Thursday, July 24, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

July is winding to a debilitatingly humid close this year and every time I step outside work its like a wall just drops on me. At least I remember the humidity back home being a lot worse. That's a little heartening.

Enough with the small talk though, I'm not sure where this writing's going to go. I just sort of started with no clear intent and am going to see what happens. Nothing all that new to report really. We saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army last weekend. I must say that it's amazing how far comic movies have come. I was clearly the sole member of a minority that thought it was better than the first in our group. I don't think it was without flaws, there were plenty. The love stories of any of the characters didn't really work, but I don't think they were intended to draw people in. I think they were there solely as plot devices for character motivation. On that level they did work, because they provided a reason for everything to push forward. Hellboy's snappy one-liners in the action sequences as well as conversations were lacking the wit they seemed to have in the first installment. In fact, the dialogue as whole was a bit shoddy. After all, it's still a super hero flick.

Flaws aside, here's why it succeeded for me: this time around, the plot was constructed not in the manner of hero vs. villain (even though that element is the premise), but rather more in the vein of the second installment in a fantasy trilogy. Where the first film showed the audience who these characters are and the world they live in, this one shows them playing around and exploring in that world. Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz and Manning were all well-established and developed in the first film. Now, they just seem to play around in their personas. Guillermo Del Toro's experience with Pan's Labyrinth has heightened his visual style and sensibility yielding some of his most creative ideas in this film.

Backtracking slightly to the whole fantasy idea - I never really wrapped that one up - here the main characters are thrust into an odyssey of sorts very similar to the second installment of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars here the characters go through trails and have to figure out and make decisions based on who they are. That's something that's not easy to do in the confines of the hero film. Looking back, there are really only 2 hero films that I can think of that did it well: Spiderman 2 and Batman Returns. That worked from a critical standpoint for the former, but the latter was pretty much a failure for critics and audiences, but my memory may be mistaken. Hellboy II takes an intellectual high ground with the fantasy angle, but also a shortcut because, at its core this is all sci-fi/fantasy and the rigidity of audience expectation may not allow for this kind of change. I'm biting off more than I can chew here because I'm a film lover and not too experienced in film criticism. Either way, I loved it. I hope whoever else may see it does as well.

In other news, Sporting Philly has actually had a great summer season thus far. Our first game had the potential of shenanigans because 2 players left without much notice, but it was a friendly affair. Probably one of the more good-spirited games I've played in. Our second game was plagued with a late start and a long halftime because of a rugby tournament that made mistakes of not playing on their correct fields. We drew 0-0, but should've scored at least 4 times. Luck wasn't on our side at all. However, I still wonder how a dude on the other team got man of the match. Their keeper, the only one eligible at that point didn't do anything impressive and had all the post assistance he could handle. They only had one clear shot on goal and never really made it out of their own half. I can't really say who should've been the MVP, but it wasn't one of them. Then there was game 3, we started with 8 players and others came late. I started out in goal and did ok for my first competitive game appearance in that position. I let in one, but I should've stopped it. Then Zaire went on a tear and played the game of his life. He only scored once, but he was essential in our 3-1 win.

Then there's our new logo (above) that was designed by my wife. I think she did an amazing job on rather short notice. She rocks. I personally think she did a great job in incorporating the Liberty Bell into Sporting Lisbon's crest. Sure it could be called a rip-off, but still. It didn't take her very long and she didn't even have to do it in the first place. I personally love it.

Then it comes to music. Not much all that revelatory here. I'm working on getting more staff for the newswire at I've posted 2 reviews (Explosions in the Sky's All of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone and Wolf Parade's At Mount Zoomer) recently and am working on the reissue of U2's The Joshua Tree
and K-Os' Atlantis: Hymns for Disco concurrently at the moment. The latter's not all that great and the former is a masterpiece with a bunch of unnecessary bells and whistles attached. Other than that, my time with is always good and I still enjoy doing it.

As for the subject of what I'm listening to, I've found it really hard to escape 2007. There were so many great things that came out of last year that 2008 really seems a bit of a downer. The potential that Black Kids showed on their EP Wizard of Ahhhs was completely passed over on their debut full-length Partie Traumatic. Sure, it was the entire EP plus other unabashed guitar/synth pop that owed much to The Cure that sounded pretty, but the best songs were the 4 that came from the EP. Wolf Parade's sophomore effort proved to be better than 2004's uber-acclaimed Apologies to the Queen Mary and No Age, with Nouns, more than trumped last year's Weirdo Rippers, a collection of their 7"-only EP tracks that made me amoung others stand up and take notice. There are plenty others that I've been digging this year. Here's a list in no particular order:

1. Air France - No Way Down
2. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
3. No Age - Nouns
4. El Guincho - Alegranza
5. Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping
6. Portishead - Third - Probably the most perfect album released this year.
7. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
8. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
9. British Sea Power - Do you Like Rock Music?
10. Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances

There are plenty more, but my memory is kind of shot.

The only other thing I can really mention is that I'm so bored with football not going on. The season starts August 16th and it can't come soon enough.

Peace y'all.

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