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Reviews Written by
J. T. Nite "mightybjorn" RSS Feed (Mesa, AZ USA)

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No More Beautiful World
No More Beautiful World
Price: $10.99
42 used & new from $3.98

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight for Refreshments and Peacemaker's fans alike., March 25, 2007
This review is from: No More Beautiful World (Audio CD)
Roger Clyne and the Peacemaker's last album, "Americano," was an internet sales hit, made a sizable impact on Arizona radio, and doubled the size of the devoted converts who attend Peacemakers concerts around the country and his twice-annual Circus Meximus in Rocky Point, Mexico. Tunes like the title track, the country shuffle of "Love, Come Lighten My Load," and the heartbreaker "Leave an Open Door" made it the most consistent and tuneful album the band had made. It also made me wonder, though, how much further Clyne could go with the band -- would the sound get smoother and more corporate until he took over Jimmy Buffett's mantle, singing endless tunes about lying on the beach in Mexico? Would we ever hear loose, organic, snarky, Refreshments-esque rock from Clyne again?

Thankfully, "No More Beautiful World" moves the band's sound forward while also hearkening back to his Refreshments days. Overall, the sound is the most organic and loose of any of the recordings they've made thus far. The shifts in style and tone are subtler here than on other outings, and on the first listen the tunes may sound too similar to one another, but on repeated listenings the album unfolds considerable charms. Here's a quick track-by-track:

1. Hello New Day: The love-and-death themes of "Better Beautiful than Perfect" pop up again here. Roger's in fine voice and his lyrics are smart as ever. The real star, though (here and throughout) is Steve Larsen, whose guitar work finally feels as unfettered and unruly as it does live.

2. Bottom of the Bay: After the sonic explosion of the first track, this is a groovy little reggae tune, complete with static and ethereal feedback moaning in the background. A stylistic cousin to Americano's Leaky Little Boat, but more mysterious and mischievous. Co-written with Johnny Hickman of Cracker fame.

3. Maybe We Should Fall in Love: there's nothing new about falling in love, but the expansive, open acoustic guitar sound, the echoing drums and bass, the vocal harmonies, and Clyne's impassioned lead vocal make it all sound fresh.

4. Contraband: a groovy, understated shuffle about drug-runners and ne'er-do-wells, featuring witty lyrics and a bounce-along rhythm. Thematically, this makes me think of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues -- you may not approve of shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die, but the portrait is compelling all the same.

5. Goon Squad: Clyne goes political but keeps it subtle, with "new season, new reason, same old war" as specific as he gets. The counterpoint to his political despair is the ambiguous bridge, in which he repeats (in gorgeous harmony with Stevie and P.H.) "there is no more beautiful world," suggesting both meanings of the phrase while hinting that there's hope for us after all.

6. Wake-up Call: A charming, folksy take on Clyne's relaxing-on-the-beach theme -- he tells the story of a military unit sent to a Mexican resort town, issued "guitars and flip-flops" to go undercover. Naturally, the troop ends up AWOL and FUBAR. You'll have to check the lyrics sheet after listening to this one for the jokes that you've missed. Clyne eases up on the horns and samba rhythms, making the familiar theme sound fresh.

7. World Ain't Gone Crazy: This song wouldn't have been out of place on The Bottle and Fresh Horses -- it's fast-paced vocal patter, power chords and subtle harmonies would fit right in. The sound is so much fun that you'll only remember the lyrics to the chorus, but there's a lot of philosophy crammed into these three minutes.

8. Lemons: The production on this fun little rocker veers dangerously close to cheesy, but never quite crosses the line.

9. Noisy Head: A tight, relentless ode to paranoia and the reasons we should be paranoid. It's as quiet, tight, and tense as classic Violent Femmes, and Clyne's lyrics are better than ever: "The emperor in his new clothes / is playing with his dominoes / with puppet strings from head to toes / and an army of Pinnochios."

10. Andale: A call to action and the album's heaviest track, with Stevie's ominous guitar and P.H.'s wailing backing vocals urging the listener to get up and fight the good fight.

11. Plenty: P.H.'s persistent, unflagging, wrist-snapping, unmistakeable drumming grounds this sonically open, echoing, melodic track that might be the best on the album. With the overdubbed guitars, multiple harmonies, and the horn section busting in at the end, this is the most production Roger's put on a track yet, but it works and it soars.

12. Junebug in July: A witty, quick-tongued, jazzy little shuffle. Stevie kicks off the distortion peddle and plays some Stray Cats-ish be-bop. It's a trifle, but a tasty one.

13. Winter in Your Heart: Stevie and new bassist Nic trade off riffs in this catchy reggae-tinged tune about forgiveness and rebirth. Clyne's "lie/cry/fly" lyrics are a little cliche, but he's so darn sincere about it that you can't hold it against him.

14. Hourglass: If this doesn't make your eyes tear up a little, check your pulse. This is Clyne's heartfelt plea for more time to enjoy the beautiful world around him; he acknowledges the futility of asking but urgently repeats "turn the hourglass over." It's the kind of song that, while dealing with death, manages to celebrate life -- it'll make you want to call everyone you love and tell them so.

Dog Problems
Dog Problems
Price: $8.59
52 used & new from $0.01

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb., July 12, 2006
This review is from: Dog Problems (Audio CD)
In the second track of "Dog Problems," singer Nate Reuss asks us a question, while Beach-Boys-esque harmonies swirl behind him: "Can we take the next hour and talk about me?" It's a question and a challenge -- in the world of mp3s and single-serving music, are you willing to commit to an album that's meant to be enjoyed as a whole?

If you are, you'll be rewarded with an intricate, satisfying collection of songs that make a coherent whole, but are individually catchy as well. Nate hasn't lost any of his gift for writing the perfect lyric, as noted in an earlier review, and his voice is, if anything, more powerful than before.

The song arrangements take some getting used to. My first listen, I thought they were overproduced -- too many horns, too much harmony -- but on repeated listens, what seemed overly complicated was just agreeably complex. Nate's voice never gets lost in the shuffle, and the tune remains the driving force.

This is an album to listen to in its entirety, then listen again through good speakers, then again through headphones, then again and again. I'm still hearing surprises on my fifteenth or sixteenth go-round. From the Queen-influenced title track to the Mountain Goats-esque "If Work Permits," this is one CD you'll come back to over and over again.

Post Orgasmic Chill [ENHANCED CD]
Post Orgasmic Chill [ENHANCED CD]
Offered by mojoelectronics
Price: $15.83
37 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-style, multi-cultural, the salvation of modern rock., April 27, 2001
How to describe it . . . Starting with a base hard-rock sound, the band builds addictively catchy songs that blend in elements of trip-hop, a little U2-ish orchestral sweetening, funk, even some punk thrash. Over this musical gumbo, Skin's amazingly flexible vocals attack topics from the standard bad-relationship-blues to race, gender, and religious pondering.
Smart lyrics and outstanding production aside, Skin is the main attraction. She can sound like a Tracy Chapman-esque folkie, a gospel siren, a classically trained soprano, and the second coming of Iron Maiden. Sometimes all in the same song. I've never heard anyone, man or woman, black or white, cover such a range of emotion and style.
The Amazon critic says this album is too eclectic - I heartily disagree. If every song was the hard-thrash of "On My Hotel TV," the rants would get tiresome. If it was all beautiful ballads like "Secretly," it would put you to sleep. As it is, each track is a surprise, often a revelation. Skunk Anansie should be congratulated for their dexterity and diversity, not criticized for it.

Final Destination (New Line Platinum Series)
Final Destination (New Line Platinum Series)
DVD ~ Devon Sawa
Price: $4.60
417 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun flick with an outstanding DVD., March 12, 2001
This movie takes a revolutionary approach to the teen slasher flick - remove the slasher. Instead of a dude in a mask, our photogenic heroes are up against Death himself. Death doesn't need a butcher knife or a fisherman's hook to kill - the instruments of death are everywhere, from the slippery tiles in the bathroom to the can of turpentine in the garage.
The filmmakers make the most of style and atmospherics, loading the beginning of the film with almost subliminal foreshadowing, using subtle tricks of light, set, and sound design to enhance the feeling of foreboding. The result is a film with a unique, look and feel to it, not another run-of-the-mill horror flick.
There's also a welcome sense of morbid humor at work here. It's not precisely the satiric post-modernism of Scream. Rather, it's the blackest kind of comedy: we have to laugh at death, because we can't do anything about it.
I can't say I cared enough about the characters to have an emotional stake in what happened to them, which is the film's only flaw. Though they're more 3-dimensional than your typical cliched teens, they weren't real enough to elicit my sympathy.
Nevertheless, it's a finely crafted thriller, with genuinely disturbing scenes and grim humor amiably rubbing shoulders. Some said this makes an inconsistent tone, I disagree. Life itself is tragic one minute, comedic the next. You just have to roll with it. The comedic scenes don't diminish the horror, or vice versa.
The DVD is a five-star treatment, with several deleted scenes leading up to an alternate ending that fell victim to audience testing. It's a more philosophical ending, but almost ridiculous in its earnestness and not quite true to the spirit of the film; still, it's interesting to see. There are also two commentary tracks, one with the filmmakers and one with the actors. Add to that assorted documentaries and games, and you've got hours of fun.
Definitely a cut above your average teen-in-peril flick. If you're a horror fan, you'll enjoy this.

Metropolis (Full Screen)
Metropolis (Full Screen)
Price: $11.75
47 used & new from $0.01

66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lang deserves better than this., January 7, 2001
This review is from: Metropolis (Full Screen) (DVD)
When I bought this DVD, I was actually expecting less-than-perfect picture quality. After all, $10 for a DVD is cheap. I reasoned it would at least have some version of the movie on it, and thus it's worth the money. But now, having watched it, I'm not convinced.
There are no issues with tinting/no tinting, new score/old score. Here it's just that the transfer is downright painful to watch -- grainy, scratchy, at times out of focus, at times so dark you can barely see the action. The gorgeous production design and innovative filmmaking is buried under layers of artifacts from a bad transfer. It looks like someone videotaped it off of a TV (using a camcorder through a dirty window), then watched the tape about twenty times, then put it on the DVD.
I know, the film's 80 years old, we can't expect a pristine presentation. But I know that better transfers exist, I've seen them on VHS. Not to mention the fact that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu have beautiful Criterion DVDs -- why haven't they done Metropolis yet? Surely a film that influenced everyone from Ridley Scott to George Lucas deserves preferential treatment.
The sound is good, a full orchestra instead of just a piano, but that's about all this sad little disc has going for it. If you want to see Metropolis (and everyone should see it at least once), you're better of getting it on VHS for now.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2010 7:58 AM PST

Ranma 1/2 - The Movie 2, Nihao My Concubine
Ranma 1/2 - The Movie 2, Nihao My Concubine
DVD ~ Rumiko Takahashi
5 used & new from $9.87

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Ranma, *Fantastic* DVD., November 22, 2000
For Anime fans, DVD is a godsend. Purity and snobbery demands that you get subtitled imports and pay a high premium for a scarce collection of titles. Noninitiates prefer them dubbed, and get them cheaper and more readily available. Sometimes even the snobs have to make do with dubs, often poor dubs at that. Now along comes this fine edition of Ranma 1/2's second movie to make the future look bright.
Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles, English with Japanese subitles, English with English subtitles, Japanese with Japanese subtitles. Watch half of it dubbed, watch the other half subtitled, whatever blows your skirt up. Open-minded fellow that I am, I watched both modes. The dub is actually top-notch, and allowed me to focus on the action. The subtitles provided a more accurate translation of the dialog, a clearer understanding of what was going on.
So the DVD rocks. How's the movie? The first Ranma 1/2 movie was little more than a series of crazy set-pieces, manic and disconnected. This film slows things down enough to focus more on the characters, while still maintaining the series' high-energy fun.
I'll spare you another plot rehash -- check the Amazon review for that. Suffice to say that the movie gives fans what they want. Akane and Ranma have many great love-hate moments, Mousse shows some backbone, and even Ryoga makes himself useful. Nabiki shines in several scenes as she starts to enjoy being a love-goddess abductee. The new characters are memorable as well; the villain is a remarkably sympathetic boy whose tender scenes with Akane steal the show. The animation is not Disney quality, but it is smooth and stylish (particularly in the climactic shadowy battle scenes).
It's got action, it's got eye candy, it's got some underlying complexity but nothing that gets in the way of the fun. Definitely a must for fans of the series, and a good jumping-on point (with some backstory) for anyone anime-inclined.

Holy Smoke!
Holy Smoke!
DVD ~ Kate Winslet
Offered by Discount Hunters
Price: $29.78
27 used & new from $0.14

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, funny, bizarre., November 22, 2000
This review is from: Holy Smoke! (DVD)
I can safely say this is the strangest movie I've seen in a goodly long time. In a way, it's more bizarre than surreal classics like Eraserhead, because it deals with real people and the strange things they do with and to one another.
Kate Winslet plays Ruth, a callow young Australian who gets involved with a cult on a trip to India. Her talk of reincarnation and living in light baffles her parents, who are convinced she's been brainwashed (though Ruth's 'conversion' seems more of a whim than a rebirth). So they hire PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel), a 'cult exiter,' to talk her down.
Waters is all American swagger, dyed black hair, all-black wardrobe, snakeskin cowboy boots. He simmers with smooth arrogance; he expects no trouble from his troubled teen charge. He spirits her away to an isolated hut, and all heck breaks loose.
Refreshingly, this isn't a movie about faith and religion. I was none-too-eagerly anticipating long discussions about God. Instead, the conversation veers into sex and gender roles, exposing PJ's arrogance for the chauvinism it is, letting Ruth give him harsh lessons in female empowerment.
None of this makes too much sense -- the conversations are non sequitur, events unfold contrary to one's expectations. But it's fascinating and hilarious, so that's forgivable. The important thing to remember is that you're watching a *comedy*; don't make the mistake of taking the proceedings more seriously than did the filmmakers.
If nothing else, watch it for the cinematography. Campion knows how to set up a shot; the whole film is infused with Australia's glowing oranges and reds. In short, a beautifully shot, funny film, a bit nonsensical, sure to spark controversy and discussion. Definitely see it if you've got an open mind.

Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 2000 (Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, 2000)
Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 2000 (Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, 2000)
by Leonard Maltin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
41 used & new from $0.01

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wildly inconsistent., October 18, 2000
I realize that Maltin's only human, that he's reviewed thousands of films, and that five stars give one only so much leeway in providing a sense of scale. But even those mitigating factors can't account for Maltin's inconsistencies.
"Blank Check" as good as "Bladerunner?" "Space Jam" and "Much Ado About Nothing" equally well made? "Titus" and "Addams Family Values" feature the same quality filmmaking?
Given that a) his reviews are frequently flawed and b) most of them are online at the IMDB anyway, I can't imagine why you'd buy this book.

DVD ~ Anthony Hopkins
58 used & new from $0.01

184 of 196 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly stylized, visual, visceral., October 5, 2000
This review is from: Titus (DVD)
Judging by the state of modern adaptations, it's not possible to take Shakespeare literally anymore. Either you bump him up a couple of centuries, a la Branagh's Hamlet, or you set him in some strange alternate universe (the most recent Romeo and Juliet). Director Julie Taymor (Broadway's Lion King) opts for the latter with Titus, and brings feverishly heightened visual acuity to the larger-than-life story.
The play Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare's first tragedy, and it shows. Though the dialog is top-notch, he hasn't got a handle on the mechanisms of tragedy yet. The action veers from bloody misfortune to misfortune without the internal logic of, say, King Lear. In modern terms, it's more "Nightmare on Elm Street" than "Fargo."
None of that matters, however. Taymor has chosen a fantastic cast, including Hopkins as the titular Roman general drivin to the brink of madness, Jessica Lange as his sultry nemesis, the Goth queen Tamora (proving how smolderingly sexy middle age can be), and Laura Fraser skillfully underplaying a potentially histrionic nightmare. The superb performances thoroughly mask the creaks in the plot.
More than anything, however, the production design is worth .... Taymor's absolutely insane in the best possible ways. Her Shakespearean Rome is an anachronistic stew -- jeeps and motorcycles share the roads with carts and horses, soldiers fight with arrows, knives, and guns. The costumes must be seen to be believed. Taymor keeps a firm reign on the disparate design elements, filling each frame with fever-dream colors and subtle symbolism. There are images in this film that will be permanently seared into your subconscious.
I recommend this to everyone (over 17) except the usual crowd -- Shakespearean purists won't like it, the squeamish will lose their lunch halfway through it, short attention spans will balk at the 2:30 running time. If you're none of those, snag this DVD and watch a fantastic flick. Then watch it again with the director's commentary. Then devour the added material on the 2nd disc.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2015 1:48 AM PDT

Macbeth [VHS]
Macbeth [VHS]
Offered by Get It Now Shop
Price: $11.15
36 used & new from $2.39

62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your grandfather's Shakespeare., September 10, 2000
This review is from: Macbeth [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie is violent and brutal, sparing the audience none of the blood that's implied in the play and adding some gratuitous nudity to boot. If you read the play in high school English class, you're in for a shock or seven with this version.
But I think that this is how Shakespeare would have made a movie. He certainly didn't direct his plays the way they're performed today, all mannered diction and high art. He put in plenty of dirty jokes for the groundlings, lots of sensationalist death and destruction. Shakespeare's plays were intended to sell as many tickets as possible; if Lady Macbeth wasn't played by a man back then, he probably would have wanted her sleepwalking nude as she does in this film.
Polanski has done an excellent job of rescuing "Macbeth" from the constrictions of "literature" and making it shake its moneymaker, as it were. If you can handle some gore and nudity, You're in for a heck of a ride.

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