Monday, July 31, 2006

CD Review: Needtobreathe "Daylight"

4 stars out of 5

Every now and then you find a group that just resonates with who you are, what you like and falls into the kind of music that you just love. Switchfoot has done that for me with their last couple of album. MuteMath has done it with their debut EP and their debut full-length. Now, I find myself falling in love with this band from Possum Kingdom, SC.

The record starts off with a quiet "1,2,3,4" into the powerful opening chords of "Don't Wait for Daylight", which quickly becomes a blast of Brit-rock reminiscent of U2 or Coldplay. The band is clearly in love with Brit rock, yet still finds ways to introduce new ideas and different influences, ranging from Southern Rock to acoustic rock to just plain in your face rock and roll.

Standout tracks include the opening track, as well as "Gone", an in your face rocker; and "You Are Here", the first single and easily the best track on the album.

I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who loves pop/rock music when it is done extremely well. there isn't a lot on this album that you've never heard before, but it's rare to hear this old stuff done so well.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Movie Review: Miami Vice

2.1 stars out of 5

Michael Mann has long been one of my favorite directors. He makes movies that tell a story from start to finish yet still leave you longing for more on the characters. Heat has been one of my favorite films for a while. The interplay between Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino is, to me, one of the best dynamics between bad guy-good guy that I have seen on film. I felt Ali was underappreciated (especially the performance by Will Smith) and, let's be honest, Collaterall was in the top 10 films of its year. I'm a fan of Michael Mann.
Now, I should say that I have never been a fan of the tv series of the same name as the new film. I have seen perhaps 10 episodes and thought Don Johnson looked cool and all, but just never really got into it. So, when I saw that Michael Mann had manned (no pun intended) a film taking on the tv series, I knew that there were only 2 possible outcomes: it would either be really great or really stupid.
Actually, I was wrong. It ended up being neither great nor horrible, but somewhere between...somewhere in the void of mediocrity. Which is quite disappointing, considering all the things this film had going for it. I mean you take a great director/writer add in one of today's hottest (Oscar winning) actor in Jamie Foxx who has worked with said director with success in the past, along with one of Hollywood's most macho leading men in Colin Farrell and an incredible supporting cast to boot? I mean I thought it might work.
Okay, here's how all that potential ended up mediocre.
Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play two vice cops in Miami (thus the name of the film). The film starts off with them trying to catch some high-end prostitutes in the act. Fortunately we are drawn away from that chase when Farrell's Sonny gets a phone call from a very distressed former infromant that was now helping the FBI. Apparently something bad had happened and the informant wanted to say goodbye. From there, we get our standard car chase, along with some bad news, a suicide, which then leads us to our main plot line....
Sonny and Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) go deep undercover to try to A) catch them men who ultimately killed their friend the informant, and B) uncover an international drug ring. How fun.
If only it had been more fun.
Michael Mann has a penchant for long movies, and in the past that has been okay with me. Heat was nearly 3 hours, Ali a little over 3 hours. Both of those films worked at the longer lengths and yet still left you wanting more. However, in this case, the film should have been a tauter 1 hour shorter. At 146 minutes it is plodding and has too many of Michael Mann's beautiful shots of the sky or different pieces of high end Miami real estate. Michael Mann's films are beautiful films, and this film is no exception. It is shot beautifully and gritty and is cinematically exceptional...but as a movie, it doesn't work.
Another disappointment in this one was the writing. Usually, Michael Mann writes dialogue that keeps you on the edge of your seat. He's no Tarintino, but his dialogue is tight and focused. For some reason, this film really does nothing to shed light on the characters and who the characters really are. Perhaps he assumed that everyone would come into the film with a history with these characters (via the tv program), but I was lost.
Sonny is probably the most fleshed out character, and yet it was played by Colin Farrell with a monochromatic machismo. Farrell's accent drifts somewhere between his natural Irish brogue and a nominal midwestern accent all the way to a Southern accent. He plays the character as 1 color and that color is macho. Sonny is a cop who likes to play on the dark side. Unfortunately, we never learn why.
Foxx's Ricardo is played well, I guess. But we never really learn much about him except that he apparently really likes one of his partners, and the only way we really see this is by the fact that they take a shower together and then make love (fortunately we are spared nudity during the love scene). We never really see an emotional connection between the 2, so when the girlfriend is injured I have a hard time connecting with the emotion Foxx's character lets out.
Another problem, in my opinion, are the several characters who make appearances, seem like they will be major players and then are never seen again. Specifically, an FBI agent who comes in just never shows up for the last 3/4 of the film. Odd, I thought. It is unlike Mann.
The film finally starts to become the action film it should've been throughout for the last 15-20 minutes and we get the resolution everyone desires.
This summer, I watched Mission Impossible: III, a movie that was comfortable with what it was: a summer blockbuster action film. It was tight, short and to the point...and action packed. Miami Vice, in my opinion missed what it should have been. If it had been an hour shorter and the story had been pared down to the bare necesseties, the film would have been much more successful and would have been a blockbuster.
Unfortunately, this one is just a buster.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Times of Affirmation

Every now and then you have a moment where you feel as though every thing you've done for a long time really starts to make sense. I think that last night really ended up being one of those moments for me.
No one who knows doesn't realize that I love, that I live music. When I am not working, I am listening to music. If I'm not listening to music, I am writing music. If I am not writing music, I am practicing or performing music. I listen to music when I drive, when I email, when I do work on the computer...pretty much any moment I can find to add music to my life, I do.
For the last almost 3 years I have been part of a band called Half Past Forever. We have had our ups and downs, but for the most part have been down. We have started and stopped, started and stopped and finally just stopped back in May. The 3 other members of the band decided they no longer wanted to be part of a band, or more specifically this band, and for the first time in my adult life, I actually considered doing something other than music.
I was broken hearted. I have had a dream of doing music for a long, long time. Half Past Forever was an extension of that dream, and probably the closest thing I had come to being able to be at a place in my life where music could be my job. Then everything fell apart. The things I had held together for so long just fell apart. The guys I had been in a band with went from friends to mere acquaintances in moments. And for the first time since I was 20, I thought about something other than music.
After taking some time off from music, I began to find my love for it renewed. I started to listen to music again and actually enjoy it. I started leading worship for my church again and found that I was enjoying for the first time in months.
And then I took a step I was very scared to make: I formed a new band. We kept the name Half Past Forever, but we became a completely seperate entity. For a long time with Half Past Forever I had written songs that I thought would give us the best shot of getting signed. Suddenly, recently I started writing songs that I really liked. I never realized how refreshing it could be to write music I actually enjoy. As the band started recording the songs, I realized how much I truly enjoyed the whole process of creating music again.
Then came last night. After about 3 months of practicing, the new and improved Half Past Forever made its debut. And it was marvelous. We played a 30 minute set that was rambunctious, upbeat and, quite simply, rocked. The band was tight, my voice actually held up (I had suffered a bad cold leading up to the show), and we made it through our first show together entact. And after last night I realized once again that this is what I was meant to do.
I was meant to make music that I love. I was meant to make people clap and stomp their feet and dance, if that's how they want to express themselves. I was meant to enjoy myself while playing music. I was meant to play alongside guys that I really, really enjoy being with.

For me, life doesn't get much better than last night....and I think that's how it was meant to be.