Thursday, June 30, 2005

John K at the M

My good friend John Keating did some stand-up at the M bar on the 17th and I was there to witness it. Never been to the dimly-lit, velvet-covered M bar before, but it was a pretty cool venue. I'd go back for some jazz or martini-drinking music, definitely. Plus, it's a convenient stop for me as it's in Hollywood, right on Fountain and Vine. I've seen John perform his routine once before in San Diego, and he was great both times. Really controlled the packed audience with lots of observances and laugh-out-loud humor. My favorite jokes involve his love life and family, like the time his deaf girlfriend broke up with him using a TTY machine or when he was labeled as gay by his grandfather after moving to West Hollywood (go to his show to find out the link between homosexuality and light beer). Unfortunately, he might have been too good this night as the comedian before and the one after him - especially the one after him - totally bombed. If you see John's name on a marquee somewhere, definitely drop in. I mean, he's a Boston native, so doesn't that mean, like, he has to be funny?

Actually, the comedy was a great start to a crazy night that progressed with a trip to Barney's on Sunset with classmates Mikaela and Laura, and ended with me cleaning up my roommate's vomit in the restroom at IHOP at 3 in the morning. Nice.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's the Bat, man!







I'm pretty mixed on Batman Begins. I liked it. It's a good film, but I can't help but feel this movie could've been great. Here are my thoughts on it. Yes, there will be spoilers.

First, the stuff I liked
They pretty much nail his origin. We don't really get why Bruce Wayne is so driven in his quest to fight evil/help innocents in the other movies. Yeah, it's touched on in the first Burton film when we see his parents shot to death in front of young Bruce, but we don't really see how anguished and how much this event takes him over the edge as we do in this film. The director, Christopher Nolan and the screenwriter, David Goyer, give us a Batman who comes across as almost psychotic in his quest to stop crime. And that's as it should be. Yeah, I could've used more pearls dropping in the scene outside the opera house, but that's just me.

The atmosphere of the film is perfect. Everything's taken seriously. Actually, almost a bit too seriously - I think more levity could've gone a long way, but it works for the tone of this film, and I'd rather have it be too serious than be Batman and Robin. Gotham reeks of decay. Bruce/Batman is appropriately moody/broody. Everything looks dirty and used. Although I liked the Burton movies (especially Batman Returns), Gotham didn't look like a real, breathing city; it looked like a set. Not so in this one. Also, no silly songs from Prince, Seal or U2. And, although I miss Danny Elfman's Batman theme, Hans Zimmer does a wonderful job keeping things grounded with his score.

Casting is also top-notch. Christian Bale plays the Batman as a wounded, driven, lost-soul, and he pretty much plays Bruce Wayne the same way. His voice as Batman was kind of distracting as it changed throughout the movie, but I'm not sure this was his fault, as sometimes it sounded almost digitally modulated and sometimes it didn't. Weird. Not too noticeable, though. Morgan Freeman was perfect as Lucius Fox, Batman's "Q"; he added some light to the darkness of the film and a touch of humor. He's also the brains behind the Bat, apparently, solving the crime before even the Batman can. Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne's butler, is now probably the definitive Alfred. Perfect delivery of all his lines. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon was right on. He kept the performance low-key, not taking the character over the top. Only wish there was more of him, but a good start to the character. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy give good performances, too. Katie Holmes's performance has pretty much been trashed in the media. I didn't find her performance bad as much as I found her character unnecessary.

Now the stuff I didn't like
The script, first of all. There wasn't much to it, and what there was, just wasn't all that good. In the hands of a different director, this could've gone the way of Batman and Robin. There's a defining moment where Bruce has finished his ninja-training and must kill a murderer to graduate/prove his loyalty to the "League of Shadows". Instead of murdering this guy with a sword, Bruce escapes by setting off a series of explosions, which not only most-probably kill the criminal, but all of Bruce's fairly innocent brother-ninjas as well. The only person Bruce manages to save is Liam Neeson's Ducard, who, it turns out, was only pretending to be Ducard. Whatever. He's actually Ra's Al Ghul, in a stupid twist that seemed completely tacked on for no real reason. I actually would've rather seen Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul come back and fight Batman, but instead, he's completely wasted in this film.

The love scenes are totally lame and totally contrived. Katie Holmes has nothing to do and her character, Rachel Dawes has no reason for being there. When Bruce and Rachel are holding hands at the end of the film, after she just told him he's not the man she fell in love with, it's like, come on.

I don't think there are any memorable lines from the movie. Or scenes, really, for that matter, unless it's because of how lame they are. I love how there's a car chase scene on top of buildings - Batman has just told Gordon how he needs to get the fear-toxin antidote to Rachel before she goes mad with fear so he must get her to the batcave. Great. Stick the half-mad girl in a bizarre, monster car with a man dressed as a bat and go leaping off buildings while being chased by the police. That won't send her mind over the edge. Or how the criminals have this silly and unnecessarily complicated plan to toxify Gotham's air with a big microwave gun that vaporizes water, but nothing else. 'Cuz everyone knows microwaves don't affect organic matter, like steak and peas and human flesh. Huh? The League of Shadows, wanting to help Gotham out of its depression, kill the only people capable of actually helping Gotham. What? There's also just no cool dialogue like X-Men 2's, "What's your real name, John?" between Magneto and Pyro, or the awkward, but believable romance in the Spider-Man movies, or the fun of Hellboy, or the visual punch and sheer faithfulness to the source material of Sin City.

Anyway, despite the negative comments, like I said previously, I did like the film. I just feel that with a different writer, this could have been an amazing film. David Goyer has shown what he can do when given free reign : the awful, franchise-killing Blade:Trinity. I'm afraid of what he has in store for us with his next comic book movies, Ghost Rider and The Flash. I can't really fault the whole thing on Goyer, though. Chris Nolan was the co-writer (and director, of course) so he is as much to blame. The seeds have been sown for a sequel though, and with Batman's origin out of the way and the Joker in town, it's certainly something I'll be looking forward to, as hopefully we'll get more story and maybe, just possibly, the "World's Greatest Detective" doing some freaking detecting! Until then, I think I'll just get more excited for the greenlighted Hellboy and Sin City sequels.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Timmy's... again.

Laura Fraser got another year older this night. We celebrated by drinking and eating at Timmy Nolan's... waitaminute. We do that every week. Oh, well...

bday girl

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Quick hits

Quick hits

Thought I'd post my initial impressions (= 1 or 2 plays at most) of some CDs I've picked up over the past couple of weeks and have just gotten around to listening to.


Beck // Guero
I'm a big fan of Beck, and yeah, I'm loving this CD so far. Much has been made of Beck's reuniting with the Dust Brothers, and how much this collection of songs is a return to the playful sounds of Odelay and yeah, that's merited, but I've been loving the tangents Beck has gone off on since then, so it really isn't such a big deal to me. Odelay isn't even my favorite Beck album; that distinction goes to Sea Change and Mutations. Heck, I even rate Midnite Vultures higher. That said, this is a damn strong album, one of my favorites this year, and totally brings back old vibes of going to Mexican parties in the Valley, with its Latin rhythms, trumpets and Spanish lingo. Just like Odelay, Guero mixes up the influences however, and we get some awesome guitar tracks and 70s grooves among other things. This one will be in the CD changer of my car for a while.

Got the companion DVD but haven't had a chance to watch it. It'll be interesting to see how it changes the way I feel about the album since the music has conjured strong images, all of which have, so far, been made up in my own head.

Standout tracks: E-Pro, Earthquake Weather, Hell Yes, Que' Onda Guero. (ah, hell. all of them are good.)


Gorillaz // Demon Days
Gorillaz are another favorite band of mine - being a fan of animation, Blur, and electronic music made this a foregone conclusion from the get-go. Add to this the co-creator of the band is awesome illustrator "Tank Girl" Jamie Hewlett and that the music is inventive and unique, and, well, you can see why I like them so much. Anyway, so far, this album's solid. It's more laid back and more atmospheric than their debut outing, probably due to replacing Dan "the Automator" Nakamura with Danger Mouse, so it's going to take some time before I can declare which one I like the most. Demon Days' less immediately-catchy tunes are making this album harder to get into than their self-titled one, but could possibly make it more rewarding in the long run.

I got the limited ed. DVD package with this one also, but haven't had time to check it out. Have seen the video for Feel Good Inc. though, which hopefully bodes well for it.

Standout tracks: Feel Good Inc., Kids With Guns, Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head


The White Stripes // Get Behind Me Satan
I've only listened to this one a couple of times and it could already best Guero as my album-of-the-year-so-far. Just amazing. Sometimes very spare and sometimes lavishly produced, the songs on this disc go from blues-y to rock-y to (surprisingly) disco-y. I liked their album, White Blood Cells but this album goes way beyond it. Man, and the single, Blue Orchid, a metal-ish, rocking number, is probably my favorite song-of-the-year-so-far. I skipped their last album, Elephant and from all indications, I missed out, so it's back to Best Buy for me.

Standout tracks: Blue Orchid (obviously), Little Ghost. (Actually, like Beck's tracks, they're all good.)

Coldplay // X&Y
Meh. I'm not a huge Coldplay fan but I did enjoy their last album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, so I picked this one up. Unfortunately, I could've passed as this one is just sort of okay. It retreads a lot of their old music, (Speed of Sound = Clocks) and some of the songs are just too lightweight and forgettable. I'll give it another few listens to see if it grows on me. Parachutes took a while to get into so maybe the same will happen with this one. Funny, Keane owns the #1 spot in my CD changer at the moment, a band I had once dismissed as Coldplay-lite, but who put out a more enjoyable disc than the actual Coldplay this time around with Hopes and Fears.

Standout tracks: Fix You, Twisted Logic


Car Changer 10:
Not really a good barometer of my favorite CDs as I don't put all my favorites in the changer and they're in no particular order except for the #1 slot - I always put the CD that's stayed in the changer the longest in that slot. Anyway, this is what I'm listening to during my morning and evening drives to and from work, and the number of weeks they've managed to stick around (estimated):

1. Keane // Hopes and Dreams (48 weeks)
2. Jack Johnson // In Between Dreams (14 weeks)
3. Arcade Fire // Funeral (32 weeks)
4. Gorillaz // Demon Days (1 week)
5. Beck // Guero (2 weeks)
6. The White Stripes // Get Behind Me Satan (1 week)
7. Prince // Musicology (24 weeks)
8. Toby Keith // Honkeytonk University (2 weeks)
9. Audiobook // The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1 week)
10. Coldplay // X&Y (1 week)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fry-guy

For those who haven't seen the Wendy's commercial I was in, click on the link. Actually, since I'm on for just a split-second anyway, you can pretty much get the entirety of my performance by looking at the image below. Thanks to Patrick T. Gorman for getting me the video (the "T" stands for what, now?).

Do What Tastes Right

Click here to watch Jeff eat fries.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Another Tuesday night at Timmy's

Tim Trobek turned thirtysomething last night and we were all there to witness it. Notable happenings :

big lips

The Treo 650 IS MINE!!! Mwa-hahaha

Example

Ordered a Treo 650 last week to take advantage of a sale Bestbuy.com was having and received it a few days ago. Although my time with it has been brief, I must say I'm absolutely loving it. In just a few short hours after activating it with Sprint, I was surfing the 'net, syncing to my Outlook calendar and contacts (such a great feature - I didn't have to re-input phone numbers as the Treo recognizes and dials numbers straight from my Outlook files), customizing screens and ringtones and downloading games and utilities. The screen's big with bright colors and a sharp resolution, the little keyboard makes messaging and emailing a breeze and overall, the unit is well thought out and looks cool, too. The camera on it is just okay, as is to be expected from a cell phone, and in low-light conditions it downright sucks, but it has already come through in a pinch when I didn't have my Sony Cybershot handy.

Now that I have the Treo, I realize I need to buy a big SD card for it (gotta get the 1 gig, minimum. Maybe the 2 gig), a cover/holster and more screen protectors (a friend of mine, much to my horror, ripped off the screen protector that was part of the Treo's packaging last night. The screen is bare at the moment, and I fear scratchings or smudgings may happen soon. A spare screen protector came with the Treo, but it must be cut-to-size and I've misplaced my x-acto knife. The horror).

Postings to continue as I uncover more Treo delights.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Every Wednesday morning, I go into work hung-over. Here's why:

It has become somewhat of a ritual that after class (@ the Dee Wallace Stone Acting Studio) on Tuesdays, a group of us go out for drinks to discuss the night's lessons, reflect on Dee's teachings, and...

scary

Congrads!!!

Small post to announce that my niece graduated from California State University Northridge yesterday as an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing (just like her uncle!). Woo-hoo! She's a kick-ass poet and a total rock star and I wish her all the success in the world. It has been interesting watching her grow up and find herself, experimenting in different things, trying to figure it out, but I think writing is her calling 'cuz her stuff is just phenomenal. I'll have to post some of her poems soon. I just did the cover for her first collection of material, Therapeutics, that she assembled for one of her classes, so if she'll let me post the whole thing as a pdf, you'll see that here soon. Anyway, we're all very proud of her and can't wait to see what her future holds!

Go Airica!!!
akiragrad