Monday, November 16, 2009

Concert Review - Imogen Heap; November 12, 2009 at In The Venue

Thursday night was a dream come true for me as I witnessed someone who changed how I view music take the stage and perform her music. Imogen Heap's music isn't traditional by any means, so it was interesting from a technical aspect to watch as she came out on stage holding a wineglass full of water and used that to create the interesting sound that opens her newest album, Ellipse. Using loops and bits from various technological marvels on stage (as well as help from a drummer/multi-instrumentalist and opening acts Back Ted N-Ted and Tim Exile), much of the songs' sounds were brilliantly recreated on stage.
Imogen Heap is also very personable, appearing on stage to introduce her opening acts, as well as providing bits of information about the songs prior to performing them. Overall, the concert was a smashing success, and I take her at her word when she says she will be back in April. I'd get tickets again in a heartbeat.

Aside from the performance, there were a few gripes.

1) I was embarrassed for the crowd, who I felt was disrespectful throughout the show. Imogen tried at various times to tell stories about the songs, even asking the crowd to please be quiet while she told them the story, only to be met with continued chatter. One person claimed that they "couldn't hear" her, which I don't believe. I've sat upstairs at In The Venue before, and everything was loud and clear.
In any case, it was embarrassing and frustrating as people kept shouting things and one person near us kept requesting "Candlelight", which Imogen said she would not be playing that evening upon the first request. Seriously, after that, just let it go.
Also, there were some people there who came up from Arizona. I think that's cool; we took a trip down there eight months ago to see Jimmy Eat World live on the Clarity x10 tour. But at no point did I elbow my way to get a whole row closer to the stage. Traveling eight hundred miles doesn't give you the right to push ahead of people who got there before you.

2) In The Venue is terrible, a fact Imogen even joked about as she had people facing her back throughout the show. I hope the next time she comes she skips that joint and picks a better locale. It's kind of a dingy place, but the crew there is hardly friendly. Nobody seemed to have good things to say about them. My personal suggestion would be for The Depot, which is similar in size but much nicer an better maintained. Of the two shows I've been to there, the staff has been friendly; the only drawback is the 21+ restriction as it is a private club.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Retroactive Review - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

In discussions between ourselves, it came up that Rosie hadn't seen the original Star Wars films in quite some time. So we've decided to watch them, but we're going to catch up by watching them chronologically, though; so of course we watched Episode I.

Ten years ago, I was very excited for this film to come out. It wasn't until The Dark Knight came out last year that I had anything close to the excitement I had for Episode I. In retrospect, one film paid off in just about every aspect I could have hoped for, and one didn't. (Hint: the one that did came out last year.) In any case, I was somewhat worried about watching Episode I again, but I found myself pleasantly surprised.

There are, of course, hundreds of reviews out there, so we'll skip over most of that. I just want to point out a few things that I thought the film did well, and a few things I thought were lacking:

Special Effects - This one's kind of a mixed bag. In all actuality, the SFX hold up considerably well. Compared to the first Harry Potter film, which came out several years after Episode I, The Phantom Menace still had stronger special effects. (I found the SFX quality between the first two Potter films astounding.) However, the downside is that I felt some effects/creatures were there simply to "show off" what they could do. For example, the underwater scenes look cool, but when Boss Nass shakes his head, spreading his saliva about, there's no real purpose to it. It just looks like they're saying "look what we can do." The SFX overshadow the story in many instances.
Likewise, though the effects still hold up relatively well, there are clear instances of being able to distinguish what is CGI and what isn't. Some things look far too shiny, particularly creatures and other characters. It was cool what they were trying to do, and in some cases, succeeded, but at times the effect just didn't work or was otherwise distracting.

Jar Jar Binks - This was actually a relative surprise for me. Having not watched Episode I for years now, I'd read countless complaints regarding the character or Jar Jar; going into this, I was expecting to outright dislike the character, but was surprised to find that I didn't.
That said, there were some things I didn't care for. The character was relied on far too much. It's been put out there that the character was intended for 1) children, which I find fair enough, and 2) comic relief. It's the latter I tended to have an issue with because I didn't find the film particularly stressful or overtly dark. Sure, the other films had comic relief, but I never felt like it was being overdone; for example, in the battle scene with the Droid Army of the Trade Federation. Jar Jar's "clumsiness" (which in part, ironically enough, caused him to be banned from his native city) causes battlefield hijinks, which is fine occasionally but keeps continually happening. It feels like too much was spent on the character, again giving the feeling of "look what we can do" in the crafting of a near-completely digitally created character. But I do think the character has gotten an unjust bad rap.

Story - This probably impressed me the most. Having seen all of the films, there is considerable foreshadowing and interesting events that don't entirely make too much sense to the overall story until viewing the six-film saga as a whole. I can't really say much else other than that I thought is was very well done.

Dialog - Here's where there is a major problem. While a lot of the dialog is passable, portions of it are embarrassing and/or cringe worthy. One particular grievance I had this time around was with the Gungan dialect. Although I've seen the film enough times to know what is essentially going on, there were enough times that the Gungan characters were speaking and I couldn't understand a freaking thing they were saying. Likewise, some of the dialog given to Anakin was downright flat; I could have definitely gone without the "yippie"'s and other clunky dialog.

Verdict & Grade - Overall the film was okay. It wasn't the dreadful experience I was expecting, but there were definitely sections of the film that could have been worked on. For that, I'd give the film a solid C. On the plus side, though, it did have Liam Neeson in it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Weekend 2009

It was something of a weird weekend with a couple of big bombshells over the course of it. One of those was that our band's bassist is moving back to San Diego. This leaves me as the only original member of EotF. Nick and I are going to continue, though. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.