Superheros can’t escape who they are: Kick Ass 2

Everyone believes that who they are is not entirely reflected in what other people see. Whether that feeling compels us to do more or whether it makes us feel like we’re trapped in Marcel Marceau’s invisible shrinking box is a moment-by-moment affair.

But for superheros, that normal, smaller life is the one they usually want. They are not allowed by fate to have it, however hard they try. Superman renounced his powers to marry Lois Lane, but in the end, his exclusive power to deal with forces of evil drag him back into the role he was destined to play.

It looks as though the same basic arc will follow the second installment in the Kick Ass series. Color me surprised that there even is a second in this series, since the first was frankly a bit of a downer. Now it looks like Kick Ass will be joining some sort of highly-nerdy Justice League:



[Off Topic] On True Blood, the only thing still sucking is Alan Ball.

Admit it: you've felt like this a couple times watching Season 4

I don’t often use this space to rant about television, but I thought I’d just go ahead and do it on a Saturday morning. Its Labor Day weekend and I don’t feel like doing anything productive, anyway….

I wish I could be surprised or disappointed by the way True Blood is turning out, but the dreary truth is that Alan Ball has done it again. Fans of Six Feet Under must surely have worried that he might go and ruin his latest creation. And I think we can all now admit that he has. He’s gone and painted himself into a ridiculous corner out of which no easy escape remains. He’s gone and written so fast and furiously that he’s got a million subplots, all of them shitty and really none of them focused on what made the show a success in the first place.

Granted, they are two different things. Six Feet Under was a quirky, macabre and always interesting look at life through the eyes of those for whom dealing with death is a vocation. The opening sequences showing random deaths that had nothing to do with the plot (except to provide a corpse on which to work for the rest of the episode) were a real highlight of the show. They displayed life as fleeting and death as potentially silly, and with that as the amuse bouche, I was always eager to get into whatever crazy story line he was going to weave next.

But about season three, Ball decided to take the quirky and the funny and replace it with unendingly painful, shameful and ugly impostors. The show I used to watch for a light splash of death became a horrible burden of life. I enjoyed all the characters and wanted to see them do well, so I kept watching. I was invested. But soon enough, the sheer number of plotlines – David and the damned adopted kid, Nate and his emotional issues after the stroke thing, cute and funny Ruth suddenly becoming this horribly desperate character – overwhelmed my interest in the show. And anyway: what the hell happened to the funeral business?

With True Blood, we had vampires fucking. Remember the heavy metal Goth vamps speed-fucking willing human participants? Occasionally killing one, now and again? Gothic, sexy, raunchy, drug-fueled, nihilistic, funny, zero-sum Saturnalia, constantly filmed at night. It was everything I wanted my childhood to be. The simple yet completely implausible plot of vampires suddenly springing into the public eye – and humans blithely accepting it – was so silly that it made for great mind exercises. You just had to go on imagination and wonder what happens next.

Well, what happened next – about Season 3, if you recall – was Beverly Hills 90210 with expensive special effects. Oh, sure. There’s the occasional were-panther rape sequence. But that’s bad, like Brandon and his *one* fucking ecstasy trip. Pht. Remember when violent, doped-up supernatural sex was a good thing? Yeah, that’s gone.

Instead, the football team (The Vampires) has a beef with the lacrosse team (The Witches) and they’re duking it out for control of the lunch room (Merlots). The leather-bound, heavy metal hacker kids (Werewolves) are just waiting to see who loses so they can get their licks in and maybe steal some shit to fence out by the baseball diamond. Nobody but nobody gives a shit what the geeks and emos are doing (Shifters and god help us, Faeries, respectively), except the loser AV kid (Alan Ball). And everybody drops everything when the hot blond girl-next-door with the sweet ass who won’t put out comes into the room (Sookie).

I don’t give a rat’s ass in a red wheelbarrow about any of these plots. I want to see the vampires fucking. Goth music at Fangtasia, just like I’d like to remember Vertex. Freaked-out innocents and creepily-submissive tourists. Death and gore and sex and mind-bending intoxication and all the good things in life.

But no. Now we need to watch Jason the Fuck-Machine discuss his feelings with Jessica the Gorgeous Red-Headed, Nominally Uncontrollable Baby-Vamp. Are you kidding me? When do we go back to the fun?

There are now so many plots and subplots that there is no way to get back to the core of True Blood without jerking the wheel violently to the right and hitting a retaining wall. Which I admit: I’ve considered an acceptable plot-line, while watching the show. As it is, we had Russel in concrete and Queen Sophie-Anne about to do the Dance of the “True Death” with Bill at the end of Season 3, then we come back to Season 4 and its as if none of those plots happened. Did you feel a little cheated when the plot suddenly became about Faeries? Presumably living on one of the more cheaply-constructed Star Trek Voyager sets?

And oh, you just know those fucking Faeries are coming back at some unwelcome moment in the next two episodes, don’t you? Yes, you do.

Fucking Faeries.


Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival: Friday Night

I’ll have it known that I was at Woodstock ’94, wading among 350,000 of my closest friends and rocking to Primus, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. I’ve been to two Lalapallooza shows. I’ve been in my share of pits and general admission melees for many bands. I’m not a flyweight when it comes to crowds.

Which is why, standing asshole-to-elbow between the stage and the wall on Gibbs St, just trying to make our way around the stage that blocked the entrance, my experienced eye saw a situation that one well-timed cherry bomb or beer-spilling fist fight could easily have spun into a dangerous, embarrassing and potentially costly mini-riot. Was I the only one?

This is not the way to see a jazz show. If I’d been this crushed to see a metal show, well, I would have expected it. But I wanted to suck down some cheap wine, groove out to some laid-back music and watch the ladies dance. There was no doing that on Gibbs St last night. In fact, there was no one dancing on Gibbs St, that I could see.

In fact, the whole setup was surreal in its sheer stupidity: everybody knows that the Jazz Fest happens “on East Avenue,” but the stage on Gibbs was actually at the end of East, blocking traffic. Two narrow passages, less than twenty feet wide, were the only admittance for those of us coming from East – and there were a lot of us – into the stage area. As it turns out, the other end of the street was blocked by a huge structure that was home to the Xerox Tech Center. So, an entire street is completely blocked off – on both ends – in a festival?

We ended up going around and using the passage down Barret Place, where they had the toilets lined up. Pleasant…

Inside the stage area, it was filled with food vendors and people, packed nearly as tightly as our first ill-fated entry. Smoke, steam, heat, densely-packed humanity. The recipe for a relaxing jazz experience if ever there was one. We ended up sitting in the “Tech Center” at the non-sequitur coffee bar, deciding what we wanted to do to regroup. We were actually there for the Trombone Shorty show that was on Chestnut, but frankly, the night to that point had been such a buzz-kill that it seemed better to just catch a jazz show at Bistro 135. Which is exactly what we did.

I hope people had a good time – I know a few people on Twitter said they enjoyed last weekend’s festivities. But for myself, this just wasn’t a jazz experience at all. In fact, walking back to our car on Prince St, my wife remarked that everyone heading into the festival looked chipper and happy, whereas those of us leaving all had the same dour expression of resignation. That’s not a recipe for a lot of return customers.


Break! No More Politics

Watch Oingo Boingo instead:



David Blaine on Perspective

David Blaine will be suspended above the ice rink in Central Park for 60 hours.  It only takes maybe six to get there, so it’s not too late if you want to watch him. . . well, . . . hang there.

Asked why he does the dopey shit he does (I’m sure that’s not how the question was framed), he said this:

Magician Blaine to hang upside down for 60 hrs | Entertainment | Reuters

“I like to do these things because it gives me a different perspective, for a short duration. But that perspective is important to the rest of my normal existence,” he said.

So, Dave: have you ever done something which altered your perspective to the point that you realized what a useless douchebag you are to the rest of us?  You should try something like that.


Make it Stop

I share Jamie Piazza’s psychic pain when I read that they’re actually going to remake Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The remake will be done by the original producer, which elicits a certain “Bucket List” quality to the whole idea, only serving to make it much, much worse.

Here’s the thing about it: not to step on anyone’s aging second-childhood fantasies, or anything, but doesn’t anyone that the original was so great because it was so bad? That was the point.  Remaking it will only improve on all the things that made it worth watching.  That’s not good.

As for Jamie’s request for nominees for the Frankenfurter 2009, go give him some suggestions!  I’m getting mine in there right now.


Gas Prices and the Indy Music Scene

Here’s a ripple you might not have considered: the high cost of gas hurts everybody who drives to make their living, especially those on slim margins, but its really hitting the music industry locally.  I imagine the same holds true elsewhere.  The irony is that what I’ve always viewed as a strength of Rochester’s geography is now it’s weakness: you’re a relatively short drive from a huge number of highly-active music scenes, from New York to Toronto, from Philly to Cleavland.  But the problem is, you have to drive to those places in order to make a decent showing of yourself.



Something saggy this way comes.  The television show about teenage high school students starring thirty-something actors that made me cringe throughout my high school career even as I watched it (in the vain hope that I would have something to talk to Jeannie Peirce about) is making a come back. . .  with the original stars:

The Associated Press: Shannen Doherty back in `90210′ ‘hood this fall

Brenda Walsh is all grown-up and returning to Beverly Hills, 90210, this fall.

But cast members of the new CW spin-off, “90210,” are speculating whether Shannen Doherty will be equally mature when she reprises her role as Walsh.

No more fresh fruit at the Peach Pit.  Gone are the episodes about Brendon getting his drink dosed with MDMA (Extasy for you kids out there) and wild, drug-laden nights in TJ.  In their place: episodes about prune juice spiked with Viagra and wild, Metamucil-fueled early evenings at The Pottery Barn.

Get those DVRs set!


Maybe a Little Less Blues and a Bit More Rhythm?

Now that Bob Duffy is fully ensconced in his role as mayor, there is a profound and noticeable uptick in the number of things going on in downtown Rochester for which he is to be commended.  I’d really like to extend my appreciation for a man trying very hard to bring more people into the city and make it a destination rather than a dare for people in the suburbs.

But the only downside to the current selection is – and I don’t want to appear ungrateful – the fact that almost everything seems to revolve around ribs, bar-b-que and blues music.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all those things, but there needs to be just a bit more diversity in the selection.

Last year, they had the Big City Summerfest.  This year, they appear to have opted to split that one big festival into a bunch of smaller festivals.  The trouble with this is that they all seem disjointed, it’s difficult to stay up to date on what’s going on, and when they mostly seem to involve the aforementioned elements, it just seems like a pile on of one thing.

So, I’d recommend (though I’m sure they’re not listening to me) that a “Big City Summer Festival Series” be formed around the idea of all these individual festivals, even some of those festivals that were not previously associated with it, maybe.  That way, you’ve got one “brand” on a large number of downtown city festivals, giving them some synchronicity, and you can share one website (with however many ancillary sites you’d like) to find out what’s going on all summer long.  Obviously, Park Ave Fest, Corn Hill and all those others would remain their own entities.

Mayor Duffy?  What say you?


Kill the Batman

My wife and I got tickets to see The Dark Night at Tinseltown last night.  No time to rest when I got home, it was straight out to get some running around done, eat a meal at Pixley’s in Gates (yum!) and into the packed theater to watch the latest incarnation of Batman.  What a way to end one of those horribly long weeks following a vacation.

The Batman “franchise” has undergone a surprising array of changes over the decades.  Where even most major comic heros either never extend beyond the ink or do so only sparingly, Batman seems to have caught our imaginations like a prism, extending from it’s dark roots through the campy seventies television show I grew up on, to Tim Burton’s graphic cinema-novels and the subsequent failures of imagination, and most recently, into it’s current incarnation, a dark psycho-thriller with rubber suits and explosions.

If that last description seems a tough series of archtypes to pack into a couple hours worth of movie, that’s because it is.  But Christopher Nolan seems to take a page from George Lucas to accomplish this, allowing the great sets, awesome toys and breathtaking stunts to take their proper place as setpieces for the characters to play with, rather than dominate the screen just because they’re expensive.

Thus instead of becoming yet another knock-down, drag-out adventure film, The Dark Night gets deeper into some of the subtext themes Tim Burton touched on – hinted at, really – but didn’t delve into.  At it’s core, this movie is not about good and evil as it’s been presented in some reviews I’ve read, but a much deeper and scarier conflict between order and chaos.  It is really along this border that most of our conflicts as humans truly lie, often putting us at odds with what we think is good and evil, and this movie goes to lengths to find as many ways to blur the lines between all four that it can.  For the first half of the movie, I began to wonder if this movie wasn’t one of those that apologizes for the popular political themes of the day, but not to worry: it doesn’t.

And of course, Batman’s role is more often than not on the side of chaos, much though he would wish it otherwise.  This is the real conflict in the movie.  What unfolds is a panoply of moral relativism where nearly every character finds himself on the side opposite his preference.  It’s a fascinating thing to watch; not at all an uncommon theme, but rare in this genre and flawlessly original in its execution.  You can see this sort of tension in many a Little Theater European production, but it’s especially entertaining when this whole psycho-drama plays out amidst great special effects and heart-pumping action.

If I have one complaint – and of course, I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this paragraph – it’s that the first half hour of the movie is edited surprisingly badly.  There is a frenetic pace to the cutting between scenes and camera angles that has nothing to do with the plot and only serves to make that all-important first few moments of the movie unsettling in the way watching television while someone else flips through channels is.  To some extent, it seems driven by the need to get a fair amount of back-story out of the way ahead of the rest of the movie, but it’s just sloppy.

And really, that’s just a quibble.  Beyond that, this is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking movie which takes it’s place in that oh-so rare pantheon: that of movies actually worth the bullshit prices they charge at the theater.  It’s another discussion, of course, but it’s gotten to the point where it makes no sense to see certain types of movies.  Who wants to risk $19.00 on a comedy – a genre always dancing on the edge of lame – when $5.00 gets you the same movie in high-def at home a month later?

And one more note, for those of you who actually need it: don’t bring your fucking toddlers to see this movie, please.  You would have thought people would have learned their lesson with the original Tim Burton Batman.  Nope.  But I guess it’s not about learning lessons, it’s about irresponsible parents whose personal entertainment is more important than their kid’s restful sleep for the next month.  Hire a baby-sitter, pawn the kid off on your parents, or stay the fuck home and watch the Food Network.  This movie isn’t for kids.  Sorry.


Getting a Little Overboard for The Bat

One really does need to think deeply before attempting any kind of “viral” or “guerrilla” ad campaign tactics:

‘Dark Knight’ Promo Goes Awry

NEW YORK A Dark Knight promotion, featuring a chocolate cake wired to look like an explosive device, prompted a San Antonio news station to call in the bomb squad earlier this week.

Echoing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force bomb scare in Boston in February 2007, the low-budget guerilla campaign delivered some unintended results for the Santikos Theater chain.

“Causing that kind of disturbance with the bomb squad and police officers was never our intention,” said Meghan Vincent, a rep for the eight-theater chain in Texas. “This was not exactly the kind of press we were going for.”

Ah, well. Good to know a terrorist incident wasn’t what you were going for. You just kinda over-shot, that’s all. . .

BTW, the wife and I have tickets to see The Dark Knight tonight at 7:45. I’ve not read an even marginally poor review of this movie so far. I’m totally stoked.


Highway to Hell

I’ve never been all that big a fan of AC/DC, though I did see them at Sars-stock (AKA, The Rolling Stones and Friends benefit for Toronto). Still, they’re a bedrock Rock-n-Roll music making machine that deserves plenty of respect. Or at least, they used to. Now, they’re living in Wally World:

Report: New AC/DC Album To Be Wal-Mart Exclusive

AC/DC’s next studio album will be exclusively sold at Wal-Mart stores in the United States, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The as-yet-untitled Columbia album, which, as previously reported, was produced by Brendan O’Brien, is expected in the fall.