with selfish and unlikable characters.

Season 2 they figured it out. Suddenly you had a show about narcissistic characters but they cared about each other still. While it's laugh-out-loud funny, it's also got plenty of moments that will choke you up and make you bite your knuckle. No episode ends as lovely as their Christmas episode Citizen Knope.

Christmas is far from the central focus but much like Millions the underlying theme is season of giving. In the beginning of the episode main character Leslie Knope delivers christmas gifts to each one of her coworkers. Their joyful reactions prove that she knows her friends better than anyone but it's the ending where her friends come together to give her an equally perfect gift that always chokes me up just slightly.

I don't want to reveal the ending as it's a major plot point to the season but if you were turned off by that first season, I strongly recommend powering through it and enjoying what is now one of the best comedies on television.

Friday, December 6, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas: Day 6. A Claymation Christmas

When I was a little kid my aunt made me a VHS tape of all the Christmas specials that aired that year. I would watch it all year round. It's part of why I love Christmas so much. Many of the things I'll discuss over the next couple days I first saw on that video, this being the first one I've mentioned from it.

No one could have predicted how massively popular the California Raisins would end up being. I remember I had tons of Raisin memorabilia including toys and the Meet the Raisins TV Special on VHS. So of course my aunt figured I'd enjoy this special.

As a kid I always loved the California Raisins and We Three Kings segment. But as I've grown up I've realized that the two segments I found most boring (Oh Christmas Tree and Joy to the world) are visually the most impressing.

This special may no longer come on TV every year, but I certainly watch it every year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 5. Millions

Danny Boyle is one of the finest directors of this generation and while he's made an impressive collection of films full of beautiful camera movement and graphic visuals (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later come to mind) his best film was the children's film Millions.

The film is a Christmas movie in the same sense Love Actually is. The story is not focused directly on Christmas but it takes place during the last week of December. Beyond that it's heartwarming story reminds us of what makes Christmas great. It's really not the getting but the giving.

Alex Etel is absolutely charming in his acting debut and it's a true shame he's done so little after this (only a handful of movies and TV films). It's a beautifully crafted and unique look at childhood innocence, dreams and faith.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 4. Merry Christmas Mr. Bean

When I was a kid this was one of those Christmas Specials that I used to watch every year. There's a ton of great memorable moments but the most classic segment is obviously Bean getting his head stuck in the Turkey but that's not my favorite segment.

The highlight of this special is a sketch where Bean is shopping and finds a nativity set in the store. He immediately begins to play with various other toys including a Dr. Who Dalek, a T-Rex and a tank. The segment ends with an angel (with a magnet attached) air lifts the baby Jesus toy from the manger scene.

This was the first time in many years I sat down and rewatched it. It still holds up to all my childhood memories.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 3. Scrubs "My Own Personal Jesus" (season 1 episode 11)

This is the first of what will be a few random TV show Christmas Specials to pop up on this list. The first season of Scrubs is basically a blueprint of doing a successful Dramedy. While the first few episodes are funny right away in episode 4 they slam you with "My Old Lady" one of the most beautifully sad episodes of any comedy series out there.

A few months later they hit us with this lovely Christmas special. While many TV Christmas specials have some issue a character must overcome Scrubs goes that extra level of making one of our beloved characters Turk struggling with his faith. Turk is a faithful christian in the beginning of this episode and fills the hospital with christmas cheer. However his love of the season (and belief in God) is destroyed when he works Christmas Eve and has to deal with lots of death and pain and sadness.

While he is depressed, fellow doctor Elliot Reed is panicked when she is rude to a young girl named Meredith who is 9 months pregnant. Meredith disappears shortly afterwards and Elliot is terrified she did something drastic. It's only when Turk suddenly knows where Meredith is and is able to help her deliver the baby that his faith is restored.

This episode continues to show Scrubs' amazing way that they were able to blend sincere drama and laugh out loud comedy while being able to remain grounded in reality.

Monday, December 2, 2013

25 DVDS of Christmas - Day 2. Santa's Slay

Anyone guess this one yesterday? Congrats you know my sick sense of humor and shitty DVD collection.

So I've known of this movie since it first came out. But I refused to believe it was any good. Then I'd see it pop up on "Horror Films Better Than Expected" lists and my friend purchased it and raved about it. 

Last christmas I finally watched it and I couldn't believe how much fun it was. It's so over the top, Bill Goldberg is completely intense and the plot line is so beyond bizarre that it's impossible not to be charmed by it's absurd nature.

While I can't recommend this to everyone if you like horror films (specifically so bad, its good) you should do yourself a favor and watch this crazy shit.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

25 DVDs of Christmas - Day 1 GREMLINS


So I'm gonna pull the curtain back on this blog a little bit. I typically watch and review stuff a few days in advance. Since I didn't want to start doing the Christmas thing till after Thanksgiving I decided to get a jump on these 25 movies I'd start with something not explicitly christmas. What I'm saying is... today and tomorrow are horror movies that take place at Christmas. Feel free to try to predict tomorrow's movie.

Gremlins is one of those movies that takes place at Christmas but never feels specifically like a Christmas movie. Which is kind of weird when you consider how much of the plot revolves around Christmas. Beyond the snow and the fact that everyone is watching different christmas specials throughout the movie the two biggest plot points are because of the holiday.

First, Gizmo is a christmas gift. Secondly, the boy delivering the christmas tree (Corey Feldman) is the one who gets Gizmo wet causing him to multiple. 

This film is still a ton of fun all these years later but I still like the Sequel more (as I have ever since I was a kid). This film is a little too serious at times and the puppets while well done aren't nearly as cool as the bizarre mutations we get in the A New Batch.

Not a Christmas classic by most standards I still enjoy watching it every year!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 15. Empire Records

15. Empire Records

When I was about to start high school, I discovered Clerks and it immediately became my favorite movie at the time. As a freshmen I was a nerdy TV Studio/Stage Crew kid and I never really expanded outside of that (except the occasional newspaper meeting). While working stage crew my freshmen year I was talking to another movie nerd in the school’s production of Anything Goes. His name was David Edwards and I don’t think I ever had another conversation with him but in our brief conversation of favorite movies he said ‘Clerks is pretty good, but believe me when I say Empire Records is the greatest movie ever made.’ Based on that recommendation, I rented it over the weekend.

Empire Records is not the greatest movie ever made, it’s not even a particularly good movie from a stand point of story, camera work or even acting. But all of that is a moot point, it’s all about fun. Empire Records is Clerks in a record shop, however unlike Clerks which looks like a miserable filming schedule, Empire Records looks like a group of young unknown actors/actresses (and Liv Tyler) having the time of their lives.

The whole movie is told within 24 hours. Late at night Empire Records employee Lucas is closing up the store. While fooling around he discovers plans to turn the mom and pops record store into a corporate MegaRecords store. Lucas decides to take matters into his own hands and drives to Atlantic City to gamble the profits of that night in order to save the records shop. Instead he loses everything.

The next morning store manager Joe has to deal with the owner Mitch screaming and yelling about the money, shoplifters and all the crazy anti-authority antics of the employees. Lucas turns into a philosophical spouting prophet, punker Mark wants to form a band, A.J. wants to tell Corey that he loves her, but Corey wants to have sex with pop superstar Rex Manning who’s doing a signing in the store that day. Meanwhile Debra is suicidal and picking fights with Berko and Gina (the slutty employee and Corey’s best friend).

The true star of the movie however is good old fashion rock and roll. Empire Records (much like Singles) is packed with songs that all represent the 90’s. The 90’s was a time period were one radio station could play a rap song, an acoustic song, a heavy metal song and a punk song back to back and no one said anything. Empire Records acts as a music time capisle. Sadly the soundtrack is filled with the most forgettable songs from the movie.

The dialogue is funny and quick and despite some really awful acting here and there every character is likable. Lucas and Mark easily becoming the best characters however with one liner after one liner.

Empire Records is an incredible film. Incredible in the sense that within a mere 100 minutes the film manages to represent an entire season of Beverly Hills 90210. There’s drug addiction, family issues, thief, sex, love and rock and roll. 

Be warned, avoid the ‘Special Edition Directors Cut’ if you can. It alters some of the best scenes in the original with less than stellar versions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 15. Steel Train

15. Steel Train

The first time I heard of Steel Train my friends were making fun of them for being signed to Drive-Thru and with good reason. At the time Drive-Thru was all pop punk bands and then suddenly they book a indie-folk duo. While I enjoyed the band it was definitely a misplaced choice. I really didn’t pay them much attention and neither did Drive Thru.

In 2010 when I went to Los Angeles for San Diego Comic Con and Jonathan London played me this self-titled record. It was like hearing a completely new band. Perhaps it was Jack being a member of fun. or just a natural progression but the acoustic duo was now a full fledged indie rock outfit. 

The opening song Bullet I once read get described as “making you nostalgic for summer events that hadn’t happened”. I can’t think of a better phrase to describe the entire record really. Each song is filled with so much personality and unique musical style that you’re drawn in and you wish you experienced Jack Antonoff’s life.

Songs like You and I Undercover and Behavior belong on movie soundtracks. The entire record is the most have album that almost no one even took notice of. It’s a shame.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 16. Say Anything ...

16. Say Anything

For years and years I knew the Say Anything poster. A man standing outside with a Stereo over his head. I knew the scene, I knew the song and I knew literally nothing else. People would constantly tell me how great the movie was and how much I’d love it. So when I finally bought a DVD player (about 2 years later than the rest of the world) and saw it for $6 on DVD at Target I decided to buy it without knowing much about it.

I fell in love with this movie almost immediately.

I completely and utterly understood exactly why so many people loved this movie. I became obsessed with this film and watched it repeatedly and obsessively. There’s so few things to dislike about this film. It’s an 80’s film that excluding a few outfits doesn’t look or feel 80’s, it’s a teen flick that’s far deeper and more emotionally driven than most teen flicks and the acting is far better than most films of it’s kind.

John Cusack is so amazingly perfect in this film that I completely understand why Chuck Klosterman dedicated an entire chapter in his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs based on it. Cusack’s Lloyd Dubler is the person I wish I could be and Diane Court is the girl I wish I could have. I could never understand why I never found Ione Skye attractive in anything else but yet in this she is the end all and be all of sexual perfection.

This is an amazing movie plain and simple. Go see it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

100 Albums That Made Me Love Music - 16. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

16. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This album is frequently debated as being one of (if not the) greatest albums ever made. I don’t argue that for a second. There’s debate also on if it’s the best Beatles album (frequently picking fights with The White Album, Revolver or Rubber Soul). This one is an easy answer for me... yes this is the best beatles album.

I don’t have any issues with the previous or later albums by the Beatles but this is in my mind their undisputed masterpiece. While all their records are classic and are filled with memorable (and culturally significant) songs there’s always a few songs that just don’t work for me. Sgt. Pepper’s is one of those rare Beatles records where every single song works. It was a lightening in a bottle moment where every one of the Fab Four’s ideas worked out.

This is the album that made me appreciate the Beatles. I always liked them and my dad had all their records. I rarely listened to full records though, just individual songs. However a few years ago I decided to purchase all the Beatles albums. The first one I got was Let it Be because Across the Universe is my favorite Beatles song. I had a very mixed reaction to the record as a whole. I can hear their fighting and completely understand why it ended up being their last record.

However when I heard Sgt. Pepper’s I understood why they are the greatest band of all time. That’s not just nostalgia or over-hyping... they genuinely are the greatest band of all time (writer Chuck Klosterman calls them one of the most accurately rated bands in history). Why are they so beloved and incredible? Look no further than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They cover so many various genres of song in 12 tracks and do each one justice.

Be it the kinda punky/metal sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s, the circusy acid trip sounds of Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite or the Indian sounds of Within You Without You they are successful in every song. 

However there are two songs in particular that I adore. One is a cheesy little love song from McCartney called When I’m Sixty-Four. It’s a throwback to dixieland style love songs and while it occasionally gets flake for being lame and hookey, I adore it. 

The other song, however, is arguably the greatest song in music history and definitely the best song in the Beatles Catalogue (although across the universe is still my favorite beatles song). That song of course is A Day in the Life.

It’s hardly even a song. It’s an experience. You see two people’s lives through the lyrics, the song changes styles and tempos and builds to a final bang of a E chord on the piano. Quite possibly the most famous final note of any piece of rock music the album comes to a close (if you don’t include the last like 10 seconds for weird trippy noises)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 17. Swingers

17. Swingers

I don’t know what I thought this movie was about but I’ve always known of the poster and the title. However it wasn’t until my freshmen year of college that I finally watched it. I still don’t know why I wanted it in the first place, but I’m glad i did.

The story is follows Mickey a down and out actor who just broke up with his girlfriend of six years. His various friends try their best to pull him out of his funk by taking him to vegas, going golfing and hitting up clubs. The film is mostly plotless; focusing more on Mickey and his friends than a general plot. However the film is drawn from Jon Favreau’s own experiences with his best friend Vince Vaughn. 

While it’s basically just a collection of random comedic moments from his life it manages to be relatable to most people. It helped with the mainstream swing revival, was the launchpad for it’s cast, writers and director and put phrases like “you’re money” into the every day conversation of many people (including myself).

Simple, funny and well done, Swingers is a film to watch again and again and again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 17. Further Seems Forever: The Moon is Down

17. Further Seems Forever: The Moon is Down

I didn’t know who Chris Carrabba was when Further Seems Forever first came out. At the time all I knew about them was their logo on the Tooth & Nail website was a parody of the Back to the Future logo.

Then Dashboard Confessional happened and everyone knew who Chris Carrabba was, but I still didn’t really care. It wasn’t until I heard Snowbirds and Townies on a comp. I immediately went out and purchased the album based on that song alone. In the end it turned out to be the worst song on the album.

I immediately was drawn to every element of this record. The lyrics are gorgeous and more incredibly the music is a beautiful compliment to the words. The stand out tracks for me are New Years Project and Just Until Sundown. After all these years it continues to be the best vocal performance in Carrabba’s career and the best music the band ever produced.

After his successful solo career blew up Carrabba left the band for a decade while they tried various other singers. A few years ago the band’s original lineup returned and while I’ve yet to hear their new music I’ve heard good things.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 18. Freaked

18. Freaked

When I was a kid my cousin Dave and I used to hang out at my grandfather’s house for at least a week every year. We’d watch movies, go to the CD store and just talk about forming a band (Dave played the drums). One day I showed up and we had the TV on cinemax, that day we saw the trailer for Freaked, a film neither one of us had ever heard of. We decided we NEEDED to see that movie when he aired that night.

There we were at 10:30 at night sitting on the couch, exciting but not fully prepared for what we were about to witness. It starts off with an insane claymation opening credits sequence followed by one of the most confusing opening lines in cinema “We repeat, the flying gimp has been destroyed, you may return to your homes”.

The film just gets weirder and more bizarre from there. When the movie concluded Dave and I were speechless. Neither of us had laughed so hard at a movie as we did at that point. We both knew this was already one of our favorite films ever made. Packed with more weird creations than Jabba’s Palace the film is an eye-opening slapstick comedy.

I appeared on an episode of the Greatest Movie Ever! Podcast where I was forced to defend this movie. It’s hard to defend any comedy (specifically something as anti-comedy as this film) beyond ‘well I laughed’. I can’t put my finger on what makes this particular movie better or worse than another movie, there’s something about the “I Don’t Give a Fuck” style of humor. This film knew it was going to be a cult classic before a single camera started filming. Alex Winter and Tom Stern brought their demented sense of humor found on their MTV show Idiot Box to the big screen, sadly 20th Century Fox wanted nothing to do with this movie and quickly squished it.

Both Stern and Winter became obscure writers/directors until recently, Winter never really came out into the spotlight until the recent few years with some directing projects and discussing Bill & Ted 3 while Tom Stern wrote two scripts that were totally rewritten to his displeasure (Pinnochio’s Revenge & An American Werewolf in Paris) before getting work with The Man Show and Andy Milonakis Show. 

Few films have had this level of Anarchy. It’s only comparable to films you’d find in the Troma library. The film remains one of my all time favorite films. When I meet someone who also is familar with the song and can quote with me I have an immediate bond with them.

Styrofoam Cup

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 18. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

18. Modest Mouse: Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Modest Mouse was mentioned earlier on the list at #59. The fact that their two newest albums are the only Modest Mouse entries is sure to piss off multiple Modest Mouse fans. While I love their early work (specifically The Lonesome Crowded West) it was their later more pop-ier sound that I prefer.

By 2004 I had all but given up on the radio preferring to just listen to CDs. So unlike people who discovered Modest Mouse when they heard Float On on the radio I had no idea that song existed until one day after work. In high school and college I worked at an old folks home called Lima Estates, since at least half the employees all came from the same high school we’d car pool to save gas. It was while I was in my friend Holly’s car that i heard Modest Mouse for the first time.

When she picked me up she was blasting Bury Me With It and I instantly fell in love with the quirkiness of the song. I immediately went out and purchased the album with my next paycheck and quickly fell in love with the album. 

The CD begins with a horn introduction that we will hear again later in the album on the song The Devil’s Workday. The horns lead into The World At Large, a simple song strung around different repeatetive guitar parts and random percussion instruments. The atmospheric and relaxed sound leads into their unstoppable hit single Float On. Lead Vocalist Isaac Brock said the song stemmed from his desire to write at least one upbeat song.

Float On is followed by the albums second single Ocean Breathes Salty which was always my least favorite song on the album. It is a catchy song in it’s own way but of all the songs on the record it definitely wouldn’t have been my pick for the follow up single. The song does lead into Dig Your Grave, which is a twelve second sound clip that we’ll hear again in Satin in a Coffin later in the album.

The next song is Dance Hall, it’s what I would have picked as the second single. It’s the fasted and craziest song on the album, but it’s repeatetive chorus and musical refrain would have definitely lead to radio gold. As for what the song is about, I haven’t the slightest clue.

The album begins to slow down a little with the song Bukowski. I’m not an atheist and typically find most atheists as unbearable as any fundimentalist Christian. I typically find “atheist comedians” and overly “atheist themed” songs as annoying as must christian music. That being said, I adore Bukowski. Isaac Brock actually tries to understand how a God could allow things to happen and questions things that happen in society. It is the perfect campaign piece to the next track Devil’s Workday.

The album closes with The Good Times Are Killing Me which I like to describe as a ‘demented beach boys’ sound. Is nice closer to the album.

I purposely skipped over a few tracks near the end including my two favorite songs. Here’s why. Track 10 is a Song called The View, somehow it took me 6 years to actually HEAR this song. I remember I was driving home from work one day listening to the album and noticed an incredible hook that I some how missed. “As life gets longer, awful feels softer, it feels pretty soft to me. If it takes shit to make bliss well I feel, pretty blissfully.” This lyric just hypnotized me and i kept listening to this song and singing it over and over again. 

The only other song on this album to captivate me like that was track 12 Blame it On the Tetons. This is where I’ve always felt the album should have ended. while I like the three tacks after it “Black Cadillacs”, “One Chance” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me”. Blame it on the Tetons has everyone you want out of a closing track, including a beautiful piano piece while the song fades out.

Unlike many of the other records on this list I don’t have any MAJOR memories that attach to this album behind driving home from work like I mentioned earlier. Regardless this album I’ve listened to hundreds of times and it has yet to feel old or dated. Definitely an album to pick up if you’re new to Modest Mouse.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 62. Monster Blood IV

Book 62: Monster Blood IV

It amazes me that I loved the first Monster Blood book so much but lost so much interest in the future installments.

Technically this isn’t exactly Monster Blood but it follows the same characters from the series and focuses on a different slime in a can that goes wrong. 

The simple version is that Evan, Andy and Kermit are all back again (along with bully Conan). They find a can of blue slime which turns into creatures that suck water from everything causing them go to expand and multiple. The more water the drink the angrier they get until eventually the eat each other.

In the end Bully Conan eats the slime and has multiplied into 4 meaner Conans.

And that’s how the Goosebumps franchise ends. Sort of disappointing based on how much I loved the last two books.

THE BAD: It’s just not the most interesting or memorable book so kind of a weak final book.

THE GOOD: I like that they changed up the Monster Blood story and I actually enjoyed the ending.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Day of Goosebumps - Book 61. I Live In Your Basement

Book 61: I Live In Your Basement

Much like yesterday’s Werewolf Skin this book was on a ton of “Best Goosebumps Books” lists. Holy shit they did not lie.

Now is this a good book? Not exactly. It tends to have similar twists and turns as many other books and it’s full of fake outs (which usually I hate) but the fake outs have an overly surreal aspect to it.

So Marco gets hit in the head by a baseball bat and wakes up in his living room with no memories of what happened between getting hit and waking up (although he apparently was in the Hospital). He keeps getting weird phone calls from Keith a boy who claims to live in the basement. 

Marco starts seeing Keith, but whenever he goes to show him to someone Keith disappears. A Doctor wants to remove his brain to examine it and a girl throws up until she flips herself inside out.Then Marco walks up still in the hospital, and the doctor rips his tongue out. And he walks up again.

He gets sent home where Keith attacks him and wakes up... only for us to discover that these were all Keith’s dreams. Keith is a Monster (who has a human form) that lives in Marco’s basement. He was the person hit with the baseball bat and has been having bizarre dreams ever since. 

THE BAD: The twist has definitely been done ALOT this round (specifically in The Blob Who Ate Everyone) but I enjoyed it.

THE GOOD: Unlike previous books, Stine takes full advantage of the dream world and puts surreal shit in this. I was hooked the entire time. I knew I had to be reading someone who was dreaming, that was obvious but it’s what made it so entertaining. Everything was so bizarre it could only exist in a dream.


31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 60. Werewolf Skin

Book 60: Werewolf Skin

So this book appeared on a lot of “Best Goosebumps Book” lists and I have to agree. Beyond the fact that it’s a fun little werewolf story (which there aren’t nearly enough of in the Goosebumps Series) it also has possibly my favorite book cover of the 62 books.

The story follows Alex Hunter who is visit his Aunt and Uncle in Wolf Creek while his parents are in France. He’s warned to avoid the neighbor’s house (The Marlings) at all costs. 

Everyone is school tells him that his neighbors are in fact werewolves at first he doesn’t believe it but soon he decides to spy on them at night and get a picture of them as evidence. Despite his desperate attempt to get his friend Hannah to join him he spies from a distance alone.

That night he sees two people climb out of the window and put on wolf skin and immediately transform. He follows the two wolves all night and when daylight comes the wolves shed their skin revealing themselves to be Alex’s aunt and uncle.

Alex and Hannah decide that if they steal the werewolf skins then his aunt and uncle won’t be able to transform and thus will be cured. The plan works and they all celebrate. However when Alex returns to the old house to return the wolf skins he finds one already there. At this point Hannah reveals that she became a werewolf the night prior and bites Alex.

THE BAD: This ending bothers me for two reasons. One is that I can’t figure out when Hannah got bitten the previous night since (a) she refuses to go out and night and (b) Alex followed his aunt and uncle that night and never saw them attack anyone. The other issue is that if one of the werewolf skins was still in the house why didn’t either one of his relatives wear it? It seems to imply that you MUST put on the werewolf skin driven by unknown force. If they could just CHOOSE to not wear it than they should have been cured pretty quickly.

THE GOOD: Despite that long “Bad” paragraph... that’s all inspired by the last 6 paragraphs. The rest of this story is amazing. Then again I’m bias as I love werewolf stories.

THE TV SHOW EPISODE:  This didn’t need to be an hour but it was a decent adaptation. They definitely seemed to have agreed with too many plot holes in the book ending. While Hannah is still a werewolf in the end the discovery is done differently, I prefer it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 59. The Haunted School

Book 59: The Haunted School

This book just went on and on. It was pretty dull and utterly forgettable. Example, I finished it last night and as of this moment all I remember is the following.

There are 4 characters that matter. Tommy, Ben, Thailia and Greta. Greta is a goth chick who dresses in all black, Thalia is a new student who wears lots of make-up, Tommy and Ben are Thalia’s new friends. The three are working on the school dance. Apparently 50 years ago a bunch of kids went missing at the school. Just disappeared into thin air.

All this info is presented in the first two chapters. Then it’s about 10 chapters of nothing too important.

Anyway Tommy and Ben need to get tape and get lost in the school. Using a weird elevator they’ve discovered they get taken to a weird black & white world where all the missing kids are (still kids 50 years after the fact).

Finally after a whole lot of nothing happens we find out the following info:
  1. They disappeared because of the creepy evil photographer Mr. Chameleon who transported them immediately after taking their picture
  2. Thalia is from the Black & White World 
  3. Tommy and Ben can escape using Thalia’s Lipstick (confusing I know)

Anyway as soon as Ben and Tommy escape the black and white world the principal brings them to get their picture taken by Mr. Chameleon

THE BAD: It’s a pretty forgettable book, but it’s certainly not a terrible book. I can’t decide if the Thalia reveal is an obvious one or if I just think that because I’m reading it for the first time at 28

THE GOOD: The black and white world is kinda creepy.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 58. Deep Trouble II

Book 58: Deep Trouble II

Yeah I’m just not a fan of this series (Deep Trouble I mean). I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one and this second also dragged.

Billy and Sheena are back with Dr. D only this time no mermaids. Instead the keep finding giant sea creatures. They discover the evil Dr. Ritter has created plankton that makes fish grow.

There’s one downside, if a human eats it they immediately turn into a fish. Billy, Sheena and Dr. D capture Dr. Ritter... seeing he has no other options he drinks the plankton and swims away.

THE BAD: Pretty much the whole book. It’s frustrating. I hope these last 4 are better.

THE GOOD: Again not much. Two pretty weak books in a row. Never fun.

THE TV SHOW EPISODE:  This episode was way too long and drawn out. I almost didn’t watch it all.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 57. My Best Friend is Invisible

Book 57: My Best Friend is Invisible

Everyone thinks Sammy is crazy ever since he’s been seen talking to Bren an invisible kid living in his bedroom who wants to be his friend.

Finally he steals his parents light molecular device (they’re scientists) and shines it on Bren revealing that Bren is a monster. Bren is the almost extinct human being. 

Yes. The whole 114 page book can (and just was) summed up in 4 sentences. That’s how much happens in this book. 

THE BAD: Yet again we have a pretty terrible ending. Besides the fact that it’s not a very original twist nor something that can be predicted it doesn’t make sense. In one scene Bren grabs Sammy’s hand and helps guide it for him so he can solve an equation... then it’s revealed Sammy only has tentacles for arms. How would he even hold a piece of chalk? Furthermore... I’m pretty sure this twist has happened like 5 times in the series (a variation of it was two days ago in The Blob That Ate Everyone).

THE GOOD: Not a whole lot really. This book was a chore.

THE TV SHOW EPISODE:  For whatever reason they turned his female friend into a bitch of a bitch and made Sammy a bit of a pussy. The ending is a little weird in this since it’s Aliens that look like humans. So that’s kinda weird (also they draw it out into a weird political thing)

Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days of Goosebumps - Book 56. The Curse of the Camp Cold Lake

Book 56: The Curse of Camp Cold Lake

Sarah hates camp. But her brother Aaron loves it. Sarah manages to make a poor first impression on everyone. Everyday the camps mock and tease her.

Sarah decides to fake a drowning to win sympathy but it works too well. She almost drowns for real. She then begins to be haunted by Della (a ghost who died at camp) who wants Sarah to be her buddy.

No one believes Sarah’s story so she decides to run away. That’s when Della informs her that the woods she’s in are full of poisonous snakes. However Sarah is saved by Brianna (on of the girls in her cabin). Apparently Della haunted Brianna last year and she returned to protect the next girl Della haunted.

After Della disappears Brianna reveals she’s also a ghost looking for a buddy and hands a snake to Sarah. 

THE BAD: The ending twist is terrible. Brianna is talking to EVERYONE at camp. If she was a quiet character or something it’d make more sense but she has a best friend at camp! It doesn’t make a ton of sense.

THE GOOD: The rest of the story is paced like a decent Tales from the Crypt story. I guess that’s why I’m so hard on the ending. This was one of the better books until then.