Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Half Past Forever starts an album

Well, Half Past Forever for the last several months has been writing and performing new songs, and then recording demos for said songs. I wrote about 25 new songs, plus there were a couple of songs left over from the old HPF era. From there, we've been playing the songs live and seeing which songs stick, and I think that we have finally decided on which songs to record.

We actually had enough songs that we were going to do a pretty good double album, but in the end, we decided it was best to do an incredible single album instead. So, that is what we've done: we've taken the 30 or so songs and whittled the album down to 13 songs, and we're rpetty excited about it.

One thing that I have gone for while writing and then we all did as we recorded was to write great songs but to have something musically interesting in every songs. That isn't alway easy, since quite a few of our songs are upbeat, fun pop/punk kind of songs, and in order to stay true to their nature you really can't put a ton of music nuggets in there without sounding stilted and pretentious...and I think anyone who knows me (and the rest of the band) we are about as non-pretentious as you can possibly be.

However, with each song we worked and worked through the demo process to fill the songs with cool stuff, and I think with each song you will find something neat and interesting. The goal is to write great songs and jamming (so to speak) will happen naturally.

The songs that we have decided to record are definitely the best stuff I've ever written and I have a pretty good feeling you'll agree. We've let a few peope we trust listen to the new songs and they are unanimous in agreeing that the stuff is the best I've ever written. I've also received quite a few comments that these songs are the best I've ever sung, too, so that's exciting.

Here are the songs we've decided to record for the album (due out in January):

1. Waiting
2. Here
3. Know
4. Hero
5. Rise
6. Somewhere
7. Gone
8. Cry Tonight
9. Tunnel Vision
10. Closer
11. Convenient
12. Naive
13. How Long

Well, there we are, my friends. Now, you can download most of the demos for these songs at Audiri.

Listen to the songs and learn them, please. Then come and scream them at the top of your lungs at our next shows.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Movie Review: Talledaga Nights

4.6 out of 5 stars

Every so often a movie comes along that defines a culture and a generation of that culture. This film does that with the culture that is NASCAR. And in defining it, the movie makes anyone familiar in any way with the culture (or just hick southern culture, at that), chuckle deep into their belly until tears run down their cheeks.

Ricky Bobby is a child scarred by his father leaving him and his mother and rarely showing back up. In 6th grade, his father shows back up for a father's job fair and tells Ricky (as he gets kicked out of the school for insulting Ricky's teacher) that "If you're not first, you're last!" And it is that motto that Ricky lives the rest of his life by.

Ricky starts off the film as a pit crew member along with his best friend Cal Noughton Jr. (played brilliantly by John C. Reilly - with his Magnolia mustache back) for the worst driver in NASCAR. When the driver decides to take a break to get a chicken sandwich, the crew boss asks if anyone wants to drive...FAST. Of course, Ricky jumps in and begins his career as a driver. He is a few laps behind when he takes the car over and drives so fast that he ends up taking 3rd place, which makes him the talk of the NASCAR community.

From there, Ricky quickly becomes the #1 driver in NASCAR. His best friend Cal, per Ricky's orders, becomes his teammate and becomes Ricky's set up man. Their "shake and bake" brings the NASCAR community to its knees and Ricky makes a ton of money, along with adding a "smoking red hot wife", which leads to his two sons Walker and Texas Ranger, who are potty mouthed brats encouraged by their father to be jerks because "winners get to say what they want".

One of the funniest scenes was the scene at the family table the day before a race where Ricky prays to the sweet baby Jesus and the prayer devolves into a discussion of what Jesus really means to each person at the table. Ricky likes to think of Jesus as a 8lb6oz baby wearing golden diapers, while Ricky's wife reminds him that Jesus did, in fact, grow up to be a man. Cal's view of who Jesus is is also interesting. During this scene, I actually saw people walk out of the movie, and I had friends who experienced the same thing. Personally, I did not find the dialogue in any way offensive except calling out Southern culture for their attitude of nonchalance with who Christ truly is.

Ricky and all his friends celebrate their newest win by going to their favorite bar hangout, where they play pool and drink beer and talk about how great Ricky is. With Skynard going in the background, it couldn't get much better for the boys. Suddenly, jazz starts playing and of course, the boys freak out because it's obviously "gay music". Now, we are introduced to our protaganist - Jean Girard (played brilliantly by the very funny Sacha Baron Cohen) - and his husband Gregory. Girard is a Forumla 1 racer who has decided to come to America to take on Ricky Bobby to prove which is the better driver.

The rest of the film follows Ricky's fall from grace, which we all saw in the previews. He thinks his car is on fire, he thinks he's paralyzed, he generally just goes crazy and forgets how to drive. He loses his wife to Cal and moves back in with his mother, becoming a pizza delivery driver. Then his father comes back into his life and teaches him how to drive again. The whole fall and fight back to the top is the only slow part of the movie, but there are still very, very funny sections.

On a sidenote: during this time, Ricky's mother takes Walker and Texas Ranger and turns them into church-going, choir-singing, bible-thumping, well-behaved young men. Another stab at Southern culture: grandparents really do the parenting.

He decides to race at Talledega as an indie racer and we all know he will win. However, it's how he wins that is somewhat hilarious.

Now, I have specifically left out a lot of stuff in this review because I do not want to ruin the movie for you. This is definitely one of the top 10 funniest movies I've ever seen and it deserves you watching it. You will laugh your stomach sore, I promise.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Extensive Movie List (Pt. 3)

Part Three: Comedies

Note: I should preface this section by saying that some of the films, especially in this genre are ribald and often times sexually suggestive, so please of all the genres, be careful that you view only what you think you can handle.

Anchorman: The Tale of Ron Burgundy
Ron Burgundy is an over-assured anchorman in 1970's San Diego played magnificently by Will Ferrell. Now, I believe Ferrell to be the funniest man alive, especially when he is in some state of undress, which seems to happen in every one of his films. The role as the anchorman really set Ferrell apart from the rest of the pack as being able to carry a film. There are hilarious scenes throughout the movie, as the story follows Burgundy being #1, falling from grace, finding salvation in what he hated until he finally reaches redemption. And the whole thing is very, very funny.

There's Something About Mary
This movie was, in my mind, the Farrelly Brothers last really, really funny movie. Before this they had made the comedy classic Dumb and Dumber, followed it up with Kingpin (which was funny, but not on the same level as D&D or Mary), then came this comic masterpiece. The story follows the life of Ted Stroehmann (played by Ben Stiller) as he falls in love with Mary Jensen, possibly the perfect girl (played by Cameron Diaz). Mary has a mentally disabled brother who Ted actually treats like a person, so Mary loves him. An unfortunate incident happens on prom night and soon after Mary moves away, leaving Ted, for the rest of his life, in love with Mary. 10 years later, Ted hires a P.I. to find her. The P.I. (Matt Damon) falls in love with the girl, and Ben set out on his own to win his woman back. There are sight gags, funny animal comedy, hilarious dialogue and some of the most memorable characters to ever come to life in a comedy. The Farrelly brothers had it for a while. Now, they seem to lower themselves to make the drivel that was Fever Pitch. Let's hope they turn it around soon.

Austin Powers in Goldmember
In a line of films that spoofs the James Bond series as well as some more obscure British spy films of the 60's, this one (the 3rd) is definitely the funniest. Mike Myers, to me, is a modern day Peter Sellers...a chameleon who writes and performs his own characters, and each character is perfect. In this one, he plays 4 characters - Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat B*stard and Goldmember. The film starts off with a hilarious cameo sequence in which supposedly Steven Spielberg is making a movie of Austin Powers starring Tom Cruise as Powers, Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil, Danny DeVito as Mini Me and Gwyneth Paltrow as a vixen named Dixie. From there, the film follows Powers in his silly quest to locate the new villain Goldmember in 1975. I laughed harder during this film than just about any film I've seen in my life. It is very, very funny. Mike Myers is a brilliant writer and a more brilliant character actor. The fact that you are laughing the entire time simply makes you forget how good he really is.

Bruce Almighty
A lot of Christians were up in arms because it looked like this film was allowing Jim Carrey to play God - how sacreligious! But the story, written and directed by the born-again Tom Shadyac, follows the life of a man (Jim Carrey) who feels cursed by God and along the way begins to believe that he could do a better job with the world than God could. So, God (Morgan Freeman) calls him in for a job interview and gives Carrey His powers. Of course, being the sinful man that he is, Bruce uses the powers selfishly, across the board. We come to find out that Bruce doesn't have all of God's powers...he was just given enough powers to help a small section of the city of Buffalo. Unfortunately he helps no one but himself. As his selfish life falls apart, he turns slowly to God, realizing that even with magnificent powers, he still is in need of God. There are things about the story that are inconsistent with who God is, but overall the story is a touching story of a man turning to God.

Wedding Crashers
The Frat Pack has made a lot of movies over the last few years, and they almost always star more than 1 or 2 of the group. This one, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn follows the lives of two divorce negotiatiors who, every wedding season, put on their best acts and fake names and crash weddings in order to get women in the sack. Their thoughts are that women are at their weakest when they have just seen a friend get married. It's when they go for the wedding of all weddings (the daughter of the Secretary of Treasury) that things go haywire. I can't explain any more of the story without giving away hilarious sections of the film, but if you can handle a little ribald humor, you will weep during this film. The movie also has Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour and Rachel McAdams.

The Royal Tennenbaums
Wes Anderson is a genius. You are required to go our and rent every Wes Anderson film made tonight and watch them in marathon style. This film follows the disfunctional families of all disfunctional families. With a brilliant cast (Ben Stiller, Owen & Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, and Anjelica Huston), the movie shines when it is at it's wierdest best. The film is odd. There are segues that are different than any film you've ever seen. The humor is hilarious without being dirty. The characters are complex yet funny, which is oftentimes hard to pull off. This film is just pleasing, as is every other Anderson film I've seen. This is definitely a must see.

Office Space
The story follows a man who hates his job at a computer software firm and decides one day (after a little backstory) that he doesn't care any more. So, he shows up to work when he wants, does what he wants and when he wants...and gets a promotion! Unfortunately part of the promotion involves firing 2 of his best friends. So, they hatch a plan based on Superman 3 where they steal money from their company a few tenths of a cent at a time over years so no one notices. Unfortunately, the scheme goes horribly wrong when over one weekend they steal close to $300,000. This film is based on short films called Milton by Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill. The characters in this one are all funny, and Milton almost steals the show. Definitely a must see.

This film is based on the 1970's tv series of the same name, starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller as Starsky and Hutch, respectively. The movie, instead of creating a whole new world, basically does a tongue-in-cheek recreation of the show. It is almost a knowing nod to the fact that they are recreating a classic show and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, this film is much, much funnier than the series. The story follows the two detectives as they become friends while investigating a murder. Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman all make appearances in this one, and they are each on top of their game. The Will Farrell scene is one of the funniest scenes in recent movie history.

Spinal Tap
This was the first of the mockumentaries that have of recent years become so popular (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman). This movie documents the life of a British rock band trying to make a comeback. The film basically mocks all the excesses that made up 70's & 80's heavy metal, and it is point on. Any musicians with any experience gigging can identify with almost everything that goes on in the film. But the movie is more universal than just making musicians laugh. There are some very, very funny parts in this film. This is an oldie but goodie. Watch it tonight (after the Wes Anderson marathon).

Meet the Parents
I love Ben Stiller when he plays a lovable loser. This film pits him as a lovable loser trying to find the chance to ask his soon-to-be father-in-law if he can marry his daughter. Unfortunately, the father in law ends up being a former CIA agent played by Robert DeNiro. The comedy in this film is in the chemistry between DeNiro and Stiller. Who knew the Taxi Driver could be so freaking funny? I love DeNiro in general, but in this film he showed how broad and talented an actor he truly is (he had started to do that with Analyze This & That). The whole film has funny scene after funny scene and I think that one thing director Jay Roach (also directed the Austin Powers series) does really well is make sure that there is never a scene without a laugh in it. I actually would probably put this up there in my top 10 favorite movies of all time...not the best, but my favorite. I love this movie.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Extensive Movie List (Pt. 2)

Part Two: Drama

21 Grams
Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts star in this story of lives connected by tragedy. This is a beautiful film that is disjointed, disturbing and yet so pleasing. I can't tell you the plot without giving away the movie. It's the beauty of discovering the story as it unfolds that is part of what makes this film so great.

Probably one of my favorite films of all time. An ensemble drama with an all-star cast, directed by the guy who wrote Million Dollar couldn't get much better. The story centers around L.A. and the idea that all races delve into racism in some way, simply because we're human. We find scenes where a white police officer is racist against a black woman, only to find in the next scene that black woman spewing racial epitaphs to her black husband. There are parts of this movie that are discturbing, but, in this writer's opinion, they are disturbing because they need to be disturbing. This film should be required viewing for ever high school student. It is that important.

Shawshank Redemption
This is one of the first R-rated films I ever saw and I never forgot it. The film, set in the 1950's and based on a Stephen King short story, stars Tim Robbins as a man wrongly convicted of killing his philandering wife and her lover, who meets an older black man in prison (played by Morgan Freeman). It is an interesting story of redemption, following Tim Robbins as he finds freedom in the confines of a dirty prison.

Everything Is Illuminated
Elijah Wood stars as an obsessive compulsive young man who collects things of his family in order to remember them. He only has one piece of "memory" of his gradfather, a Jew who had escaped from the Ukraine during the 2nd World War. Wood decides to find out more about his grandfather by traveling to the Ukraine. This is one of my favorite films I have seen in a long time. It is hilarious, but has a knack for turning on its head to be touching within seconds. Leiv Schreiber makes his directorial debut and I dare say that he has long missed his calling. The film is beautiful.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I have heard of many people quitting this film before it finished because they thought it was boring. Believe it or not, this film is like 6th Sense in that the ending is what makes the film. It is at the end of this film that you realize that the film wasn't slow at all. It was just building towards this crescendo of emotion, so that when you reach the end of the film the only thing you can feel is exactly what Charlie Kaufmann wanted you to feel. In order to know what that feeling is, you'll have to watch it. Oh, by the way, every person in the film (Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson) is amazing.

American Beauty
This film is another Kevin Spacey film that is a must see. The movie begins with a voice over where Spacey tells us that this is the day that he dies. The story that is told is disturbing not because it is scary or suspenseful, but because it is the average every day American life: a loveless marriage held together because it is what is expected; a father and daughter who love each other but can never quite find the words to say; and a group of subplots that exploit all of these weaknesses in the family's constitution. As the film moves towards resolution, the viewer feels more and more uncomfortable with how the film is turning out and I think that was the point of it. When it finally comes to the place where Spacey's character dies, you actually have come to resonate with his character and his redemption.

Mystic River
I am not a fan of Clint Eastwood films. But this story of life and death in Boston is an exception. The incredible cast is actually well-directed and the trio of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon make this film great. Sean Penn's daughter is killed on the same night that Tim Robbins comes home covered with blood. As we find out more and more about the trio of friends we start to see why Tim Robbins is a stoner loser. Kevin Bacon got our of the neighborhood as a cop and is trying to solve the daughter's murder. As the story unfolds and comes to an end it is actually disturbing.

History of Violence
This film was one of my favorites of last year. The movie is based on a graphic novel, and stars Viggo Mortenson as a mild-mannered, married father who runs a small-town restaurant. 2 men try to rob the store and he kills them very quickly. This leads to press coverage and it causes some people from Philly to believe he is the long-lost brother of a big-time mobster. Of course, Viggo's character denies. Are the rumors true? You have to watch the film to find out.

Almost Famous
This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Cameron Crowe has a way of writing films that are positive without being cheesy. This story, loosely based on Crowe's life, is no different. The main character is a young writer in love with music who gets the chance to write an article about Black Sabbath for a small publication. Along the way he runs into another band called Stillwater; Rolling Stone finds some of his writings and want him to write an article; he decides to write on Stillwater. To make a long story short, he goes on tour with the band and writes an article about them warts and all. He falls in love with Penny Lane, who is in love with Stillwater's lead guitaristt. It's a touching dramedy that you need to see tonight.

Extensive Movie List (Pt. 1)

Part One:

This is one of my favorite films of all time, starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey. The story is a gritty look at a rookie idealistic cop who thinks he can save the world tagging along with an over-the-hill about to retire cop on his last job. That last job ends up being a serial killer using the 7 deadly sins as his guidelines in finding his victims. Riveting. Scary. Distrubing. 3 words that describe this film.

The Usual Suspects
Another film in a line of great ones that Kevin Spacey was a part of. This is the story of 6 men drawn together by a crime they didn't commit. The 6 men then decide to do one last job to make a lot of money only to find out they are working for Kaiser Soze. Who's Kaiser Soze? You have to watch the film to find out.

12 Monkeys
I am not a big Terry Gilliam fan. His films usually employ crazy visuals and wierd camera angles. It just gets tiring on the eyes after a while. This is really the only film of his that I actually enjoy. It stars Bruce Willis in a futuristic, mind-bending film with a surprise ending that really will blow your mind.

L.A. Confidential
This one is another one with Kevin Spacey, but with an all-star cast that includes Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and a bunch of other character actors you will recognize. This film, set in the 1950's Los Angeles, follows a group of cops who are involved in a huge cover up of a movie star's murder. Well acted and well written.

A Time To Kill
A film based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. Story of a young black girl who is raped by a group of white men who are then killed by the girl's father. The story follows the ensuing trial of the father and the racial tensions in backwoods Mississippi. Beautiful film. The final scene has one of the best monologues (delivered by Matthew McConaughy) I've ever seen in a film.

A beautifully shot, beautifully acted film directed by Michael Mann. This is the last film that Tom Cruise will ever be taken seriously in. And he is really, really good in it as a hit man who hired Jaime Foxx's cab for the night so he can go and kill a string of people. Unfortunately, things don't go to plan and Jamie's character learns quickly about the plot, which leads to disastrous results. Jamie Foxx actually deserved the Oscar for this film, as well, but I guess people thought no one should win best actor and best supporting in the same year.

Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels
This film is also one of my favorites. It is rambunctious, thrilling and hilarious, all in one. This is Guy Ritchie's first film and it is an incredible debut. Ritchie also wrote the film. The film stars a group of then unknowns and it follows a group of friends who lose a bunch of money in a poker game and then have to pay it back, so they hatch a plot to steal it the money they need. Put this at the top of your list. It is great. And the ending is classic.

2nd film by Guy Ritchie. Same basic plot and the same basic cast - with inclusion of Brad Pitt in his funniest role yet as an Irish boxer. This film is probably funnier than Lock, Stock, but I'm not sure it is quite as good. Still, all the way around, it is a great film. And, as with Lock, Stock, the ending is classic.

Batman Begins
I hate superhero films. I especially hated the Batman series. When I heard that another Batman was coming out, I was not excited. Then I heard that Christopher Nolan was directing, it piqued my interest. When I heard it would star Christian Bale and Liam Neeson, I was a little more interested. Then when I saw the preview and saw how the film was shot, I knew I had to see it. It was worth it and it's the only superhero movie you'll ever hear me recommend. It is amazing. It is beautifully shot, well acted and has none of the excesses that superhero films normally have. It is just about a normal guy who takes responsibility for his own future; in doing so, he decides to rid Gotham City of anyone bad. How it all ends really is great.

Another Michael Mann film, starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer. Killer cast, right off the bat. The story is what makes the cast even better. Al Pacino is a cop. DeNiro is a robber. Cop tries to catch the robber before he can pull of a big steal. Cop and robber meet. Cop and robber respect each other. Robber pulls off heist. How it ends is for you to find out by watching this incredible film.

Before Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan directed 3 indie styled films made on shoestring budgets. His 2nd film was an interesting film called Memento. The story, of a man with no short term memory whose wife was killed, is played out in complete reverse. The first scene of the movie is the last scene of the story. Great concept and Joe Pantaliano is great in this film, as well as the Matrix's Carrie Anne Moss. Check this one out, too, if you haven't.