Friday, February 26, 2010

TATANS Extra #3: An Interview with Juliet Landau

You are indeed some lucky Nerdlets today.

Brent, also known as Pimpbot 3000, has been doing the rounds recently to try and land some choice interviews, and has managed to land an interview by telephone with the one and only Juliet Landau.

Ms. Landau has just completed a new documentary project called "Take Flight", so Brent sat down with her (or at least her picture propped up next to the telephone), and chatted with her about it. So, have a listen, and be sure to click the link to learn more about the film.

Also, given that this is a phone interview, you may need to turn your volume up to hear everything fully.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Until the Light Takes Us film review

As you've probably noted from scanning through the blog and through the podcast, I'm a big fan of the heavier music genres. Industrial, metal, etc.

So when Nathalia from Explore Music (the lovely woman who posts my articles, puts up with my emails and is generally very nice) dropped me an email letting me know about a documentary on Norwegian Black Metal called Until the Light Takes Us, was coming to Toronto for a limited engagement, I dropped Guesthole and State of Affairs head honcho, Alex an email about taking a look at it. That was soon followed by Adam joining us and we were set.

I'm not a huge black metal fan. What I do like, post black metal purists wouldn't. But I've always been interested in the subculture and legend that surrounds the beginnings of the genre. Suicide, murder, a crap load of church burnings, these guys were supposedly insane.

In fact, I'm willing to bet a lot of you out there aren't sure what is black metal. Well it's dark, it's loud and surprisingly a bit symphonic.

Here's an example

Until The Light Takes Us tries to bring the viewer into that world and subculture. We end up following two people in particular; Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell from Darkthrone and Varg Vikernas of Burzum. Varg is the more well known of the two having been convicted of burning a couple of churches as well as the murder of Mayhem guitarist Oystein “Euronymous” Aarseth.

Now content wise, the filmmakers made a good choice in following these two guys. Nagell is all about the music. He seems to have very little interest in the politics of the time or the subculture that surrounded black metal beyond the music and the guys he knew in other bands. Varg on the other hand seems to be a lot about the politics and ideals of an anti Christian movement and the music is a bit secondary.

This brings us into an interesting world where we see both sides of black metal. We see both the art and the politics. We hear about how the music got started and we hear from Varg's mouth his version of Euronymous's murder.

Unfortunately where this film fails is in the editing.

Now I'll be fair. Until the Light Takes Us is currently a “festival” film. It's playing in a variety of small markets and film festivals around the world so there is a chance this isn't the final edit of the film although we didn't have any indication that this wasn't the final cut.

While a lot of the information content is very good, the film goes into these side tracks that don't really have anything to do with the main subject. There's a sizable chunk the follows an artist that is doing a black metal art show. Sure when Nagell checks out the exhibition, it's worth noting but the fact the film follows this artist beyond that takes away from the rest of the film and is a bit annoying. Why are we following this artist when there's so much more of the black metal culture to explore. Even small simple question like “why corpse paint was introduced?” are ignored. A majority of the black metal bands wear it, we do find out the Mayhem singer Dead was one of if not the first to wear it but beyond that, there's no explanation.

Between this and the seemingly endless shots of following Nagell walking the streets of Oslo, the 90 minute film tends to drag. Alex and Adam both had a hard time staying awake during portions of the film and I don't blame either of them.

Part of the problem, especially in terms of metal, is we've been spoiled by a great doc called Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. It's a great documentary on all genres of metal that is very well paced and enjoyable to watch, I spent a good chunk of watching Until the Light Takes Us thinking “Man, I really wish the Metal guys had made this film.”

Now as for the soundtrack, it's a really nice mix of ambient electronic music and black metal that I really enjoyed. Apparently Boards of Canada did some of it and I'll admit, if there is ever a cd of the soundtrack, I'll pick it up.

So as far as a rating, this is a solid thumb in the middle. The interviews are great but the over all film needs an editor or six to re-work it, maybe delve back in and get some interview bits that were shortened or cut out and replace the many street scenes with them.

Alex also has a look at it over at State of Affairs for a slightly different perspective. In the meantime, here's the trailer.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Episode 18 - Part 3

We're back with the third part of the 2nd Annual Assies, celebrating the best and worst of nerditude from 2009.

This is part 3 of 4, so we should be bringing you new (and equally entertaining) content in very short order. Nevertheless, we start to get to the juicy bits, including perennial favourite categories: Nerd Man and Woman of the Year, as well as their counterparts: Douche and Douchette of the Year.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Episode 18 - Part 2

Unfortunately, the delay in bringing you the second part of the Second Annual Assies was longer than anticipated. I'm not going to apologize for it, however, as it was caused entirely by the fact that I was out of the country, on my honeymoon.

So, without further ado, here is Part 2 of the Second Annual Assies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Top 5 Comedic Personalities

Comedy is a very subjective thing.

What you think is funny and what I think is funny can be two very different things.

Yesterday, Guesthole Alex Krueger (aka Alex James) post on his blog State of Affairs, his top five c0medic personalities. The list which in all fairness to Alex, is pretty hard to dispute.

Now Alex and I aren't hugely dissimilar in age or up bringing. We're both white males, both grew up with both our parents and grew up in the same general area of the world so it kind of makes sense our lists our very similar.

However, Alex's blog is in conjunction with a blog an associate of his named Lu Galasso and I can tell just by looking at his list that Lu is of a certain age. I also believe the man has been hit in the head one too many times.

So for the sake of the rest of this blog (as I will probably reference them a few times) I suggest reading both of their blogs (both hyperlinked above) first.

You read them?

You sure?


Now I will start out by explaining the fact that I am a researcher. You've heard Adam and Alex on our podcast comment mention numerous times that it is amazing the amount of general pop culture knowledge I have (or making fun of me for it, which ever comes first). Part of that comes from the fact of when I like something, I tend to look up more on it, dig at it until I find the root. Part of the reason I don't listen that 90% of modern punk bands is because 90% of the time what they are doing was done better by someone else (like The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Rancid) and their "new" work is derivative of that.

So for those who were hoping I would be waving the banners of Carlos Mancia or Dane Cook...well hopefully this blog will teach you something.

Like how to have a better sense of humor.

So here we go, my top five comedic personalities in no particular order.

George Carlin

If you've ever thought anything I do is funny, this man is one to blame. Or my Dad who gave me a tape with Class Clown on it (now my memory is a bit foggy but it may be the very same tape that Alex ended up listening to in high school but I could be wrong).

Either way, Carlin was brilliant.

George is one of those odd comedians who completely over hauled his act at one point. When he first started, he was very straight laced, wore suits and told jokes that while funny, you would never guess today that it was the Carlin we all know and love. But upon changing his style and taking some cues from Lenny Bruce, Carlin not only became funnier but more relevant.

The genius of Carlin's act was how he could do anything with it. As Alex points out in his blog, he did some very topical humor aimed at everything from censorship, Vietnam, advertising and religion along with whatever happened in the news but he could easily switch gears and talk about his childhood, rubber vomit and just other things that are just kind of silly.

Take for example this bit about stuff.

Without George Carlin, the world of comedy would be a different place.

Richard Pryor

Another example of a comic that overhauled his act, Pryor for all intents and purposes was a poor man's Bill Cosby when he started. Very straight laced, very friendly to the white audience. And then somewhere along the line that changed.

And while his act wasn't directly aimed at the white audience as it previously was, Pryor started making his humor more personal where young white kids would still find it hilarious. He would be able to turn things as personal as when a crack pipe exploded in his hands into a great routine.

Pryor also gets points for his comedic progeny. From Pryor we got Eddie Murphy (who used to by funny), Chris Rock (who is still funny) and Dave Chappelle. And a bit of trivia for you. Richard Pryor had a very short lived television show produced by The Smothers Brothers. One of the writers on that show?

Robin Williams.

Monty Python

Alright yes it's a group of people but they were funnier as one single unit then separate. To say Monty Python had an influence on my brand of humor would be an understatement of the highest degree. I performed a few Monty Python sketches in high school variety shows. My whole sense of how to make silly things funny comes from their shows. And I'm not the only one. No Monty Python, no Kids in the Hall and possible no Saturday Night Live.

Not to mention that after all these years, I still find Holy Gail one of the funniest movies ever made.

Henry Rollins

Now while one could argue that what he does is not strictly comedy, I'd argue that most or the really good comedians (like Carlin, like Pryor) don't strictly do comedy as part of their act. If you never seen one of his "talking" (I've noticed he tends to refer to them as that now as opposed to spoken word), essentially you go, you sit down and you listen to Henry speak about his life for three hours.

And while there are some rather serious moments, the man does not take himself very seriously and injects a lot of humor into his act.

And we have very similar opinions on the state of music.

Here he is talking about the time he discovered a guy trying to break into his house.

Bill Cosby

Due to the fact that it's been so long since the general public has seen Bill Cosby in his prime doing stand up, it's easy to look over and forget that the reason why guys like Pryor and Carlin started their careers in a similar path.

The fact that Cosby was simply that good. He had timing, presence and a sensibility that has been passed through a ton of a comics over the years.

You know when a woman tells you that natural child birth is like taking your bottom lip and pulling it over your head?

Despite what the young'ens think, Family Guy did not create that gag, Cosby did.

There's always been something about his humor I can relate to. Maybe it's the fact my Dad always used the threat "I brought you into this world, I can take you out" or that I grew up watching The Cosby Show on Thursday nights but I have a profound affection for the man's work.

Take this bit for instance. First performed before I was born, it is still as relevant today as it was then.

So there you have it, my list of the 5 funniest comic entities. I'll be honest, the last one was a toss up between Cosby, Denis Leary, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, Weird Al and the entire first two seasons of SNL but I think my list is pretty good.

What say you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic review

Animation is weird to review.

More then any other style of entertainment, I find reviewing and critiquing animation becomes very subjective. Essentially it boils down to the content and the art style.

Let's take the DC Universe style of animation for instance. As listeners of the TATANS podcast know, I love the DCU style and have ever since Batman: The Animated Series. My co-host, Adam, doesn't like it at all. He likes the writing and the stories but doesn't like the over all design and look of the cartoon.

Which brings us to Anchor Bay's latest animated offering, Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic.

Based on the video game that's loosely based on the first part Dante's Divine Comedy.

Very loosely.

Story wise, Dante's Inferno is pretty decent. We follow crusader knight, Dante as he goes through the various circles of Hell in order to get his beloved Beatrice away from Lucifer.

Dante does this while wielding a huge scythe. Huge. Like Ryu Haybusa would be proud of this sucker.

Dante does this while slaughtering demons and confronting his sins.

Overall a pretty decent plot. The only part that I didn't like story wise was a bit of the dialogue.

Here's a preview of what you hear a lot.

Dante: "BEATRICE!"

Beatrice: "DANTE!"

Dante: "BEATRICE!"

Beatrice: "DANTE!"

That happens a lot.

Voice overs include Graham McTavish (who I love in Rambo) as Dante and a nerd favorite, Mark Hamill as Dante's dad. The voices are pretty good as is the overall sound design.

And then there is the animation.

Dante's Inferno is another in the parade of animated films that uses different Japanese animation studio per story chapter. We've seen this before in things like The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight.

And much like those previous mentioned features, Dante's Inferno is a bit of a mixed bag but I will say that due to the nature of going through various circles of Hell, it does work a bit better the Gotham Knights did but not as well as The Animatrix. My favorite segment is probably the last battle between Lucifer and Dante, great animation work, good action. it worth buying?

I would give this a definite rent with a maybe to buy. The story is decent the animation is good, the voice over work and sound are great but there seems to be something a little lacking.

We will have another review of this dvd later in conjunction with a review of the video game from Guesthole Evan Fraser.

Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic is available on February 9th on DVD and Blu Ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.