“Batman Returns” Me a Little Bit to the Past

And well, yesterday’s morning found everyone watching some sort of superhero movie on cable, especially since it was the first weekend after classes resumed. There was The Amazing (not so amazing) Spiderman on Starz, The Batman in some other channel, and the one I chose to watch, also directed by Tim Burton, Batman Returns. It had been a while since I had last seen that movie. Story goes that I went to watch it with my family when I was a kid, but that I fell asleep at some point of the movie. That’s very likely, since I must have been three years old and barely have memories of those days. Suffice to say, Batman was my favorite superhero and overall character of my childhood, with me possesing at least 7-10 different action figures variations of the character.

Obviously, the excellent trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan revived the franchise which severely damaged by the awful 90s rendition Batman & Robin, which I must admit I actually liked when I saw it (hell! I was 6 years old!). Anyways, the last three Batman movies have obviously been the best the character has seen, but we’ll admit that Tim Burton certainly hit the nail in the head with his 90s versions. Obviously, both set of movies are tremendously different, with the Dark Knight choosing to be more realistic, while the Burton films featured a different kind of obscurity, a more comic-like appearance which is probably more faithful to the original concept of The Batman. Burton films leave off the film noir feel of the Nolan films and go for a more over the top gothic feel. However, while researching, it has surprised me how much of his own Burton placed on the film, especially in regards to The Penguin character.

The whole origin story, about being thrown to the sewers by his family, and his posterior rise to crime from the underground were entirely his making, as well as the extremely grotesque appearance of the villain. The Penguin has indeed always been chubby and with a hook nose, but Burton expands on Danny Devito’s character, giving him long hair at the side of his head instead of the fully bald comic appearance, and by fusing his fingers, making him snort and drool some sort of black saliva and making him eat raw fish. Curiosly, the original comic book character was based on the mascot for Kool cigarettes, Willie the Penguin. And yet another curiosity is that an object, similar to one of his many weapon umbrellas was actually developed and even used in assasinations. It received the name of Bulgarian Umbrella.

Anyways, I remember rewatching the movie years later; I must have been 14 or something then, and I enjoyed it more, although the presence of the Max Schreck character wasn’t quite clear to me until yesterday’s rewatch. Michelle Pffeifer as Catwoman is okay, but Selina Kyle annoyed the hell out of me, especially because of her relationship with Bruce Wayne. Anyways, truth is I actually didn’t finish watching the movie yesterday, mainly because I hate when tv channels need to constantly insert commercials every 15 minutes, and then, because the movie just gave me a real desire to play the 1992 Super Nintendo game.

The Super Nintendo was certainly the golden years of video gaming, back then the games didn’t need life-like graphics, or intricate storylines. They simply were fun to play. And I remember back in the day, having to go to the rental and choosing out of the available games what to play for the next two days. Ok, I’ll be sincere, back then I wasn’t a gamer, I mainly just enjoyed watching my siblings play and cheering up for them, watching the gameplay as if watching a movie. I don’t mind, I didn’t get bored. And as many more games, we never really got off from some particular stage, and looking back, most of them were pretty early stages. But I guess you can’t blame 8 year old children for not been able to conquer the Elephant Cemetary stage in Lion King or that “flying carpet over lava” stage in Aladdin, especially not with only a few hours of gameplay. It turns out, that while watching the movie, I realised we never got past the second stage of the game. The main reason been: this motherfucker. Well, that and the fact that I’m pretty sure we never got to this menu screen:

Who would have known? Turns out you can actually change the game’s difficulty, and that you can increase your lives up to 9. And there we were, not knowing more than a couple of alphabet related words in English, and here I am, ranting about the same game, in fluent English. We’ve come a long way. Anyways (I’ve got to find anotehr word, I know), I actually stopped watching the movie, in order to download the ROM version of the SNES game, and after a few seconds, I load it and started playing. Obviously, roms give you the chance to cheat, and constantly save your progress without having to start back again from stage’s start, but I actually tried to use it the less I could. I actually didn’t have to use it, until I hit that stage 2 boss, that stupid fat guy, which we always made fun of, since Batman gets rid of him so easily in the movie, by simply attachin some dynamite on him and throwing him down a hole (so much for the theory that Batman doesn’t kill).

But you can’t blame me. If you could only see that guy’s punch range, and how much each blow takes off from your lifeline, you would also think how on Earth did the game developers expect a kid to go through these stages without having a save slot/load slot to rely on. And worst of all, this guy doesn’t get stunned by the batarangs, but only knocked down, which doesn’t take off hit points. And I haven’t even start talking about those annoying c

lowns which accompany him. But well, back in my preteens, when the SNES emulator was better than any Game Cube game out there, I extremely enjoyed these beat-em-up games. I sure will need to make another entry on them on the future, and let me say Batman Returns was one of the best of them. Except for those horrible, extremely hard in normal mode villains, and for its lack of cooperative mode, the game is great. It features amazing graphics and colors for it’s day, and the gameplay is mostly good, except for some stages, stage 3 in particular, which try to focus the game less on the action, and more on platform jumping, which is really annoying because Batman jumps are quite lame and hard to calculate. And well, I finally got to battle one of the real villains, with Catwoman at the end of stage 3, which wasn’t easy to beat either, and for which I had to abuse the load command. I was later killed at the beggining of stage 4, but I had quite satisfied my “rigio”(willingness?? o.O) the movie awoke in me. Still, I now know that there is a Batmobile stage which I haven’t got to, and I’ve never fought The Penguin, so who knows, maybe a leisure weekend and an awful amount of save & load and I’ll beat the game.

Advertisements

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 11: Favors

My last blog rant about the two latest Mad Men episodes (S06e09 & e10), was actually liked by a “pop culture enthusiast” (Hello Mr. Holmes!), which felt good. I hadn’t written about episode 11, which aired last Sunday, because I hadn’t been able to watch it, for I was in a trip to Nicaragua (which I may or may not blog about soon[or not so soon]). Anyways, I had download the episode to watch on my way back home, and it was a wise idea, for those 45 minutes proved to be the swiftest of the 6 hours of bus line travelling from Managua to Tegucigalpa.

Well, Season 6 hasn’t really disappointed me, although some people in the internet have tagged it as “inconsistent”. I can see were that comes from, since obviously some episodes have been slower, with no big events and have mainly served as build-ups for these last 3 episodes. Episode 11, aptly titled Favors, has started to tie up everything that has been going on during this season. Mainly, Don’s love affair with Sylvia, the Draper’s downstairs neighbor, which had been terminated after Don’s sick overcontrol a couple of episodes back.

On this episode, we meet Sylvia’s and the Doctor’s son, a guy called Mitchell, whom we first see privately talking to Meggan to see if she can arrange a escape for him to Canada. The guy apparently got not so good grades and is gonna be drafted to go to Vietnam, which he is obviously willing to avoid. He looks obscure and introvert, and he suddenly seems like the “Meggan killer” we talked about last week, specially when Sally and one of her friends remarks “are you a musician? because you look like one” But when the guy asks which, the conversation is knocked out by the entrance of his mother (Charles Manson I thought to myself).

Anyways, this whole war desertion thing is a central point of this episode, as well as of the series, which just happens to be ironic when Don says to Meggan that “the kid can’t be running away all his life”. Which gets us back to Don changing his mind, and trying to do something to same his mistress’ child and therefore the affair they used to have. After almost sabotaging a meeting with Chevrolet in search of the proper contacts, Ted Chaough finally helps Don get what he needs “I don’t think you have many friends, so I’ll assume this is important” says Ted, who seems to think that Don has a personal power confrontation with him, when in fact it’s all collateral to Don’s personality.

Anyways, everyone seems to believe now that it’s unavoidable that someone will die before the season ends. Some have even dared to point Don Draper (the farce), but the hand of death now seems to be pointing at Pete Campbell. Sure, his life is tumbling down at the rate that his hair is falling. He’s bound to stay in that horrible midlife crisis for the rest of the season. Nothing seems to be going well for him, with his “crazy” mother, calling him, in a moment of sanity, an “unlovable” person. However, Pete might have two ways out of it. First, just as they did a couple of episodes back with Don and Betty, the writers have played and reminded us the fact that Peggy and Campbell share some past (not to mention an unwanted child). Who knows? Peggy seems pretty happy with her new pet cat.

On the other hand, one of the big mysteries of the season was revealed; partially I hope. Bob Benson, the weird guy who some call a serial killer in the cover, and others Don’s son. Well, it turns out that the major character development featured on the episode was that Bob has the hots for Pete. Yep, when address by Pete for some problems he’s been having with Manolo, his mother’s male nurse, Bob makes a reply about “loving someone who cares for you, no matter who they are”, while rubbing his leg against Pete’s. Sure, that was shocking, but really poor. We already had a gay character with Salvatore Romano and he was a likeable character, it would be a shame if that was the only development for Benson. Anyways, I’m on the team who believes there’s more to him than that.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t rant more about this episode, but tonight is the airing of episode 12, so I guess it would be useless to publish this note tomorrow. Grab a whisky glass and have a happy Mad Men watch.

Fast Tracks: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories

One of the things I didn’t repent telling the game show producers was that I had a Computer Technician degree. Of course, I had heard they asked things regarding with your life, but let’s face it, I got a medal for the being the best of the class, and yet, today, I wouldn’t be able to program a stoplight in Visual Basic. Still, I guess I remain familiar with some of theory and terms used; basic ones at least. Nowadays, I’ve been so much left behind with tecnology, that it’s hard for me to properly handle a Blackberry (let alone a Smartphone), or even the MacBook Air my mother just bought. Anyways, I knew from the get-go what Daft Punk new album’s title refer to, that part of computers which triggers the actions, without storing anything (hell, I can’t even properly explain it).

Anyways, these two French guys have been the embassadors of electronic music properly blended with rock since the 1990s. Ever since their debut, Homework in 1997, they crafted good songs accompanied by amazing videos, like Around the World, or a personal favorite, Da Funk. Homework is a solid album, but it’s a tiddy bit too long and it works more  like a sampler than an actual record. Most people (if not everyone), would agree with me that their most accomplished achievement was their 2001 release Discovery, a record I used to own on my second music phase (MK II). I even remember that was the last record I bought during MK II, a phase ruled by MTV and my favorite nu-metal acts like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park XD. Then, a friend of mine really liked the album and I gave it to him, he then lent it to another friend who had the ability to constantly dissapear things lent to him. Anyways, I would probably have to rebuy that album if I ever come across it again, it’s a good record which most of my generation might recall from the animated videos, all included in the film Interstellar 5555.

Well, the promotion for their new album started some months ago, very sudden and very cleverly made. Sure, there was a sometimes an annoying aura of mystery around its release, but hell, maybe all releases should create as much anticipation as Random Access Memory, their first record since 2006s Human After All, such a bad release I didn’t even find out until this year about its existence. They only released snippets of one of their songs, Get Lucky, during the Super Bowl (or was it SXSW??), featuring a whole roster of guest appearances from Julian Casablancas to Giorgio Moroder. Then the album came out, Pitchfork gave a “Best New Music” tag, but my circle of friends who are interest in music had diverging opinions.

Obviously, it lacks some of the coherence and nostalgia that surfaces when listening to Discovery and one of those meaningful songs like Digital Love or Something About Us.  As you might see by now, I’m more on the fan side. Its a good record, takes time to grow in you, even if by today’s half of the year standards, it might barely make it into my top 10.

The record is well paced. It starts slowly and takes its time and no pressure to grow, and the best songs are pretty much on its second side (sad spoiler, Get Lucky is RAM at its catchiest). I like how loungy and free spirited it all starts. Give Life Back to Music and The Game of Love are gradual growers; the latter one being one of the band’s attempts to hit across a new “Something About Us”. One of my favorites is track 3, Giorgio by Moroder, which samples an interview with the Italian producer with synth sounds from the era. The sounds are catchy and it’s a bridge across a generational gap, a salute from today to the people who were living in the future back in the day. Most songs have its charm, take Instant Crush for example, with the gust appearance by The Strokes Julian Casablancas (though you wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you), and then we have another interesting guest spot by Animal Collective´s Panda Bear on Doin’ It Right.

Well, bottom line Random Access Memories is not the lifechanging affirmation that you might have thought this guys would bring, judging by the anticipation they were creating. It’s simply a good record, and where guys like Moroder in the 70s or Guy Manuel de Homem Cristo and Thomas Bangalter 20-15 years ago, seemed to be making music of the future, the truth is, that that future is now.

Mad Men Season 6: Episodes 9 & 10

Pheew… A couple of days ago, when I decided to start this new blog adventure, I thought that at least during vacations, I would be posting with machine-gun regularity. There certainly are lots of things I would like to rant about, but there’s one in particular which has been consuming my time lately. Too bad I can speak about it due a confidentiality agreement I signed (alright, I’ll be participating on a quiz show). Anyways, tomorrow is the big day, and before leaving I would like to post my thoughts about the last two aired episodes of AMC’s Mad Men.

This past week was the first time I was able to watch two episodes in a row since the season debut, since I had been left a week behind due to my travel schedule. Anyways, lots of stuff going on right now, and if you still haven’t seen any of this episodes, I reccommend you to stop reading, for spoilers may abound. Obviously, things have been running hot at the company ever since they lost both Jaguar and Vicks on the same episode, and later decided to merge with Cutler, Gleason and Chaough to take on the General Motors Chevrolet account. The as-episode-9-still-unnamed company is a mess, and power seems to be fluctuating so much. The high cats like Don, Roger or Ted are managing to mantain there stands, but others like Pete Campbell are having a harder time.

Probably the most outstanding part of episode 9, is Don’s trip to his son’s Bobby summer camp, where he meets Betty (Francis now). The three of them share a true bonding moment singing a rhyme at the table, and for a screenshot we get to see Don as a happy, fulfilled person. Too bad that’s his ex-wife across the table, and his current wife, Megan, is unsuccesfully attempted to be seduced by her boss and TV co-star Arlene. Then, we get what we had all been expected, and what seriously had already taken long to happen. Don has sex and sleeps again with Betty, and they have a bonding moment when he says he misses her. “Poor Megan” says Betty “she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way of getting to you”. Who knows what might happen next, Betty seemed satisfied with the one night adventure, Don goes back to Megan, and I, for one, can blame Mad Men as the reason, case I don’t get married.

Peggy on the other hand, has been having this story arc about her new home and relationship with hippie writer Abe. The rarely busy Abe finally convinced Peggy for them to live in a more “culturally diverse” place; which actually seems to be some kind of ghetto. Things start getting out of control when Abe gets stabbed while been robbed at the subway. When the police arrives, the guy actually protects the criminals who attacked him. Then we have a rock breaking one of their windows, and finally, while Peggy sleeps on the couch, she hears a sound and accidentally stabs Abe. On the ambulance on the way to the hospital, he breaks up with her. This just reminds me of her previous break-up on the phone and how awkward all her relationships have been. Here, we must cast special attention on her affair with Ted Chaough, who on this same episode acknowledges he “loves her”, but when Peggy goes to him to inform him that she’s single now, he acts indifferent. “What a jerk” we might think, but he’s a married guy.

Then, on episode ten’s Dickensonian titled A Tale of Two Cities, we get Sterling, Draper and Crane travelling to LA, and Joan trying to get control of a new account, to the backdrop of the 1968 Democratic National Convention Riots. Of course, some of the best Mad Men episodes are those set against an historical background, however this event is less interesting, compared to the Cuban Missile crisis or the Kennedys’ assasinations. It only serves to reinforce a recurrent theme on this sixth season, growing insecurity (we’ll get back to this). Then, we also have the LA entourage visiting a Hollywood party, where substances abound, where we once again meet brief copywriter Danny, who has now become a successful producer. Oh, and yeah, Don smokes hachis and we get another of those sweet hallucination sequences which end up with Don almost drowning in a pool. The episode is cut short just while Pete Campbell grabs a joint from Stan Rizzo and starts smoking it.

Well, still 3 episodes to go, and then we’ll have to start the count down to year for season 7. As usual, Season 6 has been good, the show is majestically written and produced, and we still have two major storylines which the blogosphere hopes to see portray over the remaining episodes. First of all, the development of one of the most mysterious characters in the whole show. “Who the hell is Bob Benson?” everyone has been asking themselves since the character was introduced this season. He constantly appears (“Go upstairs! What the hell are you doing down here all the time” Cutler scolds him), and doesn’t play a definite role in the series. He seems to be a normal, well intentioned guy, always willing to help. But hell, that seems boring, and that’s not an adjective to use with this show. This all has lead to numerous theories to surface on the internet on his true role at Sterling, Cooper and Partners (as the firm is finally named). An interesting but fading one, was that he was a government agent sent to investigate Don after the Air Force incident a couple of seasons back. More probably is the theory that he might be an undercover journalist, climbing his way to uncover the secrets of the advertising business. If there’s one thing Benson has done well, that is properly move chess pieces. Finally, some people have started wondering whether he just might be Don’s lost son. That would make sense, since the audience has caught Bob lying about his father (calling him “dead” one episode, and later saying “he’s fine”), plus we all got to see that flashback where Don recalls his first experience with a hooker, who gets thrown out of the brothel after the incident. Well have to see, since others point people are trying to read too much into him, and that Bob Benson is just a normal well-intentioned guy.

And well, after episode 9, another theory started to gain force. Is Megan Draper, Don’s frustrated actress and wife getting killed this season. Remembered I pointed out how “insecurity in New York” seems to be a recurrent theme this season. From Grandma Ida’s breaking in to Don’s apartment, to Abe’s stabbing (both of them), to how we heard some loud sirens while Megan was on the balcony. Sure, it also certainly ties up with the fact that Megan was wearing a shirt which ties her to another 60s major event, The Manson Family assasinations. As you can see from the picture above, Megan appears wearing the same shirt as Sharon Tate, a former model and up and coming actress, who was married to Roman Polanski. We’ll admit the theory is kind of crazy, but it just makes sense, especially as many like to point out several “clues” on the Season 6 promotional poster.

Well, we’ve still got 3 episodes to keep guessing.

Fast Tracks: Neil Young – After the Gold Rush

youngbackcar

If you’re an audiophile, like I consider myself to be, then it’s quite possible that you’re familiar with a term like “listening projects”. Being the music universe such an amazingly big and diversified place, it’s sometimes hard to choose where to move. Even when having amassed a big collection of music, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what to revisit and listen back. Obviously, lists are one great tool, especially those developed by a group of writers, such as the Pitchfork’s editors, who by now have chosen a 100 albums for each of the last 4 decades (60s just got a 200 songs version). Back in 2004, the process started with a list of 100 of the 70s most essential records. Scrolling through the list, I can count only around 20 albums I lack, and therefore, decided that was a good starting place.

The list starts us off with Brian Eno’s 1977’s Before and After Science, a great record, an a perfect example of how something might have been overlooked due to my collectionist/accumulationist tendencies. The record guarantees an entry of its own, but this entry deals with another great one. Legend Neil Young is probably my favorite singer-songwriter. His guitar beats Dylan’s pretentious lyrics by a mile, and on album’s like decade turning After the Gold Rush, emotions overflow. Simply put, the guy’s a genius. He started a run of classic albums in the 60s with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and all through the 70s, starting with this, Neil got one good record after another. Even though his later work suffers from inconsistency, he managed to pull out a truly competent record, with last year’s Psychedelic Pill.

Now, talking about After the Gold Rush, wish I believe was partly made as a soundtrack to a movie never made. As I said on my welcoming post, I’ve stopped documenting myself on the album’s background before writing each entry. Still I can tell this is a step away from his previous effort. The only real rocker here is Southern Man, and what a hell of a rocker. Probably the record’s best known track, a tale of slavery, a characterization of the South, that Southern Rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd famously called back on one of their most memorable songs, Sweet Home Alabama. The guitar here gives me goosebumps, and makes my back feel whiplashed.

neilyoung70s

Then we have the lovetorn ballads, like opener Tell Me Why (“I am lonely but you can free me all in the way that you smile”), Only Love can Break Your Heart (supposedly written about the breaking up of guitar player Stephen Stills relationship with Joni Mitchell), and probably my favorite track, an overlooked song on Young’s repertoire, the wonderful Birds (“When you see me fly away with you, shadow on the things you know).

Bottom line, the whole album is great, from start to finish, and it’s only 35 minuetes long, so there’s really no reason on why you should not welcome my recommendation, and who knows, maybe you as well might become a Neil Young fan and further adventure into his vast discography, which holds other gems like the before mentioned Everybody Knows…, Harvest, On the Beach or Rust Never Sleeps.

Plus, you can listen to the whole thing through Youtube:

Fast Frames: The Great Gatsby

My father and me love buying books. We do buy new library books, but we also take the time to visit street book sellers, sometimes, with just enough luck, you can get to find interesting and rare stuff. One time, year’s ago, before I left on a year-long trip, I acquired a second hand “The Great G

atsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was the classic “eyes in the sky” cover, and it had curiously already been read and commented by another reader (my guess is he didn’t finish the novel, since the underlining and comments stopped near chapter 3). I took it on the Transatlantic flight and probably finished it at one of the 3 airports I had to visit. I lent the book to one of my friends, and ended up donating at the public library in an East Finnish town.

Just this past year, while going to the movies, I was surprised to see a new version was scheduled to appear this 2013. From the get go I thought that was not a very good idea, but after seeing the leading roles were going to be played by Tobey Maguire and especially, Leo DiCaprio, I gave it the benefit of doubt. Then, a longer trailer surfaced. The whole thing looked so over the top and highly produced, that it seemed that hey just might pull it off.

Then, yesterday’s afternoon, I went to watch it after coming back from a week long trip into the mountain. Suffice to say I was actually surprised I didn’t fall asleep… The greatest achievement of Fitgerald’s novel was it’s ability to portray to us the 1920s American High Society, also known as the Jazz Age, and The Great Gatsby film’s major achievement is also it’s ability to reproduce that society, than, why is it that it just doesn’t work? It’s fair to say the film is visually astonishing, yet, the story simply works way better as a short novel, than as a 2 hour long film. I remember its previous recreation, an 80s or 70s rendition with Robert Redford in the leading role; it suffered from greatly stylized camera angles, and it was also a dozing pain to watch complete. Now, this 2013 version is not unwatchable, but simply doesn’t leave much, especially to those of us who had already read the book and watch the Redford film.

The actors I guess are alright, DiCaprio is always a screen grabber, and Carey Mulligan is so cute; she’s simply a joy to watch. The scenarios and dressing are also high class. However, one of the most attention grabbing elements of the movie was the music. Helmed by rap singer and producer Jay-Z, the choice was highly dubious on paper. What we get is as unexpected as the curator, for Jay-Z fills the 1920s dance scenes with modern dance music, and some curious cover versions, like a retro-futuristic Crazy in Love to that U2 Love Is Blindness featured on the trailer. Most things serve to be curious, but after the novelty is gone, I finally got them as silly and ridiculous.

Then again, I must recall on how I could catch a snip of my mom dozing off during the “climatic” scenes, and that after having drink a big cup of capuccinno. I knew what was about to happen, so nothing grabbed me by surprised. Which gets me back to my trip into the mountain. One week ago, judging that I might get rain pouring upon me over there (which in fact I did get), I grabbed one of those paperback Signet Classic unread books on my shelf to take along. The chosen book was actually F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel, This Side of Paradise. I’m currently just 100 pages into the book, but I’m enjoying the read, and after watching The Great Gatsby, I can’t but repeat that some things work better as books, or as less pretentious movies at least.
Check out Jack White covering U2’s Love Is Blindness

Welcome to my Blog

Every once in a while, I get a hand itching, a willingness to simply write and express myself. Over the last 6 years, I’ve hosted a Blogger account. Over there, I’ve written intermitently, mostly about music, but it’s common for me to spend months without posting a new single entry. The catch is that over there, I didn’t just post things up; I had to do a previous research about the artists’ backgrounds, check some of their previous discographies to have somewhere to grasp from, tried to do several different projects. Bottom line, I’ve grown tired of it, and now, I simply plan to host this new blog, simply ranting about the things I do in my life, whether it is the movies I watch, the books I read, the music I’m currently grooving to or why cereal boxes for adults become so boring. Anyways, I’m pretty sure most people won’t find anything useful here, but this blog is simply an invitation to everybody, to go ahead and scratch the writing itch, because life is fast, and you’re not writing.