Blu-ray Review: “Honest Thief”

  • HONEST THIEF
  • Starring: Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh
  • Directed by: Mark Williams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
  • Universal Home Video

The film opens with Carter (Neeson) pulling off a final heist, in which he is very meticulous in his methods. In fact, he’s been nicknamed “the In & Out Bandit”. Carter then ventures into a storage facility to store personal items and “some of the funds”. He’s wise not to put the money all in one place. But here’s when our protagonist or antagonist, depending on where in the film you’re referring to him, makes his complete 180 degree turn. At the storage facility, Carter meets a woman and falls in love. So now he no longer wants to rob banks and wishes to give back the money and turn himself in. Hence he is now earned his title character, “Honest Thief”.

The film is directed by Mark Williams, who has worked on the television series “Ozark” (which I haven’t seen) and “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck (on both of those projects Williams also served as a producer). Set in Boston, the movie also stars Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick.

In this film Liam Neeson is not the good guy we’re used to seeing. This isn’t Taken nor The Commuter. He’s a bad guy that wants to do good. So Carter informs the FBI of his crimes and they don’t believe him. Who robs banks and now wishes to turn ithemselves in? Someone who has met the right woman. And as one character put it, “that’s got to be some woman.” Carter’s girlfriend is portrayed by Kate Walsh, who is caught up in the chase towards the 9 million dollars that Carter wants to turn in.

The film has some great action scenes including a house explosion that I loved! Carter is also a demolition expert, something he learned in the Armed Forces, which is how he blows the bank vault. Narrative in the film moves at a brisk pace. When Carter is on the run, he gets into some scuffles where I wanted to see the fighting skills Neeson is famous for in other films, but this isn’t “Taken.” He just knows how to blow up things. The baddies in the FBI are atypical. One has a heart change and the other is bent on getting that $9 million. Robert Patrick makes an appearance as an FBI supervisor (you will definitely remember him from Terminator 2 as the villainous T-1000).

I watched the film on Blu Ray where the sound and picture were crisp and clean. “Honest Thief,” to me, was a slight let down at first because my expectations were too high. I was looking for “Taken” or even “The Communter” but that’s okay. It just shows that Neeson is more than one dimensional. He has an amazing range and can play various roles.

There are no extras included in this set.

Film Review: “Godzilla vs Kong”

  • GODZILLA vs KONG
  •  Starring:  Godzilla, King Kong, Alexander Skarsgard
  • Directed by:  Adam Wingard
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 53 mins
  • Warner Bros.

It’s March.  Do you have your brackets ready?  Who are you picking?  Rodan?  Mothra?  Typhon?  How about King Ghidorah?  With a name like that, how can he lose?  Quite easily it turns out.

Off the coast of Florida an unusual creature emerges from the ocean.  It’s our old pal Godzilla and he’s pretty pissed.  As CNN reports the news, they question what turned this once “friendly” monster into a…well…MONSTER?

Meanwhile, on Skull Island, King Kong is just minding his own business when he suddenly finds himself captured and flat on his back on a barge on the ocean.  Destination?  I’m not telling.

Short on story but HUGE on special effects, “Godzilla vs Kong” is a perfect example of the mindless entertainment we need right now.  Sure, Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler – who must really enjoying working with Mr. Kong since he also starred in Peter Jackson’s epic 2005 King Kong” – emote in all the right ways but come on, you came for the Titans!!

As the two title characters make their way towards the inevitable battle, they have some fun along the way, destroying cities and battling other badies.  Millions (conservative estimate) of innocent people are killed as entire city blocks full of apartment buildings are knocked over like dominoes.  But you don’t care about them – you cheer every punch and laser=breath blast, clearly taking sides in the Fight of the Century!

The film is well paced and the visual effects are amazing.  I just watched the original 1933 “King Kong” the other night and the effects here make the early stop-motion effects used in that film look like…well…early stop- motion effects.  The effects come courtesy of Peter Jackson’s WETA shop and are so clean you can count every hair on Kong’s back as the wind blows through it and every scale on Godzilla’s rather large body.

Sure, you could stay home this weekend and watch the basketball Final Four, or you can treat yourself to the Ultimate March Madness and see “Godzilla vs Kong!” 

Album Review: Lamb of God “Live in Richmond, VA” LP

“Live in Richmond, VA” LP

Lamb of God

Epic Records

Tracks: 10

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Originally, released June 19 of 2020Lamb of God’s first new album in five years was met with universal acclaim. The self- titled album landed at number one on the Overall, Rock and Metal iTunes album chart upon release and would then go on to take the coveted #1 spot on Consequences of Sound’s Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2020. “Live in Richmond, VA” was recorded at The Broadberry in the band’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia and gives fans their first live taste of the new material due to the COVID 19 pandemic postponing the bands scheduled spring/summer tour.

When COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill in early 2020 it also brought with it a whole host of questions and problems. For musicians they could no longer support new releases due the traditional routes of promotion being put on hold or cancelled. To combat that artists turned to live streaming performances which fans could watch from the safety of their homes. Lamb of God took that model and ran with it. Over the course of two nights in September of 2020 the band performed their latest self-titled release just as it appears on the studio version. Live albums tend to be hit or miss for me, but I have to say I actually almost prefer the live version of “Lamb of God” to the studio version. Don’t get me wrong the studio version is a great album but this newly released live version really captures the band in their element giving each of the ten songs extra edge and bite. “Momento Mori” and “Resurrection Man” kick off each side of the LP setting the standard high for the tracks which follow. Songs like “Checkmate”, “Gears” and “Poison Dream” pulverize your senses via the razor like vocals of Randy Blythe and the twin guitar attack of Willie Adler and Mark Morton while other songs like “New Colossal Hate”, Bloodshot Eyes” and “On The Hook” go straight in for the kill with thunderous bottom end courtesy of bassist John Campbell and drummer Art Cruz.

This was a record I found myself listening to multiple times in one sitting. A rarity for me as I tend to have a tension span that is a bit on the shorter side especially when it comes to music. The overall mix of the album combined with the bands impressive performance kept me coming back for more even after listening to it in succession. Though I had wished the full live performance had been included on the 150 gram LP as those missing songs would have been a nice bonus but, given the time constraints vinyl present I understand. Thankfully, the complete performance is available in a Deluxe three-disc version of “Lamb of God” which includes the studio version of the record, the live version including two bonus tracks and a live DVD performance. If you missed the initial streams or you want to revisit those performance’s, you will certainly want to grab one of these as you won’t be disappointed.   

Track Listing:

Side: 1

1.) Memento Mori

2.) Checkmate

3.) Gears

4.) Reality Bath

5.) New Colossal Hate

Side:2

1.) Resurrection Man

2.) Poison Dream

3.) Routes

4.) Bloodshot Eyes

5.) On The Hook

Blu-ray Review: “Psycho Goreman”

  • PSYCHO GOREMAN
  • Starring: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre
  • Directed by: Steven Kostanski
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Running time: 1hr 39 mins
  • RLJE Films

     As the mark of a full year of shutdowns and quarantines goes sloth-crawling by and we begrudgingly re-examine (for the thousandth time) the trials we’ve survived (however barely) … there’s still a piece of us constantly looking for a beacon of hope. There’s questions to be asked. Will you continue to mask up and socially distance or are you moving to Texas? Will you be getting the vaccine or waiting it out? If you’re a monster kid… you have one more important question: are you going to rent Psycho Goreman or buy the damn thing and watch it on loop until you break your Blu-ray player?  Your answer better be BUY because this movie is that good. Except Psycho Goreman ‘PG for short!’ isn’t a blinding beacon of hope… he’s a foul-mouthed alien overlord sent here to destroy the universe and resurrect the creature feature genre.

     Canadian Director/Writer Steven Kostanski, who previously delivered the Lovecraftian THE VOID in 2016, clearly has a tremendous affinity for practical effects and eccentric storytelling. Psycho Goreman takes us onto the battlefield in a crazy war of good vs. evil and evil vs. evil — with blood, guts and meme-worthy Gigaxian one liners flying everywhere. Ninety nine minutes  that plays like an R-Rated visit with Power Rangers in the most hilarious and bonkers capacity imaginable. Psycho Goreman drop kicked exactly what I needed into my lap when I genuinely COULD NOT handle a single extra day of “2020 Part 2″‘s regularly scheduled SNAFU lineup.

I hereby present to you…my wish list for movies from BEFORE Psycho Goreman came to earth:

[✓] A resurgence of credit-roll theme songs. This was one of the greatest things about the 80s and 90s. Remember when they commissioned artists to write completely asinine lyrics and roll them into absolute BANGERS? It’s musical slapdash that I’m, honestly, 105% here for. Calling it now — this will be the next thing to make a comeback in cinema of a certain brand.

[✓]  Millennial 80s/90s nostalgia vibes…with heart. Not something that feels like a filmmaker googled ‘what were the late 80s like?’ and used an immersion blender to make an on screen disaster. I’m honestly so exhaustively far past being done with branded cookie cutter faux 80s-kid content. I want someone and something to bottle the feelings I felt watching shows after school but bigger, grosser and more fucked up… because I’m not six, I’m thirty six. I’ve humbly traded in Pogs and Gushers for IcyHot and Tums and so NOW I want to see body parts flying. I want kids using bad language and monsters who talk dirty. I want to root for a kid who is authentically and effortlessly cooler than I ever was and a monster who is sexier than I’ll ever be able to be.

[✓]  Practical effects out the yinyang. I don’t care what the story is… CGI in horror, generally, should be outlawed. Go big. Then bigger. Keep going. Did everything explode all over the place? Turn it up to eleven. More alien guts! Look at these costumes! We’re almost there. Make me look up who did the fx work. “Give ALL these people a raise!”  Ahhh. That’s perfect. If this is the only redeeming element then so be it… but if it works in tandem with a story that makes me want to suspend disbelief in every capacity then all the better. I’m in.

[✓] A soundtrack that I need to buy, like, yesterday: I consume a lot of tunes and I appreciate the greatest cinematic needle-drops as much as the next dweeb but good lord, there is something to be said about an original score that lets me live my own personal version of on screen adventures with outrageously, bombastic earworms. I’m there. You wanna release it on vinyl in deluxe packaging? Take my money. I want you to deliver to my ears… big hair, big drums, big synth, big aural explosions and none of this Stranger Things nonsense. I don’t like being manipulated. Bring those things and mean it because I very much am paying attention to the man and the noise behind the curtain.

(https://waxworkrecords.com/collections/all/products/pg-psycho-goreman in case you want to buy your own.)

[✓]  Yo, literally just anything to be excited about? I don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth anymore to recreationally consume anything that requires work. I want something that’s easily digestible and leaves me feeling amazing. I’m just getting back to the point where I’m willing to roll the dice and try to connect with something media-wise but, directly, I’m telling you that I’m looking for lightning in a bottle. So much of what we’re getting now is just more of the same thing we’ve just recently seen: major IP fatigue up in my brain. Show me something new and weird and make him ugly but charming so I can do a hard swipe right. Give me light and snappy. Let me cheer for and also laugh at and with him. Anything that makes me feel bad is getting turned off.

[✓] Make me want a whole line of action figures and a series of school supplies. I need a trapper keeper with gay-friendly alien monsters and a thermos to take soup to work in. Why are things meant for adults never flashy or covered in drippy, neon, monster madness? I’m sad that I’m not represented.

[✓] Give me a monster-kid I identify with and hey… it’s 2021 so it better be a girl and no one better be sexualizing her. We’re done being here for that purpose. I want a little girl on screen who I believe, with every fiber of my being, could save or destroy the universe with her death-glare and smart mouth alone. Not a single super power required.

[✓] Make me LOVE this movie. I want to authentically insist that the people I care about see this movie so they’ll be able to have the same magical feelings I did. I’ve spent much of my adult film-watching experience itching for just one more opportunity to dip my toes into the syrupy pool of Spielbergian kid-adventure but that’s not really where I’m at anymore. You never TRULY outgrow the things you loved in your formative years but now, as a parent, I think I’ve dropped the desire for a newly packaged version of that.  I want to see what someone like MY kid would do with an E.T. like experience. My daughter isn’t the Elliot type and, if we’re being honest, I never was either.  Maybe if an alien comes to earth, I don’t want it to be a sob fest. Maybe I want it to be a party. Maybe I want to see aliens play rock music? Quick…add that to the list.  [✓]

     There’s a fine line when you expect originality. There’s formulas that flourish because they’re dependable. The Hero Cycle’s Call to Action will forever exist because deep down most of us want to be emotionally guided to a promised feel-good moment. We want to feel like our however-fleeting emotional investment to characters and their story has contributed to our own personal journey… and temporarily that’s totally fine.

     For those of you who find your viewing habits to be influenced by the current social atmosphere, there’s absolutely something to be said about returning to things-familiar. Sharing a moment, or ninety, with characters who are in the time of their lives before developing a sense of reflexivity is really comforting. Envy inducing. I think we’ve all had many moments during this past year where we wish we were in our childhood and entirely unconcerned with adult stressors or problems. Re-examining things we loved as children seemed right and safe because we knew what to expect. However as movie fans we have to encourage the continuation of new storytelling. Steven Kostanski had the opportunity to go big and went huge. I think someone must’ve told him to go nuts and he really went for it. In a time when so many things within the genre lean hard into serious, dark and emotionally exhaustive arthouse-horror… this was a bold move that at this moment in time I’m incredibly grateful for. He made something new and he made it really damn fun. Fun: Little word. Means everything in this moment.

     The world is seriously scary enough right now but that doesn’t mean we can’t still like horror. I’m happy someone lightened things up by making it weird, gross and thrilling. Go watch Psycho Goreman and keep an eye on Steven Kostanski. And Steven, (if you see this) can we make sure this toy line happens? We’re all here for tiny, plastic hunky boys!

PSYCHO GOREMAN, available on DVD and Blu-ray starting March 16. 

Film Review: “The Violent Heart”

THE VIOLENT HEART

Starring: Jovan Adepo, Grace Van Patten

Directed by: Kerem Sanga

Rating: Unrated

Running Time: 1 HR 47 MINS

Gravitas Ventures 

The brutal murder of a young woman leaves a family in agony and for her little brother, an intense anger that while growing up is a powder keg ready to explode at any given moment. “The Violent Heart” is a dark crime drama with a dose of young romance that keeps your attention from start to finish. With fresh, young actors who have talent to spare and some nice twists and turns, “The Violent Heart” provides some nice entertainment for an evening at home. 

A nine-year-old boy named Daniel watches his older sister load a suitcase into a strange car and get in before it speeds off down the road in the middle of the night. Concerned, Daniel sets out after them on his motorbike. He spots the car sitting vacant on the side of the road. After shutting off his bike, Daniel hears voices in the nearby woods. Through the darkness, Daniel follows the sounds until he sees his sister and a man standing in a clearing. A pair of shots soon ring out and Daniel’s sister is dead. 

Fifteen years later, his sister’s unsolved murder hovers like a dark cloud above his family. Daniel (Jovan Adepo, “Fences”) now works as a mechanic while helping to take care of his mother (Mary J. Blige) and younger brother. However, he still desires a life in the Marine Corps like his father. On one fateful day, 18-year-old high school senior Cassie (Grace Van Patten, “The Meyerowitz Stories”) drops off her father’s car to be serviced. There is an instant attraction and a romance soon blossoms between them. 

Unlike Daniel, Cassie is close with her father, Joseph (Lukas Haas, “Inception”), who is an English teacher at her school. This fact makes an affair she uncovers all that much more devastating for her, but it does her closer to Daniel who has his own newfound struggles to deal with. Ultimately, “The Violent Heart” shows that no matter how deep secrets are buried, they seem to always rise back up to the surface. 

Written and directed by Karem Sanga (“First Girl I Loved”), “The Violent Heart” has steady pacing throughout with a pair of nice lead performances by Adepo and Van Patten. Adepo demonstrates solid depth as he portrays someone who erroneously fears that his life will amount to nothing if he does not get into the military. 

The film’s weaknesses can be found in a lack of serious relationship development between the characters within Daniel and Cassie’s immediate families. Therefore, we feel a sense of disconnection which makes it hard to be truly impacted when crisis hits the families towards the third act of the film. It is particularly disappointing that Daniel’s career military father is omitted from almost the entire story. 

Overall, “The Violent Heart” is well worth your time.

Film Review: “Sound of Metal”

  • SOUND OF METAL
  • Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke
  • Directed by: Darius Marder
  • Rated: R
  • Running Time: 2 hrs
  • Amazon Studios 

To be succinct, the Oscar-nominated drama “Sound of Metal” is a cinematic revelation which will sear itself into your memory. With six total Oscar nods, including Best Picture, “Sound of Metal” is a powerful story by first time, feature-length film director and co-writer Darius Marder. Riz Ahmed (“Venom”) in the lead delivers the best performance of the year with gritty and powerfully emotional acting as a man whose tenuous hold on sobriety is put to the test. 

Trying to make a go of it as the heavy metal duo Backgammon, Ruben Stone (Ahmed) and Lou Berger (Olivia Cooke, “Ready Player One”) travel across the United States from one small gig to another in their RV, which also serves as their home and studio. It is a grueling lifestyle, but the couple, who are recovering addicts, are devoted to their music no matter their circumstances. 

Without warning, Ruben begins to experience hearing loss, putting his role as the duo’s drummer in jeopardy. Eventually, Ruben is referred to a specialist who informs him that his hearing is deteriorating rapidly, and he will lose it permanently if he continues to perform. Angry, frustrated, and desperate not to lose his creative outlet, Ruben pushes forward anyway and tries to keep playing. 

Scared that Ruben’s volatility might lead him to return to his addiction, Lou tearfully convinces Ruben to stay at a rural shelter that treats recovering addicts who are deaf. Run by a mild-mannered Vietnam veteran (Paul Raci), the shelter is supposed to be a place for Ruben to find peace with his new condition. Despite learning sign language and establishing relationships, Ruben’s desperation to get cochlear implants, and return to Lou, threatens his newfound stability.

Also nominated for Best Film Editing, Sound and Original Screenplay, “Sound of Metal” is a masterful tale of a man trying to find his footing in a world that has been turned upside down. Marder places us in Ruben’s head by allowing us to hear what he is going through. It is a strong tool that punctuates his deafness and how he attempts to adapt to it. 

The emotions conveyed through the script are raw and brought with ferocity to the silver screen by Ahmed. Of course, Ahmed had a terrific co-star to bounce off of in the form of Cooke, who was snubbed horribly by the Academy in this writer’s humble opinion. They exchange a chemistry of the highest sincerity and her individual performance is just as remarkable. Last, but not least, Raci, a veteran TV series actor, is an absolute delight to watch as a genuinely good man who tries to show Ruben how he can overcome his challenges. 

Overall, “Sound of Metal” is a heavy work of brilliant, cinematic art.

Streaming/Television Review: TINA

  • TINA
  • Starring:  Tina Turner, Angela Bassett and Oprah Winfrey
  • Directed by:  Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin
  • Rating:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • HBO Documentary Films

I have a confession to make.  And before I fill you in, let me assure you that my wife already knows.  I have loved Tina Turner since 1975 when I saw her as the Acid Queen in “Tommy.”  When the 80s hit, and I became a young adult, her music and her talent made my crush seem all the more worthwhile.  Of course, thanks to her best-selling autobiography and the film “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, the world knows that Ms. Turner’s life wasn’t all singing and dancing.  And who better to tell the story of that life then the legend herself.

“TINA,” premiering on HBO and HBOMax this Saturday night, March 27, tells the amazing story of Tina Turner in five parts.  First up is the story of IKE and TINA.  By all accounts, Ike Turner was a terrible person, but while saying that I also must note that he was a very talented musician who is widely credited for helping create the very first rock and roll song, “Rocket 88.”  A chance meeting with Ike Turner by Ms. Anna Mae Bullock of Nutbush, Tennessee led to one of the most popular musical groups of the 1960s, the Ike and Tina Turner review.  Here we learn how Ike actually gave Anna Mae the name Tina, without her knowing it,  We learn of the music and the popularity and we also learn about the horrible way Ike treated her.  A lot of the film consists of a recording of an interview Tina did with “People” magazine in 1981, as well as current conversations recorded with Tina in 2019.  I won’t belabor mentioning the abuse Tina suffered (in fact, this is something she is tired of talking about, as she tells more than one reporter) but to hear the stories in her own voice is heartbreaking. 

The other four parts of the film follow the path that Tina Turner took to get to where she is now, the unchallenged Queen of Rock and Roll.  And all along that path there were setbacks.  Her first single, “River Deep, Mountain High” didn’t achieve the success it deserved.  Her divorce from Ike left her with nothing but her name, something she had put in the divorce decree.  Stuck doing Vegas-type shows, she yearned to fill stadium with pure rock and roll.  You know how the story ends, but to see and hear it told by the lady herself is a grip worth taking.

Full of amazing interviews and even more amazing vintage footage, TINA is a must see!   

Film Review: “Nobody”

  • NOBODY
  • Starring:  Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen and Christopher Lloyd
  • Directed by:  Ilya Naishuller
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time: 1 hr 32 mins
  • Universal

BOB ODENKIRK – ACTION STSR!!!

Seriously.

A handcuffed man, his face badly bruised, sits across a table from two detectives.  They stare as he takes a can of cat food out of his pocket, then opens it.  They stare more as he pulls a kitten out of his jacket.  “Who are you,” they ask?

Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) leads a pretty dull life.  Wake up.  Make breakfast. Jog. Catch the bus.  Go to work.  Come home.  Repeat.  The same dull life, day after day after day.  Until the day he hears a noise downstairs in the middle of the night.  He comes across a pair of burglars, who confront him.  Suddenly his teenage son tackles one of the baddies and Hutch has the opportunity to take out the other.  Instead he lets them go, drawing the ridicule of everyone from his neighbor to the cop that takes the report.  He catches more hell at work from his boss – also his father-in-law – (Michael Ironside) and his brother-in-law (Billy MacLellan).  He remains un-phased until his daughter notes that her kitty-cat bracelet is missing, innocently commenting that it must have been stolen.  This comment, despite the innocence in its mention, triggers something in Hutch, who heads out on a mission.  And what a mission it is.

Action-packed from beginning to end, “Nobody” is a true cousin to films like “Death Wish” (the Bronson one, not the horrible Bruce Willis remake) and “Straw Dogs.”  A film about a seemingly mild-mannered man who reaches his breaking point.  Only Mitch is much deadlier because he has a past.  An amazing past that puts him square on the top of the “People You Should Never Mess With” list.

Odenkirk, probably best known as Saul Goodman in the acclaimed series “Better Call Saul,” is a revelation here.  I’ve been a fan since he appeared with David Cross in “Mr Show with Bob and David” and have enjoyed his supporting work in films like “The Post” and “Nebraska” proves himself a capable leading man.  His is a character you keep learning things about, slowly understand how (and why) he is able to do what he does.  The supporting cast is also very good, including Nielsen as Hutch’s somehow understanding wife, Aleksey Serebryakov as a Russian mobster and the always entertaining Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s father, who apparently has passed down some of the family skills. 

The film is perfectly paced – no slow spots and plenty of amazing action, all set to some great tunes that set the tone of the on-screen action.

CD Review: Joe Strummer “Assembly”

“Assembly”

Joe Strummer

Dark Horse Records

Tracks: 16

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Remastered by three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Paul Hicks (The Beatles / The Rolling Stones / David Bowie) Joe Strummer “Assembly” is a 16-track compilation featuring three previously unreleased versions of classic The Clash tracks, including a never-before-heard recording of “Junco Partner” a live performances of “Rudie Can’t Fail” and “I Fought The Law” recorded by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros at London’s Brixton Academy on November 24, 2001. In addition, Assembly” includes exclusive liner notes written by Jakob Dylan.

Joe Strummer’s work as the front man for legendary punk rock group The Clash has been well documented through various forms of media however the music Joe went on to create after the groups disbanding in 1986 has received less coverage and fan fair. The newest compilation from Dark Horse Records does an impressive job shining the light on Joe’s solo work with the sixteen tracks which make up this release. The album runs the gamut of styles associated with Strummer’s career as listeners are treated to a spattering of sounds including upbeat rockers like “Coma Girl” and “Love Kills” to raucous live version of Clash staples “I Fought the Law” and “Rudie Can’t Fail”. The album is not all just angsty vocals and distorted guitars as tracks like “Long Shadow” “Redemption Song” and “Junco Partner” (previously unreleased) all feature acoustic accompaniment which showcase Strummer’s signature vocal style. Also included are tracks like “Get Down Moses” and “At The Border, Guy” which lend a nod to Joe’s reggae influences. You even get a little of that 80’s synth rock sound with the inclusion “Love Kills” which was a person favorite of mine.

“Assembly” offers a wide sound pallet that showcases a portion of Joe Strummer’s career which in my opinion does not get enough credit. From rock to reggae and electronic to acoustic Dark Horse put together a solid compilation that showcased the diversity of Joe Strummer’s post Clash career. To add to the audio portion of the release is some very cool packaging which combines a mixture of matte and glossy appointments and photos, Lyrics for all sixteen tracks and newly written liner notes from Jakob Dylan.

Track Listing:

1.) Coma Girl

2.) Johnny Appleseed

3.) I Fought the Law (Live)

4.) Tony Adams

5.) Sleepwalk

6.) Love Kills

7.) Get Down Moses

8.) X-Ray Style

9.) Mondo Bongo

10.) Rudie Can’t Fail (Live)

11.) At The Border, Guy

12.) Long Shadow

13.) Forbidden City

14.) Yalla Yalla

15.) Redemption Song

16.) Junco Partner (Acoustic)

Blu-ray Review: “News of the World”

  • NEWS OF THE WORLD
  • Starring:  Tom Hanks, Helena Zendel and Ray McKinnon
  • Directed by: Paul Greengrass
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Universal Pictures

News is everywhere today.  Back in my day, you needed to watch television to learn what was happening, both locally and around the world.  Or subscribe to a newspaper.  Today there are 24 hour television news networks, Facebook, Twitter and all other assortments of way to get the word out.  So imagine having to gather in a darkened room, pay ten-cents and have someone read you the news.  If you can then allow me to introduce you to Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd.

Now that the Civil War has ended, Captain Kidd (Hanks, outstanding as usual) earns his living traveling the country on horseback, picking up newspapers along the way.  He is known as a “News Reader,” and his choice of stories, and the way he tells them, earn him a decent living.  It’s 1870 and tonight we find him in the town of West Falls, Texas preparing for an evening of reading.  As he continues on his travels he comes across a young girl named Johanna (Zendel) who had been raised by Kiowa Indians but is now being sent to live with her remaining living relatives (her parents having been killed). Kidd takes her to the local settlement but is told by the authorities that he can either wait with her for three months – when the necessary people are scheduled to arrive – or take her to her family himself.  She is now his responsibility.  Determined to reunite her with her relatives, Kidd sets out with Johanna into the wild Texas wilderness.

Though well-paced, “News of the World” is not the type of film I expected from Paul Greengrass, whose amazing action work includes three “Bourne” films, “Captain Phillips” and the heart-wrenching “United 93,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Director.  Along the way to San Antonio (where Johanna’s relatives have settled) the pair run into all kinds of problems, including a band of no-goods who at first try to buy Johanna then decide to take her with violence. But Captain Kidd is a sharp guy – and a hell of a good shot.  As the film progresses, Kidd and Johanna form a bond.  He is protective of her as a father would be and she does her best to help him with his business, imploring those interested in Kidd’s news service to ante up a dime. 

Hanks is his usual excellent self, seemingly able to inhabit any character he plays, much like Jimmy Stewart did in his career.  Ms. Zendel is equally outstanding.  Already the youngest actress (she is currently 12 years old) in history to win the Lola for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” at the German Film Awards for her performance in 2019’s “System Crasher,” her inability to speak English only intensifies her work as most of her communication is done through body language and with her eyes.  It’s plain to see that Johanna has seen plenty in her young life and Ms. Zendel lets you see it on screen.

The film is beautifully photographed, with much credit due to Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (“Sweeney Todd,” “The Martian”).  He shoots the Texas landscape beautifully and a scene where Kidd and Johanna are caught in a sandstorm is breathtaking.  

The film has been released on home video to coincide with the Academy Award nominations, of which it received four: Original Score, Production Design, Cinematography and Sound. Surprisingly, besides containing one of Hanks’ best performances, the actor was not nominated.

The disc also comes with plenty of extras, including Deleted Scenes,several Featurets and an Audio Commentary by director Paul Greengrass.

Product Review: LA Pop Art KISS “Word Art” Apparel

KISS “Word Art” Apparel

LA Pop Art

Our Score:  5 out of 5 stars

KISS and LA Pop Art recently announced the launch of a branded “Word Art” line of apparel that celebrates the legendary band’s enduring magic. “You wanted the best; you got the best!” LA Pop Art and the “Hottest Band in the World” Kiss have teamed up to launch a new line of unique apparel. Just in time to commemorate their End of The Road final tour, LA Pop Art has used “Word Art” to create the iconic KISS logo out of their popular song titles and the famous makeup of the Demon, Starchild, Catman, and Spaceman.

LA Pop Art founder Joseph Leibovic had this to say about the collaboration.

“There has never been a band like KISS and there will never be another band like them, We wanted to honor their legend with a truly one-of-a-kind design that is a must-have for any KISS fan.”

LA Pop Art continues to hit it out of the park with their unique word inspired art and the newest KISS partnership is no exception! We checked out one of the new t-shirts and were very pleased with the product. Printed on high quality soft cotton the art jumped of the shirt and looked great in the basic white on black styling. It was fun trying to find the different songs titles and count just how many different songs were used to create the new take on the iconic Kiss logo and face paint. Another great feature is that the design is offered in a wide size run for men, woman and children. This makes it super easy to find matching shirts for loved ones when we are finally able to catch the remaining legs of the “End of the Road” Tour in person.

This fully licensed KISS merchandise is boldly printed with pride in the USA and is also available on sweatshirts, tote bags and more. Kiss “Word Art” apparel can be purchased at LAPopArt.com, Macys.com, Amazon.com and through select quality retailers. 

The company’s full line of products are available at www.lapopart.com.

Product Review: Loog Pro VI Acoustic and Pro VI Electric Guitars

Loog Guitar

Pro VI Acoustic and Pro VI Electric

Loog

Our Score:  Pro VI Acoustic 4 out of 5 stars

                     Pro VI Electric 3.5 out of 5 stars

Loog Guitars burst on to the musical instrument scene in 2011 with a unique 3 stringed guitar design which utilizes the G, B and E strings and is set on a smaller scaled neck and body making it ideal for learners of all ages. In 2017 after a second successful Kickstarter campaign earning Loog the title of “Best-Selling Guitar Ever on Kickstarter” the company has yet to slow down or stop evolving their ever-growing product line.

The latest Loog offering is that of the Pro VI Acoustic and Electric models. Both guitars feature the companies first 6 string configurations which are set on larger scales and designed for guitarists ages 12 and up. Having purchased the 3 string Loog Pro for my son about a year ago both he and I were anxious to check out both new models, so we decided to start with the Pro VI Acoustic first as it was the most like our previous Loog.

After a quick tune up the Acoustic Pro VI was virtually ready to go right out of the box (something you do not often see from guitars in this price range). The overall feel of the guitar was quite good, and the added size of the neck and body balanced nicely in both sitting and standing positions. Where I felt the guitar really excelled was in the sound and projection. The parlor sized basswood body (available in 6 colors) has a mid-high tone range which helps each chord and note ring out loud and clear while the maple neck provides a solid fretting surface for both small and large hands. Though the fret ends could use a little work in the finishing department the guitar stays in tune quite well (a definite plus for younger players) and the overall playability and look of the guitar is quite good which made for an enjoyable playing experience.

Next, we fired up the Pro VI Electric guitar. After a quick install of a 9-volt battery (not included) via the compartment on the back and a flick of the micro switch located on the front of the guitar we were up and rocking. Though this is not Loog’s first attempt at amplification it is their first 6 string attempt and I have to say it is not half bad! The guitar features a paulownia body (available in 6 colors), 19 fret maple neck, volume & gain controls and an input jack for external amplification. Playability wise the Pro VI Electric has a comfortable feel with consistent balance despite the unique body shape. The maple neck has a straight, fast feel which will only get better the more you play it. Much like the Acoustic Pro VI and the Standard Pro I previously purchased I did find the fret work a little disappointing. The fret ends on both the upper and lower edge of the neck were rough and a bit inconsistent in length. This does seem to be a common flaw with Loog guitars and one I hope they look to address on future models. Sound wise it may take newer plays a little bit to adjust to the internal speaker sound when attempting to dial in a sound they like. Due to the limited controls (volume & gain) of the internal amp and the limited sweep of the knobs players basically get an all or nothing distorted tone which for some may be a little off putting and unusable especially if you are wanting a clean tone at higher volumes. Bypassing the internal amp via the front mounted input jack and plugging into an external amp did give the guitar a whole new feel and sound but not without a few quirks as using that input disables the volume and tone controls which may cause a bit of confusion for newer players. 

From head to toe the Pro VI Acoustic and Pro VI electric and great additions to the Loog line up. Yes, the guitars could benefit from some better finish work as both examples featured rough fret ends and inconsistent body finishes however you will be hard pressed to find anything as nice as what Loog offers in this price ( Pro VI Acoustic $149, Pro VI Electric $199). Not only does Loog offer solid instruments for all ages but the included flash card set and downloadable Loog learning app is a fun and interactive way for all ages to learn. For players wanting to expand their learning outside the App Loog lessons of all ability are offered in both group and private formats via Lessonface.com. Loog is more than just another guitar company with a product to sell. Along with providing an affordable, quality instrument the company is heavily invested in music education for both young and old so if you are looking to learn or want to expand your music knowledge then give Loog a look. You will not be disappointed. 

For more information visit https://loogguitars.com/

Film Review “Adverse”

Movie title: Adverse
Director(s): Brian A. Metcalf
Actor(s): Thomas Nicholas, Mickey Rourke, Penelope Ann Miller
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Running Time: 1h 34min

Our Score 3.5 out of 5 stars

If I am not mistaken this is the third collaboration between Brian A. Metcalf and Thomas Nicholas after 2018’s Living Among Us and 2016’s The Lost Tree. Adverse definitely feels the largest on the scale of the three. Having seen all three films, I can honestly say that Adverse is the most mature film to date as well. Adverse is a slow burn thriller, very slow burn but its worth it for the wild third act. The studio released a trailer that hypes this film up as an action thriller but that is not what you are going to get and is misleading. Watch this trailer below for a real look at what you should expect from this film. Either way, it’s worth sticking with.

Here is the official premise for the film “Struggling to make ends meet, rideshare driver Ethan (Nicholas) learns his sister Mia is deep in debt to a sleazy drug dealer. When Mia goes missing, Ethan discovers that crime boss Kaden (Rourke) is behind the act, and to get close to him Ethan takes a job as Kaden’s driver. One by one Ethan hunts down members of Kaden’s crew to wreak bloody vengeance as he prepares to confront Kaden himself.”

I mean for an indie film this does definitely pack a cast including Thomas Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie), Sean Astin (The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings), Andrew Keegan (7th Heaven, 10 Things I Hate About You), Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Young Guns), Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Carlito’s Way), Matt Ryan (Constantine, The Flash) and last but not least Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Sin City). The director himself, Brian A. Metcalf, also carved himself a role as well. So there is no shortage of talent here.

Thomas Nicholas definitely delivers his most bad ass role yet. I mean this guy means business and I would want to be on this guys bad side. He is quite handy with a crowbar! I felt bad for Mickey Rouke honestly, he looked like he was hobbling around from scene to scene. He delivered his lines on point though.

Adverse is not just a slow burn thriller, it has some good surprises throughout. Flashback scenes are rather intense and the action scenes can be quite brutal. The visual effects for the gore could have used some work but for this it works well enough. Overall if you are looking for a 90 minute rollercoaster ride with a great cast throughout, I would definitely recommend watching Adverse.

Television Review: ESPN Films 30 for 30: “Al Davis vs the NFL”

I had only been in Baltimore about a year when it was announced that the NFL”s Baltimore Colts would be moving to Indianapolis. The mood in the city was like a close friend had died. But teams moving was really nothing new in 1984. I grew up in Tampa and I still own t-shirts for the Tampa Bay Giants and the Tampa Bay White Sox, two teams that held their cities ransom with a threat to move in order to get new stadiums built.

In 1980 the Los Angeles Rams moved from L.A. to Anaheim (since then they’ve moved to St. Louis and back to L.A.). Seeing Los Angeles as a prime place to have a team, Oakland Raider managing partner /Al Davis decided to move his team to the empty Los Angeles Coliseum, with the promise of upgraded facilities and, of course, more money. But it wasn’t easy.

Entertaining and informative, “Al Davis vs the NFL” is another feather in the ESPN 30 for 30 cap. The film introduces both Pete Rozelle, who would become NFL commissioner and Davis, who helped found the American Football League (AFL) and soon became the managing partner of the Oakland football team. We see Rozelle in 1963 refusing to comment on a possible merger with the upstart AFL (it happened in 1966) and Davis’ team always running into bad luck, especially against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. Glory comes so close for the silver and black, only to be dashed away by Franco Harris’ “Immaculate” Reception one year, and a field of solid ice two years later. Now Davis and Rozelle go head to head in Federal Court to decide where the Raiders will play next.

Told through archival footage, and narrated by reenactors, The film is an amazing look back at a much simpler time in sports. Though quite popular in the mid-1980s, football did not have the amazing impact it has now. As “Just Win, Baby” becomes the phrase of champions, we learn how simple animosity between two men led to a landmark legal decision. We are also reminded of some of the great sportscasters of that decade, including Howard Cosell, Phyllis George, and Curt Gowdy. The legal battle is fun to watch, as neither Rozelle nor Davis want to be the first to throw in the towel.

Of course, if you follow football you know that soon the Browns went to Baltimore and became the Ravens and the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Raiders returned to Oakland and then, this year, began -playing in their new home city of Las Vegas. You’ve heard the saying “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard?” Well, these days, you can’t tell the NFL without an Atlas!

Just in time for the Super Bowl (go Chiefs!), “Al Davis vs the NFL” airs on ESPN this Thursday, February 4. It will also run on ESPN+ after the broadcast.

Film Review: “STALLONE: Frank That Is”

  • STALLONE: AS IN FRANK
  • Starring:  Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone and Richie Sambora
  • Directed by: Derek Wayne Johnson
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 13 mins
  • Branded Studios.

I love me some Frank Stallone.

I was first introduced to his music when his group, Valentine, appeared as the street-corner singers in the Academy Award winning film “Rocky.”  I played the soundtrack album to death and one of my favorite tracks is Stallone’s song “Take You Back.”  He also contributed to and performed several songs for the film “Staying Alive,” including the top 10 hit “Far From Over,” which earned him Grammy and Golden Globe nominations for best motion picture song.  Criminally it was NOT nominated for an Oscar, the category that year being overtaken with songs from “Flashdance” and “Yentl.”

As an actor, Stallone has turned in fine work in films like “Barfly,” “Hudson Hawk” (a guilty pleasure of mine) and “Tombstone” (he is the card player that accuses Doc Holiday of cheating early on in the film).  With all of these achievements you’d think he would be a household name like his brother, Sylvester.  Unfortunately despite his talents, that is one shadow he has never been able to escape.  Until now.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…Frank Stallone.

This entertaining documentary begins with Frank Stallone in the next phase of his career…doing big band songs.  Dressed to the nines, and sporting a pair of Frank Sinatra’s cuff links, he takes the stage to great applause.  He is in fine voice and the crowd loves him.  We learn that he always had a love for music and, when he caught Elvis Presley on television, vowed to make it his career.

Growing up in Philadelphia he played in a couple of different bands.  He then formed Valentine, a band with several different line-ups (the third version is the one that appeared in “Rocky.”)  Along the way he worked with both Darryl Hall and John Oates, who played guitar in Valentine 2.  In a conversation with Oates we learn that, after he left the band he hooked up with Hall.

Having a song in the most popular film of 1976 should have been a ticket for musical stardom for Stallone and his group.  Unfortunately, when the band had a gig it was often introduced as “Frank Stallone and Valentine,” much to Stallone’s chagrin.  The shadow of his movie star brother followed Frank as a solo artist, with newspaper ads touting him as “Sylvester Stallone’s Brother, Frank.”  One club announced his appearance by simply noting that “Rocky’s Brother” was playing.

But it isn’t just music that Stallone does well.  We learn he is also an accomplished boxer and, as I noted, a fine actor.  Unlike some “actors” who only get cast because they have more famous family members – I’m looking at YOU, Joey Travolta.  You too, Don Swayze – Stallone never used his brother as a stepping stone.  In fact, sometimes the name was a curse.

As the film progresses we are treated to a bevy of Frank’s friends, touting his talents.  Among them are big brother /Sly, Billy Dee Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Talia Shire – who can understand Frank’s frustration at being known as someone’s brother (her maiden name is Coppola, as in Francis Ford, and she wanted to be judged on her talents, not get a job because of who her brother is) and Steven Bauer.  Attesting to his musical talents you have such musical icons as Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagen and the ever-young Frankie Avalon. 

If you’re looking for a film in which the underdog keeps fighting, and you’ve already seen “Rocky” a hundred times, I hope you give “Stallone: Frank That Is” a look.