Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World is not as dino-mite or as clever as it likes to believe

The news has spread like wildfire that Jurassic World has made a king’s ransom of cash in its opening weekend. I’m not sure why this is actually news, unless everyone on the planet expected it to fail.

Fueled by nostalgia for the first film and humanity’s never-ending fascination with dinosaurs, Jurassic World creates a new adventure by way of a mixture of the previous three, with a focus on a pseudo-retelling of the original 1993 story, with the primary difference being that this park actually opens.

People around the globe were awed by the spectacle of the film, the advancements in CGI technology (Jurassic Park was among the last CGI / stop-motion films to be made), the character work by Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt, and Michael Giacchino’s score.

Unfortunately, Jurassic World left me underwhelmed. Initially, I could not put my finger on what the problem was. It had giant monsters (I’m usually a sucker for a giant monster movie), John Williams’ classic theme tunes, and people getting eaten by these monsters. At the very least, I should have been entertained.

But the more I thought about it, the more the reason clarified – Jurassic World is too much of a mash-up of its predecessors, and does not do enough to establish an identity for itself. Add to that a heaping spoonful of directionless plot drivel and a score that is as lackadaisical as it is boring (a first for Giacchino), and we have a film I would love to forget.

So, I watched it again, just to make sure that I saw what I thought I saw. But this time, I took notes. So, for your enjoyment (or torture), here is a SPOILER-FILLED re-cap of Jurassic World, broken out in ten-minute increments (in case you decide to watch the movie and read along simultaneously). Be forewarned, this is a combination of a play-by-play and my own thoughts, so if it reads weird, it's supposed to - it's my brain and the film doing battle!

  • Movie begins with TWO dinosaur eggs cracking open, either foreshadowing a double-threat, or that they can do the same birthing scene from the first film with better graphic technology.
  •  Cut to a family sending their kids to the park so they can get a divorce (JUST LIKE THE FIRST FILM).
  •  Elder teen brother [Emo-teen] exhibits raging hormones (but will NEVER act upon them, despite being out of country), so WHY show it over and over again through the film?
  •  Junior teen brother exhibits high intelligence, at least about dinosaurs (carbon copying Tim from the first film), and JUST like Tim, this knowledge never comes into play to help him later in the film. The only film where the lost kid uses his dino smarts to stay alive happened to be in JP3 – the one everyone would rather forget.
  •  Monorail (nod to Disney) goes through remodeled JP gates… as the monorail narration says it; you know, in case you forgot that this isn’t the first movie in the series.
  •  Welcome center shows employees helping visitors EVERYWHERE. Somehow, they all end up completely disappearing later in the film.
  •  Aunt, who wants nothing to do with her nephews, nominates assistant (who also wants nothing to do with the nephews) to watch over them. So why should we care when she dies?
  •  What prevents the mosasaur from knocking down the monorail? That tiny fence? Further, if the mosasaur can beach itself to chomp on the V.Rex [what I prefer to call Indominus rex], what’s stopping it from nibbling on guests who walk in the same area?  
  •  With the exception of the “main street” and the “great pyramid,” there doesn’t seem to be a lot of places for guests to wander or walk around. Do they take the monorail EVERYWHERE?
  •  Sexism 101 – Claire is introduced trying to remember investors – two men by their position and appearance, the woman by her emotional state. But I guess it’s not REALLY sexism if it’s spoken by a woman. I'm convinced Claire is either a Replicant, a new species made by JP labs, or Charlize Theron in Prometheus.
  •  So, the purpose of JP labs now is to create new, bigger creatures to placate kids who don’t think regular dinosaurs are cool anymore? Claire is also assuming that kids can physically see dinosaurs elsewhere, outside the park, by comparing a Stegosaurus to an elephant at a zoo. Then what’s the point in having the park???? Also, it begs the question, when the hell does this movie even take place?
  •  This scene is also where Claire says “more teeth.”
  •  Claire gives this speech about advances in gene-splicing, and the first question out of an investor’s mouth regarding the V.Rex hybrid is about natural mating?
  •  Observation: They spent ten years (or so) R&D’ing gene-splicing, and in that time, created a fully-grown Indominus Rex (V.Rex) with all these weird military enhancements [the Simon Pheonix of dinosaurs], and kept it quietly under wraps (where it never once tried to escape) until a future time when Claire just knew that investors (presumably before the park ever opened) would want something more than a “natural” species to sponsor? No wonder their “operating costs are higher than ever.” They’re making monsters no one wants yet!
  •  Then Father Mukada steps up to smugly remind us he was in the original film, and puffs his chest stating that V.Rex will be bigger than T.Rex. I guess he forgot that HE already did that with Spinosaurus aegyptiacus in JP3! There were no non-disclosure agreements for the “visitors” in the third film, so how did InGen hush that one up?
  •  Claire’s speech continues and sounds remarkably like Bess Armstrong’s plea to Lou Gosset, Jr. to keep a Great White shark in captivity in Jaws 3D.
  •  Innovation Center – no park employees to be found.
  •  Director wants you and doesn’t want you to notices the statue of John Hammond, because never once in the film is it in focus.
  •  Excavation sandbox mimicking Grant/Sattler’s Raptor dig in JP1 (or Billy’s flirting scene in JP3).
  •  Kids aren’t thrilled by regular dinosaurs, but they are in total awe of watching an explosion on a video monitor. Why not just sell tickets and blow up the island, then?
  •  Junior knows the basics of DNA…which helps him later how? Oh, nevermind that, it’s Mr. DNA! Yay!


  • By the painful exchange between Claire and her nephews, I suppose we are to eventually gather that this will become a journey of redemption and becoming a human again, you know, with feelings and all that. She acts like she’s never even seen a child before, which lends a bit of credence to the idea that she is a recently-created lifeform.
  •  Very next scene, it is nailed into our skulls that she doesn’t care about people (or kids in Lost & Found and with heat stroke), but is offended by Nick Miller’s JP t-shirt that he purchased on eBay. This reminds me, I should go onto eBay to get a JP t-shirt. 
  •  Yes, the shirt is in poor taste (because people died), but not moving forward with Hammond’s original plan…because people died.
  •  This is not the park’s grand opening, and yet they still have dinosaurs roaming around outside their paddocks???
  •  When we are introduced to the park’s Indian owner, we are once again having Claire’s lack of human-nous pounded into our skull, by yet another conversation displaying the rift between empathy and business-sense. 
  •  “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.” – This coming from the guy who can barely pilot a helicopter and ends up dying because of it.
  •  Recall of Hammond’s “Spare no expense.” Nice homage, except that Jurassic Park was no longer Hammond’s to will to someone else. Cowboy (with a British accent) explained that quite succinctly in LW. “Careful, this suit cost more than your education.”
  •  Brief attempt at intelligence in the film: “Jurassic World exists to remind us how very small we are, and how new.”
  •  Not sure why the JP fanfare is blasting while the helicopter is showing us beautiful scenery of Hawaii.
  •  Claire expressed concern for where food would come from for V.Rex (but driving Great Whites to extinction to feed the mosasaur is no big deal.

  • Star Lord’s control over the velociraptors is comical. It’s really as if the filmmakers want us to forget the previous three films.
  •  Private Pyle is a stereotypical government warmonger, who is so obviously “the bad guy,” that trying to hide it through “acting” must have been deemed futile. Also, if he’s so knowledgeable about gene-splicing, why is he playing around with park animals, when he could fuse a human with a raptor. Or…is that going to be the plot of a future JP film?
  •  Finally, a big action sequence (that we’ve already seen in the trailer)…23 minutes in. It shows that even in the most controlled environments, accidents can still happen. [Something else we’ve already known from the first film. Is this homage, or perpetuation of base human stupidity?]
  •  Petting zoo area was cute.
  •  T-Rex feeding was sadly predictable: a road flare and a goat. More of this “homage?” Aren’t they simply training the T-Rex to be hungry whenever it smells a road flare? Because, based on LW, it “has the largest proportional olfactory cavity of any creature in the fossil record except for one.”
  • This scene also smacked of Jaws 3D’s Undersea Kingdom bit where the girls were making out with Shelby Overman's meaty corpse.
  •  Claire shows again her inability to be human while explaining to her sister why she’s not even watching the kids. Would it be too far of a stretch to think that Karen MIGHT have known about her sister’s robotic nature in the first place?
  •  So, back to this “spare no expense” stuff. They hire an ex-military behaviorist and put him up in a banged up trailer on a cliff-face (nod to LW) and provide him with the barest essential provisions? And not even a phone.

  • Standard rom-com broken romance conversation, because Star Lord.
  •  During the mosasaur feeding sequence, the thing that kept running through my head was, how deep did they have to build that lagoon to be able to sustain such a creature?
  •  “88 teeth.” Not sure the purpose of Junior saying that, but everyone seems obsessed with teeth in this film.
  •  The questions Star Lord raised about V.Rex, I also immediately had about their own T.Rex.
  •  Imprinting on raptors when they are born. Another callback to JP1 when Hammond insisted on being notified when a dino was about to hatch (which, in the case of the film, just happened to be a raptor).
  •  Not sure of Star Lord’s definition of respect, when, in the last scene with them, the raptors tried to eat him.
  •  How did the V.Rex know exactly what kinds of camouflage to use to hide from both the people AND the computers?
  •  Is that Ian Malcolm’s book on Nick Miller’s desk?
  •  All this technology at their fingertips, and they still have phone reception issues?
  •  And, it escapes that easily?
  •  Dead technician, no blood? Even the shark, which was presumably frozen and thawed before feeding to the mosasaur spewed the red stuff!
  •  Recurring theme: The command center seems to be the safest, most impenetrable place on the island. So why EVER leave it?
  •  Tram ride out in the park amid flocking Gallimimus – with no concern that they might hit one.
  •  Great brother-to-brother heart-to-heart distilling to ramifications of a broken home to basic greed.

  • Private Pyle offers an anecdote about his deep connection and commitment to animals deemed “deadly,” and despite this, continues to see the raptors as military products.
  •  “Technical malfunction” is now an acceptable reason for a dinosaur escaping and eating people.
  •  T.Rex was not considered “highly intelligent,” but Star Lord is quick to point out that V.Rex is. So why hasn’t he started putting the pieces together yet?
  •  Security guards sent in has a Predator / Aliens / Wolf Man vibe, as they are picked off one-by-one. Not as much an homage as it is, “Hey, it seemed to work in other popular movies!” And the thing I never understood in these situations is, once these guys see the first couple of their own picked off, why do they continue to fight? Friggin’ RUN!
  •  “This is a ‘Phase I,’ bring everyone back in.” But you have rides, like the canoes and the Gyrospheres, where guests are left unattended in the park…because Star Lord, man!
  •  Junior offers a nugget of info that is most likely a seed for future films – stating that dinosaur DNA will somehow still be available after amber mines dry out. Again, it won’t help him in this film, though.


  • Gyrosphere ride employee treats this like he’s been doing this summer gig for 20 years…until he has to shut down the ride. For that, he immediately breaks out an employee handbook.
  •  Father Mukada shows less compassion about humans than Claire, but this is somehow to say that science is a cold, unfeeling occupation. Then, he wants us to make the same assumption of filling gene sequence gaps from the first film about the V.Rex. In JP1, they said they used frog DNA to fill the gaps, and Grant made the leap that some West African frogs change sex to multiply, so the pieces of DNA used to make the original JP dinosaurs ALSO contained the gene to switch sexes. Mukada states that cuttlefish genes were used to increase V.Rex’s growth rate. And we are also to assume that these same genes contained the trait for skin camouflage. He again makes the same kind of unrelated connection to tree frog genes (between surviving in a tropical climate and “hiding” from thermal detection).
  •  And why was it necessary to have a camera close up of Mukada pouring tea? To let us know that he’s Asian…or British?
  •  And then Mukada collapses into Moreau-ian babble, but not before uttering “more teeth!”
  •  Hey kids, it’s Jimmy Fallon, whose first job it is to talk about Dilophosaurus venom (as used on poor Newman in JP1), which, in actuality, was completely made up by Michael Crichton, and has no basis in paleontology. 
  •  And it never occurred to Claire’s assistant to let her know that she lost the boys until mid-way through the film.
  •  Oh look, two more kids roaming a land of dinosaurs unattended. Now where have we seen that before?
  •  Fence is broken out, so it would stand to reason that V.Rex was ahead of the boys. And if that was the case, then why were the Ankylosaurs still alive?
  •  So, they have dinosaurs just hanging out OUTSIDE of the paddocks anyway?
  •  Gyrosphere attack scene is little more than an update on the airplane fuselage attack from JP3, until it becomes Predator, with the boys, who have superhuman lungs, jump off a cliff and into a muddy marsh…JUST LIKE ARNIE did in 1987. I was expecting them to “accidentally” coat themselves in the mud, then see the huge splash of the V.Rex jumping in after them, but unable to find them because of the mud.

  • Sad, dying dinosaur scene. Unfortunately, this is the most touching scene in the entire film, and it’s between Star Lord and an animatronic. Claire somehow “finds” her humanity in this moment.
  • If V.Rex is killing for sport, then why isn’t it going paddock to paddock killing everything that moves?
  • Then a military crew shows up, kinda like the InGen-funded sportsman mercs in LW.
  • Claire starts screaming for the kids, like Tea Leoni in JP3. I was expecting Star Lord to retort, “It’s a bad idea.” Then he tells her that her shoes won’t stand the jungle, so she adjusts her shirt? What about the shoes??? Is this a meager attempt at humor?
  • Boys find original Welcome Center from JP1, just like Sam Neill & co. found Site B’s main building in JP3. And they find the “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” banner to the whisper of John Williams’ familiar theme music. Junior picks up a set of Tim’s night-vision goggles from JP1…and they still work?
  • And then they use the thread of logic that if they were able to fix up their grandfather’s Chevy Malibu (age unknown), then they can restore an original JP1 Jeep Sahara and drive it back to the resort before V.Rex can find them. Um, where are they going to get fuel? Or does 23-year old Jeep gasoline retain its potency?

  • How does park personnel plan to evacuate 21,000 all at the same time? This was never previously considered? I want my coupon back!
  •  Private Pyle, KNOWING what V.Rex is cross-bred with, insists that the raptors will be able to hunt and kill it. Also completely ignoring the little sentimental wolf story he shared earlier.
  •  Hahahaha, park owner claims the company has moral principles!
  •  Hahahahaha, there’s only ONE licensed helicopter pilot on the island???
  •  Nope, can’t feel sorry for a rich dude with barely enough knowledge to pilot a helicopter, brazenly going into battle with the sole intent of being some kind of hero.
  •  Where does everyone think they are running to? Do they know about the impenetrable control room? Oh wait, this is like King Kong, Independence Day (and every other disaster flick), where the populace runs en masse with no destination or safe haven available. 
  •  Aww, little pterosaur wants a hot dog!

  • Okay, I felt bad for the baby triceratops that was dropped by the pterosaur.
  • Zara gets picked up, tossed around by pterosaurs, dropped in the mosasaur tank, gets tossed around some more until eventually munched by mosaman. And during this entire sequence, the two boys are standing completely still, without any sense of danger to themselves, while people are still getting attacked left and right by pterosaurs behind them.
  • And as this is going on, Claire has the brilliant idea to place herself in opportune biting height to scream for her nephews.
  • Why did pterosaur whimper like a dog when Claire smacked it with a gun?
  • And for the second time in less than five minutes, the main characters on camera stop, have an extended exchange, because there’s no way that the pterosaur invasion would interrupt it. And magically, as the boys are reunited with their aunt and Star Lord, all the pterosaurs have vanished.
  • Oh look, an InGen chopper flying to the island and is filled with what appear to be mercenaries. I swear I’ve seen that before.
  • Star Lord is of the mindset that you can do whatever you want with any of the other dinosaurs on the island, but NEVER use his raptors without his authorization. And Claire, somehow, has NOTHING to say about this.
  • And suddenly, the boys are safe enough to have a little Q&A with Star Lord about the raptors, because Star Lord, man! Until Claire dumps the boys into the back of a van.

  • Suddenly, Emo-teen has found some compassion for his brother. All it took was being locked in the back of a van?
  • So, two scenes of military folk getting stalked and killed by dinos in the woods. At least they didn’t kill the black guy.
  • Wisdom of a sociopathic aunt: “It’s okay to lie when people are scared.” 
  • So, Mukada is actually the Dennis Nedry of this film. Okay. Where's Dodson? (Nobody cares.)

  • Nick Miller trying to be Nick Miller, forgetting he’s in a movie. Guess it’s still funny.
  • And then Private Pyle retells a version of his weaponizing dinosaurs speech that we’ve already heard, I guess in case we forgot, before uttering the immortal words, “Nature is the gift-shit!”
  • Confusing a raptor with a hologram, cute.
  • When did it become the dead of night???
  • This whole raptor-rapport is getting confusing.
  • Oh look, V.Rex vs. a handful of raptors. Yes, we already saw this 22 years ago.
  • “We need more teeth,” says Junior. I bet that’s what’s on all the merch, ‘MORE TEETH!’
  • Claire uses a road flare to get T.Rex’s attention. Would this then imply that she is its food?
  • How are these humans stronger than a V.Rex claw?
  • T-Rex is supposed to be our hero. But, if the primary DNA of V.Rex is T.Rex, would it not stand to reason that it could communicate with T.Rex like it did with the raptors and just finish off the humans?

  • Why are these people just standing around waiting for this battle to complete? And why, when they run, do they insist on running through the dino-fight?
  • Why would the lone raptor announce that it was coming to attack V.Rex? What kind of intelligent hunter does that?
  • And the climax of this big videogame cutscene battle? My first thought was, “There’s always a bigger fish,” as it was pretty much exactly the same as the underwater scene in Star Wars: Episode I.
  • Wait, the raptor can communicate with the T.Rex???
  • T.Rex just leaves? I guess he forgot about the people standing there. And they just walk out safely.
  • Next morning, 21,000 people are huddled in an airplane hangar? We see a bunch of people being treated for their injuries from just running away from dinosaurs, while the two boys, who have been in the middle of everything, including cliff-jumping, do not have a scratch between them.
  • So, the boys’ mom is not going to punch Claire’s lights out? Nope, it’s all hugs, because we have to have a warm and fuzzy ending.
  • Star Lord suggests that he and Claire “stick together for survival,” forgetting that through the next couple weeks, Claire is going to be sued for 21,000 counts of negligence and reckless endangerment.
  • Finally, T.Rex finds the safest place on the island! At least he has some kind of food source. Poor mosasaur is going to starve to death unless he does more of that self-beaching trick.

A sampling of items that would have improved the film:

  • Just once, a mention of how Jurassic World is faring in the competition with the Disney and Universal amusement parks. [Is Jurassic World a Universal park?]
  • A park visitor exchanging a coupon for entry (recalling Gennero’s brilliant idea for allowing all income families to enjoy the attractions).
  • Nods or parodies to the daily workings of renowned amusement parks.
  • Push the PG-13 rating to its very edge. All those people running from the pterosaurs, and we saw very few (if any) of them getting munched.
  • Impact tremors!! It’s a staple of JP movies!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When a music review rocks the boat too much!

So I learned today that because of an unhappy publicist, my review of “pop sensation” Jay Aura’s latest EP, iParty was removed from a music website for which I freelance. I understand that the editors have a business to run and sometimes labels need to be placated in order to keep the house in order. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where a critic’s opinion (and I use the term critic loosely, as I honestly see myself more as a fan of music openly discussing what I like and don’t like in review form) is superseded by the whim of an “artist” who simply cannot take criticism.

Allow me to add a bit of context; this website to which I contribute largely makes its bread & butter from content in the indie, alternative, esoteric, and hard rock genres. So when something like this comes across my desk, it screams of someone simply fishing for free advertising, as he obviously has no prior investment with the site; otherwise, he'd KNOW that this type of "music" is not central to the site's readership.

The site's business model is also fairly simple, and predominantly beneficial to the "artist" - you pay for an ad, and you get a guaranteed review of your albums (which really is great, because it serves as two adverts for the price of one, and the choice of reviewing is no longer left to the whim of the editors/contributors - it MUST be reviewed.) What makes this particular situation even more interesting is that I am usually called upon as the "last resort" reviewer, meaning that when the editors simply cannot convince any of their other contributors to give a decent (or honest) assessment of a recording by the ad deadline, it typically falls to me to churn one out. So I'd actually love to be a fly on the wall when the publicist complains about the lack of review for this album on the site and the editors have to explain to them that there was no one on the staff who actually liked the album, and the one review that was posted, you asked to have removed.

I was going to just let it die and move on, but there was a nagging twinge in the back of my mind telling me not to allow the marketing companies to dictate personal opinions. So, without further ado, here is that review in its unedited entirety, with a short addendum as a closer, for your viewing enjoyment. For what are blogs for if not to bring some form of written pleasure?

JAY AURA – iParty (Island / Def Jam)

Throwing caution and any semblance of musical integrity to the wind, Beverly Hills “bad boy” Jay Aura somehow managed to collect some money (though he apparently turned down modeling gigs and an artist development deal), found a studio that would tolerate him (or paid the Ark Music Factory to write some “songs” for him, a la the unfortunate Internet sensation Rebecca Black). This is the most soulless, superficial excuse for an album/EP I have ever heard.

Kicking off with a “song” called “I Won’t Remember,” which is a celebration of the fine art of binge drinking on the town, I can only guess that this “artist” is the ill-fated progeny of the Jersey Shore generation – where talent, intelligence and skill are superseded by over-inflated attitude, extreme self-fulfillment, and the burning desire to acquire wealth while doing the least amount of real work.

Lyrically, Aura wields the English language as deftly as a third-grader. For example, rather than using common vernacular like “taxi cab,” he prefers to call it a “taxi car,” for the sole purpose of rhyming it with “bar” in the next line.

And like the aforementioned Black, his voice is processed and Auto-tuned to the point where on each track, he sounds like he is “singing” underwater. Even on tracks where he speaks rather than “sings,” his voice is altered like he is in the Witness Protection Program or hiding behind some superhero disguise. Go talk to some fish, Aquaman!

And if you are looking for any inspiration from the music itself, well, you can forget that, too, as the guy’s backing track is little more than regurgitated mid-1990’s house music. If you have a taste for uninspired tripe which can only serve as the soundtrack to getting drunk on a dance floor, then by all means, enjoy! This reviewer has zero tolerance for someone who dares consider himself an “artist,” yet has such vehement ignorance to what music is and the creative process.

Saddest of all, based on the evidence produced, Jay Aura is most likely one of those ego-maniacal simpletons who doesn’t care if he is being criticized or praised, he is simply satisfied that his name is being uttered at all. And simply being assigned to review this abomination, I am inadvertently feeding the beast.

If you feel you absolutely must listen to this guy’s aural nonsense, by all means, listen to it for free at his MySpace page, and do not give him the satisfaction of paying for it at iTunes! Keep this drivel underground, where it can die a harmless death.

Was I too harsh on the guy? Maybe; but between the godawful music and the mega-hype text and photos on the guys website, this guy really needed to be taken down a notch. Even if only 10 people ever see this post, it at least gave me an outlet to vent a particular frustration.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happy Birthday John Williams - a god among movie soundtrack composers!

I want to take a moment to congratulate Mr. John Williams on his 78th birthday today (February 8) and commemorate his unbelievably dense catalogue of film music compositions.

Like many film music fans, Williams was largely responsible for my introduction and immediate adoration for movie scores. I still remember repeatedly listening to the double-vinyl Empire Strikes Back soundtrack on my “portable” record player, lying on the floor and intensely admiring the artwork on the gatefold album sleeve. From there it was on to Superman, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and before I knew it, I was collecting movie soundtracks the same way people collect baseball cards.

Williams is one of those elite composers who has the magical ability to grip a child’s imagination and hold onto it through adolescence. It is one of the many reasons that it is difficult to fling a negative comment in his direction.

Known as the man behind the music of many Hollywood blockbusters, New York-born composer John Williams is among the few artists worthy of the titles “icon” and “legend.” He studied at both University of California (Los Angeles) and Julliard, and his first scoring composition was for the 1958 film Daddy-O.

Read more of my tribute to John Williams at my Soundtracks Examiner page here!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Counting down the best Heavy Metal and Movie Soundtrack music of 2009

Now that 2009 is quickly becoming a fleeting memory, all the major media outlets are scrambling to remind the public of what it SHOULD be remembering as the best and worst of the year. Nine times out of ten, these lists are ham-fisted, shameless plugs for that which was the most popular, what is most likely to win awards, with smatterings of unknown indie releases simply to prove that the “experts” aren’t the nose-upturned snobs we know they are.

Whatever happened to culling lists because they were fun? Why not make a list of things that you genuinely like, without any kind of ulterior (or advertising-linked) motive? Ham-fisted concoctions like those you see in mainstream magazines only continue to act as ego-stroking that spoon-feeds us until we become so reliant on those “experts” to tell us what is “good” and what is not. And we ultimately forget that the “experts” are merely people with opinions…just like us.

This is why I agonize over making “best of” lists, because it only serves to express my own personal opinion. If you read any list you find online, you will undoubtedly see a string of comments of both praise and complaint – praising the writer for including some of the reader’s favorites (which was actually a coincidence), or chastising the writer for “forgetting” to include certain things or flat-out telling him/her that he/she is wrong in his/her choices and rankings.

So, with all of that weighty nonsense in mind, I have decided to offer up, to help close out the year properly, a list of 20 heavy metal and movie soundtrack/score albums (respectively) that I felt were great – be they fun, sophisticated, throat-crushing, or just straight-up earworm-y. If you don’t agree with the choices, I applaud you for not being a clone of me.

Read my Examiner feature on the best Movie Soundtracks of 2009 here!

And check out my Examiner feature on the best Heavy Metal releases of 2009 here!

Jolly day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The new TESTAMENT! My chat with Pomo Indian and heavy metal legend, Chuck Billy!

Testament is a band that truly needs no introduction. Since the mid-1980s, the Bay Area quintet has been the unyielding flag-bearer for highly-skilled, innovative and monstrously heavy thrash metal. With a catalogue featuring ten studio albums (including the 2001 collection of re-recordings, First Strike, Still Deadly), five live albums, a string of DVDs and a host of “best of” collections, it is impossible to deny the legacy of the band.

In early 2010, Testament is hitting the road with metal titans Megadeth and Slayer for what has been dubbed The American Carnage Tour. Before heading out, we managed to score some time with Testament’s imposing front man, the charismatic Chuck Billy. Read on, as we discuss the excitement of the tour, the importance of loyalty, and the value of family. [Feature can be found here!]

Discussing the ongoing relevance of PANTERA with Revolver Magazine's Jon Wiederhorn

It has been five years since the tragic passing of Pantera guitarist and chief songwriter Darrell Abbott AKA Dimebag Darrell. Every year since his death, metal and guitar-centric magazines pay tribute to his life and accomplishments with old interview clips, new interviews with surviving members of Pantera, and even anecdotes from fans.

This year, however, Revolver Magazine has taken things a step further and devoted an entire section of its latest issue to discussing the magical, perfect storm that went into the creation of Pantera’s 1992 breakthrough album, Vulgar Display of Power. Spearheaded by senior writer Jon Wiederhorn (whose additional credits include talent coordinator and panelist for AOL Noisecreep's "Creep Show' Podcast, Noisecreep writer, freelancer for Inked and Guitar World, former editor in chief of MTV's Headbanger's Ball Blog, and ex- associate editor at Rolling Stone), the magazine painstakingly compiled new interviews with everyone imaginable who had anything to do with the inception of the album to paint a living memorial to one of heavy metal’s iconic guitar personalities.

Read on as we sit down with Wiederhorn and discuss what it was that made Dimebag and Pantera such revolutionary entities. [Feature can be found here!]
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