Monday, October 29, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Bob Dylan Week

I'm not a Dylan fan, so I wasn't looking forward to this, but then as I watched I realized, wow, I really do like Bob Dylan's songs - just not when they're delivered by his nasally voice. This week each band did a Dylan cover and an original song.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "Freight Train Blues" / "One Time Show"

These guys seem like a wedding band to me, and I have to agree with Dicko that Denver is just not sexy or charismatic enough as a frontman. I don't think they'll last long.

The Hatch - "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" / "Stretch Out The Time"

These guys are like The Killers Lite, minus the hot fuss.

Light of Doom - "All Along the Watchtower" / "Eye of the Storm"

I love these kids, even if Sheila E was correct to point out that their shirtlessness is a bit disturbing. They are musically very tight, and the singer has great energy, good hair (important for metal) and a good voice. Not sure about the lyrics of the original song - was he singing "We can't stand the weather"? Still, they'd get my vote, if I wasn't watching this on my DVR two days later.

The Likes of You - "Blowing in the Wind" / "Love and Gravity"

I thought I liked singer Geoff Byrd's voice last week, but this week it was kind of prissy and affected. Johnny was right to tell him to lay off the falsetto.

Rocket - "Knocking on Heaven's Door" / "Mean To You"

I enjoyed this performance, even if it's kind of easy to take a Dylan song that's already been rocked out by others and repeat the rocking out of it. I loved their original - very catchy. They're fun to watch.

Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 - "Don' Think Twice It's Allright" / Some Original Song

I found the cover to be moving. They definitely played with feeling. I like these guys, but I wonder if they are too fugly and odd for the masses.

The Muggs - "Meet Me in the Morning" / "Slow Curve"

They're definitely good musicians but the judges were right to point out that the singer's voice is lacking, as is his confidence. I don't see them having much commercial appeal.

Clark Brothers - "Maggie's Farm" / "Billy the Kid"

I think these kids are among the front runners. They're cute, different, and great musicians. They need to be careful not to play on their cuteness too much or else become the Lawrence Brothers. Their original tune was very catchy.

Tres Bien - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" / "Easy to Love Me"

These guys just seem like fake retro to me, like so many other bands out there today.

Franklin Bridge - "Tangled Up in Blue" / "Incredible"

Sheila E predicted they'd win it all, and I do have to say they have a good shot at it. The singer is hot, and he's got a good voice. The band is really tight and able to get the crowd going. My only criticism is that they could use a stylist.

Dot Dot Dot - "Like a Rolling Stone" / "Another Stupid Love Song"

I like this band. They're fun to watch, and I like the mix of genders in the group. They do seem to spend a bit more time on their look than on their music, but I never faulted Duran Duran for that so I won't hold it against them.

Six Wire - "Mr. Tambourine Man" / "Good To Be Back"

The singer looks like Sawyer from Lost. He's got a nice voice, and the original tune was really good. Still, I'm not sure they are that different or interesting - they are typical new country. Sheila said they might win it, but I doubt it.


I think two bands get voted off next week. I think it will be Denver and the Mile High Orchestra and The Muggs.

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Westside LA Gets a Cool New Haunted House!

Coolia and I decided to visit our local haunted house last night, an abandoned Blockbuster Video locale, where Westwood, Overland and the 405 converge. Now I used to work at Blockbuster so I know just how scary the prospect of a haunted Blockbuster is...our sufferings from a cheapskate employer and ever disappearing employee discounts ("What do you mean video rentals are now full price for all employees? I don't want discounted jiffy pop!") This Blockbuster in question was particularly horrifying when it was open - a pitiful selection and zombie-like service. Good riddance to bad rubbish I said when the shop closed down months ago. I never dreamed ghosts and goulies would start squatting at the place.

Because it's our hood, we found it by driving news is sometimes a little bit scary. These do-it-yourself haunted houses don't feel quite The handmade signs look a little nutty.

But the ticket-takers seemed normal enough and you could adjust your own scare-level, which was very decent of them. We picked Code Red which was just shy of the ultimate scare Bloody Code Red or Bloody F-ing Code Red. I can't remember.

The do-it-yourself-ness of the maze reminded me of the great haunted mazes of my old neighborhood in St. Louis. And for $12 (less for kids), it was perfect, just long enough but not rip-off short. And the ghosts were fully into their tasks; some were downright creepy.

What I appreciated most was that they controlled the experience, only letting one group of friends enter at a time (as you know there's protection in numbers; no protection in no numbers - which makes the crowds at NotScaryFarm kind of a drag) and the ghouls "personalize your journey" as you walk through. It's both hilarious and effective.

For more information on the maze, visit their MySpace page.

To read another review on them:

Here are the details:
Creepy Hollow
3101 Overland Ave.
Corner of National and Overland (where Blockbuster used to be)
Neighborhood: Palms
Hours: Friday- Sunday 7 :00 PM- 11:00 PM
Open Halloween

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Acrostic Movie Review - 30 Days of Night

John Huston's son Danny is just as hammy as his
Old man, however that works fine for his
Sinister role of leader of a creepy, Nosferatu-lookin' vampire gang
Hungry for Alaskans' blood, and

Lured to the northernmost town of Barrow by the promise of 30 days of
Endless night. Josh Hartnett plays the town sheriff who
Finds himself with an impossible challenge and is forced to
Team up with his estranged wife played by

Melissa George. Josh is cute but cardboard, and the twosome fail to
Elevate anyone's temperature with their tepid romancing.

Creepiness abounds and there are some scares before the plot stalls.
One could do worse if looking for Halloween cineplex fare, just
Lower your expectations. These vampires are fast, but the film is no 28
Days Later.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Auditions

We at the Ape Blog can't resist shows from the American Idol machine...and this one looks like it might be pretty entertaining.

The Top 12

  • Tres Bien - They've got the retro 60s hipster thing going, but I was underwhelmed. Catchy tune, to be sure.
  • Light of Doom - How much did I love these 12 year old metalheads who cite Iron Maiden as their influence? Can they play with Legos? No, but they can play with madness!
  • The Hatch - I found these guys kinda boring, another dime-a-dozen band from Williamsburg. Their pretty boy frontman got them to advance by batting his eyelashes at Sheila E.
  • Clark Brothers - I liked these kids - 3 brothers from a family of 11 kids whose dad was an evangelist. Nice harmonies and guitar work but they need to be careful to not be too Hanson-esque. Mmmm...God!
  • Dot Dot Dot - Edgy looks and sassy cover of "Always Something There to Remind Me." I heard their single "Stay" on Sirius Radio today, so do they even need this show?
  • The Muggs - They describe themselves as "the ugliest band in the world" and I won't argue. Solid musicianship and a heart-tugging story as one member is recovering from a stroke, but they may be too old to please the kids.
  • Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - And now for something completely different...a big band. I'd agree with Dicko that Denver lacks the sex appeal of a Harry Connick Jr. or a Frank Sinatra.
  • Six Wire - They call themselves "edgy country" but I saw heavy "Rascall Flatts" influences in them. They harmonize well but they're kinda old.
  • Cliff Wagner and Old Number 7 - Cliff has a strange appeal. Their bluegrass cover of "Like a Virgin" got them through to the next round. I like them - they're quirky.
  • The Likes of You - We didn't get any backstory on these guys, but the singer was hot and had an amazing voice.
  • Franklin Bridge - Wow, these guys can rock. They reminded me of Living Colour. Dicko pronounced them a front runner.
  • Rocket - Girl rockers who seemed kinda generic to me. Dicko pulled a Simon Cowell by telling them only one of them was attractive.
Also Rans
  • Zombie Bazooka Patrol - I loved these guys! I'm so bummed they didn't make the Top 12, especially after we heard the judges say they'd made it through to the next round. Their song "Better Off Undead" was catchy and reminded me of Camper Van Beethoven.
  • Northmont - Lead singer Ward brooded about this being his last chance, and his band got 2 chances to audition, but they didn't distinguish themselves. Ward got high marks from the judges but I'm not sure why, with his tired Eddie Vedder climbing schtick.
  • Zolar X - Aliens from Plutonia. Earth was not amused.
  • Sizzling Happy Family - Had to give up their dreams if they didn't make it, and they failed to elevate over being a typical bar band, even though they did grill a rubber chicken in the middle of their guitar solo
  • Fifi LaRue - Fifi is a middle-aged "gothic killer klown" who lives at home with his mom.
  • Ian Dickson - Also known as "Dicko", Ian is the Simon Cowell of Australian Idol and he provides the brutal honesty
  • Sheila E - She's nice like Paula but sober.
  • Johnny Rzeznik - Goo Goo Dolls singer is still nice to look at, but his critiques didn't really get too specific.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Jack Nicholson at the AFI Gala - Still Crazy After All These Years

I attended the AFI 40th Anniversary Gala at the Arclight last night - 1o classic films introduced by their stars. This was a pretty amazing lineup: Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner introducing When Harry Met Sally, Kirk Douglas for Spartacus, Julie Andrews for The Sound of Music, Angela Lansbury for Beauty and the Beast, George Lucas for Star Wars, Warren Beatty for Bonnie and Clyde, Tippi Hedren for The Birds, Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven, Sylvester Stallone for Rocky, and, last but not least, Jack Nicholson introducing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Jack has been my primary celebrity obsession since I was in junior high, and since I moved to LA four years ago I'd seen him in person three times: twice at Laker games, once at the premiere of
Something's Gotta Give. When the tickets for this AFI gala sold out instantly, I resorted to overpaying on ebay. I just couldn't miss the chance to hear him speak.

We arrived early and were immediately thwarted by security who forced us to take the long way around the theater so as not to soil the red carpet. It was clear, and not surprising, that the common people were going to be sequestered from the stars.

Once inside, we made a beeline to the auditorium to secure one of the limited number of official souvenir programs. We then grabbed free popcorn and sodas. We hit the bar. We didn't see any stars even though showtime was only about 30 minutes away. We moved to a spot near the lobby but security guards were pretty determined to keep the area clear. I did get to see Jack walk in, but I didn't see any of the other stars. Lurking around outside by the red carpet might have been a better strategy but, really, I saw who I came to see.

The movie started almost an hour late. Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI President and CEO, came onstage and apologized for the lateness and assured us it wasn't Jack's fault (true - he was about 15 minutes early). Maybe she had to introduce all the screenings or something, we surmised. She introduced Jack, and the crowd leapt to its feet. Jack looked kinda rumpled and his hair was all askew. One TMZ commentor likened his hairstyle to a baby orangutan.

Jack launched into a rapid-fire free association of stories about making the picture. I love it when movie stars refer to movies as "pictures." It's just so Old Hollywood. Some highlights of his comments:

  • Kirk Douglas played the role on Broadway but by the time the film was ready to be made, Kirk was 60, and his producer son Michael deemed him too old for the role. Jack said Kirk still gives him a hard time about it, even that night on the red carpet. (I guess Kirk got the last laugh - he got the Cinerama Dome for his screening)
  • He said he'd spoken to Louise Fletcher recently and praised her performance and her cold blue eyes.
  • He also said he'd spoken to ex-flame Anjelica Huston recently and recalled she was in the film in the scene where the inmates hijack a boat and go fishing. I hadn't realized that and if you blink you'll miss it - she's an extra in the crowd scene as the boat returns to shore.
  • It was the 2nd movie to win all the major Oscars (picture, actor, actress, director, screenplay). The first was It Happened One Night and since Cuckoo's Nest only Silence of the Lambs has done it.
  • As a struggling writer/actor, Jack had tried to option the rights to Ken Kesey's book but got trumped by Kirk Douglas. When he got the role, he knew the material well and gave a few suggestions such as "cutting out the Big Indian's monologues".
  • Good friends Jack and Danny DeVito met on this film and Jack was impressed by DeVito's improvisation of throwing the basketball at the fence during the basketball scene.
  • Jack said his own improvisation in the scene where the Doctor (a real shrink, not an actor) does his intake interview was one of his favorite improv scenes and that he had been showing off that day because his daughter Jennifer was on the set.
  • Scatman Crothers kept them entertained on the set and convinced Jack to get him roles in 2 other films - The Fortune and The Shining.
  • He expressed admiration for his stuntman who executed the acrobatic climb over the razor-wire fence.
  • He told some story about his dog and coming home to find duck feathers all over the yard one day. Like I said, free associating.
Midway through, Jack asked, "Is this boring?" We all yelled out "NO!" He said he had been told he was only supposed to speak 3 minutes but he probably spoke for 10 minutes. It'd be criminal to hold Jack to 3 minutes!

Once he finished, he left the auditorium and the film began. I quickly came down from the high of seeing Jack and remembered why I hadn't watched this film since high school - it's freakin' bleak. My friend pointed out that watching it and knowing the outcome is even harder because you find yourself willing the characters to do whatever's necessary to avert the ending. But still, it's a powerful film - and a powerhouse performance - everything from the bold improvised World Series game... to the thoughtful, wordless expressions on his face as Billy and Candy have their date in the other room and he's on the verge of passing out, waiting to escape... to the final rage against the big nurse.

Thanks, AFI. Thanks, Jack. Nights like this remind me why I live in LA.

Read my sordid tale of Jack Nicholson obsession on Ape Culture

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rock of Love Finale: Manic Panic defeats Aquanet

Well, Rock of Love, aka The White Trash Flavor of Love, came to end on Sunday, leaving me with one less embarrassing season pass on my tivo.

I was excited for this show because I'm a Poison fan, and I've always thought Bret was cute, even if all the hard livin' is starting to take its toll on his face. I was also excited by the possibility that we'd finally learn if Bret was bald or not - he's been hiding under those doo rags and cowboy hats for like 15 years now. I figured the hat would fall off during some passionate groupie encounter, but alas the hat only came off in carefully constructed scenes, and the hair looked like it could have been a wig (no discernible part and much fuller than it looked when he had hats on).

Much of this show was hard to watch, as it followed the usual reality mating show pattern where the girls are pitted against each other (virgins vs whores, as usual) and given lots of alcohol to stir up the drama and up the nudity. The machinations of the show and its editing were always apparent, especially in the inexplicable way that Lacey stuck around to nearly the end, when it was clear she was insane, diabolical, and not even attractive. I'm sure the producers told Bret to keep her in the house to stir the pot and make good TV.

In this week's finale, Bret had to make his final choice between Heather, the huge-haired, big-titted stripper without the heart of gold, and Jes, the very pretty but very young pink-haired pseudo-innocent. I was pretty sure he'd go with Jes, as he had seemed drawn to her from the get-go, but you never know if a fear of change might make him choose Heather, who appeared to have amassed her wardrobe from a Tawny Kitaen yard sale.

Bret took the gals to Cabo and spent 24 hours with each. Heather lost points on her date for appearing insensitive to Bret's diabetes (which Bret himself appears insensitive to, given his binge drinking). When they were in a dune buggy, Bret said he didnt feel well and wanted to eat. Heather looked at him blankly and replied that she wanted to drive, thus risking his life for a cheap thrill. Then Heather gained points back by declaring her love for him over dinner and then boinking him (or so it appeared).

The more sensitive Jes cried when Bret explained to her how to give him a shot in case he went into diabetic shock, and she made steps toward breaking down her wall, which Bret had feared she wouldn't be able to do. She also made out with him quite a bit and spent the night with him.

When it came time for the choice, Bret came up with a true rock star proposal: he asked the gals if they would both be his girlfriend. Heather looked pissed off but said "sure" without much hesitation. Jes refused and said she didn't have it in her. Bret picked Jes and Heather left without another word to him, and then she spewed a bunch of hatred in the limo as she was whisked away.

I predict Rock of Love II will be on the horizon, as I don't see Bret and Jes sticking it out for the long haul. She's sweet but probably too sensitive to deal with the rock star lifestyle, and the age and experience difference is about as big as the gap between C. C. Deville's ego and his ability.

For the record, Heather is claiming on her myspace blog that she was violated by editing and that she never said she'd share Bret. She does not, however, admit that her hairstyles were the works of visual effects artists.

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