Violently happy Icelandic pixie Björk is hurt, and she’s not afraid to sing about it

Björk Vulnicura Released:  March 24, 2015 Label:  One Little Indian

Björk
Vulnicura
Released: March 24, 2015
Label: One Little Indian

It might be time for Taylor Swift to shut up with the chest-beating, I’m-the-queen-of-the-break-up-song routine. Björk’s new album Vulnicura is about more than superficial heartbreak. Throughout the hour-long concept album, she tells a tale of unfulfilled emotional needs, hope that someone will change, and the pain, not only of breakup, but of the end of the family as a unit of love.

The first three songs are about the breakdown of a relationship. “Stonemilker,” the opening song, Björk presents a relationship nine months before the end. She want to be shown “emotional respect,” for her needs to be acknowledged and for her and her lover to “synchronize our feelings.” In “Lionsong,” she expresses hope that the relationship can be saved. Björk’s voice is full of vulnerability when she sings “maybe he will come out of this loving me/maybe he won’t.”


“Black Lake,” a ten-minute long song about the actual breakup, is heartbreaking.

“I am a glowing shiny rocket

returning home

as I enter the atmosphere

I burn off layer by layer

Jettison”

Our violently happy Icelandic pixie has been hurt. She’s not afraid to sing about it. More importantly, she’s not afraid to show you her wounds.

I haven’t heard anything with this level of emotional power in a long time. This is a mature set of songs about breakup and the consequences. In “Family,” she asks “Is there a place/where I can pay respects/for the death of my family.”

“There is the mother and the child

Then there is the father and the child

but no man and a woman

no triangle of love”

Sorry Taylor Swift, while it’s easy to sing that we should all “Shake It Off,” it isn’t that easy.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is Björk’s best album in a long time. Her voice is full of complex emotions and beautiful, even when the emotions are harrowing. Her voice reflects her feelings in each song. The music is electronic beats and a powerful string section. This is progressive music and requires the listener to sit down and listen. It is not party music, or background music while people talk about their last visit to the Olive Garden.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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More prog rock reviews: The Yes Album & Close to the Edge

yes roger dean logo

I always worry that I’m being a little too self-promotional by posting my YouTube videos. Then I realize, this is exactly what we do on the Internet.

Yes had a huge influence on my during my teen years, and I still love many of their albums. Some have held up beautifully. Others sound dated. So here’s my thoughts on two of their albums.

The Yes Album was Yes’ big breakthrough album. Steve Howe was introduced as their new guitarist. While it features some long tracks, they are much tighter than what the band would do later.


Close to the Edge (1972) shows the band at nearly the height of its ambitions. It’s a huge-sounding album that requires active listening.

I’m putting these on YouTube because I enjoy these albums and want to share some of that with the rest of the world. And I’m a bit bored.

Dude! It’s time to talk about the summer movie season

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

Since I was a kid, summer was about going to the movies. I blame Star Wars, really. I enjoyed movies before Star Wars, but, as an eight-year-old kid sitting in a theater, Star Wars was a religious experience.

Of course the summer movie season has grown since then, with the studios putting all their big-tent movies out during the season, hoping to rake in dump trucks full of money. And while it’s easy to shrug off summer films as ephemera, many of them have remained popular over the years. Yes, the summer movie is typically “the popcorn flick” in the minds of many. But what’s wrong with that? The Wizard of Oz is really a popcorn flick, and a damn great film.

I’m excited for this summer, although last year will be hard to beat. Marvel book-ended our 2014 summer with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two great films that show just how well-oiled the Might Marvel Movie Machine is. We also got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Both are good movies based on what seemed like tired franchises.

So here’s a breakdown of some of 2015’s most anticipated summer films. I will generously rant about what’s wrong with humanity as the subject comes up. My expectations are based on the trailer and whatever general knowledge about the film is out there.

Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers age of ultron poster

Who the hell makes titles to movies these days? I miss the old days when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out and, rather than waste time and brain cells saying and remembering that title, we just said “the one with the whales.”

And I like that they always put “Marvel” at the front. I thought the last Avengers film was a sequel to the Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman film.

When The Avengers came out a few years ago, I expected it to be the peak of the Mighty Marvel Movie Movement. We had gotten a great collection of films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2 (not the best, but still a watchable film), The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. Not only was it a fun film that used the characters and cast well, it whetted my appetite for more Marvel movies.

Again, I feel that maybe this year is the apex for Marvel. But I’m always wrong. It just seems like the property is getting so big, it is bound to crush itself.

What Marvel and Disney have done is unprecedented. They’ve created a cinematic universe. The move took balls and it paid off. They’ve developed a cinematic fabric that keeps getting larger and more complex.


I must say, Disney has become the master’s of building anticipation through teasers and trailers. The trailers to Age of Ultron tell us as little as possible about the film, yet instilling a desire to see the film. I thought Ultron was a terrible villain choice until I saw him move and heard James Spader’s voice.

Age of Ultron is the big movie this summer. My biggest concerns is some of the action scenes look exactly like the action scenes in the first film. There’s also an ever-so-slight feeling that the main cast is getting a little tired of these movies.

The Fast and the Furious 7

furious 7

Or Furious 7.

I’m not sure if the term “guilty pleasure” is a useful term or not. If you like a film, you like it. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Well, if your favorite film is Fifty Shades of Grey, you should feel guilty … and see a priest. Movies are highly subjective. While a general consensus has some value, I enjoy reading reviews to get other people’s perspectives, it all boils down to whether each individual liked it or not.

I really dig the Fast and Furious series. There are some serious missteps since there was never a plan to have a franchise. It was Fast Five that really pulled the series together. That film had everything I want in an action movie (although boobs would have been nice).  And Furious 6 followed that formula. I’ve grown to like these characters. And the films deliver a lot of bang for your buck.


F7 was originally intended to come out last year, but Paul Walker died. I’m still not sure how this will be handled in the film. The biggest challenge is going to be how do the filmmakers produce a film that’s fun and exciting without disrespecting the audience’s feelings about Walker. Tough situation. I hope it’s handled well.

Ant-Man

ant-man poster

When Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it had gone off the deep end. I was familiar with the characters (neerrrd!), but could not image the general public accepting such an eccentric concept.

To its credit, the Massive Marvel Marketing Machine really sold the film to audiences.

Ant-Man is another quirky Marvel concept. The effort to get Ant-Man on the screen has been challenging. Edgar Wright, who made Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, one of my favorite comic book adaptation, was all set to direct. Eventually he left and Peyton Reed (Yes Man, Bring It On, and The Break-Up) got the job.


The teaser left me shrugging my shoulders. I hope it’s good. Really, I never want a movie to be bad. I don’t have time for bad movies. Paul Rudd seems a bit miscast, but Marvel’s been dead-on with its casting in these films.

And for the record, clever poster Marvel.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster

Can we just stop it with the reboots?


I admit the teaser intrigues me. It is certainly a good-looking film. But the concept of  Dr. Doom being a blogger worries me greatly. This is a franchise that Fox has, so, while a Marvel property, has no relationship with the Mega Marvel Movieverse.

I know I'd pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

I know I’d pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

Doctor Doom being a blogger shows a lack of confidence in the source material. Have you seen Loki in The Avengers? Marvel and Tom Hiddleston own that shit! It just feels like Fox doesn’t get it.

I used to read Fantastic Four comics. They were fun, colorful, exciting, and, at times, silly. Give it a tone like Guardians of the Galaxy. Or, if you want to be daring Fox, make it a parody of the entire genre. It needs a good ribbing.

Pixels

hpxaytu_large

Wait! A movie not based on a comic book or long-running franchise. Could it be Hollywood wants to produce something original for our summer entertainment orgy?

To quote Nelson Muntz: “Ha ha.”

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

This is blatant knock-off of an episode of Futurama. Aliens attack, using classic video games as the blueprint for their invasion. If it were clever, I’d be cool with scrumping the concept.

And did I mention, Adam Sandler? I love his older films. They are stupid, and I mean STUPID, but I laughed a lot during Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. However, the guy hasn’t had an inspired moment in more than a decade. Based on the trailer, he’s just walking through this role. And honestly, if Adam Sandler doesn’t give a shit about his career, why should I?


My feeling is that this movie exists for two reasons: nostalgia and CGI. Wouldn’t it be great if all your favorite old-school video game characters invaded earth? Not really. Hey, with CGI we can make it look like a pixilated Donkey Kong is really attacking mankind. That’s cool, right? Um, we’ve really passed the point of CGI as just a visual gimmick.

Mad Max: Fury Road

mad-max-fury-road tom hardy

Originally I forgot to write anything about Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s a shame, because I’m excited about this one. I am not one to gripe about CGI in films. But it has been overused. While this film has some CGI, the majority of the action is practical. And by practical I mean cars and trucks smashing into each other.

I love the original films, especially The Road Warrior. Beyond Thunderdome is weak, partially because it is a watered-down, kid-friendly version of the first two films. But the first two, I swear stunt men died making those.

That’s insane! Tom Hardy looks like he’s going to do a great job taking over Mel’s role. And it’s great to see George Miller, the original director, returning to Max’s post-apocalyptic world. Visually, it looks creative, not derivative.

And it looks like the film’s earned an R rating, so kick those little kids out of the theater and let me enjoy the mayhem.

Terminator: Genisys

entertaiment weekly terminator genisys

For films, Terminator Genisys is like someone (an asshole by the way) took your grandmother’s amazing apple pie recipe and added kale.


Rather than reboot Terminator, still a bad idea, a bunch of people who didn’t have a goddamn thing to do with the classic films have decided to create a change in the timeline, rewriting the events of the original Terminator film.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin's comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin’s comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

It’s copying the formula used in Star Trek (2009). However, the producers of this Terminator film less interested in finding a way to reboot the franchise in a way that allows an original story, and more interested in finding a way to re-hash the first film, while pretending to create something new. Looking at the trailer, I see nothing original or even a little clever.

I thought the remake of Robocop got a few things right. First, it was a remake. It took the basic concepts and tried to make its own story out of it. Second, as a remake, it understood that certain rules from the original have to be translated over to the new version.

Unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator Genisys has no input from James Cameron, the man who created the first two films. Neither situation is a guarantee of quality, but it says something about the artistic vision behind the two films.

I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I love the first two Terminator films — and don’t hate the other two. He’s important to the franchise, but that’s only because no one seems to be interested in truly developing an original Terminator film.

The producers recast every character in the film, except Arnold. I would be happier if they just recast the Terminator instead of going with grandpa-terminator. However, the new cast seems a bit off to me. A lot is riding on audiences embracing the new cast.

And that leads me to …

A Little Originality, Please?

I don’t expect every film to be the most original film ever. Many great films have been based on books. Many of the Marvel films are great films with compelling plots, interesting characters, and clever dialogue.

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

But the current summer movie roster seems to lack any original ideas. If you look at 1982, a big summer movie season, studios released a large variety of films. Yes, many of them were franchise films (there was a Grease 2?). However, there was also E.T., Blade Runner, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

It is sad, at least for me, when Pixels seems like the most original idea out there. It’s not a very original idea, not at all.

It also bothers me that we, the audience, now use Hollywood business terminology for our films. Every film is intended to be a franchise. We don’t think of Avengers as a series of films, but as a product. Fox and Sony keep rebooting the Fantastic Four and Spider-man because they don’t want to lose the property.

The Road Back to Reno

baruka theatre reno nevada

The Baruka Theatre, Reno, Nevada

Nearly one year ago, I announced that I was moving to Massachusetts, seeking work. After a year of minimum-wage jobs, thousands of résumés, and only one serious job interview, I have decided it is time to look at going back to Reno.

I will be returning to Reno on April 1, and that’s no April Fool’s joke — unless it’s on me and I am unaware of it.

The Reno Signal has remained on pause over the last year. I’ve made a few posts, but nothing substantial. I plan to change that when I return. In Massachusetts, I’ve lost my way as a writer. There’s no one and nothing that I can emotionally connect with here.


I’ve been writing, slowly, some short fiction. I am thinking of posting these stories on its own blog.

 

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Popeyes ghost pepper wings serve up the bland

ghost-pepper

I thought ghost peppers were spicy?

After seeing a poster for ghost pepper wings at my local Popeyes, I had to give these a shot. After all, according Guinness World Records, the bhut jolokia, ghost pepper is the hottest pepper on the planet.

It’s 900.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

So today I tried Popeyes ghost pepper wings. First, take a look at this ad for the product:


It only implies that these wings are spicy. A marketing genius must have decided to target a portion of the population that likes to say they love spicy wings, but actually can’t handle anything hotter than vanilla yogurt.

I've had glasses of water spicier than this!

I’ve had glasses of water spicier than this!

After I ordered my six-wing lunch — including fries, a biscuit, and medium drink for $6.99, I had to wait about then minutes for my wings to be ready. When I got them, they looked like typical wings, batter-fried with a hint of red below near the flesh. My first bit tasted exactly like a chicken wing. There was not a hint of spicy. I’ve had mild wings that had more kick than the ghost pepper wings.

If you are thinking I’ve developed a tolerance to spicy food, I’d agree. Except spicy is still spicy. These wings were not spicy. I like Popeyes, but I suggest you stay away from the ghost pepper chicken wings. Apparently they mean’t “ghost pepper” in the figurative sense, not the literal. They certainly taste closer to a non-corporeal form than anything spicy.

Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies … Finale! … I mean FINALLY!

If you were disappointed that the "desolation of Smaug" part of the story never happened in the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

If you were disappointed that the “desolation of Smaug” part of the story never happened in the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a lot like flirting with Evangeline Lilly, at first it’s going great, she smiles, and then Orlando Bloom walks up and cock-blocks you.

When I originally heard that Peter Jackson was going to direct The Hobbit, I had reservations. His Lord of the Rings films are great, but dark and violent. Jackson took advantage of every opportunity to add some PG-13 gore to those films. I would have preferred Guillmero del Toro’s take, which I would have imagined as being more whimsical and closer in tone to the book.

Then it was announced that The Hobbit would be two movies. That made sense. Even though the book is short, I could see it being split into two films.

But Jackson and New Line were not happy taking our money twice for an adaptation of a short story. The announcement of three Hobbit movies gave me pause. And I wrote a blog about it:

The Hobbit — Peter Jackson’s Cash Grab

I never reviewed the first two Hobbit movies, so here’s a quick look at them.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off slow and spirals into stupidity. Jackson moves the story forward at a snail’s pace, yet manages take no time to truly introduce us to the characters. And everyone in that film is irritating.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has more action, but, again drags on. And just in case you thought this was an adaptation of The Hobbit and not a Lord of the Rings prequel, Legolas arrives! The Smaug’s desolation is no where. Instead the film ends up being a very long teaser for the final installment. Evangeline Lilly arrives too since Jackson has no idea how to develop the dwarfs. The only payoff, Smaug.

The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the last film ended. The desolation of Smaug has begun, and will be over before you know it. While the first two films had a lot of travel, with Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions meeting all manner of friends and foes, Five Armies keeps all the action within the confines of the Lonely Mountain. The film feels geographically constricted.

Without Martin Freeman, these films would be beyond saving. He presents Bilbo as a sympathetic character, someone who was very content in his own little village. There are hints that Bilbo now sees himself as part of a bigger world, but not much time is spent developing Bilbo.

As a matter of fact, for a film called The Hobbit, Bilbo is surprisingly absent from most of the film. He has a few scenes involving the Arkenstone*, but spends most of the film on the sidelines.

These films drag. And I liked Chariots of Fire.

Unconvincing special effects mar the film. Instead of trying to create a fantastic reality, team Weta produced a bunch of scenes that look like cut scenes from a video game. At one point Legolas is jumping on stones as they crumble and fall. I haven’t seen such action since the Nintendo Entertainment System.

There just is not enough good for me to recommend the film. Freeman and a few good action scenes do not make the film worth the time or money to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

*I believe the Arkenstone will return in The Avengers: The Infinity Gauntlet films.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

A quick look at Bitch Planet issue 1

Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's first issue of "Bitch Planet" was released December 10, 2014 by Image Comics.

Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s first issue of “Bitch Planet” was released December 10, 2014 by Image Comics.

With a title like that, how could I resist picking up the first issue of Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro? If you are looking for a sexy, women-in-prison comic with lots of pin-up quality nudity, then this isn’t for you.

The basic set-up for Bitch Planet is that it’s the future and women are treated like chattel. When a woman is non-compliant, she gets sent to a prison planet. Issue One introduces three women. Penny Rolle, is a big woman. Honestly, you have no idea what I mean. Rolle is a woman who complains that her prison uniform is only big enough for one of her tits. Next, we have Kamau Kogo, who remains something of a mystery in the comic. Finally, Marian Collins, who is in prison because she objected to her husband having an affair.

They are in prison. The prison may not be what it seems. And there’s a plot twist that doesn’t allow me to comment much more on the plot. As a matter of fact, I had to go back and re-read Bitch Planet because the twist caught me by surprise.

Bitch Planet #1. Image Comics.

Bitch Planet #1. Image Comics.

This is a feminist comic from top to bottom. DeConnick writes a compelling tale, showing a future where women are punished for non-compliance. However, and this is only based on the first issue, are there any men of character in this universe? Future issues will tell. But the comic does seem to believe men are incapable of anything good. But there is a lot of clever dialogue and the premise is great. De Landro’s art exists to tell the story. It is raw and, at times, able to make the reader feel uncomfortable about the material.

When discussions of this comic pop up online, I keep hearing Quentin Tarantino’s name mentioned. While this comic has some of the vibe of a women-in-prison movie, the comparison to Tarantino is unfair. DeConnick’s dialogue is great, but it is there to drive the story. The two writers may share some similar influences, but that’s where the comparisons end.

I love the pulp-inspired cover!

Image Comics has impressed my greatly lately. Another title they recently introduced, The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw, is a fantastic fantasy story. And for the same price as a Marvel or DC Comics, readers get 32 pages, no advertising, unless you count the “Hey Kids, Patriarchy!” spoof on the back of Bitch Planet.

For those reading this that still cling to the outdated, and wrong, notion that comics are for kids. Give Bitch Planet a try. I may have some issues its view of men, but it was compelling and I plan to check out issue two when it arrives.