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Archive for the 'Media/Entertainment' Category

16 May

Jesus Christ Superstar MIDI tracks

JCS album cover

Just in case you ever wanted a bouncy, electronic, singer-less MIDI version of “Heaven on Their Minds.”

11 May

Michael Biehn makes Planet Terror even more awesome

First, you have to understand that ever since I first saw the film “Terminator”, I’ve had a crush on actor Michael Biehn. In the early stages of this actor-crush, I was fanatic in my worship. I had to find every one of his films and watch them - the 1985 TV-movie “Deadly Intentions” is melodrama camp at it’s best, and I still have it on videotape. I re-watched Terminator (and Aliens and Abyss) over and over. If a new movie came out that Michael was in, I had to see it, no matter how terrible it likely was going to be (Navy Seals….).

I’m not sure exactly when I stopped caring about Michael’s movies. Somewhere down the line I realized “hey, he’s usually in terrible movies.” Also, I began to realize he’s not a great actor. He’s a good actor in certain types of roles, but his range is a bit limited. So slowly I stopped paying attention to what he was up to. He never became “A” list type famous, and it was easy to forget about him. But then several months ago I caught a re-run of Law & Order:CI, and there he was, guest starring as the father of a young female crime victim. It amused me to see him, after mostly ‘forgetting’ about him all these years, and I think I watched that episode three times. It was like a trip down fandom-lane. Then I forgot about him again.

Until I rented “Planet Terror” this week, one of the two movies in the Grindhouse horror ‘double-feature.’ I’d already seen “Death Proof”, but hadn’t gotten around to seeing Planet Terror yet. When the starting credits started to roll and I saw Michael’s name, I let out a hoot of amused laughter and suddenly knew I was going to like this film a lot more than I might have. And I wasn’t wrong.

Planet Terror is an intentionally “bad” horror film. A sort of homage to 50’s drive-in horror films, or something, if you will. The movie itself is grand fun, full of zombie-like people-munching, eccentric/oddball characters, oodles of violence and silly one-liners. It also introduced me to Freddy Rodriguez, who I may have to start keeping an eye out for….Planet Terror is a great piece of amusement-horror, a complete package of goodness, but that’s not what I’m blogging about today. I’m talking about Michael Biehn. He’s still good-looking, for being over 50, although his upper-lip curl/snarl seems a bit more toothsome than it used to be. Still, the memory of that old infatuation fluttered in my brain whilst he was on-screen.

michael biehn photo

Oh sure, Michael was once again playing his type-casted role of a straight-laced authority type figure who ends up hurt, maimed, and (often) dead in some semi-heroic fashion, but he did it with panache. And the added bonus of Jeff Fahey playing his BBQ-loving brother was like icing on the cake. In their few bits of interaction, they worked really well together.

Side note: Why does Michael almost always die in his movies? Seriously, think about it….

Anyway, to close this completely random and useless posting, I have to say getting to watch Michael ham it up was just plain awesome - every time Michael got to say “dumbass” or any other ridiculous line I cackled insane laughter. I didn’t know Michael had such great sarcastic comedy timing. It’s peeped out here and there, but Planet Terror gave him a chance to revel in it. I think he could make a late-stage career playing in campy/oddball horror movies. He could be a blond and more “serious” version of Bruce Campbell…ie, slightly less over-the-top camp as Bruce tends towards (I like Bruce Campbell, btw, so no insult towards him). Gogo Michael.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch my old and scratchy video copy of “Deadly Intentions” before bed.

29 Apr

American Idol does a speedy Neil Diamond x2

OK, I’m officially bored of Season 7 of American Idol. But more on that later. This week the group had to sing two songs, both by mentor Neil Diamond. Instead of making the show half an hour longer or something, they chose to cram 10 songs into an hour, which gave the show a very rushed and hurried pace. Ryan Seacrest constantly hinted to “rush rush rush”, the judges didn’t have time to make anything but brief sound-byte commentary, and I don’t think it helped the contestants performances any.

Of course, I’m not a huge Neil Diamond fan, so I’m not sure anything would’ve helped the performances as far as I was concerned. There’s a few of Neil’s early hits that I like quite a bit - iconic pop songs - but I’m not overly familiar with his career or songbook.

In the weekly “make fun of Paula Abdul” bit, she outdid herself tonight. Again, I’ll get to that later.

Jason Castro was up first. The two songs he picked were “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “September Morn.” The first was one of the few Neil songs I kinda like, and Jason performed it poorly. No vim and vigor to it. The second song was a better performance, but bored me.

David Cook picked “I’m Alive” and “All I Really Need is You”. The first performance was mediocre and boring. The second was much better, and while not my personal thing, was a very good performance from The Cookster.

Brooke White chose “I’m a Believer” and “I Am, I Said.” - Now, I absolutely loved the Monkees as a kid, and I loved “I’m a Believer.” Brooke did the song no justice - she doesn’t have the power to keep it a ‘rock’ song, and she didn’t really do anything interesting with the arrangement. I thought it might’ve been better if she’d slowed the pace of the song down a lot, perhaps. My husband said she shouldn’t have played the guitar because it seemed to throw her off. Simon thought it was “a disaster.” For her second song, however, Brooke bounced back, sitting behind the piano once again and crooning out a pleasant and pleasing performance.

David Archuleta picked “Sweet Caroline” and “America.” If the latter choice surprises you, it shouldn’t. In fact, both songs made me think “Yeah, I knew he’d pick those….” His performance of the first song was the usual David (as of late anyway) - fine but bland and dull. I thought it was a little pitchy, but maybe that’s because I find his nasal quality a bit wearing by now. David’s version of “America” was better, with more vigorous inspiration, but still … kinda flat for me.

Syesha Mercado picked “Hello Again” and “Thank the Lord for the Nighttime.” I can sum up both her performances as being the best of the evening. She was polished and still displaying her stage-presence persona, which made her seem much more interesting compared to the other four. At least on this night.

I’ve been wrong on the “who’s going home” the last couple weeks, so I don’t even want to make a prediction this week. It’s anyone’s game, really. But I do think Jason, Brooke, and Syesha will be in the bottom 3.

So, on to a few other commentary points about American Idol tonight:

On Paula Abdul: When Ryan told the judges they could briefly sum up their thoughts on all 5 contestants, after they had all performed their first song choices, Paula started to comment on Jason’s second performance….after several seconds, Ryan and Simon reminded Paula that they were supposed to comment only on the first performance and no one had actually sung their 2nd song yet. Paula backpedaled and said “I thought you performed twice!” - in other words, the judges viewed the pre-show rehearsals, and then Paula spaced out during the actual show…I believe Paula’s brain resides in a place called PaulaLand, filled with moonbeams and fluffy clouds.

On my being bored with Season 7: The mentor-weeks aren’t my favorite part of American idol. And honestly - none of the 5 that are left make me feel anything. I think a few of them are very accomplished and certainly have a lot of talent, but they don’t strike any emotional chord with me at this point. In other words, I don’t have anyone I’m “rooting” for anymore. Carly’s gone, Michael’s gone…and the horse-girl is gone. At least she was fun to make fun of. At the moment, the show is simply boring the pants off of me … not because I hate anyone, or hate the show … I just don’t find any of the contestants exciting. I don’t know if I’ll be writing many more of these entries this season - except perhaps for the last winner-result episode. I will be curious if David A. will actually win, or if it’ll be David C. - who will have the bigger, more fanatic fan-base? Battle of the David’s, indeed.

22 Apr

American Idol tackles Andrew Lloyd Webber

Tonight American Idol had the daunting task of taking on the songs of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is Broadway music, folks, not pop-songs, and I wasn’t sure the Idols were going to pull this one off.

Paula Abdul seemed unsure as well, as she was rather subdued and for her, not too wordy in her comments. Or maybe she switched to some downers this evening. Yes, I like poking fun at Paula, god love her.

Syesha Mercado - “One Rock and Roll Too Many”: Syesha gets the top points for the night for her showmanship. She moved around on stage like she was a Broadway actor/singer, even doing a little sultry dance step or two with the orchestra leader. She was obviously comfortable and in her element as far as performance is concerned. Her vocals were good, but I found it a bit old-fashioned. Not so much in a “bad” way…but more in a “boring” way. Like just about every song in the film The Fabulous Baker Boys. If Syesha hadn’t had to go first, I think her showmanship would have made her memorable enough to make her safe, but since she did go first, it might be too little too late. So Not Safe.

Jason Castro - “Memory”: Jason is a likable guy, no doubt. He’s also a fair singer/performer, with oodles of quiet soulfullness that many groove on. Tonight however, he seemed nervous and out of his element. It wasn’t a bad performance - towards the middle he started to sound more confident and vocally with it - but he definitely doesn’t have a power-style voice. It was too soft and a little breathy/squeaky, which imo doesn’t fit the song at all. Paula tried to soothe Jason by saying it was kind of like how Joe Cocker had a soft/rock/pop style to “You Are So Beautiful.” When she did, there was a huge guffaw from my left as my husband expressed his amused disbelief at that comment. Sorry, Jason, I have to agree with my hubby - you’re no Joe Cocker. Not safe.

Brooke White - “You Must Love Me”: Brooke messed up the lyrics or something at the very start, stopping the band and starting over. This is the 2nd time she’s done that this season, and I think it’s going to cost her. I think she knew it, too, because after that she seemed so nervous and uptight that it affected her vocally. She didn’t sound bad, but it was a bit shaky and strained. During the judges comment section Brooke looked like she wanted to cry again, but not in joy this time. Poor gal. Not safe.

David Archuleta - “Think of Me”: Mr. Webber advised David A. to keep his eyes open. David managed to do that most of the time, and his vocal, once again, was pleasant and professional. But also again, it was as boring as dried out dog-poop. Is it just me, or is David A. becoming more and more dull as time goes on? He needs to break out and do something besides these dull predictable melody ballads. This performance barely had any power notes or vocal runs, either, so it was especially snooze-inducing. Here is where I think the AI voting system shows it’s broken-ness, since I think he’ll be safe, but shouldn’t be.

Carly Smithson - “Jesus Christ Superstar”: All right, someone is going to sing from my favorite Webber show of all time. And Carly’s the one to do it. I just knew with her particular voice she’d do well with this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Strong vocal, good stage performance, great smiling/”I’m having a blast” attitude - Carly cooked. I’m not sure if the voters will think this one great performance is enough to erase some of her lesser ones, but I can hope so, so I’ll say she’s safe.

David Cook - “The Music of the Night”: This is the night where David Cook finally made me like him at least a little bit. I don’t care if Simon prefers David C.’s “gritty” aspect, I like the emoting-stage-persona much better. He didn’t project alternative-cocky attitude and I actually felt the song, so to speak. Vocally, one has to admit that David Cook doesn’t have the best “stage” type voice - the lower notes, for instance, didn’t have the kind of projection needed - but it was very good. He’s safe…and David A. looks more and more like he’s gonna lose to David C.

So…bottom three - Jason, Brooke, and Syesha, with Brooke going home. I don’t think the voters are going to forgive her 2nd false start and her strained performance. I like Brooke and would probably buy at least her first record to check it out, but she is not America’s Idol. ‘Til next time.

18 Apr

US Army builds a robo-suit

A forum post today alerted me to a BBC news article about how the US Army has built a “robo-suit.” That is, a metal exoskeleton that is designed to be worn by humans as a helper for heavy lifting tasks and other such things. It is, of course, in the proto-type stages, but that “the US military expects to take delivery of these early prototypes next year, and hopefully deploy some refined versions within eight years.”

Of course, when I first watched the brief video clip displayed with the news article, all I could think about was the film Aliens. And can you blame me?

Remember this?

And now check out this still I grabbed from the news video:


16 Apr

Michael Johns on EW.com

EW.com has a video-interview with Michael Johns on their website. It’s split up into three parts and isn’t a bad interview. It’s nice to see Michael talk in a casual, relaxed fashion about his experience on American Idol and his possible future. I’ve seen a few other interviews this week, but I like this one the best so far. He’s such a cute goof-ball. In part 2 and part 3 of their interview, EW.com gets him to sing two lines (one line each time) of a song Michael would’ve performed had he not been voted off. It’s not him singing, mind you - it’s more as if he was in your living room and he broke out into song for about 3 seconds.

I recorded one of the very short audio snippets of him singing one of those lines, so if you don’t want to download/watch the videos just to hear that one 20-30 second bit, you can hear it (mp3) by clicking here to my file. But if you’re a Michael Johns fan, you’ll probably want to see the videos in their entirety. You can see them on EW.com’s Idolatry page. If they’re not on the top of the list anymore, just page down.





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