All posts by Travis Weiss

Album Review: Angels and Airwaves’ ‘The Dream Walker’

Want to know an album that warranted multimedia tie-ins? Devin Townsend’s solo album Ziltoid the Omnescient.

That album not only establishes clear, interesting characters, but also has a humorous mood to it. But Angel and Airwaves’ newest album does not warrant such companion pieces.

Now I’m not only saying this because I definitely prefer Ziltoid the Omnescient, but also because The Dream Walker is such a bland album.

All the songs have a similar generic clean semi-romantic rock vibe to them, and as a result none of them stick out that much. Plus there’s also the dull lyrics, a mediocre vocalist, and having the other band members doing nothing interesting. I seriously doubt this album will be remembered in 5 years time.

If you like modern pop rock (or pop/punk as an associate of mine called it), fine, you will like this album. But if you’re expecting anything unique, then go elsewhere. In all honesty, I never heard of this band until I had to review this album, and I chose to not listen to anything by the band until listening to the album. Why? To be unbiased and to go in blind. In hindsight, that didn’t matter as I felt like I’ve heard this songs in some way or another.

Now I realize this review may sound like I didn’t like it, which is true for the most part, but there were a couple parts I liked. For example, some of the songs started good, but then lead into generic songs (ex. Tunnels and Mercenaries). Plus Bullets in the Wind was an enjoyable song (albeit something I’ll never go out of my way to listen to, but not bad).

Rating: **

Best Songs: Bullets in the Wind, Tunnels

Now as for the multimedia tie-in’s for this album, well yeah, this album is just one part of a multimedia project that will include a film, comic books, a graphic novel, videos and animations that will apparently tie in to a central character known as Poet Anderson (according to diffuser.fm).

I am not going to initially diss this idea because maybe the tie-in’s are better than this album, but had it not been for the internet I wouldn’t have known who the hell Poet Anderson was. So for better or for worse, this album is just a piece of something bigger.

 

Video: Foo Fighters Rock Seattle’s Showbox

Foo Fighters performed on Friday night in Seattle at the Showbox. The concert came to be due to the fine folks at HBO who have been doing a show that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl directed: Sonic Highways. In episode 7 of that series, the episode’s focus was on Seattle, and it harkens back to the roots of not only Dave Grohl’s career, but the whole Seattle grunge scene.

As for the songs performed, they are as followed:

The band's set list, which doesn't include the cover songs performed. (Photo by Gillian G. Gaar)

As for the performances, they were grand.

For one, “I’ll Stick Around” is great, and it got the whole audience jumping in excitement. Plus the energy in the lyrics seem to echo throughout the audience.

There’s also “Something from Nothing”. A powerful take on a powerful song, that is also full of energy.

And there’s even “Learn to Fly” which may come across simply as a song to some, but to others it comes across as pure amazing music.

Their cover for “Under Pressure” had a unique grunge twist on a not-so grunge song. Now where is “Under Pressure”? Well sadly this track list does not include the covers that Foo Fighters did, in addition they also did The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” and “Breakdown” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Why Pearl Jam’s ‘Do The Evolution’ Is The Greatest Music Video Ever

Music videos are normally created for commercial reasons rather than artistic ones. Surely, that is nothing new, but imagine what if they could be something more than hot chicks and the band members playing instruments? Simple, we’d get more music videos like Do the Evolution.

The video for Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” should be a golden standard for what music videos should and can be, for many reasons. It is the polar opposite of the generic music videos; it can be seen as weird, amazing, dumb, smart, thought-provoking, and probably many other things, but I fail to see how the one could view it as typical.

It does not actually feature the band members

Why is it a good thing the band doesn’t appear in it? Well because it’s really redundant for them to appear in their own videos. Musicians are AUDITORY artists, not a VISUAL artists. People like bands for how they sound and that’s why we buy songs and albums (or illegally download them, which AlternativeNation does not condone!).

But why have the music video if the band’s art is purely sound-based? The music video can add a visually stimulating quality to their music. Something that Do the Evolution does, as opposed to something like this:

Now you may be thinking that musicians would then not get enough credit for their music if they were not to appear in their videos. Okay, but if people cared enough about the music, they would know who made it, especially with the advent of Google, Bing, and Wikipedia.  Let me ask you this dear reader, is Dave Grohl famous for his sweet facial hair or for being apart of Nirvana AND Foo Fighters?

As for “Do the Evolution”, the band of course does not appear in the video which is good because, well, look at the music video for “Iris”. It turns a great song into one of the most generic music videos I have ever seen.

The Visual Style

Good god! The visual style honestly speaks for itself. When you have a guy who directed episodes of Batman: The Animated Series working on your music video, you’re in pretty good hands.

Instead of trying to justify my love for this video’s beautiful comic book style animation, here’s a collage of imagery from Do the Evolution, and hope that you understand the appeal:

Strong Imagery with a Point

While the animation is pretty, what’s being animated is pretty awesome. Look at the collage. The imagery itself can be cool, especially the pilot who is a skeleton.  Okay, does that tie into the story, you may ask yourself? Well sorta, just like how the song is only sorta about evolution.

To summarize what Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder has said about the song, it’s about how Earth has been around a whole lot longer than humans, and yet humans are essentially claiming this world to be their own.

So it is about a evolution of man ascending from low-level apes to being grade-A idiots with Earth. Now how does the music video do in conveying this message?

Well when you really get down to it, this music video is essentially a series of clips showing humanity being a dick about ruling Earth, like showing a series of people being crucified (and then cuts to a guy selling crucifixes) and showing a little girl stepping on an ant hill. Sure, for about the first 30 seconds it’s about animals being dicks to each other for survival of the fittest and what-not, but then it shows people doing stuff like making a baby factory and create a deer-eating tentacle thing.

In short, there’s so many images with a point, that one species cannot run a planet all by itself without committing mass genocide and making baby clone factories.

But the biggest reason this is a golden standard for music videos…

It’s Attention-Grabbing

I once thought Do the Evolution was just one sweet music video, but then I looked into it. Would sweet be the right word? Yes and no. Sure the visuals are captivating, but what’s sweet about watching a bunch of businessmen jump out of a window?

Really, after pondering it, it is essentially a great work of art. It has a way of preaching to you in a way that you don’t even feel preached at. Now let me explain why a little preachy can be good.

Bill Hicks, one of the most legendary comedians of all time, stated how better music came from the heart. But he also mentioned oral sex with Satan to add comedy to his point. There’s also John Carpenter’s They Live, a movie with lots of action, aliens, and one of the greatest one-liners of all time. Did I mention it is anti-consumerism?

Now instead of saying why we’re all horrible people, we see it in a way that’s visually captivating, but then when we realize what we’re watching. Then from there on, the point is driven home in part by the sheer auditory and visual stimulation.

Plus you can never go wrong when your music video has…

A DINOSAUR TAKING A BITE OUT OF A SHARK!

DinoShark

And it looks like Jurassic World took a thing or two from the Do The Evolution playbook:

10 Of The Weirdest Horror Movies

It’s horror month here on AlternativeNation.net, we’ve recently published top ten articles on obscure 80’s slasher movies and the best horror movies of the past decade. What about those bizarre horror movies? And no, I’m not talking about so-bad-it’s-good horror movies.

What I’m talking about are those horror movies that can just feel bat**** insane sometimes, in a good way. A common complaint aimed at new horror movies is that they play it safe too much. With these movies, they so do not play it safe in the slightest. They just throw the most bizarre stuff at the viewer in the name of scares (or sometimes laughs, for the horror-comedies on the list).

Anyhow, on to the list (which is in no order)…

Eraserhead (1977)

Let’s begin with the most surrealist movie on the list. Eraserhead‘s basic story is simple: a man has to deal with the stresses of fatherhood. Now how could that go wrong?

Weird Factor: Could it be the dystopian setting? Could it be the haunting direction the director David Lynch takes? Could it be how there’s a freaking alien baby (as seen above)? Or could it just be how this film recreates the feelings of having a nightmare? Let’s go with all of the above.

Hellraiser  (1987)

This movie has a history of being unfairly lumped in with the 80’s slasher craze. It could be due to Hellraiser‘s infinite amount of sequels, but the original is insane.

As for the story, it’s about a guy who messes with a puzzle box called the “The Lament Configuration” and summons some hell-like creatures called Cenobites. These Cenobites drag the guy into a realm of unspeakable tortures. Said guy returns to a now-married former lover of his, and tells her to bring him back by murdering people, and that is while the Cenobites are trying to get him back.

Sounds like a mainstream horror movie, doesn’t it?

Weird Factor: Everything that is alive, but not a normal human being looks creepy. Of course in a horror film with demons, the demons would have to look scary. But in this, they wanted those designs to inhabit your nightmares! In addition, the film sorta implies this creatures engage in sexual acts considered to be sadomasochistic.

Gamera (1965)

The giant monster (Kaiju) genre is inherently a bizarre genre, but even considering this, Gamera is weird. As for what it’s about, well, that’s a simple: a giant flying turtle emerges from the Arctic and goes to Tokyo to destroy buildings and shrugs off whatever the military throws at it.

Weird Factor: Come on, it’s a movie about a giant turtle that destroys things.

May (2002)

I’m going to be honest, my moral compass forbids me to reveal anything about the movie’s plot. It is so good, you just need to go into blind. Have no expectations, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Now, time to spoil this movie in what makes it weird.

Weird Factor: Mostly, it’s the unsettling vibe you get in most scenes of the movie. In May, everything gets under your goddamn skin. Also, James Duval’s nipples cause problems.

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Sorta-remade in 2006 in the form of Slither, this movie is a simple story. Basically what exactly happens when college students unfreeze a dead body and inadvertently cause slugs to enter people’s brains which turns them into zombies? Well, we get a hell of a night. A night of the creeps. Okay now onto the weird factor before the trolls mock my pun…

Weird Factor: The basic premise of slugs going into people’s brains and having their hosts turn into zombies. Plus there’s a gritty detective haunted by his past in this movie who later gets a flamethrower from his police station. Hey, the 80’s were a simpler time for movies!

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

By far, this is the most insane movie you’ll ever see, horror or not. I mean, it’s so weird, and you never can predict this movie’s next action. Basically, this is the movie that made me realize how insane Japan can be because this movie makes Gamera look completely normal.

As for the plot, there’s a totalitarian Tokyo where these violent police officers stop super-humans named Engineers (and their ability is to weaponize their injuries. Like a guy could lose his arm and it’ll turn into a chainsaw). Now, if this doesn’t sound strange at all…

Weird Factor: I should probably just say some of the most batshit moments in the movie. Just because nothing else can prove my point, and none of these were made up or exaggerated:

  • The guy in the picture is a major character in the movie.
  • There’s also a girl whose legs turn into an alligator mouth. As for her nipples, they were removed with stitches from where the nipples were.
  • A girl whose body has been transformed to look like a snail.
  • The fake ads (ex. Wrist-cutting blades).
  • This film was described by somebody as taking the last half hour of Dead Alive and stretching it to 90 minutes. Now, if you don’t know what that means, well it means this film has enough blood and gore to satisfy any sort of gore-hound.
  • Dick cannon. Yup, dick cannon. (Obviously NSFW):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WFLGKth-rU

Bad Taste (1987)

Before tackling Middle Earth, Peter Jackson made “splatstick” flicks like Bad Taste and Dead Alive. In Bad Taste, the alien invasion genre can’t wait for your presence in Z². But until then, we have this movie. With the blood and gore fitting in a Troma movie, this movie is about aliens trying to kill humans to use their flesh for their own fast food chain. This sounds like a formula for a generic horror film, right?

Weird Factor:  This is pretty much the only film to use this formula: aliens + gore = awesome. But with the execution of said gore, it really makes it almost slapsticky. In one scene, a guy loses a bit of brain matters and puts it back into his head.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

Poultrygeist is about a KFC knock-off that is built on top of an Indian burial ground and as a result, Native American chicken zombies start killing people.

Weird Factor: Did I mention this is the only splatter/comedy/zombie/musical movie in existence, or at least the only one that features Ron Jeremy and a somewhat well-known scene of diarrhea? (not-sure if SFW):

Sisters (1973)

This largely Hitchcock-inspired movie that’s about a journalist who witnesses a murder, and the police don’t believe her. So of course, the journalist goes on an investigation to solve the murder herself. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill thriller, but it gets bizarre in the end.

Weird Factor (highlight to reveal spoilers): So basically, the journalist’s investigation leads her to a mental asylum which is run by the murderer’s husband. You see, the murderer was a conjoined twin that was separated by her husband. Now back to the journalist, now that she has evidence, she tried to use the phone at the mental asylum. Big mistake because the murderer’s husband persuades the mental asylum staff that the journalist is a patient. So they force the journalist into the asylum where the murderer’s husband hypnotizes her to believe that there was no murder. After that the film shows the relationship of the murderer and her husband (which is a really bizarre sequence). In a twist, it is revealed that the murderer is not only a former conjoined twin, but she also has split personalities between herself and her twin. Then the murderer kills her husband. What a hell of an ending.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

Wanna know what happens a priest kills himself? A gate to Hell opens up and it’s up to a reporter and a psychic to close it up. Now that may sound straight foreword, but that’s not true about this movie at all.

Weird Factor: It’s a largely nonsensical “living dead” movie that feels a lot more Lovecraft that Romero, and it has a whole lot of gore in it (ex. in one scene, a lady pukes out her organs). There’s not much more to add. It is, for better or for worse, a movie that really puts the plot in the backseat so that the director, Lucio Fulci, can throw what he wants at the screen.

These are all movies anyone should check out at least once. So yeah, have a freaky Halloween.

Clerks III: Will It Disappoint?

Editor’s note: This is our first article from contributor Travis Weiss.

If there’s any modern day filmmaker who really does not need an introduction, it’s Kevin Smith, the filmmaker who is known for his amazing characters, fantastic dialog, and hilarious comedies.

Now, Smith has a large fan base who are really excited since Clerks III was recently announced. If you don’t get what the big deal is, allow me to explain. Clerks is Smith’s most beloved movie, and its sequel is also heavily loved. So Smith’s fans are reasonably excited for Clerks III, considering the high quality of previous entries.

However, Clerks III can be a potential disappointment…

Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie Was Awful

Jay and Silent Bob, in case you already don’t know, are Smith’s most iconic creations: a duo of stoner drug dealers. It can easily be assumed that Jay and Silent Bob will appear in Clerks III,  as they are the most popular characters in the View Askew universe. What’s the View Askew universe? Well, it’s essentially a film universe that many of Smith’s films take place, including the Clerks movies. The latest View Askew movie is a film is Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie.

In short, that film is horrendous for it’s sheer stupidity. Now, Kevin Smith has written plenty of low-brow gags in his films, but it’s different in Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie. The movie’s “gags” are just moronic situations without any real punchline. One example is that Kevin Smith would occasionally pop in as himself to “clarify” bits of the movie (like one to say how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are from Earth to diss Michael Bay’s version of the movie). There’s a reason most writers don’t annoyingly insert themselves into their work. Or, better yet, one of the villains is always masturbating for no real reason. He just sits there. And masturbates. Totally hilarious.

This movie can easily make one nervous, because does Kevin Smith (who, keep in mind, did only write the Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, and he usually writes and directs his movies) think that stupid low-brow gags are the appeal of his movies? Because if that’s the case, Clerks III may be filled with more stupid pointless gags.

But, if that’s how he really views his View Askew movies, people should not be as excited because…

Kevin Smith Is Already Calling It His Best Movie

Some people may be excited for the movie in part due to Kevin Smith saying that he thinks that Clerks “CLERKS III will be the best film I’ll ever make”.

This is just pure cockiness considering how the film is not even close to coming out. I know this refers to the script, but even then it means nothing. All it means is that the script is good. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee the movie to be good.

Plus, if Kevin Smith finds Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie to be a good representation of his View Askew universe, what could that mean for Clerks III? Could it just be a series of unfunny jokes?

But there’s another quirk about Clerks III….

It Shouldn’t Exist

The original Clerks definitely did not need a sequel, but at least had room for one. That’s where Clerks II comes in. Clerks II works as a sequel. it continues 10 years after the original, and checks into characters who seem to act the same, just now work at a fast food joint. Simple enough. But, in the end, they buy the convenience store that they used to work at. That is the clear logical ending (assuming Kevin Smith was going to end the Clerks series on a light note).

Throughout both movies, the main two characters are both working for someone else, as most people are. They are naturally relatable in that regard because in the movies, they are not special. They are just two people who work in low-class jobs, and that’s it. But at the end of Clerks II, they rise above simple being two losers working low-class jobs. The main characters, Dante and Randal, buy the convenience store they had fond memories of and work for themselves.

What makes Clerks II’s ending really cathartic and satisfactory is that Dante and Randal are doing what everyone wants to see. They take responsibility, stick it to the man, simultaneously go back to better times, and yet are not be stuck in the past. Dante finds love and leads a better life.

However, Smith also said that Clerks III will be the Empire Strikes Back of the Clerks trilogy. What does that mean? Well, in the original Clerks, Dante said how he liked The Empire Strikes Back for having a bummer ending as life is “one bummer after another”. Could it be possible that Kevin Smith really intends to end the Clerks trilogy on a down note? Potentially, and if so, that sounds interesting, especially how the last entry ended so cheerily, yet, at the same time, it ruins the ending of Clerks II.

But Clerks III also has a technical quality that will certainly turn  some people off…

The Black & White

Kevin Smith said the first 10 minutes of Clerks III will be in black and white. And want to know what I’m going to say? Great! I like black and white as a style, like in Eraserhead, Dead Man, Ed Wood, and even the original Clerks. So, why’s this a negative? Well, this may disappoint certain people who aren’t fans of the classy black and white look, but are fans of Kevin Smith. So, what does that mean? Well, Clerks III already has something that will alienate parts of its audience, and that’s good.

Every good film has something to alienate people, because art is not meant to appeal to everyone. For example, I love the movie Paris, Texas. It is not the most action-packed movie, and can occasionally be slow at times. In spite of that, I still find it to be a heart-warming redemption story, and it never harms a movie to have a protagonist named Travis. I could understanding that does not sound exciting, and fair enough if you don’t like it. But what alienates movies like these for some are another audience’s strength.

My point is, this movie may disappoint certain audiences on the grounds it just doesn’t appeal to them, and as I said, it’s too early to figure out how the film will be.

But, there’s one last reason Clerks III can fail….

Kevin Smith Is Still Human

Plenty of Kevin Smith fans, even myself, hold this man in a high regard, but he is still human. People mess up from time to time. Many (most) of Smith’s non-View Askew movies have been critically panned, though all of his movies connected to Clerks have had some form of critical acclaim.

No matter how great the movies Kevin Smith makes are, he can still always miss. I mean, look at the Jay and Silent Bob Super Groovy Cartoon Movie. The movie is just not good. But that’s okay when you have movies like Clerks, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II in your resume.

So, what do you think dear reader, will Clerks III bomb, or will it go down as Kevin Smith’s magnum opus?

Editor’s note: Jay and Silent Bob promptly booked a flight to Travis’s hometown and beat him up after reading this editorial.