Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Cynic's Musical Side: top 10 of 2011

9. Let Them Talk- Hugh Laurie
Is there anything Hugh Laurie can't do? Unlike other actors who decide to make music, Laurie has made sure to do justice to the style of New Orleans blues he so loves. For the sake of authenticity, Laurie has surrounded himself with great New Orleans musicians such as Irma Thomas, Dr. John and the great patriarch of N'awlins himself, Allen Toussaint. Add in a great guest spot from Tom Jones and Joe Henry (who's own newest album is also featured on this list) adding his considerable talents to the producing end, and you've got a pretty cool album. Laurie rightly emphasizes his band more than himself; I dig his singing voice, but the real star here are Toussaint's wonderful arrangements. Let them Talk sets itself apart from other actors' musical vanity projects by keeping it real and nailing a gritty, down-home authentitcity that most similar albums are sorely lacking. Hugh Laurie's music heroes would be proud.

8. From Africa With Fury: Rise- Seun Kuti
Seun Anikulapo Kuti is the youngest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and that's about all you really need to know. If you aren't familliar with Fela Kuti, please stop reading this and go listen to "Zombie"; trust me, you'll be thanking me later. For those of you who are fans of Fela, you'll love Rise (assuming you don't already own it): Seun is about as perfect a reincarnation of his father as you'll get, with one exception- all the songs on this album are under 10 minutes, making Rise the perfect introduction to afrobeat for people who aren't used to twelve plus mintutes of pure, no-holds-barred funkiness.

7. For True- Trombone Shorty
Hey, speaking of funk...

The bad news is that For True isn't nearly as insane as Troy Andrews's debut, Backatown. There are no death metal guitars here, and you stand a slightly smaller chance of losing your hearing when plaing this album. The good news is that, despite polishing their sound, Orleans Avenue hasn't sold out;For True is still the funkiest album of the year, and is stuffed full of horn-driven jazz-meets-rock-meets-soul-meets-soul-meets-funk-meets-hip-hop goodness. Andrews lays the grooves on strong- take it from an awkward dweeb like myself, this album will make you move. You can't not boogie down when this album is blasted. You can't repel funk of this magnitude. For their next album, I'd like to see Orleans Avenue's rythm section stomp back on the distortion pedal like they did with their last album, but For True is still a keeper- a rollicking, fun, blast-until-your-ears-fall-off keeper.

6. The Bright Lights EP- Gary Clark, Jr.

Yes, this is just an EP. Yes, it's just four songs long. But when you hear someone like Clark, you gotta pay tribute. The full album is slated to come out in 2012, and I couldn't be more excited. The first time I heard "Bright Lights", I was hooked. It was pure magic. Taking as much from Jimi Hendrix as from Muddy Waters, Clark has crafted a sweet set that's part John Lee Hooker and part Black Keys. With only four tracks, he's already setablished himself as one of modern music's greatest riffmakers, if not it's greatest. A less mummified Keith Richards; an alternate universe Bill Withers who actually gets the recognition he deserves. Gary Clark, Jr. has shown us that he has the ingredient that sets a great musician apart from a good musician: that little spark of madness that makes his sound a little bit wild, a little bit scary, and a little unlike anything else you've ever heard.

5. Don't Explain- Beth Hart and Joe Bonamossa

It's often said that old ideas don't get worn out, but only the musicians who play them wrong. Much as I proze individuality, there's something special about high energy traditionalism.Don't Explain Is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Hart and Bonamossa set up a line of ballsy covers and knock 'em out of the park. Bonamossa is a formidable axeman and Hart has a voice that would make Janis Joplin cower. Together they make a killer record. No, it's nothing new, but it's a great example of how to do soul and blues right.

4. Dust Bowl- Joe Bonamossa

I don't know what madman asked for a blues album you can headbang to, but I am forever in their debt. Wheras Don't Explain was full of solid traditionalism, Dust Bowl shows that Bonamossa isn't afraid to get a little freaky. And then get much, much more freaky. And then get freakier still. Sonically speaking, Bonamossa has released what is unequivocally the nuttiest album of the year that didn't involve Tom Waits. Fusing Chicago blues and delta blues with a touch of hard rock, Joe Bonamossa leans on the distortion pedal and pumps up the amps for the party of the year. It's been a good year for the guitarist, and I really hope that this is an indication of more to come.

3. Reverie- Joe Henry

While this is very much a thematic follow up to 2009's Blood From Stars, musically speaking Reverie is a completely different beast. Joe Henry is a true original, unrestrained by genre conventions, and a man whose only concern is if the sound fits the lyrics- in short, he is an honest to god singer-songwriter's singer-songwriter. Every bit as brilliant a composer as he is a lyricist, Henry has made a folky, stripped-down light at the end of Stars's long, dark, bluesy and dense tunnel. I still can't decide which album I like more, but they're hard to compare; Henry sound is eclectic, strung together by his ethereal production. Henry, who is a cracking producer to boot, has created a sound that is both dreamlike and very real. This is how you make a great album.

2. El Camino- the Black Keys

Last year, the blues-rock duo went down to Muscle Shoals and added a Stax soul vibe to their sound, sort of like Al Green crossed with Albert King. Now, the band picks up where they left off with Brothers and steps on the gas. The result is their most fully realized album yet. Over the last 10 years, the Black Keys have honed their sound into a perfectly imperfect mashup of genres. This is the sound that they've been searching for their entire career, and it's a sound that has already had numerous imitators. Everyone wants to be the Black Keys- a sign that they'll someday rest among the pantheon of rock gods.

1. Bad As Me- Tom Waits

No surprises here: of course I'd pick a Tom Waits album. But I assure you that this spot is well deserved. Bad As Me is the best album Waits has released in years: raw and powerful, and full of the downtrodden characters that made him famous. Waits is a first rate poet and a first rate soryteller, and he's made the perfect album for our time. It makes sense; Waits has been the patron saint of the unlucky misfit since his career began in the early 1970s. Most musicians who reach 62 years of age tend to slow down, but Waits has never, ever been "most musicians". If anything, he floors it, diving head first into the climate of discouragement and uncertainty seen throughout the nation. Waits doesn't usually get political, but he does here, and with a vengeance- the military chant "Hell Broke Luce" is a flooring, deeply affecting portrait of a soldier going mad, and "Chicago" plays to the uneasy voice of many people who, finding themselves down on their luck, find they need to move on but don't know where to go. The album is also full of classic Watsian stories full of classic one liners and fascinating weirdos. He surrounds himself with a killer band, too: riffing with Flea, Les Claypool, Marc Ribot, and Keith Richards, Tom Waits created a true classic.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Cynic's Musical Side: Lulu

I don't like Metallica. I know, shocker, right? I don't hate them, and some of their early stuff is pretty good, but I'm mostly indifferent to them. I'm also pretty indifferent to Lou Reed. I know that a lot of my fellow music geeks are going to want to kill me for saying that, but it's true. I've tried really hard to like his music, and while I can admire the tunes, arrangements, and lyrics of a few of his songs, I just can't get past his singing voice. I've never been one to harp on talented musicians for having singing voices that aren't conventionally good- I'm a fan of so many of them: Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Dr. John to name a few- but at least those artists at least have interesting voices that suit the character of their music. Lou Reed's voice just puts me to sleep; it's so lethargic and monotonous, as if he's constantly bored with the state of his music. But enough about that. The important thing is that Metallica and Lou Reed have made an album together, and regardless of how I feel about both artists, that's just such a weird idea- such a bizarre pairing- that I just had to hear what it sounded like. With a concept like that, their album Lulu could only be two things: it'd either be a complete train wreck or pure genius.

Spoiler alert: it's a complete train wreck. Oh, but what a train wreck it is...

Think of the pantheon of hilariously awful music: Rebecca Black. Any of William Shatner's songs. These guys. I heartily believe that Lulu will soon be added to this pantheon. Reed's bored monotone pairs with thrash metal exactly as well as you think, in that it doesn't. Not a bit. But that doesn't matter when you're listening to Lulu, because you'll be laughing too hard to notice. This album is one of the greatest works of musical comedy ever made, though I seriously doubt that Reed and Metallica indended it to be that way. But how can you not laugh at an album that opens with the line "I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff", and wants you to take it completely seriously? And it only gets worse- or better, depending on how you view it- from there. The last track, "Junior Dad" is promising, being the only track on the album where Reed's voice fits, but with a run time of almost twenty minutes, it eventually gets old.

In the end, I'm really, really glad that I didn't spend any money on this (you can listen to the entire album on their website), but I'm also glad that I decided to listen to it. Lulu is seriously one of the most awful, stupid, and ludicrously entertaining ideas I've ever heard. I would be cringing if it weren't so damn funny. I'm sure that it will have it's fans- after all, there are people out there who legitamately like Ke$ha- but for the rest of us, prepare yourselves to be confused; to laugh but not really understand. To want to both gouge your ears out and thank the world that Lulu exists. To both hate yourself for ever wanting to hear this, and to profusely thank your curiosity. I urge you to not, under any circumstances, buy this album, but I also urge you to go out and hear at least part of it, if only so you'll actually believe me when I say it happened. Grade: D-

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cynic's Musical Side: Bad As Me

Tom Waits has released a new album, which pretty much means one of two things: you've already bought it (or are buying it soon or borrowing from a freind who just bought it) or you have no idea who the hell I'm talking about. Waits seems to be one of those secrets that isn't really all that secret: he never advertises, he never merchandises, and finding people you know who are familliar with his music is difficult, yet he has amassed a huge and devoted following amongst musicians and harcore music geeks. I've never met a record store owner who wasn't a fan, Rolling Stone positively drools over his work, he was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the list of musicians who've expressed admiration for his work is about as impressive a list as you'll ever see: Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Krall, Solomon Burke, Joan Baez, The Eagles, the list goes on and on. That's not bad for a guy who drank and smoked away his voice in the mid '70s and employs melodic and harmonic ideas that send more casual listeners running for the fences. You see, his work isn't the kind that you don't just hear idly while you screw around with other things; you actually have to sit down and listen. Really listen. Do that, and you'll soon uncover hidden beauty in even his harshest, strangest songs.

As you may have guessed, I absolutely love Tom Waits. I own every single album he's ever released, and I'm not about to let this one slip through my fingers. But after all that, it's an understatement to say that Bad As Me has big shoes to fill. In a career that spans 19 albums and almost 40 years, the singer-songwriter, who turns 62 in November, has never released a single dud. Think about that for a second. There are artists that I like more than Waits who have released some total crap (I'm looking at you, Tower of Power), yet Waits has gone 38 years without writing a bad song- some that take getting used to, certainly, but not an actual, honest-to-god dud. And it's not like he's played it safe, either; Waits is one of the most original artists in the modern music world, crafting sounds that nobody's dared attempt to create, using apochriphal instruments and percussion made from found objects and other junk, and taking his odd voice to strange new places. But what about his new album? Does Bad As Me live up to the hype?

You bet it does.

First of all, it's hard to make a bad album with the lineup of studio musicians Waits has assembled: Les Claypool, Marc Ribot, Charlie Musselwhite, Flea, Keith motherfucking Richards- seriously, how could this not be awesome? Secondly, this couldn't be a better time for a Tom Waits record: times are tougher than they've been in decades, and Waits has been a sort-of musical patron saint of the hard luck case since he was in his early twenties. And for the fist time in a while (maybe ever) Waits has released an album where he gets genuinely, truly angry. Before I even listened to the album, I went through the lyric sheet and read every last stanza, lest we forget amongst the strange noise that Waits is one of the music world's greatest living songwriters, challenged only by the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Inside lie some of the rawest, most powerful stuff he's ever written. The opening track, Chicago, tells the story of a destitute couple moving on in the fading hope of a better life, while not even knowing what lies ahead for them in their destination ("the seeds are planted here/but they won't grow/we won't have to say goodbye/if we all go"). "Talking at the Same Time" and "New Year's Eve" both illustrate the kind of downtrodden lowlifes that he's always hand a knack for writing about, cementing his place as one of modern music's last true storytellers. But the centerpiece here is the brutal, chantlike "Hell Broke Luce", which records a soldier's fiery rage, set to thundering drums and machine gun fire. Wits has written anti-war songs about the war in the middle east before ("Day After Tomorrow" from 2004's Real Gone and "Road to Peace" from 2006's Orphans, respectively), but never like this. It is rawer, darker, and more chilling than anything he's written since "Tom Traubert's Blues" back in 1976. It may just be the angriest song he's ever written, and left me dumbstruck. Musically speaking, it's not the best song on the album, but it's the one that left the biggest impression on me. I feel confident that years from now, it'll be considered with his most revered work such as "Jersey Girl" and "Jockey Full of Bourbon". It just goes to show that, while Waits isn't usually one to make a statement in his work, but when he does, hearing it isn't an experience you'll soon forget.

But it's not all darkness and gloom. As anyone who's seen his gloriously, hilariously batshit interviews and stage banter, Waits has a prominent fun, tongue-in-cheek side. He can't resist fun, and he gives some great jams, such as the soul-blues influenced title track and "Satisfied", a tribute song to the Rolling Stones featuring Keith Richards on guitar. Let me repeat that for you: Tom Waits pays tribute to the Rolling Stones. With Keith Richards. And yes, it is every bit as awesome as it sounds.

This isn't just another solid record from the music industry's greatest living sideshow act, it's his best since 1999's Mule Variations, and deserves to be said in the same breath as classics such as Small Change and the pure genius Heart of Satuday Night (my personal favorite album of all time). If you're a Tom Waits fan, you'll love this album to death. If you're not, who knows. But give it a chance; you might be surprised. Grade: A+

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Cynic Reviews two thrillers

I recently saw two very different movies that both demonstrate a concept that almost seems lost in the movie intustry: how to make a good thriller. One of them I just saw, the other I've been thinking about reviewing for weeks. And since it's the season for scary movies, I thought I do you a service and tell you about two that don't suck.

Movie #1: Contagion: A new disease has broken out in the world. The CDC and WHO cannot identify what it is, and race to find a cure while millions die around them. It's a simple story, and the sort of thing that's been told many times before. But that just goes to show how a good director can breathe new life into a tired concept. The director in this case is Steven Sodergurgh, one of our era's most talented directors (and one who is retiring, much to my disappoinment). Soderburgh is working with a taut script and surronds himself with a brilliant cast. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen so many recognizable faces in a single movie. He also uses his old trick of the fractured narrative, making this seem a little bit like Traffic's horror-movie cousin. 

It's superbly detailed; I can't vouch for the science, but it seems like things check out. But what really makes this movie so gripping is the psycholigical element; Soderbergh dives very, very deeply into how society would begin to deteriorate during such an epidemic, making things uncomfortably real. This us a tense, suspenseful thriller that's definately worth forking over nine bucks to see in theaters. Grade: B+

Movie #2: I Saw the DevilA vicious serial killer murders the wife and unborn child of a Korean aecret agent. Struck with grief and anger, the agent tracks down the killer, but instead of murdering him, he forces him to swallow a tracking chip. This starts a tense cat-and-mouse game as the agent makes the killer's life a living hell before exacting a final, brutal vengeance... and losing his soul in the process.

This is a fantastically made movie- finely directed, tensely written, and brilliantly acted. It is one of th most gripping films I've seen in a while; I was afraid to blink in places. But here's a word of caution: I Saw the Devil is also the sigle most disturbing movie I have ever seen. Ever. Seriously, this is one of the most brutally graphic things you'll ever see; if you have a weak stomach, stay away from this. I mean it, because once you start watching this, you won't be able to stop. With a running time of over two and a half hours, I had planty of chances to stop watching but I didn't. I couldn't. I had to see how it ended. 

In the end, I am glad I saw this movie, but I don't think I ever want to watch it again. This is one of those movies that, if you can stomach it, you really should see, but only once. Trust me, you won't soon forget it. Grade: A-

The Cynic's Musical Side: Don't Explain

If there are any hipsters reading this, you may want to skip this sentence, because it will offend you: I believe that usually obscure music is obscure for a very good reason. Most music that never gains an audience really sucks; that's why it doesn't have an audience. Duh. It just doesn't seem like it, because when you do find a good artist that you've never heard of, it makes it kind of special; you can go and tell all your friends about what they're missing. Everybody loves that. This is also one of the main reason I love record stores (next to bargain bins; seriously, that shit is awesome). The first time I heard Fela Kuti was in a music store, and I have been an unabashed fan since. This brings us to Beth Hart's new album, Don't Explain. I was scrounging the bargain bin in a record store when the owner started playing this album. The opening track, the bluesy-as-all-hell "Sinner's Prayer" hits you like a baseball bat to the face. HotDAMN can Hart wail. So much so that I was shocked to find out that she's white. I had to know who this was. 

On top of that, you really have to admire her nerve. You see, there is a group of artists that people say you shouldn't ever cover, because there's a snowflake's chance in hell that you can do any better, and this album is a who's who of those daunting artists: Bill Withers ("For My Friends"), Aretha Franklin ("Ain't No Way"), Tom Waits ("Chocolate Jesus"), Etta James ("I'd Rather Go Blind", "Something's Got A Hold Of Me"), and- most dauntingly- Billie Holiday ("Don't Explain"). It takes balls of titanium to challenge artists of that calibur.

And. She. Tops. Every. Damn. One. Of. Them.

Teaming up with guitarist Joe Bonamossa, Hart gives us blues, soul, and jazz at their most bruising, filled with thundering highs and foreboding lows. They may all be covers, but Hart makes each song her own, using her powerful voice to its fullest potential. She has the perfect voice to sing the blues- rough and just raspy enough. She recalles great shouters such as Koko Taylor, Duffy Bishop, and Etta James herself. But best of all, while her voice is always powerful, Hart never oversings. It seems to be a disease plaguing modern music where perfectly good singers constantly feel as if they have to prove to us that they're good; filling their songs with pointless cadenzas and completely forgetting how to pick a note and fucking stick with it. All the great singers of old made it seem effortless; they knew that they had nothing to prove. They kept the notes steady and strong. Hart understands this well, and I think that the Beyonces of the world need to sit up and take note; this is how it's done. This is how you sing soul. Soul singers of the world, you just got schooled on your own music by a 38-year-old white woman. How does that make you feel?

Go out and buy this album. Right now. Seriously, what are you waiting for? It's nothing new, sure, but the blues has never been big on change. What Don't Explain is, though, is a singer simultaneously paying tribute to the singers and songwriters who have influenced her throughout her carrer while blowing them all out of the water. Plain and simple, it's a fun time with some great musicians and a singer who, while staying close to her influences, has a style all her own. It's full of verve and energy, and in this age of bland, listless, forgettable pop, that's always something to celebrate. Grade: A+

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Cynic's Musical Side: Reverie

I admit I'm not all that well versed in the work of Joe Henry. The singer-songwriter and record producer started out in the world of alt-country, which as most people who know me well can attest to, is far from my favorite genre in the world. But starting in the mid 1990s he has been changing his style drastically, taking influences from jazz and blues, finally culminating in his 2009 album Blood From Stars, a dark love letter to the blues that was distintly Waitsian in tone. That I would compare Henry to Tom Waits (one of my musical heroes whose new album, Bad As Me comes out on October 22nd) is a huge compliment. Henry isn't quite the poet that Waits is, but then again neither is anyone else in the music world. Henry is an accomplished songwriter, and Blood From Stars has since become one of my favorite albums. It's a haunting, bruising creature: dark and minor; a gathering of storm clouds that broke into thunder. Reviewers hailed it as the album that he'd been leading up to for his entire career, and while it may have been the only album of his that I'd heard, it felt like a magnum opus. Something about it seemed like the sort of album that a musician works their entire life to forge; a flawless meeting of the songwriter and composer in Henry. I highly recommend buying it.

  The question remains, though: how do you follow up what has been described as a career-defining album? When I heard that Henry was releasing a new album, I knew I had to find out how it compared. Intentional or not, Reverie does very much seem like a follow up to Blood From Stars, though as the title suggests, it is on a much more hopeful note than that album did. It is the light at the end of Blood From Stars's dark tunnel. It retains the bluesy atmosphere, though the arrangements are smaller and less foreboding, and it carries less of the heavy jazz influences that Stars did. I'm glad to say that he chose to keep the fantastic drums and percussion that his last album had, and his arrangements have the same snaking, layered quality. And Reverie isn't without it's dark moments, with tracks such as "Sticks & Stones" and the New-Orleans-piano-tinged "Strung". But where Blood From Stars was full of bitter, bruising crescendos and thundering drums, Reverie has moments of surprising tenderness, such as the beautiful solo piece "Tomorrow Is October". Stars was a beautful album, but it was a rough kind of beauty; the sad moments of this album come from a different, later stage of grief. There are a lot of transitions from major to minor that add a gorgeous third dimension to the songs.

But what I love most here is the same thing that made me fall for Blood From Stars: Henry's sound is unpolished, raw, and gloriously imperfect; the antithesis of the overproduced plasticness that plagues much modern music. All that gloss might seem nice on paper, but it sucks out the soul of the music, and makes it seem fake and shallow. A song can't get by on nothing but a nice voice and some clever rhymes; the arrangements and style have more to do with it than anything. Why do you think people like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, who weren't good singers by any conventional standards, become so revered? Because they were real. They weren't trying to impress anybody; their music came from a sort of higher emotional calling. That's the mark of a true musician. Imperfection is a beautiful thing when used correctly, and Henry is one of this era's true masters of artful imperfection, along with artists such as Tom Waits and The Black Keys.

  Is this album as good as Blood From Stars? It's hard to say. They're so similar, and yet so different. In the end, if either album wins out it'll be by a very small margin. For me, I suppose that Stars has the edge, but I certainly can't speak for everyone. You'll have to decide for yourself, if only to hear two great examples of what a true master can do. Grade: A

The Cynic's Musical Side: For True

If you haven't heard Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' 2010 debut album Backatown, please stop reading this review right now, go to your nearest music store, and buy that CD. Hell, buy it twice if you feel like it.

I know what you're saying: "Aidan, how can you like something this much? I'm surprised you like anything at all." First of all, screw you; I like plenty of things. Secondly, you obviously don't understand what Backatown is: namely the first time since the acid jazz movement of the early '90s that somebody has come along to completely turned jazz on it's ear. Also, bear in mind that after approximately a century of almost nonstop innovation, it's pretty goddamn hard to turn jazz on it's ear nowadays. I mean think about it: Satchmo brought us dixieland, Benny Goodman brought us swing, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie brought us bebop, Miles Davis brought us both cool jazz and fusion (and was on the ground floor of the modal and hard bop movements as well), Ornette Coleman brought us whatever the fuck The Shape of Jazz to Come was, and Herbie Hancock brought us damn near everything. There are more subgenres of jazz than any other genre of music on the face of the earth (yes, even classical). So many in fact, that it's become impossible to define what exactly jazz is. So how the hell do you turnthat on it's ear in this day and age?

Well, just listen to it. Backatown was two things: completely batshit insane, and utterly, utterly brilliant. Andrews, a New Orleans-bred musical prodigy (is there any other kind of musician in New Orleans?) created a monster of a sound, fusing jazz, soul, funk, metal, hip hop, and putting it all in a New Orleans brass band setting (plus a kick ass rythm section). It was so unlike anything else in the genre that he had to create a new subgenre: Supafunkrock, which I admit sounds significantly less awesome coming from a nerdy white guy from Oregon. The result was possibly the funkiest album in decades, complete with thundering drums, screaming judgement-day horns, and distorted guitars. Andrews gave us what has eluded fusion musicians since the late 1960s: a jazz album for the rock crowd that doesn't sell out the audience that made it possible in the first place. Andrews and his band Oleans Avenue have a sound that could make it big in any setting. In short, Backatown is a very, very hard act to follow. So when I heard that Trombone Shorty was going to release a new album, there was one thing going through my head:

Please, please, please let this album be good.

So how does For True hold up against Andrews' mind-blowing debut? The horns aren't as loud, but the funk is still strong as ever. The sound is a little more mainstream than Backatown, which wasn't completely necessary, but that by no means Trombone Shorty's sold out. Not by a long shot. Instead, it just feels like a musician trying to refine his sound. Backatown was a trial by fire, an all-or-nothing showcase of exactly what Orleans Avenue was capable of. For True is more focused- Andrews' isn't trying to prove anything here; he and his band are finding their groove. However, while he smoothed out the debut album's unevenness, it also removes some of the gritty, unhinged fun of his first album.For True is a great album, sure, but Backatown was a fucking party.

That isn't any death sentence, though. In the end, For True isn't as good as its predecessor, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Louis Armstrong couldn't play as fast as Dizzy Gillespie, but they're both great trumpeters. The two albums are very different in tone, even if they're in the same style:Backatown felt like the world's greatest jam session, while For True is much more calculated. It will probably sell better. I still prefer Andrews' first album, but For True is still great, funky fun. Bring on album number three. Grade: B+

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Cynic Reviews Shadow of the Vampire

Author's Note: Lately, I've been trying to only review movies movies that are somewhat new, and I swear that I will more or less keep to that. However, I recently saw a movie so striking that I felt like Ihad to review it. So forgive me for writing about something that's eleven years old.

My name is Aidan, and I hate vampire movies. Okay, so there are a few flicks out there that are pretty good (Cronos for the "serious" film conniseurs, Daybreakers for those of you who are... less serious*), but this subgenre of horror has for the most part been overrun by god awful, whiny, inane crap that trat their audiences like they're drooling idiots. It's no matter to me that the audiences for these things are drooling idiots; you can't move anywhere if you don't reach for a higher bar. Look, you can cater to a broad, mainstream audience without sacrificing any semblance of intelligence your concept may have had; the public's not that stupid, guys!

But this wasn't always the case. In fact, my favorite horror movie of all time is a vampire movie: F.W. Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu. Count Orlock is still one of the scariest looking movie monsters ever created, and Murnau's use of shadow to heighten the tension is pure genius. If you haven't seen it, I first would like to ask you what rock you've been living under all this time, and then urge you to go out and see it. Just be wary of what cut you get; the film was butchered for the silver in the film stock and despite a lengthy restoration process, most versions still use the bad cut (google it for more info).

So why am I saying this? After all, I'm not reviewing Nosferatu, am I? But you see, you first need to be familiar with that film before watching Shadow of the Vampire. The concept is simple but fascinating: it suggests that Max Schreck (the actor who played the Count Orlock) was more than just a convincing actor aided by some very creative makeup. In Shadow, Schreck is a real vampire that Murnau (John Malkovich) found in Czechoslovakia and paid to play an actor playing a vampire.

The story is brilliantly executed by director E. Elias Merhinge, and boasts an impressive cast that includes Malkovich, Carey Elwes, and Eddy Izzard (playing it totally straight; and in men's clothing, no less) who are all very good, but the real treat here is Willem Defoe as Schreck. The scariest part of this movie is just how much Defoe looks like Schreck here, and he copies his moves so perfectly that when they intercut scenes from Nosferatu with footage from Shadow, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. But Defoe truly shines in the scenes that take place outside filming ofNosferatu, where he gets a chance to create his own character off of where Murnau left off. You cannot take your eyes off him; it's the best I've ever seen him, the kind of performance you truly have to see to believe. He was nominated for an Oscar for this film, and rightly so. The mystery here is why he didn't win.

Bottom line: if you, as I have, are longing for an intelligent, highbrow horror film that treats its audience like adults, then by all means see this movie. You won't be disappointed. I had no idea I would like Shadow of the Vampire as much as I did. But I guess that makes me all the more glad that I finally saw it. Grade: A

*I mean no disrespect to Daybreakers; I thought it was pretty damn good, and was surprised at how maturely they executed their concept.surprised at how maturely they executed their concept.

The Cynic Reviews Birdemic

  It seems that I haven't been living up to my title lately. I haven't been nearly curmudgeonly enough to deserve the name I've given myself. After all, if I'm gonna call this thing "The Cynic Reviews", the least I can do is deserve the name. The problem here is that I've so far only reviewed movies that I liked, and it's hard to turn "this was pretty good" into something bitter and acerbic. So it seems that it's time I review a real turd. I owe it to all of you who take the time to read this crap.

Boy does Birdemic deliver. I mean, I've seen some crap in my time, but damn!

Okay, so maybe I've seen worse; things like Troll 2 or Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter that made me genuinely cringe and roll up into a fetal position, questioning how there could be a god in a world where these movies are allowed to exist.Birdemic: Shock and Terror is not that kind of bad. Actually, as crazy as it may sound to many of you, I really enjoyed watching this movie. 

Before you all drag me off to the asylum, let me explain:

If you're any kind of movie geek, there's a very good chance that you've at least heard of the concept of a movie that is "so bad it's good". For those who aren't movie geeks, I've drawn up a terrible diagram for you:

Basically, have you ever laughed at something serious a friend of yours said because it was just so phenominally stupid? As it turns out, movies sometimes work that way as well. Birdemic is one such movie: if you've ever wanted to see just how many ways a movie can suck, watch this movie.

The lines sound like they were written by a third grader (with such classics as "There are dead people by that car. Let's go see if there are any survivers." and "Yeah, well my car gets a hundred miles an hour!"), the "actors" sound like they came off some bad middle school production of Everybody Poops, the production values are so poor, they makeSharktopus look like Avatar, and the music sounds like it was comprised entirely of sample loops from Garage Band. I've never seen Murphy's Law apply so beautifully to a movie. And as for the plot...


It seriously feels like two completely different movies: one a crappy romance between two people who never actually get to know each other, and base their entire relationship on a mutual desire to screw each other (so in other words, exactly like all movie romances), and the other being a half assed ripoff of The Birds, except with eagles instead of seagulls, and without the involvement Alfred Hitchcock which, let's face it, was the reason The Birds  was good.

But the plot isn't important (not even to the cast and crew, apparently). The best part about Birdemic is that we were meant to take all this crap seriously. The stupid love story, the stupid horror movie part, even the stupid, tacked on message about global warming. I mean look, I'm a good radical lefty; I understand the importance of global warming. I understand that human beings need to stop fucking up the planet for teh lulz. But whatever global warming is doing, it probably has nothing to do with a mass uprising of birds who start invading cities and killing people. Global warming, important a subject as it may be, global warming never does well with a cinematic treatment. It is a subject that deserves a respectful, intelligent debate. "Respectful", "intelligent", and "debate" are three words that b movies and Hollywood collectively don't understand.

But enough preaching. Bottom line: Birdemic: Shock and Horror is awful, but awful in all the right ways. As much as it sucks, I think everybody needs to see it, if only so you all believe me when I say that something like this exists. Get some good friends together, overload on junk food, and prepare to laugh your asses off. That may not be what the filmmakers had in mind when they made this cinematic dump, but it's nice to think that it turned out to be good for something. That's more than I can say for Troll 2Grade: a hilariously well deserved F

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Cynic Reviews Rubber

I can say now, with the utmost conviction, that Rubber is the greatest movie to ever center around a sentient tire named Robert who uses his telekenetic powers to blow up faces and stuff. Of course, it's the only such movie, but therein lies the main reason to watch this odd little film: it's original. Love it or hate it, there is simply nothing else on this earth that's anything like it. And in this age of increasingly dull remakes, reboots, and sequels, originality is always something to celebrate.
        Even if it is completely and utterly batshit crazy. Which is Rubber in a nutshell. I can't really explain what it's really about, but I can easily say what it is- weird as balls.
        I'm not going to try to accurately describe the plot of this movie. If you want to know what it's about, you can watch it for yourself. See, this isn't just a film about a killer tire. No, it's surprisingly much, much more bizarre than that. There are two principal parts to this movie: one half centers around Robert, a psychokenetic tire who has it out for the world (after all, what sentient tire wouldn't), and falls in love with a beautiful woman passing through the nameless city he terrorizes. The other part surrounds this motif, and is way stranger and almost impossible to summarize. Suffice to say, it has something to do with a cop who tries to convince everybody that this whole thing isn't real, and is actually a show for a group of spectators he has to kill to end the movie, and that it gets so meta it hurts.
        Confused yet? Understandable. But that's just because you're overthinking things. You have to be overthinking things at this point because, as the policeman explains in the glorously odd opening scene, the point of this movie is that there is no point to this movie. Everything in Rubber happens for absolutely no reason. Because that's life. So many things in life are just there just because. Have you ever asked yourself why you can't see the air around you? Is there really an answer? Do you really care? In order to enjoy Rubber, you must first grasp that it's not that direcor Quentin Dupieux isn't trying to say anything, but that he's actively trying to say nothing. It's a cool little bit of pseudo-philisophical, neo-dadaist cinema.
         But I'm gonna stop myself from waxing philisophical right there in order to keep myself from sounding like some pretentious asshole who's trying to tell you that you're "totally, like, missing the whole, like, freakin' point, dude". In fact, it's impossible to, like, totally miss the whole, like, freakin' point, because there really isn't any point. Dupieux is just screwing with our heads, and he wants us to know it. This is the film's biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness. Sometimes it tries too hard to be clever, and gets too meta. How meta, you ask? So meta that Charlie Kaufman wants to know what kind of drugs Dupieux is on.
        But I'm gonna stop myself from making anymore eggheaded film references before I sound too much like a pretentious asshole. Suffice to say, it gets a little irksome. It also pads a little too much at the end in order to reach a freature length running time (albeit a slight one) of 84 minutes.
       But I could bitch on and on about this movie's faults, but the truth is I liked Rubber. I really liked it. And the more I think about it, the more I like it. I went into this expecting a dumb-fun kind of horror-comedy, but Rubber turned out to be so much more than that. It's way, way smarter than a movie about a killer tire has any right to be, and as I said before, it truly is one of the most original pieces of cinema I've ever seen. It's not for everybody, of course. But then again, no film pleases everybody. If you're an eggheaded film geek like myself, you're probably gonna get a kick out of Rubber. If you're not an eggheaded film geek, you're probably gonna be at least a little annoyed by it. But what do I know. Bottom line: if you were already intending to see Rubber, do it. If you weren't, but you'd like a good discussion piece, check it out.
        There are probably a lot of people out there who absolutely hated Rubber, and that's their right. But screw them. I liked it. In my opinion, it's that rare kind of movie that was fun without me having to leave my overanalasyis-prone brain at the door. And that, folks, is a cause for celebration. Grade: A-

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cynic Reviews: "Black Dynamite"

After the repressing bleakness of Black Death, I decided that I need to watch something a bit lighter. Enter Black Dynamite, a raucous, insane parody of '70s-era Blaxploitation films a la Shaft and Blacula. If you're wondering why this review is so short, well there isn't a whole lot to say. What can you say about a movie where the main character fights a nun-chuck wielding Richard Nixon? What can you say about a movie where Black Dynamite lights a guy on fire- with the guy's own severed arm?

This is what I can say: this movie is awesome. Watch it.

The Cynic Reviews: "Black Death"

This was my first experiment with the concept of being able to rent a movie online via Amazon while it's still in theaters. Ever year, there are dozens of independent films released that, despite being very good in many cases, are stuck with very limited releases that ensure that they don't get seen by many people. To combat this, some of these movies are simultaneously released on demand and on so that they can have a chance to make more money than they would usually get. This is lucky for me, because Black Death has not yet come to theaters in Oregon, and even if it did, it'd only be in Portland, not that I mind having an excuse to go to Portland. Do I recommend watching a movie like this? It depends on how picky you are about picture quality. Do I recommend seeing the movie in the first place? Well, keep reading and find out.

This movie has a few actors that I like, namely Sean Bean (who is basically playing Boromir again, not that I have a problem with that) and Tim McInnerny (who is decidedly un-Tim McInnerny here), is based in a period that I find fascinating, and has garnered generally positive reviews, with a current "certified fresh" rating of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Needless to say, the concept of a tense thriller/horror film about the black plague intrigued me.

The plot mimics that of a thriller more than that of a modern horror movie, meaning that I can't go too deeply into the plot without giving away spoilers. But in a nutshell, the plot of Black Death goes like this: a young novice in an English monastery named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne; quite good) is starting to regret his life of solitude. The monastery is in the middle of a densely populated area, meaning that his life is not safe, and he worries for the woman he loves, something he has to keep secret, since he's sworn to celibacy. He tells her to leave the city and go to the forest to escape the plague. She wants him to come with her, but he can't. However, seemingly fortunately for him, a group of knights led by Ulric (Bean) who are heading that way to look for a village there that has been untouched by the plague and need a guide. Luckily for them, Osmund grew up near there, and can easily guide them. The Abbot has reservations but has to let Osmund go, as the knights are on orders from the Bishop. Osmund shortly learns that the knights' purpose is much darker than mere curiosity: there is word that the village has abandoned god and begun worshiping a Pagan necromancer.

The movie goes on for almost an hour before they reach the village, introducing the characters, as well as the brutal world they inhabit. Once they do reach the town, things slow down considerably; allowing the film to build up tension, which it does in droves.

The main problem I had for most of the part in the village was that it seemed to fall into a trap that I particularly hate in these kinds of movies: the whole self-righteous "all-Christians-are saints-and-non-Christians-are-the-Devil" thread, which obviously doesn't sit well with an agnostic such as myself. However, to my great surprise, the movie took a huge turn at the end, painting a picture where both the Christians and Pagans come out equally unpleasant, and basically stating that both groups were using god as an excuse to justify their brutal, desperate acts in the wake of the Plague, which is a pretty historically accurate statement to make.

This movie has several flaws, such as a script that often leaves something to be desired, and an irritating use of shaky-cam, especially during the two skirmish sequences, where it was so bad that I started to feel nauseous. That being said, those flaws are eclipsed (for the most part) by a good cast (with the possible exception of the "Witch", whose performance was a bit disappointing), nicely gritty cinematography (apart from the annoying shaky-cam bits), and a killer sense of tension, especially during the last half hour or so, which had me wide-eyed and gripping my computer table until my knuckles were white. So, in short, Black Death is very far from perfect, but it's still the best damn English-language horror film that's come out in years (or at least that I've seen).

A lot of reviews I've read made connections to this movie and the original 1973 version of The Wicker Man. I have not seen The Wicker Man, so I can't make that comparison. However, I did see a connection between Black Death and another recent indie film: Valhalla Rising. The two movies both are set in Medieval Britain, have implied supernatural explanations to tense situations, both are taut quasi-horror movies, share at least one flaw (heavy-handed dialogue) and they both have similar cinematography and similar color schemes:

Black Death (2010)
Valhalla Rising (2009)

However, there are differences. Black Death is far more mainstream than Valhalla Rising, while Rising was much more of an "art house"-type film. Black Death is also, surprisingly, less graphic than Valhalla Rising, though that's not a bad thing, and Black Death certainly has its fair share of disturbing sequences. The most surprising thing, though, is that while Black Death is more obvious about its supernatural element, Valhalla Rising was far scarier (at least in my opinion). It wasn't a conventional kind of scary, but instead a slow-burning sort of snowballing dread that never lets up, even after the credits were over (which is the main reason I'm waiting a while to see it again). Black Death also attempts to coax this kind of fear from its audience, and does it quite well (especially in the ending, which was better than Valhalla Rising's), but Rising does it better.
Also, tell me to my face that this isn't totally fucking terrifying.

But enough about other depressing/terrifying Medieval flicks. Do I recommend that you see Black Death? Really, that all depends on who you are. If you can stomach that violent bits (there aren't many, but that makes them all the more shocking when they do happen), and you've been longing for a "grown up" horror movie that has a brain, conscience, and actually builds tension (i.e. actually tries to be scary), then yes. For all its flaws, Black Death is a gripping little movie with heavy atmosphere and good acting, not to mention the fact that it has a great twist and a killer ending that will keep you glued until the credits. If you're the type looking for another Saw-esque, sadistic torture-porn movie, then- well- you can kindly fuck off.

Grade: B+

The Cynic Reviews: "Blacula", "Night Watch", and "The Machinist"

In order to indulge my ADHD, I'm going to combine these three reviews.

#1: Blacula (1972):
This is not a good movie. Everything about this movie is dumb. The script is bad, the plot arbitrary, and the acting (with the exception of William Marshall, who seems to be made of pure awesome) is nothing particularly special.

And yet, I love this movie. Every stupid minute of it.

You see, this movie is bad, but it's the right kind of bad. It's all pure camp, from it's ludicrous setup to it's deliciously funky soundtrack, this movie is pure, brainless fun.

So I should probably say something about the plot here. William Marshall plays Mamuwalde, a centuries-old African prince who was cursed by Count Dracula to spend his life as a vampire. Eventually, in the '70s, he meets Tina, who just so happens to be the spitting image of his long-dead wife. None of that really matters. What does matter? William Marshall's voice is SO TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME!!! Seriously, it's like Barry White fused with James Earl Jones, with a little of Morgan Freeman thrown in for good measure. I defy anyone to tell me it's not the classiest damn thing you've ever heard.

This is what classy looks like.

I highly recommend this movie to all of my fellow awkward, nerdy, bad-movie-watching dweebs. It's pure, dumb, funky awesomeness.

#2: Night Watch (2004):
Is there anything more quintessentially American than a dumb action movie? Apparently there is, considering the three best dumb action movies I've seen recently were Korean:

Shot in Mongolian by a director from Kazakhstan:

And, finally, Russian:

Night Watch is yet another stupid sort-of vampire flick. But this one has subtitles that bleed, move, and break, as well as a guy whose spine is also a sword, which is impossible in every sense of the word, but badass all the same.

So apparently, many years ago there was an epic battle between "others", supernatural beings who split into two factions: Dark others, who are the things that go bump in the night, and Light others, who aren't nearly as awesome. The two sides were equally matched, so the leaders of each side made a treaty and set up the light others as "Night Watch" to make sure the dark others would keep their side of the bargain. Likewise, the dark others would form a "Day Watch" to make sure the light others did the same. But there is a prophecy that foretells that an other will be born that will be born that will be more powerful than all the others. The battle between the two sides would once more resume, and the side that the Chosen One chooses is destined to win. SPOILER ALERT: he chooses evil. No, seriously. For some reason, this all falls nicely into the lap of Anton Gorodetsky, played by Russia's answer to Jason Segel.


Night Watch is surprisingly solid, with cool effects and good acting all around. It's no classic, but it's a fun little diversion.

#3: The Machinist (2004):
Something's not right with Trevor. He hasn't slept in a year, he's grown positively skeletal, and he seems to be losing his mind. He's starting to be stalked by a man named Ivan, who no one else seems to see. Trevor's life starts to slowly fall to pieces. He starts to think that everyone is against him.

That's about as much of the plot as I can write before I start giving things away. The Machinist couldn't be more different than the previous two movies. It's grim, tense, eerie, atmospheric, and, in parts, disturbing. It's not easy to watch, but it's very rewarding. This is a great psychological thriller, with a great script, direction, cinematography, fantastic performances, especially from Christian Bale as Trevor. He famously dropped dangerous amounts of weight to play Trevor, and it shows. He looks practically zombified, underling the great toll that has been hit to his sanity. This movie is not for everyone, though. If you're looking for a violent, body-a-minute, schlocky horror flick, stay away from this movie. The Machinist is very slow moving, taking it's time to build atmosphere and tension so thick it's almost suffocating, making the violent bits more terrifying and gripping. It's engrossing, suspenseful, and almost Hitchcockian. I highly recommend The Machinist to anyone looking for a solid psychological thriller.

I do have a couple of beefs with this movie, though. First, while the ending itself is powerful, the twist that leads on to it seems a little cheap to me. It seemed like it was building up to something more. The other beef is a little nitpicky. You see, since Trevor's memory has been fading due to his sleep deprivation, he has to write himself many, many notes to remind himself of daily chores. This becomes increasingly important to the plot as the film goes on. Sound familiar?

As I said, though, that's a minor thing. The Machinist is still very much worth checking out.

Reasons I am Losing Faith in Humanity #1: An Underdog Success Story (That Will Make You Nauseous)

Nothing wrong with that:
Everybody likes a good success story. It never fails to make us feel good that the little guy has one the battle against all odds and achieved his or her dreams. It's also human nature that we are always most intrigued by the success stories that involve hobbies that we share with the subject. So when I saw an article in this morning's Oregonian about a woman who self-published a novel she wrote on the internet and has gained the attention of big-name publishers and even movie producers, suffice to say it piqued my interest. I mean, that premise sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, the headline failed to warn us that the author of the book (called Tiger's Curse), Colleen Houck, is completely and totally batshit.

That sinking feeling:
Let's look over the things that started tipping me off that this book (now a trilogy) couldn't possibly be good. It only took me until the first paragraph to get the feeling that everything was gonna go south. The author's biggest inspiration was Stephanie Meyer- also known as quite possibly the most talentless, borderline-retarded writer to ever gain a large, vapid, slobbering fan base. So this series is most likely a low-rent, poorly written piece of unintentionally disturbing crap. But that's not all, ladies and gentlemen; you ain't seen nothing yet.

Everything goes to hell:
This is where things get weird. You see, folks, this series isn't just your average piece-of-crap franchise. In the second to last paragraph, the writer of the article finally gives us an idea of what the series is about. Keep in mind that I did not edit the wording of this sentence in any way.

           "... the story is that of a girl from Oregon who takes a job at a circus and falls in love with Ren, a man trapped in a tiger's body."

Let me put this in a clearer wording for you: This book is about  a woman who lusts after a tiger. I wish I was making this up, people.

To sum up everything that's wrong with this plot, let me use an example for you: To me, this is kind of like the literary equivalent of The Human Centipede. That movie could have been the best written, best acted, best looking movie ever made and I would still refuse to see it, considering it's based entirely around the concept of people being forced to eat each others' feces.

Likewise, Tiger's Curse could be the best written book in the world (though I'm gonna guess it's far from it) and I would still refuse to read it, considering it's about a main character whose deepest desire is to fuck a tiger. It doesn't matter if it's a "man trapped in a tiger's body", the main character still wants to screw a tiger. It doesn't matter if said tiger speaks her language. It's still a friggin' tiger. What kind of person wakes up one morning and thinks, "you know what my perfect match is? A different species who looks like a larger version of my cat, except way more bloodthirsty."

And yet, this stupid, stupid woman has purportedly been offered a movie deal.

Our world is so screwed.

The Cynic Reviews: "Delicatessen"

            It takes a certain type of person to like a movie like this. Fortunately, I am that kind of person. Before venturing any deeper into what this movie’s about, imagine if (1)Terry Gilliam was French, (2)Sweeney Todd was set in a post-apocalyptic future, and (3)it was a comedy. That gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect while watching Delicatessen. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s bizarre 1991 horror-sci fi-comedy is covered by Gilliam’s influence- so much so that there isn’t a frame that goes by where you aren’t reminded of his work. In other words, this movie is right up my alley: weird, macabre, and darkly funny with killer visuals to boot.
            The movie opens with a butcher named Clapet, the owner of the titular delicatessen, sharpening his knives menacingly. It then pans to a different room, where a jittery, wide-eyed young man nervously covers himself in old newspapers. This unfortunate man has found out that he is about to become food for the other dwellers in the apartment complex above the deli. He conceals himself in newspaper so he can escape in the trash, but he needs to hurry- the garbage man is here. As you can probably guess, the man never makes it to the garbage truck. This opening scene is one of my favorites in the movie, perfectly setting the mood and look of the film, as well as serving as a great introduction to the character of Clapet.

            After the opening kill, the real story begins. A new tenant named Louison arrives, looking for work and a roof over his head. He is responding to an ad requesting someone to do odd jobs around the building. Clapet immediately sizes Louison up, revealing to the audience that the ad was created to lure a new main course for the butcher to prepare. Louison is a short, waifish, funny looking man, a former circus performer back before it all went south. Eventually, he meets the butcher’s daughter Julie, a bookish, clumsy, and bespectacled young woman who plays the cello and wants to be a painter. Julie disapproves greatly of her father’s “profession”, and eventually she and Louison begin an awkward, tentative relationship, further complicating her relationship with Clapet, knowing full well what Louison’s intended fate is. She later learns that there is an underground group known as the “troglodytes”, who live in the sewers. She goes to them to ask their help in sneaking Loison out of the building. At first they refuse, but then they learn that their main source of food, corn, is used by Clapet as currency, therefore making the complex full of the stuff. This leads to a climax so strange it makes the rest of the movie seem downright normal (I won’t list out what happens, so as to avoid spoilers). There are also several subplots in the movie, including one concerning a particularly insane tenant’s increasingly odd, Rube Goldberg-esque attempts at suicide, the last attempt being Darwin Award worthy.
            I like this movie, though it is far from perfect. Though I enjoyed the homages to Gilliam’s early work, it often tries too hard to be either Brazil or Time Bandits, though it lacks the former’s biting social satire, and the latter’s whimsical charm. That being said, Caro and Jeunet’s hero-worship of the former Python pays off for the most part. It’s a truly wonderful film to look at, with fantastically demented set pieces and a yellow-sepia filter that gives it a look that is years ahead of its time. So for all its flaws, Delicatessen is a hell of a lot of fun to watch if you, like me, are an unabashed fan of demented black comedy. I highly recommend this movie to someone looking for a creative flick with an insane, messed up streak about it.