Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Totally Random Blog - David Lee Roth's Ladies' Night in Buffalo

I'm a big David Lee Roth fan.  When I was kid, I had Diamond Dave right up there with Spider-Man and Batman, and my first legitimate heartbreak came when Van Halen and Roth parted ways.  Of course, it wouldn't be long before Dave hit us with Eat 'Em and Smile, and while Van Halen would lose speed with Sammy Hagar at the helm, Roth was still killing it.  Now, I'm a bit iffy on some of his solo work beyond Eat 'Em and Smile, but that album still gets a lot of play in these parts.  Like most, I think that "Yankee Rose" is the best cut on the record, but lately I have been really taken with "Ladies' Night in Buffalo."  In particular, I'm really digging Steve Vai's stripped-down guitar track, something he apparently rebelled against initially, though he has come to appreciate it over the years.  The song is so very chill and it features Roth at his low-key coolest, exchanging all the usual bells and whistles for a bit of spoken word that is part quizzical rock song and part poetry.  I was looking online and apparently it was pretty well-received at the time of the album's release, with Spin labeling it "alarmingly cool" and Rolling Stone also taking time to give the track props in their review of Eat 'Em and Smile.  Anyway, they say sharing is caring, so that's what I'm doing.  It may be 2016, but I'm still rolling with Diamond Dave and trying to figure out just what the hell this sublime groove that is stuck in my head is all about.

Well, it's not Van Halen, but the band Roth put together for Eat 'Em and Smile is a hell of a lot better than Van Hagar.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Short Attention Span Review: Stranger Things (2016)

Short Attention Span Review: Stranger Things (2015)

Netflix's latest killer series borrows heavily from the cinematic landscape of the 80s (and the 80s themselves, as the series is set in 1983 and a powerful nostalgia vibe is one of its biggest selling points), but it remains fresh and viable nonetheless.  This is surely somewhat due to the wide variety of genres and titles that it pays homage to and partly due to a plethora of original flourishes, but either way the recycling on display in this riveting series is rather charming and never feels derivative.  There are great performances to spare and while some viewers have lamented the effects, I found them to be just as impressive.  The score is invigorating and the pacing is on point--this is an ideal program for binge-watching as the story progresses quickly and each episode ends with a cliffhanger that will have you itching to cue up the next chapter.  The less you know about the plot going in the better, but suffice it to say that a little midwest town becomes the setting for a wild yarn that includes a terrifying creature, shady government officials and their top secret lab, gateways to other dimensions, and even super powers.  The events unfold in the wake of a young boy's disappearance, and his tough but bewildered mother will join forces with a determined lawman with a tragic past to try and get to the bottom of the sinister goings-on.  Their biggest allies will be a band of teenage misfits who love Dungeons & Dragons and science, and their search for answers is packed with chills, thrills, and loving nods to the 80s.  The characters have so much depth and such tremendous arcs that I frequently felt like I was reading a book while watching this one, and there was just so much talent on display throughout.  It's hard to imagine any fan of things that go bump in the night failing to fall head over heels for the wholly engaging and highly entertaining Stranger Things

Final Grade: A+

Stranger Things is positively brimming with wonderful performances, but the strongest comes courtesy of Winona Ryder.  The long lost starlet is sheer perfection here as a crazed mother who will do anything to save her child from a diabolical supernatural menace.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Short Attention Span Review: Green Room (2015)

Short Attention Span Review: Green Room (2015)

Like most anyone who has been in a band and performed live, I've certainly seen my share of bad gigs.  Most of these lousy affairs make for funny stories, but The Ain't Rights (the struggling punk outfit at the center of Green Room) aren't so fortunate.  No, the bad gig that paves the way for this grim and wildly intense horror film is no laughing matter.  The movie takes its time with the opening reel, introducing us to the band and letting us get to know them a bit as they stagger through the last few stops on a humbling tour.  This pitiful venture is so profitable that the band has to siphon gas to keep their ragged van in motion, and while it may seem like quite the struggle, it's merely an appetizer for the carnage that Green Room unleashes after the band takes on a sketchy gig in the outskirts of Portland.  It is there that a gruesome struggle for survival will unfold as our likable heroes are hounded by some truly fearsome villains.  These bad guys are led by Patrick Stewart as a heroin-selling white supremacist named Darcy, and the man many know as Captain Picard or Charles Xavier makes for quite the icy fiend.  Stewart's performance here is undoubtedly one of Green Room's greatest assets.  Of course, the entire cast does a great job, with the late Anton Yelchin shining as Pat, the bassist and emotional center of the band.  Yelchin was one hell of a talent and he will be missed.  Other standouts in this dire shocker include Alia Shawkat as one of Pat's bandmates and Imogen Poots as a stranger who is stuck in the same dire predicament as The Ain't Rights.  The movie looks and sounds great--obviously, a picture like this needs a killer score, and I think the soundtrack is yet another tremendous asset to Green Room.  The violence is shocking and potent but never gratuitous, and the leisurely beginning really pays off as the movie grows darker and more vicious in the second and third acts.  There are no annoying characters we want to see killed off, so each death is a tragic blow given our affection for the players involved.  Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier is obviously a gifted cat, and while some may peg this as more of a thriller, I'm ready to anoint Green Room as the best new horror film that I've seen in 2016.

Final Grade: A 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

End of Watch by Stephen King

End of Watch by Stephen King

With End of Watch, King brings the Bill Hodges trilogy he started back in 2014 with Mr. Mercedes to a most satisfying conclusion.  While Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers (the second book in the series, released in 2015) were straight thrillers, End of Watch brings some supernatural menace to the forefront and ramps up the tension.  In doing so, it allows King (who is no stranger to drama and suspense) to play to his greatest strengths.  The end result is a gripping yarn that will have readers flipping pages as quickly as they can on their way to one of the author's most riveting climaxes.  Light on blood-curdling terror, but heavy on violence and gore, this thrilling book is surprisingly heartfelt at times.  Those who have come to love Hodges and his cohorts, the quirky Holly Gibney and the well-rounded Jerome Robinson, may need to break out the Kleenex as this saga winds to a close.  I doubt that any fan of the series will find End of Watch to be anything other than a most fulfilling bookend to a really cool trilogy courtesy of the master.  This series started as an ode to pulpy detective fiction rooted in noir, made room for some modern thrills, and closes out shop with a horrific conclusion that wraps up every loose thread in sight.  The saga as a whole was entertaining and thoughtful, if briskly-paced and far simpler than many of King's masterpieces.  I think that the final chapter in this trilogy, the aptly-titled End of Watch, is the strongest and most entertaining piece of the pie.

Final Grade: A-