Monday, July 28, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Release date: July 18, 2008
Rating: 8/10

From beginning to end, The Dark Knight is nonstop edge-of-your-seat suspense and action. And as the film’s title indicates, it’s about the darker side of human nature. I wouldn’t want to ruin the film for any potential readers who have yet to see the film (however, with a 10-day take of more than $300 million, it’s highly unlikely that anyone reading this hasn’t already seen the second installment of Christian Bale’s Batman), so I won’t give anything away, but I’ll be honest.

First, is The Dark Knight worth seeing? The simple answer is, “yes.” But why you should see it is a different matter. If you didn’t, you’d be a social outcast since everyone in the free world will eventually see it – in this respect The Dark Knight is akin to Woodstock because if you didn’t see it, you wanted to. The Dark Knight is also worth seeing for the lurking story that drives the action, both of which keep the viewer in suspended anticipation. Whether you like Batman or not, you’ll find that the movie is badass. This is due to the fact that there are no real “good guys”; Batman is dark and vengeful and The Joker, well, he’s just everything you want a villain to be, which is to say sadistic, complex, humorous, ballsy, disturbed, and never, ever, sympathetic. The Dark Knights’ film rating is PG-13, but that’s only for a lack of bloodshed and coarse language, not for a lack of violence or disconnected humanity. And if there should be any Oscar buzz, it should be for two things: the musical score and the directing, not to honor someone posthumously for what is, in all truthfulness, an acting job that any hungry actor with more than above-average talent could pull off. Still, Heath Ledger did bring a comic book character off the page and into a believable existence.

Second, what’s wrong with The Dark Knight? It’s too long with too many endings brought about by the same plot technique. Now, it’s this very technique that brings me to the next element that is wrong with The Dark Knight; it’s moralistically preachy. That’s one of many indications that The Dark Knight is a comic book adaptation, which is sad because while Tim Burton reveled in it, Christopher Nolan tries to hide it. Batman’s forced growl is yet another nerve-shredding annoyance and an uncommitted romance serves no purpose other than to explain Batman’s future plunge into greater darkness.

Third, would I go see it again? I plan to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

CD Review: Alice Cooper – Along Came a Spider

Release date: July 29, 2008

Rating: 6.5/10

Well, the 60-year-old grandfather of shock rock did it; Alice Cooper (aka Vincent Furnier) has put together a solid collection of jams with which to furnish one of this summer’s more enjoyable albums. There are some funky beats and there’s plenty of sweaty, swampy Southern charm (see “Wake the Dead” for a prime example), but it’s all Alice on Along Came a Spider. The album, however, isn’t just a compilation of five-minute, take-‘em-or-leave-‘em songs, it’s a story that follows it’s principle character, Spider, from stalking his prey to chloroform abductions to fitting perfectly in his trunk to falling in love to institutionalization. What I find most amazing is Alice’s adeptness for creating original and catchy hooks for each track while maintaining the plot found on Along Came a Spider.

OK, so there are no songs about girls kissing girls and how it felt so wrong or how it felt so right, but Along Came a Spider might be your biggest surprise of the summer if you give it a chance. Though following the story of a serial killer as he constructs a spider from human body parts is a bit morbid, the songs themselves are rich with happy classic rock riffs and enough modern crunch to give Disturbed something to contemplate their relevance over. Along Came a Spider is a fun listen this summer and Alice Cooper deserves massive credit for not losing his cool by trying to sound more current than he is; Alice knows his place and stuck to his ‘70s roots, which paid off in tracks like “Vengeance is Mine,” “Wrapped in Silk,” “I’m Hungry,” and “I am the Spider.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Harley-Davidson Museum

Opens Summer 2008

It’s an American icon. It’s an American legend. It’s American steel. It’s American badass. It’s Harley-Davidson and it’s Live to Ride & Ride to Live. It’s a realm of steel and leather that no Japanese or European company can compete in, try as they might.

After 105 years of producing some of the world’s most beautiful bikes, Harley-Davidson has finally decided to open a museum that will offer visitors countless exhibits that span the manufacturer’s great history. The 130,000-square-foot facility, which will rest on 20 acres of riverfront property, is also expected to offer guests a restaurant, a café, and a retail store. The majority of visitors, however, will most likely want to see the much-anticipated 450-bike archive and take in Harley’s heritage. If this is the case, they should begin their tour on the second floor of the museum; here’s where they’ll find a chronological gallery that boasts about the bike’s uncompromising lineage. The museum’s second floor will primarily deal with the second half of the 20th century, but it’ll also serve up a good dose of the design and engineering that goes into creating the world’s most lust-worthy bikes. After, and only after, you’ve completed your two-story visit will you be permitted to go grab a bite to eat and a café latte.

Where can this structure built for greatness be found? There’s no better place than in the state of Harley-Davidson’s birth, which is Wisconsin. And if you were a real Harley man, you’d prefer to refuel on one of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s other notable commodities, such as a Miller or a Milwaukee’s Best, instead of a cappuccino from the café.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

Wake up Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and Nissan 350Z, an old friend has slumbered long enough and is ready to come out and play – despite insufferable gas prices. Most of us got our first glimpses of the beast in the 2007 film Transformers, but little did we know what the legendary car was packing under its hood.

For starters, the 2010 Camaro will be available in three different models: the LS, LT, and SS. While the former two will entertain drivers with a 300-horsepower 3.6L V-6 engine, those lucky enough to sit behind the wheel of the SS will feel the true American muscle offered by the 422-horsepower 6.2L V-8, which, incidentally, will really move the 3,860 pounds. And while the 3.6L Camaro is projected to offer 26 mpg on the highway, the 6.2L SS will drop to 23 mpg – and that’s with the help of the Active Fuel Management technology that disengages four cylinders during light driving. All 2010 Camaro models will be offered with either manual or automatic 6-speed transmissions, Stabilitrak, rear-parking assist, OnStar, Bluetooth connectivity, and four-wheel disc brakes; however, only the 2010 Camaro SS will offer the four-piston Brembo calipers.

Gas prices be damned, any guy with a pair should want to drive one of these all-American classics with retro stylings that call upon the much-revered 1969 Camaro. With each passing year it’s getting harder and harder to find an original classic that’s worthy of an arduous restoration process; might as well start collecting the modern classics. And the 2010 Camaro is a choice place to start.

The MSRP on the 2010 Camaro has yet to be determined, but you can expect it to hit showroom floors in 2009's first quarter.

Monday, July 21, 2008

CD Review: Towers of London - Blood Sweat & Towers

Release date: June 5, 2006

Rating: 6/10

Now here’s a refreshing band that’s resurrecting a brand of punk rock that has lain dormant for decades. Sure, the British snarl is reminiscent of Johnny Rotten or even Joe Strummer, the guitar solos are rife with Slash influence, and the general song structures owe a considerable debt to the New York Dolls, but that does nothing to detract from the catchy hooks and the sing-along melodies produced by the Towers of London. This is neither the beginning nor the end of the comparisons to the punk-rock pioneers whom the Towers of London are so obviously and unabashedly indebted to; one look at the cover of Blood Sweat & Towers and you’ll instantly recognize The Clash, the New York Dolls, and The Ramones. Come to think of it, the Towers of London might be what Malcolm McLaren had in mind when he stole incomplete songs from the Dolls and gave them to the Sex Pistols.

So, if there is so little that is original about the Towers of London, what makes the band so special? That’s not so difficult a question to answer. These Londoners provide a fresh flavor in a musical cesspool that has increasingly been neglected and left to fester in its own excrement. Granted, this “fresh” sound is about 30 years old and it sounds like polished chrome, but it’s still a swift kick to the balls and a great diversion to rock’s top 40.

So, while Blood Sweat & Towers was released in 2006 and the “Beaujolais” track sounds an awful lot like “New Rose” by The Damned (in fact, it wouldn’t be a lie to say that the members of the Towers of London extracted their favorite parts of their favorite songs by their favorite bands and reassembled them for the album), it’s still a worthwhile purchase for any music fan interested in something “new.” Truth be told, Blood Sweat & Towers is about five songs too long; if the Towers of London had cut those five songs, they would have left us with a much more solid and aggressive punk rock treasure.

The Towers of London have been making noise in the UK since the release of Blood Sweat & Towers, opening for such acts as Guns n’ Roses and the New York Dolls, and I only hope that the schmuck Emo kids in the U.S. wake up and see what punk rock, or at least a modern incarnation of it, really is. And whether or not punk rock is in the bones and the hearts of the Towers of London, what they are most guilty of is trying too hard.