Author Archives: soucblog

Random Media Monday!

Ever leave your dog in the car while you run an errand? Most of the time they just sit there patiently, maybe barking at people who walk by. Well, this dog got a little too impatient waiting for it’s owner.

If you don’t know who youtube user Isosine is, you need to. He is a pure genius. Don’t take my word for it, check out this video.

I want one of these!

Kiefer Sutherland is one weird mf’er

Acoustic Cover of the Week.

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Tuesday Movie “Review” – 300: Rise of an Empire

Good day happy readers! Starting this week, I am going to be putting up a review of a movie that is currently in theaters every(ish) Tuesday. I will warn you that I have done little writing in my past, so this will be quite the adventure each week. I will do my best to give an insightful view of each movie I see each week. Also, each film I go see will have opened the previous weekend. So, if you are someone who only goes to see movies on opening weekend, this might not be the place for you to get your reviews. However, if you are like me, and can’t go see movies as soon as they come out, you’ll be in luck. At the end of the review, I will submit my quick takes and final score, so if you find my writing to be as hideous as I think it may be, you can always scroll to the bottom. So, let’s get on with it!

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In 2006 Zack Snyder, for better or worse, changed how period action movies were made. He created a stylised, hyper violent, blood soaked epic with 300. 300 was a defining film for my generation of action movie fans. It made the violence more than bearable on screen, it made you want to stand up and cheer with every slow motion kill. Ever since then, Hollywood has tried to capitalise on that film by putting out movie after movie set in the ancient Greek/Roman era. No movie really was able to capture the essence of 300. There have been a few attempts that just always fall short (Clash of the Titans and its sequel come to mind).

300: Rise of an Empire is the next closest thing to its predecessor that I have seen so far. I went in with pretty low expectations, but came out actually fairly impressed. Keep in mind that this movie is exactly what you expect. It’s a 102 minute gore fest. Noam Murro, taking over the directing duties, does a great job of faithfully recreating the original film’s feel throughout the movie. The battles are all just as over top as you remember from 300, and lend themselves very well to a 3D IMAX screen.

Sullivan Stapleton takes over the lead role as the Athenian leader, Themistokles. He isn’t as much of the chest beating, screaming leader like Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas. He is more interested in uniting the city states of Greece into one nation to fight of the Persian invasion. During the beginning of the movie, he is shown as the hero of the Battle of Marathon, killing the Persian King Darius I. Darius’ son, Xerxes witnesses this, and he ascends to become the God-King that we see in 300.

Rise of an Empire wasn’t so much a sequel to 300, in that it’s story for the most part takes place simultaneously with the story of King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae. While Leonidas and his 300 Spartans defend the north against Xerxes, Themistokles leads a nautical defense in southern Greece. He matches wits with the commander of the Persian navy, Artemisia (portrayed by Eva Green).

The move to sea for the battles helps this film keep things fresh, and gives us a different perspective from the first film. We are treated to the much smaller fleet of the Greeks out maneuvering those of the Persian war ships. This is the first time I’ve seen a nautical battle take place without any firearms at all. Instead of cannons doing damage, the ships ram into each other.

I enjoyed the overall feel to this movie more than the original, as Themistokles seems to be more relatable. He’s more compassionate than the Spartans that are portrayed. He is more than just a warrior. He’s a leader of men, men who are not trained killing machines, but farmers and craftsmen thrown into battle.

The acting in the movie is passable. Everyone is a little too deadpan when not screaming at the top of their lungs. Eva Green does a good enough job as the villain to make you almost forget that Xerxes isn’t anywhere to be seen for the majority of the film, despite it being based off of Frank Miller’s graphic novel entitled Xerxes. The secondary actors, who are all relatively unknown actors, also do a good job of making you feel the humanity behind the battle.

The movie also lost me for a few minutes with an obligatory sex scene that really didn’t make any sense in the context of the story. It seemed like it was thrown in there just to show some T&A and not much else. This and a few other moments weren’t needed in my opinion, such as the return of the humpback traitor, who serves an no more than a messenger in the film.

Overall, the movie did just what I wanted it to do, entertain me. The story and setting are just different enough from the first 300 that it didn’t seem like too much of a retread. There was more character growth here as well. The action scenes were fun, and even though there are decapitations and severed limbs flying everywhere, it’s not gut wrenching at all. Running at just 102 minutes, it doesn’t run the risk of wearing down it’s audience, and is quick and to the point for the most part.

Score: 6.5 spears out of 10 decapitations.

Direction: B

Acting: B

Story: B+

Pacing: A-

Cinematography/overall visual: A

Random Media Monday

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on Batman Begins

Watch Dogs looks like it has the potential to be the best game we see this year

Two insane Russian guys scale the Shanghi Tower (2nd tallest building in the world)! This video is not for those with a fear of heights. Almost had a panic attack just watching it.

Acoustic Cover of the Week 

The first trailer to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For us up!

Looks amazing! Been waiting for this movie for nine years now!

What are your thoughts on the trailer? Has it been too long since the first movie to still care? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Oscar Draft picks!

A few weeks back on our show, we held our first annual Academy Awards Fantasy Draft. I apologize for how long it took me to post these, but better late than never! You can listen to the episode here.

The rules of the draft were pretty straightforward. We randomly generated the order for each category. Just to spice things up, the Best Picture Category is worth double. Whoever gets the most correct, wins.

Anyways, on with the results of the draft:

Best Live Action Short Film: 1. Helium (Jeff) 2. The Voorman Problem (Todd) 3. Just Before Losing Everything (Kyle)

Best Animated Short Film: 1. Get a Horse! (Todd) 2. Room on the Broom (Kyle) 3. Feral (Jeff) NO WINNER

Best Documentary, Short Subject: 1. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (Jeff) 2. Facing Fear (Kyle) 3. Cavedigger (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Documentary, Feature: 1. The Act of Killing (Jeff) 2. Cutie and the Boxer (Kyle) 3. The Square (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Visual Effects: 1. Gravity (Kyle) 2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Todd) 3. Star Trek Into Darkness (Jeff)

Best Sound Editing: 1. Gravity (Todd) 2. Lone Survivor (Jeff) 3. Captain Phillips (Kyle)

Best Sound Mixing: 1. Lone Survivor (Jeff) 2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Todd) 3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Kyle) NO WINNER

Best Original Song: 1. Ordinary Love, U2 (Kyle) 2. The Moon Song, Karen O (Jeff) 3. Happy, Pharrell Williams (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Original Score: The Book Thief, John Williams (Jeff) 2. Her, William Butler and Andy Koyama (Kyle) 3. Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Makeup/Hairstyling: 1. Dallas Buyers Club (Jeff) 2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Todd) 3. The Lone Ranger (Kyle)

Best Costume Design: 1. The Great Gatsby (Jeff) 2. American Hustle (Kyle) 3. 12 Years a Slave (Todd)

Best Production Design: 1. The Great Gatsby (Todd) 2. American Hustle (Jeff) 3. Her (Kyle)

Best Editing: 1. Gravity (Jeff) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Captain Phillips (Kyle)

Best Cinematography: 1. Gravity (Todd) 2. Nebraska (Jeff) 3. The Grandmaster (Kyle)

Best Foreign Language Film: 1. The Hunt (Kyle) 2. The Broken Circle Breakdown (Jeff) 3. The Great Beauty (Todd)

Best Animated Feature: 1. Frozen (Todd) 2. Despicable Me 2 (Jeff) 3. The Wind Rises (Kyle)

Best Adapted Screenplay: 1. The Wolf of Wall Street (Kyle) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Captain Phillips (Jeff)

Best Original Screenplay: 1. Her (Todd) 2. Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Blue Jasmine (Jeff)

Best Director: 1. David O. Russell, American Hustle (Kyle) 2. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (Jeff) 3. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave (Todd)

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (Jeff) 2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County (Kyle)

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (Jeff) 2. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Bradley Cooper (Todd)

Best Lead Actress: 1. Amy Adams, American Hustle (Kyle) 2. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (Todd) 3. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County (Jeff)

Best Lead Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (Todd) 2. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (Jeff)

Best Picture: 1. American Hustle (Kyle) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Jeff) 3. Gravity (Todd)

Tune into the show on Monday to find out the results!

WoT: Chords in the Right Order

London Grammar – If You Wait

Maybe I’m wasting my young years. Maybe we are.

Were it not for an ad placed by drummer Peter Criss in Rolling Stone, the world would not have been graced by the musical stylings of Kiss. Flash forward 40ish years and the world has Facebook to thank for bringing together Hannah Reid and Dan Rothman, 2/3 of London Grammar. Rothman and Reid attended the University of Nottingham, and it was a picture of Reid on Facebook with her guitar that inspired Rothman to ask her to collaborate. Multi-instrumentalist Dot Major was added later after being introduced to the band by Rothman’s girlfriend. While a single with the inexplicable staying power of “Rock and Roll All Nite” is still forthcoming, these three finding each other is an exciting and promising music story for 2014.

If You Wait opens slowly with “Hey Now,” showcasing Reid’s soaring vocals over bass drum heartbeats and bare guitars. Her voice is oft-compared to nearly every contemporary female vocalist, for me I get a lot of Florence Welch, however Reid is more nuanced. Her voice has unquestionable power, but it’s when she chooses not to use it that you really notice.

The album really takes off with “Stay Awake.” Reid inflects emotional pleas very well, and this track is no exception, mixing her fractured but strong vocals with a driving cymbal and tom beat. Like countrymen the xx, London Grammar use silence and breakdowns well. Something as simple as a loan piano chord can provide the most memorable moment.

The standout track, and probably the one that will propel this band to the next level, is “Wasting My Young Years.” Building from just piano into a driving epic, it showcases everything that London Grammar is about. If there is any justice in the world, London Grammar are the next big thing and band to watch in 2014. The xx were a sub-headliner at Coachella 2013, it’s easy to see London Grammar reaching similar heights over the next few years.

If you’re only going to buy one track: Wasting My Young Years

You might like if you like: the xx, Polica, CHVRCHES

Local info: Playing the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis April 3rd w/ Vancouver Sleep Clinic. $13/$15

http://londongrammar.com/home/

Kyle’s Spoiler-FREE Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

As a guy that’s seen every Lord of the Rings/Hobbit film in theaters as well as owning them all on Blu-Ray, I knew that I’d be seeing this latest installment as well. Now before the stereotypes enter your head I want to clarify a few things. I’m not a reader. So by not being a reader, I have not read any of the books in the LOTR series or it’s prequel, The Hobbit. I tried to read The Hobbit once in 5th grade and barely got through a couple of pages before I was lost and didn’t care to continue. That being said, I only know & love the world of hobbits, dwarfs, elves, and Gandalf through Peter Jackson’s creations. I’ve seen them all in the theater, once at their own individual time of release, and again when I bought them on Blu-Ray within this last year. 

 

Heading into the 2nd installment of the Hobbit trilogy it’s become more and more hard not to subject oneself to the reviews of critics or friends that have seen the flick, especially since I waited to see it in it’s 4th week of release. I’ve heard from quite a few people that they feel the Hobbit should have just been 1 or 2 films instead of a trilogy but we all know that’s not how Hollywood and money do business together. With those feelings aside, this is a trilogy and I took as such.

 

My actual review of the movie is spoiler-free and pretty scarce but here goes.

I liked it quite a bit. 

 

The movie is more action-packed compared to The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. I understand that that film had to set up the back story and work up to it but it seemed really long and it dragged. I mean, 45 minutes of dwarfs eating dinner at Bilbo’s house was a little overkill (45 minutes was a total estimate but that’s how long it felt). The Desolation of Smaug ended up being 8 minutes shorter in length but really didn’t feel like it. I’ve seen some other movies lately in theaters that have been about as long but felt like it, this was very different and I credit that to Peter Jackson.

 

Overall I feel that the cliffhanger at the end of The Desolation of Smaug left me craving more where The Unexpected Journey’s cliffhanger was rather lackluster and left me not really caring but knowing I would see the next film anyway. The thirst for the 3rd installment is real though with all the action taking place at the end of The Desolation of Smag. The cast was amazing again. Martin Freeman didn’t steal the show as much in this one to me as the film focused more on Thorin, the head dwarf. The way they made Smaug was pretty neat and the CGI wasn’t even that noticeable. I also had no idea Benedict Cumberbatch was the voice until I looked it up after. Orlando Bloom does another solid job as Legolas and the new addition of former “Lost” actress Evangeline Lilly was great for those hoping for some more elvish eye candy.

 

I fully recommend anyone to see this film. If you haven’t seen The Unexpected Journey, see that first, but you don’t need to see the Lord of the Rings trilogy if you don’t want to. In fact, I recommend this series over that if you didn’t see LOTR because you didn’t think it was for you or that you didn’t want to give into the hype or something. Also, be on the lookout for Stephen Colbert’s very brief cameo. I laughed out loud when I finally found him, Where’s Waldo style.

 

(Only criticism of all of these films in either series is that the spiders and orcs are gross and they creep me out. The spiders are the worst)

 

Ky B: The Live Album

I have roughly 75 albums currently in iTunes on my iPhone. I sit in a cube all day at work and the music I have on it really is the soundtrack to my day. Out of the 75 albums I mentioned, three of them are live albums. While it seems like a small portion, I listen to two of those on a weekly basis. I, Kyle Brager, am a fan of live albums. I realize that I am probably in the minority in that. Don’t get me wrong, I love studio albums too but there’s something about hearing the raw performance and having the room for error or alternate riffs/solos/verses that speaks to me in a more intimate level.

Why do bands/musicians do live albums?

I’m sure a lot of live albums are done in a Greatest Hits type fashion. While not wanting to just put out a lazy compilation album by picking hits off past records, they instead decide on a show to record and release or perhaps they have a lot of recorded live footage they’ve accumulated over a period of time that would also suffice. Another reason could be marketing purposes geared towards ticket sales rather than album sales. What better way to promote yourself than by capturing the emotion and feel of your live concert experience? They also could have a unique and artistic idea or collaboration that they’d like to explore as well. Dave Matthews Band has a Live Trax series that’s a pretty good example of a combination of these ideas. From 2004-present they’ve released 2-3 live albums each year that can only be purchased through the band’s website. Volume 27 of the series was just released on Nov. 12, 2013. The songs on each volume are mostly randomly recorded and don’t go in any kind of chronological order of recording at all.

Now, my two favorite live albums:

Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert

This was the first DMB album, studio or live, that I ever purchased. It has 3 discs and actually doesn’t have many of their widely known songs on it except for “Ants Marching.” I love hearing Dave interact with the audience and the music sounds great. I like this album so much that I bought the 2 disc DVD of it too. It really gives you insight and does justice to what it’s like seeing DMB live.

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Metallica: S&M

No this isn’t an album about sadomasochism. Metallica collaborated with conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony on a live performance together. So the S&M in this case stands for Symphony & Metallica. You might think the idea of Metallica and a symphony together is nuts but James Hetfield said that the idea mostly came from their late bassist Cliff Burton’s love of classical music. Metallica’s staple sounds almost better and more beautiful with the symphony accompaniment. They also recorded two brand new tracks, “No Leaf Clover” & “-Human” that haven’t been released other than on Metallica S&M. They even marketed the album cover nicely. The logo is a treble clef made into a S and the M from the band’s trademarked Metallica script. Metallica S&M also has a DVD version of the show. I don’t own that one but I’ve seen it and it is just as amazing as the album. (I really should own it.)

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There are quite a few different reasons why live albums get produced. I for one, am glad that they do. Even though I dislike when some let the crowd sing verses or choruses by themselves, I do enjoy having the sounds of a live performance in my ears while I’m getting through the work day.

Twitter @KyBrage

Ky B’s Rage: Never Say Never

No, this post isn’t going to be about the Justin Bieber song ‘Never Say Never.’ In fact, it’s not even going to be about the non-Eon Productions James Bond film “Never Say Never Again.” I’ve actually decided not to really “rage” this time but share my own personal observances and evolution of my own taste in music.

 

For a lot of people, music is part of one’s every day life. People play instruments, some write lyrics, listen to it while at work, in the car, and at the gym. Music is all around and everyone can have their own opinion about what they think “sounds good.” Before I get way more philosophical than I actually am, let’s dive in and dissect how music has shaped and evolved my lifetime.

 

I grew up in a fairly religious and Christian household. My Dad sang at church, weddings, funerals, and whenever really. Christian contemporary music is almost what I was “limited” to as a kid growing up. I’m not sure if it was as strict as I make it seem. I don’t really remember my parents banning me from listening to certain things, and I may have just been naive about it all. Either way, as a kid I listened to a lot of DC Talk and movie soundtracks. Cassette tapes I wore out most were DC Talk’s Jesus Freak and the soundtracks to Space Jam, Mighty Ducks 3, & The 6th Man. (If you’re not familiar with The 6th Man, it’s a movie from the late 90s starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans where they’re NCAA basketball players. One dies and comes back as a ghost to help the other fill the shoes of the deceased one. GREAT!) 

 

You get the idea. I was pretty sheltered musically. I started taking piano lessons in about the 5th grade and really liked it and was pretty good. I actually competed in some sort of recital competition at the U of M a few times. You learn a piece and actually go into a soundproof room where it’s just you, the piano, and a judge. Pretty nerve-wracking for a ten year old. 

 

When I was in middle school, I came across Metallica. I heard ‘Fuel’ once on TV or something and the next time I went to Disc-Go-Round I picked up Re-Load for about $6 and so it began. I stopped taking piano lessons and somehow got my parents to buy me a Squier electric guitar kit from the now defunct Mars Music store in Har Mar Mall. It came with a cherry red Squier strat, 10-15 watt amp, picks, cords, etc. I never took lessons and just taught myself. I discovered tab websites online like ultimate-guitar.com and really picked it up rather quickly.

 

As I was learning to play, my tastes in what I wanted to listen to changed too. I got pretty deep into the pop-punk bands that were popping up like Blink-182, Green Day, Sum 41, New Found Glory, etc. It didn’t hurt that their songs weren’t super challenging to master for a kid teaching himself to play the guitar either. At the same time I was really into Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica(still), Led Zeppelin, Styx, among others. 

 

Mid-way through high school my music tastes changed again as I discovered Dave Matthews. The things he could do with an acoustic guitar were just amazing. So amazing that I saved up my money from my first couple of jobs and bought an acoustic guitar.  Liking Dave and DMB brought on the discovery of more artists like him as I made my way through college. Post college I started to get into country music but rather limited myself to what artists I liked based on how twangy their sound was. (Not a huge fan of twang.) 

 

Overall I find it pretty interesting that my tastes in music changed while I moved to each “stage” in life. Definitely pretty clear-cut eras. As I liked one, I despised others. Yet I somehow ended up liking those later on in life. When I was in my pop-punk phase I absolutely HATED Dave Matthews. I despised country music up until I actually started listening to it after I discovered Luke Bryan.  Now I just enjoy it all and know that if I dislike a type of music, chances are I will love it in a few years. I won’t say never about music.

WoT: NFL Rules are Unenforceable

American Football is a game based on the advancement of a ball down the field. The position of this ball is spotted by humans based on eyesight. This will never be 100% accurate. Ever. Even upon video review, the spot of the ball can sometimes not be determined.

So, how do you expect officials to determine what is a football move? Or, if the defender got his hand inside the shoulder pads of his opponent, making it a “horse collar” tackle?

It is by a great deal of happenstance that Super Bowls are won.