Miller talks Top 10 Movies and Music of 2012

Best movies of 2012

My apologies to Mr. Spielberg, Ms. Bigelow, and especially Mr. Tarantino. I haven’t seen your movies. – Miller

10. Bernie

The great overlooked movie of 2012. Jack Black was underrated, then overrated, and now he is underrated again. This dude can act. It doesn’t hurt that Richard Linklater pulls the best performance of Matthew McConaughey’s career out of him, either. This story of a beloved local weirdo, who conned an entire small town in Texas, is the best movie of 2012 that you didn’t see. Check it out as soon as possible. It is hilarious and weird.

9. Casa de mi Padre

Speaking of weird, when did Will Ferrell get so ballsy as to make a movie like “Casa de mi Padre?” The fact that they play this one as straight as an arrow is what makes it so bizarrely funny. As a fan of comedy that doesn’t pander, I loved this movie. I would like to think that Andy Kaufman would have chosen projects like this one had he made it to an age where movies like this existed.

8. Life of Pi (3D)

You have to see this movie in 3D. I could imagine that it would still be worth watching in two dimensions, but missing that glowing whale jumping out of the water would make it a little less awesome. The story is captivating, moving, and it makes you think. However, it is the visual aspect of this film that will blow your mind.

7. Safety Not Guaranteed

Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass are extremely loveable in this movie. This is the outcast love story of the year. Romantic comedies are rarely anywhere near this enjoyable or well made. The magical realism of this film may leave you scratching your head, but it will be worth not understanding.

6. Looper

Sci-fi action flicks are guilty pleasures. This one, however, is smart enough to elevate it to just a straight up pleasure. The cast is unbelievable. Emily Blunt is pretty much the best actress working lately and JGL and Bruce Willis just do what they do. Bruce Willis made all of the right moves this year (see number 5) and “Looper” is him at his best.

5. Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is funny before all else. Like Woody Allen (another great comedic filmmaker) he has a consistent tone and approach that often serves as the best joke in the movie. This love story is the best movie that he has made since “Rushmore” and it is one of the best movies of the year.

4. Sleepwalk With Me

Lauren Ambrose should be nominated for all of those acting awards. She should be, but she will not be. She serves as the emotional core in this incredibly sharp movie. Her performance is what keeps you focused and distracts you from the great jokes that pop up over and over again. This movie caught me by surprise and made me laugh a lot.

3. The Avengers

What can I say? There is still a part of me that is 11 years old, reading comic books in my parents’ basement. This movie spoke to that little boy and all other people who read (or currently read) comic books in their parents’ basements and it spoke in the most spectacular fashion. It was loud, goofy, and over the top, but there is a lot of room on this big blue marble for being loud, goofy, and over the top.

2. This is 40

“This is 40” will probably go down as the most misunderstood movie of 2012. Judd Apatow is a master at the top of his game. “This is 40” may be the best, most nuanced, and accurate (for many people) portrayal of marriage ever set to film. Leslie Mann should be nominated for all of those awards too, but she will not be. He wrapped a lot of complicated emotions and thoughts into a joke fest and pulled it off. The reigning king of film comedy is Mr. Apatow, by a country mile.

1. The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson is not @#$%ing around. “The Master” is heavy. The performances in this film are as intense as Daniel Day Lewis’ in “There Will Be Blood.” The cinematography is striking and the story is haunting. This is an extremely twisted love story about two extremely twisted people. My theory is that the destructive love between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix’s characters serve as a metaphor for the symbiotic relationships between the faithful and any given dogma. I may be completely off base with that theory, but that is what is so great about this movie and why it is my favorite movie of this year. This movie lends itself to theories like that. It sticks with you and it makes you think. That is what great movies should do.

Best Music of 2012

My apologies to Mr. Lamar, Tame Impala, and especially Spiritualized. I haven’t heard your albums. – Miller

10. Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears

The Honky Tonk man returns with a little bit of help from his friends (including Beck). Dwight Yoakam has sold millions of records and has nothing left to prove yet he is still capable of great things. There are a few misses on this album, but the hits are worth the spins.

9. Lambchop – Mr. M

Lambchop isn’t for everyone. Oh, but we are the lucky ones who get to enjoy this great music. Kurt Wagner is always just a little bit off, whether it be his previous use of a Miss Piggy-esque falsetto, or his use of one creepy lyric at just the right time. He has a David Lynch way of taking traditional styles and making them just a little bit creepy. “Mr. M” is a mellow record and one that gets better every time around.

8. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

There are a lot of good songs on this album and each one sounds different than the last. “Swing Lo Magellan” will grab you and let you go and then grab you again, but when it ends you are left wanting more. The tone is often playful and sometimes just funny, but many of these songs have their heart on their sleeve without coming across as sentimental. Now we sit and eagerly await their next one.

7. Nas – Life is Good

Nas swings for the fences more than any other rapper of his generation. Sometimes that means that he misses the mark in dramatic fashion, but it also means that he hits more home runs than anybody else. Nas is a prolific lyricist who only has two peers left (Jay-Z and Snoop) who have been able to maintain a similar level of artistic success. “Life is Good” relies on skill without leaning on the futuristic beats that are in fashion these days. “Life is Good” is not Nas’ best, but it is better than most rappers could imagine.

6. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Maybe being a weirdo traditionalist will eventually make Jack White’s music boring and derivative. Maybe one day he will make an album that disappoints even his most devoted fans, but from the sound of his first solo album it is beginning to look less and less likely. There are no stylistic shockers here, just a bunch of great songs filled with great riffs and interesting lyrics.

5. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

There are no singles on this album. “Hot Knife” is catchy and “Daredevil” has an interesting beat, but “The Idler Wheel…” is simply a collection of good songs that work well when played sequentially. This is not Fiona Apple’s flashiest album, but she has never been a flashy performer. She may be the one rock star from the nineties who makes great records 2 decades later because of that.

4. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

What can anyone say about The Boss that hasn’t been said? Bruce Springsteen never stopped making great albums. He never stopped writing great songs and he never considered slowing down. Maybe rocknroll is the best thing this country ever gave the world. Maybe when future generations and civilizations look back on us the way we ponder the Romans, The Boss will be our Cicero. Maybe not. If you love and understand rocknroll music then you love and understand The Boss and “Wrecking Ball” is another great album.

3. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

Listening to “Until the Quiet Comes” will make you smarter. It goes great with a good book or serious contemplation. Like his great-uncle’s classic album “A Love Supreme,” his music is not going to go out of its way to make it easy on you. You have to think about Flying Lotus, and when you do you become a better person.

2. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

“Tramp” is a little bit emotional. Sharon Van Etten commits to a tone and a feel on this album that may have seemed like a gamble when she first wrote these songs. The fact that she hits the mark on nearly every track proves that she is incredibly skilled and knows exactly what she is doing. There are a lot of sad-bastard bands writing good music these days, but Sharon Van Etten may have them all beat.

1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Believe the hype. This album is all over the place. Sometimes it is silly (“Forrest Gump”), sometimes it is weird (“Pink Matter”), and sometimes it is maudlin (“Bad Religion”), but it grabs you all of the way through. When Frank Ocean made an announcement about his sexuality, that made it to the national news, it may have boosted the interest in his new album. The fact that it delivers on the hype is a testament to his skill. Even if the hype brought you to this album, by the time you hear “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” “Lost,” or Andre 3000’s verse on “Pink Matter,” you’ll be glad you decided to listen.

See you 2013 – Miller

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NEWS and MUSINGS #2

This and that and other things..

3A

SUPREME NOM COMMANDER

Coming up this weekend (April 30th @ 9:00am HK time)  3A will release their long anticipated Supreme NOM Commander figure. Available in two variants, black (standard) and white (3AA exclusive) at $120 before 3AA discount. Early rumblings have been pretty polarizing with quite a few expressing their disappointment in her design while others love it so much they plan on purchasing both versions to join the ranks of their collection.

  

My wife saw these pics and said, “The scuba gear looks cool but what’s up with her feet?” To me, the feet are really interesting. I’ve heard them referred to as “ballerina slippers” and I suppose the resemblance is there. It’s my favorite part of the figure, if only because it’s so different than what we’ve seen from 3A before. The dangling tank looks a little odd to me. I’d rather it be on the side.. on her hip perhaps. I’m guessing it’s some sort of phallic this or that.. but that neither interest or shocks me. You may differ! I also wish 3A did a little more to push the overall design. I was hoping for something with a lot of layers.. various points of interest.. something DIFFERENT. Instead, the immediate first impression is “Scuba gear chic in ballerina pointe shoes who can neither sit down or easily walk.”

For now, my interest in her is fairly low. Lady Sham was teased earlier this month and shares a similar body suite, the same hands and a great new head sculpt. For me, it makes sense to pass on Supreme NOM and toss that money at Sham when she eventually drops.

What’s your take?

SOLID GOLD DEATHMASK BY RUFUS DAYGLOW

Rufus Dayglow is making his 3A debut with a wicked looking Faux Bronz statue from his Shiny Gold Deathmask series. No price or release info as of yet! Actoin figures based off of a quirky series about a violence inclined girl sauntering through various sorts of ancient Aztec-esque adventures? Frilly toothpicks? I’m for it!

Can’t wait to see what Rufus and 3A conjure up next!

Kotobukiya

Kotobukiya has teased a few of their awesome new Zone of Enders model kits on their facebook page. Being a big Hideo Kojima fan, Z.O.E along with Metal Gear Solid have a near and dear place in my video game laden heart. We hope to have a chance to do an early preview/review of  their Jehuty Zone of the Enders HD Version before they hit retail in August. I’ll post more info as it comes!

Another kit/series I’m excited to jump into is Kotobukiya’s Frame Arms. I don’t know much about them other than the few pictures I’ve seen online.. but I just love the look of this bot and can’t wait to see more!

Hot Toys

Keeping in line with my “must talk about anything Metal Gear Solid Related” personal mantra, Hot Toys has just released the first pics AND opened up preorders for their first to MGS offerings. Naked Snake and Boss.  I’m actually a little let down from what I’m seeing in the pics. Boss looks like a man, both their suits look rather cheap and plasticky and I’m just not loving Snakes headsculpt. Too much emphasis on the creepstache. Plus, is it just me or are their heads to big for their bodies?

Snakes looks the better of the two, but even he feels a little uninspired. Still, I can’t help but want to pick these up.. if only a little.

Available at Sideshow and probably at your favorite online toy retailer for somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 bones.

Other things

Everyone should buy this game right now. The Walking Dead

.. if your over 16 of course… 😉

Alright, that’s all I got! More stuff later! Until next time.

Miller talks Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”

Way back, before even Abe Vigoda was born, there used to be people named minstrels. These people would travel around playing songs about historic events or distant places. There was also a group of people, back in the day, named troubadours. The troubadours would recite poetry or sing songs about stuff, much like the minstrel or maybe even a bard, which was a person who rich people would pay to write poems about stuff.

Then, shortly before and directly after the birth of Abe Vigoda, guys like Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and Pete Seeger would travel around America and sing songs, often about leftist politics, but sometimes about historic events or distant places. These dudes were called folk singers. Now, we can’t really be certain about the minstrels, bards, and troubadours, but one can be certain that at some point around the beginning of Abe Vigoda’s life these folk singers began to feel a sense of responsibility to their fellow man.

I don’t know how they got it into their weirdo, booze addled, ramblin’ minds that some of those songs that they sang might alter the way the people listening might think about things, but for some reason they did. So, these traveling freak shows started writing and singing songs that they intended to make people think about things in ways that might help them, make them feel better, or make the world a better place. Mock them if you will, but I think even the most cynical creep among us will have to admit that “This Land is Your Land” or “We Shall Overcome” have had a pretty big impact in our American culture and still do.

So, what does a songwriter or singer who feels that sense of responsibility to his fellow man do as he starts getting older and figures out that popular song is primarily a young man’s game. Woody Guthrie didn’t have to worry about it because Huntington’s disease made his career choices for him while he was still a young man. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Pete Seeger just kept on going as their popularity and productivity rose and fell through the decades.

A lot of singers and songwriters have felt that sense of responsibility to their fellow man since the days of a young Abe Vigoda. Some of them gained massive fame as pop singers before singing their social responsibility songs like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, or John Lennon. Some of them rose to fame with political messages like Public Enemy, Bob Dylan, and Rage Against the Machine, but pop culture has a lower tolerance for politics than it does for love songs and those artists either had to adapt by learning to write love songs or fall from the heights of fame that they once knew. Yet, many have been able to maintain respectable music careers.

The Boss, Bruce [mother@#$%ing] Springsteen’s career has been a mix of both of those two types. Springsteen became kinda famous for writing songs that sounded like 60’s Dylan (“Blinded by the Light”) and performing like Sam and Dave. However, The Boss got REALLY famous for writing and singing songs about New Jersey dreamers pulling out of towns full of losers to win and performing like Sam and Dave. Then he became REALLY REALLY famous for writing a political song about a Vietnam veteran and performing like Sam and Dave on performance enhancing substances.

At some point in Springsteen’s career he must have either felt a sense of responsibility to write songs that make the world a better place or become a master of imitating singer/songwriters who make the world a better place. I happen to be of the opinion that The Boss is a true believer. He believes in kindness. He believes in social responsibility. He believes in truth. He believes in justice. He believes in what he believes is the American way.

His popularity has risen and fallen in ways that Pete Seeger (one of his heroes) could only imagine, but throughout it all The Boss has continued to write songs with that sense of responsibility to his fellow man. Whether he is telling the story of immigrants dying in a meth lab explosion (“Sinaloa Cowboys”), families looking out for each other (“Highway Patrolman”), Tom Hanks dying of AIDS in a cruel judgmental environment (“The Streets of Philadelphia”), the death of the American dream (“My Hometown”), or its triumphant rebirth (“The Rising”), The Boss has been consistently delivering for nearly half of Abe Vigoda’s long ass life.

One can pretty much count on Springsteen responding to any major event in his American life and his new album “Wrecking Ball” does just that. This is Springsteen’s answer to the financial collapse and the ongoing economic trials and tribulations of his beloved birthplace. The first song, the one he performed at the Grammys with the E Street Band (missing the “Big Man” Clarence Clemons – underrated musical giant of his time), is called “We Take Care of Our Own” and it is probably the least amazing song on the new album.

“We Take Care of Our Own” is patriotic, but it sounds as if it could be mistaken for nationalism. However, The Boss’ love for America is more akin to Yeats’ love of Ireland or Walt Whitman’s love of America. It is a real and inclusive love that can be critical and sometimes hard to maintain, but it is about the land, people, and ideals of our “Great Experiment.” He is appealing to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” I can’t speak for Mr. Springsteen, but I think he just wants you to volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to a food bank, give blood, and vote.

“Rocky Ground” is my favorite track on this new album (I’m kinda weird). It includes a rap (don’t worry he doesn’t rap, somebody else does). I also love “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Shackled and Drawn,” and “Jack of All Trades,” but there is not a bad song on the record. This is the best music that the man has made since 2007’s “Magic” (which is definitely in my top 5 Boss albums).

The reason why Bruce Springsteen, and often times the awesome E Street Band, has continued to write and sing songs for so many years to varying degrees of success is because The Boss is INSPIRED and he wants to inspire you. It is obvious that the guy feels a sense of responsibility to his fellow human beings. He will continue to write great songs until Huntington’s disease takes him or he gets too old to hold a pen because he is a true believer in the things that he believes in and the world could always use people who believe in kindness, truth, and justice.

I have always felt sorry for people who don’t get The Boss. My generation missed out on “Born to Run,” and “Born in the U.S.A.” Casual listeners have never really given him a chance because he hasn’t fallen into any recent trends since the early 90’s. The hipsters abandoned him in the early 70’s, picked him back up in the early to mid 00’s, and dropped him again after Arcade Fire won the Grammy for best album. If you don’t get The Boss you are really only hurting yourself. The man just wants to inspire you. He just wants to make the world a better place.

When Miller isn’t teaching fish how to swim upstream, you may find him sitting cross legged in his grandmother’s rocking chair, smoking a 100 year old porcelain pipe, Sennheisers over his ears, merrily yet purposefully rocking away his blues. The results of which become words on this page.