Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shook Ones--Sixteen (Painted None More Black)

The Shook Ones debut album, Sixteen, could easily be the lost Kid Dynamite album you never knew existed. If someone put this on and you didn't know any better, you would think it was a bunch of Kid Dynamite songs you've never heard. This isn't one of those so-called "influenced by Strike Anyhere/AVAIL/Kid Dynamite" pretender-to-the-h/c throne bands. This is as close to the real deal as you're going to get outside a full-blown Kid Dynamite reunion.

Hailing from Bellingham, WA, they manage to ape KD's sound right down to Jason Shevchuk's, before now, fairly unique delivery. While bands like The Curse (PA) and Trial By Fire (Wash., DC) were playing the same brand of melodic hardcore, and the Shook Ones' labelmates The Disaster are firmly entrenched in the KD sphere of influence, the Shook Ones are the first band to pick up the KD mantle and really run with it (including KD's own members' new projects). Jason's band None More Black strays beyond even the most poppy elements of KD's sound, while Yemin made the questionable call of taking over vocal duties (since his singers kept flaking on him) for his harder-edged new band Paint It Black.

Now I really like None More Black and I would probably like Paint it Black a lot more if they got a real singer, but neither splinter groups add up to the sum of their parts together as Kid Dynamite. When I said the Shook Ones ape KD's sound, I didn't mean that as a knock on them. They aren't a watered-down clone band. They strike me as having great potential (they made a nice jump in quality from their demo to the album, for instance) and this album is thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, the only knock I could see someone having on it is that it sounds TOO much like Kid Dynamite, which I think is just hating on it in principle and not on its own merits.

It is rare for a band to resemble some other, better band so closely and be interesting to me (I'm looking at you, Pennywise), but for whatever reason, the Shook Ones make it work on this record. They mix up the catchy, poppy stuff with the anthemic hardcore in a mixture last done really well by, you guessed it, Kid Dynamite. I think Kid Dynamite did it better, for sure, and had some more interesting dynamics going on with their songs, but the Shook Ones give me reason to believe they can get there too.

I don't know why their record label namechecks Jawbreaker, I don't hear that influence at all (except maybe via someone like Hot Water Music). This is pretty much straight up Kid Dynamite with maybe just a slight hint of Smoke or Fire vibe.

If you are a fan of any of these bands, I can't see any reason why this record won't totally kick your ass and be on your top 10 list for the year (unless you're just plain hatin' on them): Kid Dynamite, None More Black, Paint It Black, Lifetime, Trial by Fire, The Curse, The Disaster, Strike Anywhere, Rise Against, Jericho/Smoke or Fire, Panthro UK United 13, Inquisition

Holy Non-crap Comic Book Movie, Batman!

First off, I have to say I absolutely did NOT like Tim Burton's Batman. Of course, Joel Schumacher's Batman movies were even worse, but I always thought the 1989 Batman was totally miscast and just plain not Batman. People rave about Jack Nicholson's Joker, but c'mon, the Batdance? Big name actors with their own huge onscreen personas have no business being in comic book movies (or most adaptations). That said, I could stomach watching Batman Returns. At least it had close to the right tone. Still all wrong with the movie star casting in my opinion.

Those flicks were emblematic of how bad comic book movies were (especially Schumacher's camp exploits) before X-Men got it mostly right. Sure they were no Captain America or Dolph Lundgren's Punisher (again, except for Schumacher's), but it wasn't even close to Superman II, what I considered the best comic book adaptation up until very recently. And I think Tim Burton can do some great work (Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, etc.) But he can also do Mars Attacks, Batman, amd Planet of the Apes.

For the record, I didn't totally love X-Men, but I thought they finally got close to doing a comic book adaptation right and fixed just about everthing that bugged me w/ X-2. I was never a big Spidey fan, but Sam Raimi did a great job making a Spider-Man movie. Basically if you didn't like the movie, you just didn't like Spider-Man. The Green Goblin suit did really annoy me, but Spider-Man 2 did the comic character even better justice.

Which brings me to Batman Begins. I wasn't sold on it after seeing the trailers, but I had to go see it. And, basically, this movie rips all kinds of ass. If you don't like this movie, you do not like Batman. They hit just about all the right notes with every single character. I thought Katie Holmes would just be annoying while I was waiting for her inevitable entrance in the movie, but she was fine. I would rather have seen a young Harvey Dent in this movie, but I was never a big Two-Face fan, so maybe it's cool w/ me they aren't setting him up yet. The Scarecrow, on the other hand, is probably my 2nd favorite villain (next to the much maligned Man-Bat--which I never expect to see on film). So, I was pretty intrigued when I heard Scarecrow would be in it. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) was perfect for the part. Gary Oldman: low-key and perfect for Gordon (although his accent reminded me at times of the one he used for Hannibal as Mason Verger. Liam Neeson picked up his Jedi master baton and carried it well. They messed a little w/ the Ra's Al Ghul character, but I was fine with it. Any movie w/ frickin' NINJAs is great.

And, of course, Christian Bale. THE MAN. Channeling his American Psycho Patrick Batman character as playboy Bruce Wayne and just owning Batman, well, he was the right guy for the job. He's been great in all kinds of stuff, from the flawed but under-appreciated Ring of Fire and Equilibrium to his DeNiro-like weight loss method acting in the Kafka-esque The Machinist. Always thought he was a good choice, and he didn't disappoint.

Some complaints I've heard about this flick are 1. the fight scenes are shot too close and 2. the Batmobile is weak. To address the first one, I say the fight scenes were perfect. In/out, wham/bam, Batman ninja-style. Exactly how Batman should be. And, more importantly, there is no way to make the Batsuit look cool if you see it too much. No one is going to look right fighting in that thing. So what they did, a la Bruce the Shark in Jaws (i.e., the shark didn't work so they couldn't show it a lot, and by doing so created a much better movie) is just show flashes of Batman doing his Batman thing. Perfect way to do it.

Second, the Batmobile. I like how they grounded Batman's gadgets in some kind of reality. The Batmobile looks like a mutant stealth HumVee and doesn't look too far-fetched from the stealth plane, boat, and other vehicle designs of the modern era. So, it worked ok for me. Crashing through rooftops was a little much, but only a minor quibble. And why the hell wasn't Batman carrying around some of that antitode in his little utility belt there? That didn't make a whole lot of sense.

This is the best telling of Batman since the animated series on Fox. They did most things right in that cartoon, too. But where that was an art deco Batman, this is more Frank Miller/Long Halloween Batman. The visions the people of Gotham have of Batman while on the Scary Juice were just plain cool. And that Legend of Sleepy Hollow Scarecrow horse from the trailer makes a lot more sense within the context of the movie.

So, to sum up, best Batman adaptation by a long shot, quite possibly the best comic book adapation ever done. Good job, Nolan. Now don't fuck up the Joker. There was a rumor that Sean Penn was being considered for the part in the next movie. That just might be more frickin' genius. Mark Hamill (yes, Luke) created a great Joker in the cartoon, but I just don't see him pulling it off on screen.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Awesomely ridiculous...