Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Written by Fumo Verde

So if it took El Bicho a whole Zip of the Red Diesel to remove this movie from his head, then why would I, Fumo Verde, attempt to watch it on DVD? Well, unlike my compadre El Bicho, I have a higher tolerance for great weed and bad movies-- and yes Smokin' Aces put it to the test. I must admit at times I do love the ultra-violent, bad guy shoot'em-up where everybody gets whacked and the blood pours out of the TV, but these movies should and usually do contain the humor element to lighten or comment on the violence, such as was done in Pulp Fiction.

Unfortunately Smokin' Aces didn't have any funny shit like that, although I did chuckle when Ben Affleck got shot. Jeremy Piven, who always gets typecast as "the prick," plays a pretty good one here, but my favorite character was Jason Bateman as a fucked wacko lawyer. The best acting came from Alicia Keys, Taraji Henson, and the .50 cal. Damn I love big guns, and watching a room full of F.B.I. guys get cleared did give this anarchist a Cheshire cat grin, for a moment.

What mystifies me is the thought that the Italian Mafia would out-source for a "hit" so crucial. Don Corleone would be rolling over in his grave if Michael had given the contract to anyone other than Luca Brasi - may he sleep with the fishes. And what’s with the psycho neo-Nazi Road Warriors? Clownshoe mercs like that walk through booby-trapped doors, get their balls blown off, then go crying back home to mommy? Here's what gets me, if Aces is on the run, then why hide out in Tahoe? As if the Mob doesn't know where the world’s eighth deepest lake is, come on. Plus, if the Mob were going to do the hit, why not pay off his bodyguard, have that guy take him fishing, and say, "Hi," to Lou for us-- know what I mean?

As for plot twist and layers of secrets, babies, I've had a harder time finding Waldo. You could see the end coming before your ass got the seat warm. Would this be a waste of your time? Only if you were wasted and had better things to do. If you are stuck in jury duty and it’s on one of those big TVs in the back, it would give you something to bitch about to the other jurors beside the fact that you're in jury duty.

The extras on this DVD are your usual suspects: interviews, camera work, and assorted crap like that. They also have an alternative ending, but even that doesn’t change how fucked up the movie itself was. If you have to pay more than a dollar to rent it, I say forget about it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard & Ray Price: Last Of The Breed

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Picture, if you will, a lonely honky-tonk on the outskirts of town, a glow from inside draws you near as the sound of clinking beer bottles and laughter calls your name. As you get closer the music from jukebox becomes clearer, three legendary country baritones stand out and shine like the North Star leading you home. You step through the swinging doors, is it honky-tonk heaven? Do you have enough change for said jukebox? Or are you simply dreaming again of records that don’t exist, as I often do? Nope, it’s the sounds of two outlaws and a real survivor. It’s true my fellow followers of great honky-tonk hardwood floor heroes! Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price have come together for the first time and the result is Last Of The Breed, a collection of classic tunes made current and standing tall among the mountains of rabble called country music.

These three pillars of classic country music have been kicking this idea around for years but as always things turn up, schedules clash, and side projects are put aside. Finally the stars aligned and the three paths crossed in the spring of 2006. Producer Fred Foster quickly put together a jamming band of pros, including fiddle master Johnny Gimble. After only two days of everything and everyone being in place, the songs that would make it onto this killer collaboration were put down. The big three had it in mind to sing the songs that they all knew and liked, drawing inspiration from such names as Lefty Frizzell, (“Mom And Dad’s Waltz”) Floyd Tillman (“I Love You So Much It Hurts”), and cowboy crooner Gene Autry (“That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine”); Simple and to the point, it’s how these men operate and why we love them.

Twenty-two tracks over two CDs, and from the get-go these honky-tonk heavyweights hit hard. Opening with Bob Wills’ western swing classic “My Life’s Been A Pleasure,” these gentlemen take turns at the lead vocal chores while the Jordanaires do what they do best, smooth background vocals. This solid sender is the first of many that set the stride and had me up and two steppin’, taking me back to my mother’s kitchen where I learned to dance.

Other classic covers include Harland Howard’s hardwood floor standards “Heartaches By The Number” and “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.” From Leon Payne they take on the lonesome rambler’s lament “Lost Highway” and the sweethearts’ ballad “I Love You Because.” We are also treated to a number from fellow outlaw Kris Kristofferson, who helps with lead duties and harmony vocals on his ultimate sinner’s question song, “Why Me Lord.”

Tapping from the well of more recent songwriters, we get two from Willie’s pal Cindy Walker: the quiet, tear-in-your-beer “Going Away Party” and the Hymn-inspired “Night Watch.” From Willie himself, we get the beautifully poetic “Back To Earth,” which finds Willie and Merle on a duet reminiscent of their work on Pancho And Lefty. And not to be left out Merle chimes in with the self-penned sinner’s prayer “Sweet Jesus.”

Last Of The Breed finds these three distinct voices in fine form, blending perfectly and as entertaining as ever. Each legend brings his own brand of magic to the microphone delivering flawless performances from the last of the original Honky-Tonk Heroes. The only voice missing is George Jones’. Truly these men are the Last Of The Breed, yet once in a while someone comes along and gives the world hope and lets us know that real men still sing in a timeless style, the way these gentlemen do. George Straight, Alan Jackson, and my personal favorite Dale Watson kept that flame alive and have passed it to the few newcomers brave enough to take it. These willing young artists have the power to keep the hardwood floors packed with people and to keep the sound of clinking beer bottles mixed with loud laughter ringing in our ears. And yes, some where on that floor will be Fantasma el Rey and his honky-tonk angel dancing a two-step. Thanks, Ma.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Infamous Stringdusters: Fork In The Road

Written by Fantasma el Rey

The Infamous Stringdusters are comprised of six young men, Andy Hall, Jeremy Garrett, Jesse Cobb, Chris Eldrigde, Chris Pandolfi and Travis Book, who have been kicking around Nashville for a few years. They became friends after running into one another around town, either doing session work or at live gigs with other bands. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they all shared a passion for true and innovative bluegrass and string music. Not long after that, they decided to give it a go of their own and the result is Fork In The Road.

Their debut album is filled with original material, including some jumping instrumentals. From the opening picks and Andy’s vocal licks on “No More To Leave You Behind,” these kats are on fire, getting you moving and toe-tapping. The song sets the tone for all those on this disc, highlighted by expert picking and plucking, heartfelt vocals, and straightforward lyrics that tell a good story.

The title track is where we get to hear the second of three of the Stringdusters lead vocalists. Jeremy Garrett does a fine job and handles the majority of the CD’s lead vocal chores with confidence and ease. For “Starry Night,” the band slows just a bit, but loses absolutely nothing. Instead, they gain ground and pull the listener further into their world. Jeremy’s sweet vocal delivery paints a picture of a Virginia night sky.

John Mayer’s “3x5” is where Travis makes his first vocal appearance. His baritone is a hint deeper than Jeremy’s and stands out against Andy’s sweet-voiced traditional bluegrass tenor. Having three lead vocalists works fine for this sextet, and with the addition of Travis, the last to join the group, they can pull off that high lonesome sound made popular by The Stanley Brothers.

Two good examples of the band’s brilliance are “Tragic Life” and “Poor Boy’s Delight.” Andy and Jeremy penned “Tragic Life,” a true cowboy lament about love, being on the run, and shooting a lawman in the back. The whole back-shooting lyric gives the narrator the mark of the anti-hero. Adding to the foreboding vibe is the line, “I feel my blood flowing colder every day”. What sets this “chased by a posse” song apart from other country cow-punch tunes is the song is played with all string instruments, giving it an authentic touch, as if it could have been played over a hundred years ago around a trail drive campfire.

Benny Galloway wrote “Poor Boy’s Delight,” and it shows these gentlemen can make any tune their own. This little number finds our pals in a mellow mood and places the listener smack in the center of an outdoor summer night dance in Virginia. With Travis’ voice, you can almost feel that soft Southern wind in June that he’s singing so quietly about.

The Stringdusters display their diversity with their three instrumentals, penned by various members of the band. “40 West” is a lighting fast race down the highway everyone will enjoy. All you have to do is imagine yourself in Granddad’s supped-up 1940 Ford pick-up truck and let the music whisk you down a tree-lined Virginia road at 90 miles per hour.

“No Resolution” keeps the pace moving, only a bit slower than “40 West,” yet the musicianship here is amazing. These young lions have this string music thing packed up tight and are running wild with it. Their creativity shines as the tempo slows a tad more in the middle of the song only to pick right back up again and tear the place down.

The closing tune and third instrumental is “Moon Man,” a seven-minute long “jamgrass” session. It opens slow and low, then kicks up its heels “faster than all get out” bluegrass style. You can almost picture legends such as Bill Monroe or Ralph Stanley pickin’ up a storm in a fever pitched duel.

The Infamous Stringdusters hit hard on their first outing, showing the world their creativity and individuality by expanding on the music and sounds they know and love. This band will carry the bluegrass torch while bringing in new fans and passing a branch of American music on to the next generation of pickers and grinners, as well as those of us who can’t play but know a good thing when we hear it. So while you’re out trying to find this one at your local record shop or on-line (it’s just easier that way), I’ll be dusting off my old six string acoustic and strumming an outlaw love song. Goodnight y’all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

hey Negrita: We Are Catfish and The Buzz Above

Written by Fumo Verde

If you are looking for a fresh take on some old genres, then hey Negrita is the band you've been looking for. Coming out of the UK, they have grasped the sounds of Americana, Southern rock, R&B, and blues, and use those textures to create vivid pictures that drive your imagination on a trip that covers the entire globe. Bold melodies mixed with thoughtful lyrics create songs with meaning and heart. Here is a band that seems to have something for everybody and it all sounds good.

We Are Catfish started with the song “Devil In My Shoes.” Strumming guitars chords open up the tune, as the keyboard pipes out like a Hammond B-3 organ. My feet began tapping immediately and I had to get up from my seat as I be-bopped about my room. A driving drumbeat keeps the rhythm alive and hopping, as the guitar and keyboard lend extra voices to the tale being told. Now this is how to open up and keep'em coming.

On “One Mississippi,” a simple blues melody may be the root but hey Negrita expands on it, bringing it to a different level. The use of slide guitar etches an image of a slow riverboat moving through the old ports of New Orleans back in the late 1930's. This song rolls along like the mighty river itself.

Once back on dry land, the band heads straight to the pub with “Old Britannia.” "So lets drink to dead companions/ hiding in the shadow’s wake/ and when you're on your own/ For it’s one to Old Britannia/ two because you're under/ three when you're on the floor." Now if this isn't the chorus for a good drinking song, I don't know what is. Compare that song to “Beaujolais Villages.” The melody and rhythm are being played ever so gently as are the lyrics being sung, yet the words are sharp and to the point; "Your fruit’s a little bitter/ You come across like Jesus with a gun./ I give you everything/ all I seem to get from you is drunk." One can taste more than just sour grapes in these words.

We Are Catfish has fifteen tracks and like little snowflakes, each song is different from the next in regards to genre. These men are fantastic musicians and the best way to prove that is to listen to another CD of theirs, The Buzz Above, which begins with “Can't Walk Away,” a sweet R&B track that is similar to a rock ballad, but better. The guitars cry out and the keyboard chimes in, yet the lyrics are mellow and relaxed.

I would have to say that my favorite song on this disk is “Abandon Ship.” "Easy now/ wipe the smile from my face./ I've forgotten the touch/ I remember the taste./ And there's the torture/ asleep in my bed/ under the sheets in the back of my head.” With the haunting sound of the keyboards in the back, these words take on a heavier tone, painting a dark picture of the emotions that brought them about. Yet, the band doesn't take you down a desperate road just to leave you in a state of depression.

Like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds on a balmy London afternoon, “Charlene” rekindles the fire that ignites the spirit. “The Message” follows and is another song of hope and faith, which brings a tear to the eye and a smile to the face. “Hold Tight” is one of those fighting songs that might get you into trouble if you put away the Jack & Cokes like El Bicho used to do back in the day-- he's got a mean right hook. This song has a Johnny Cash attitude so don't fuck with it.

If you haven't had a chance to hear hey Negrita hit their myspace page or check them out on YouTube. If they ever get a chance to come out to Southern California, I would make these guys a must see. Pick up We Are Catfish and The Buzz Above and you won't be disappointed; these guys have talent, courage, heart, and soul, and they've put it all into a small band of friends they call hey Negrita.

This is Fumo Verde saying stay green and be just.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Apocalyptica: Life Burns Tour

Written by Fantasma el Rey

The Apocalyptica Life Burns Tour DVD is a powerhouse showcase for this creative and talented band from Finland, in top form and rocking from the first drum kick to the last cello bow stroke. These gentlemen display their talent by mastering and mixing the moody classical world with the dark world of heavy metal to form a hybrid all their own. Their name reflects the sound, from the material they choose and by the relentless way they bang out songs on those cellos.

Formed just over a decade ago by four classically trained cellists, the band has changed little over the years. Although primarily a core of three now, Eicca Topinen, Paavo Lotjonen, and Perttu Kivilaakso are joined by drummer Mikko Siren and when on tour by original member and fourth cellist Antero Manninen. What remains the same is their power to move an audience and keep them in a frenzy for an hour and a half.

Apocalyptica moves swiftly from one song to another. Tearing through such tunes as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” “Nothing Else Matters,” “Enter Sandman,” and ripping the place apart with the hyper-aggressive “Seek And Destroy”. Hitting just as hard are original Apocalyptica songs like “Heat,” “Hope,” and “Life Burns.” These men have proven, and this DVD shows, that they rock just as hard and heavy as anybody else on the metal scene.

They control the crowd to the full extent, from the slower ballads to rippin’ rousers. Eicca acts as front man and co-lead along with Perttu, introducing songs and whipping their hair around in unison, much the same way that the Kiss guitarists sway together side by side on stage. Paavo is the equivalent of the bass player whose job it is to constantly interact with the crowd, keeping them worked up. He does this wonderfully by employing shouts of encouragement on choruses, pointing at them with his bow, and getting folks to clap along with the drums that crash behind him. As true showmen, they “abuse” their instruments, playing as they spin the cello, holding it in the air, or beating it as it lies on the ground, all without missing a beat or stroke. Not letting the masses forget that they are classically trained, the show closes with a hepped-up version of the classic “In The Hall Of The Mountain King.”

Now and then throughout the show there are flashes of light or minor pyrotechnics that illuminate the skull-carved backrest of the chairs they sometimes sit in as they play. Other than that, there’s nothing fancy about the stage. The music is what carries the day.

Extras include music videos, mostly of songs that the band has done with guest vocalists. The “Repressed” video begins with women who look like victims of abusive relationships but by mid “vid” it is reveled that they are members of an all-female fight club. Sepultura’s Max Cavalera and Bullet for My Valentine’s Matt Tuck provide vocals for this one and amongst the more up-tempo thrashers, this is the tune I like best. My favorite video is the slower “Seemann” filmed in black and white and featuring the darkly sexy, strong voiced German vocalist Nina Hagen, dressed in black and looking very Vampira/Morticia-esque. Wow, is all I’ve got to say about that one.

The addition of vocals also brings the addition of a more mainstream heavy metal sound. Making the cellos sound like distorted guitars and bass takes away from the band as something truly unique. The sound and musicians are good and I don’t mind Apocalyptica with vocals once or twice, but on the whole I hope that they keep to what has and will continue make them different and stand apart. If you get the chance, check them out next time they’re close to you. The DVD captures the night well but there is nothing like the vibe that these bad ass Fins possess live.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Robert Plant: Shaken ‘n’ Stirred

Written by Fumo Verde

If life only had a rewind button, but then it better have an erase button to go along with it. That's how I felt about Shaken ‘n’ Stirred and what upset me most, it was done by one of the greatest voices in Rock n' Roll history: Robert Plant. Even greatness has off-days, and not that Plant was off by any means. It was the ‘80s where most of the mainstream music pretty much blew ass. I should know I was a junior in 1985 when this album was released. Now it's 2007 and the music companies are trying hard to stay afloat by re-releasing music such as this. If it weren't Robert Plant, I wouldn't have even listened.

Sorry to shit in everyone’s cereal, but during the ‘80s I was not a Cure fan, nor a Depeched Mode fan. I did watch Madonna to give me ideas to think about late at night. I couldn't stand dancing with my arms out at my sides while extending one leg at a time and touching the floor with only the big toe of each foot. Oh yes, and don't forget to wear black with many accessories and a funny hat. Fuck that, I followed the Dead, Rush, Pink Floyd, and The Police. I was stoked that Plant had come out with a new album, until I heard it. It wasn’t the Plant I wanted; it wasn’t very rock n’ roll. Shaken ‘n’ Stirred had stopped at #20 on Billboard’s Top 200. The single “Little By Little” hit # 1 for Mainstream Rock Tracks while “Sixes and Sevens” peaked at #18. At least Plant had the courage to go somewhere else with his music, to try and experiment with new sounds and ideas that were coming out of the radios at that time.

In the ‘80s it was all about electronics, and Shaken ‘n’ Stirred was no exception. Synthesizers were a mainstay for the recording industry, and if you weren't a pro with it, then it either sounded like shit or came out to sugar-coated. That's how this CD sounds, sugar-coated, but then like I said that's most songs from this time period. Take for instance “Kallalou Kallalou,” it starts out with keyboards and drums and immediately I hear the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop in the back of my mind with Axel Foley and the banana in the tailpipe bit. “Pink and Black” has the same vibe. Plants voice carries this track as the drums rarely diverge from their formatted beat. The synthesized guitar and keyboards rehash over the same cords as they did the track before. With the exception of his voice, the music sounds the same.

“Little By Little” is the diamond in the ruff here. With the drifting sound of guitars and the electronics all coming together, this song gives way to images of hazy-colored sunsets as Plant’s voice cruises in and out of the melody. The bass line can be felt as the drums keep a steady drive going. The extra on this disc is the remix of “Little By Little” with a slightly longer, synthesized intro but that's really about it. The original sounds better.

There is nothing wrong with the music on this CD. Robert Plant has no fear when it comes to trying new genres of music and Shaken ‘n’ Stirred isn't any different. He tried to go the way of the ‘80s and did a pretty good job at it. Music back then was blowing up everywhere and by 1985 the punk craze was waning and bands like Wham and Culture Club were the big draws at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll still had a heartbeat, but it was barely alive. Robert Plant was one of the few who tried to mix the hard rock sound with the new wave sound that was winning its way through the MTV world. I give Plant kudos for trying, but I have to be honest when I say, that this CD I could do without in my collection. It’s just too ‘80s for me.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Depeche Mode: Black Celebration (Deluxe Edition CD+DVD)

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Re-issued by Rhino as a two-disk set, Depeche Mode’s fifth album, Black Celebration is truly that and I dig it. This is where the band began to make their move in a darker direction, departing from the popish sound that dominated their earlier albums. The style begun here is what the masses would come to know as the Depeche Mode sound: dark, moody, often slow and yet still danceable. At this time in their career, the band was still primarily known as an excellent live band with no more than a small cult following.

From the get-go, Black Celebration moves and doesn’t let you down. The songs selected for the album are dominated by dark, emotional lyrics and vocals, be it low-key ballads or the pulsating drive of faster, up-tempo tunes. The band’s search for new sounds and noises to incorporate into their music is still fresh and innovative; a few of the creative sounds come from motor vehicles.

The title track opens the disk and sets the stage for the rest of the album. “Black Celebration” slowly builds to a drum-driven, metallic-ping infested, danceable tune. This flows quickly into another up-tempo cut, “Fly On The Windsreen – Final.” The lyrics are conveyed with a passionate “sense of urgency” by lead vocalist David Gahan. “Death is everywhere/There are flies on the windscreen for a start/ Reminding us we could be torn apart/ Tonight,”

Track three, “A Question Of Lust” is filled with album firsts: first question-titled tune, first slow ballad, and the first time on the disk that we get to hear Martin Gore’s quiet, plaintive, smooth vocals. “Black Celebration” is also the first Depeche Mode disk on which Gore gets a chance to shine and carry more than just a cut or two.

Question song the second is the furiously paced “A Question Of Time.” This one gives off a race against time vibe as the drums move swiftly and the keyboards provide the ominous sounds of an industrial, synth-based, electric clock ticking away doom’s countdown.

“Stripped” is the song where audio creativity runs wild. The tune opens with the sound of an idling motorbike, producing a wonderful pulse and moves into a starting Porsche. Drums crash and the keyboards continue their dominance by providing more metallic pings, suction sounds, echoes and odd inhaling. The disk rounds out with the nihilistic “World Full Of Nothing,” the piano-filled “Sometimes” with its gospel-choir opening and the eerie, “early horror movie” sounds of “Dressed In Black.”

Disk two is a DVD is good for the hour-long “Depeche Mode: 1985-86,” but the extra songs fall short. It’s not the song quality or song selection by any means. I think the sound is truly awesome; the album proper is presented in 5.1 Stereo so even when the television volume was low I could hear songs loud and clear. The tracks selected are great and some of the alternate versions and B-sides are truly gems.

The problem for me is that I rarely, if ever use my DVD player and television for listening to or playing music. So the excellent bonus tracks and live cuts are pretty much lost on me. I’m sure someday Depeche Mode will put out a kick ass B-sides and rarities box set a-la The Cure’s Join The Dots. Overall, the Black Celebration re-issue is a good set with one major draw back; then again I am a bit behind the times.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Written by Hombre Divertido

Looking for a fun, flashy, frenetic, feature film? Meet The Robinsons.

Disney goes cutting edge with a movie that posses a new look, classic characters, and a good story told well. It may be cliché, but this is indeed fun for the whole family. Though the story may be a bit complicated for the younger members of your clan, the film is flashy and action packed enough to hold their attention. The adults are treated to a story that takes us back to classic tales of our youth, while giving us humor lost in recent Disney efforts such as Chicken Little and Cars.

In this tale we are introduced to Lewis, a 12-year-old inventor who lives in a home for orphans. Lewis enters the school science fair and meets Wilbur Robinson a young boy from the future who has come back to insure the success of the Lewis entry. Wilbur then whisks Lewis off to the future where he meets the rest of the interesting and eccentric Robinsons.

Not only do we get a full story, that may feel slow at the beginning to those not used to effort spent on character development, but has a solid beginning, middle, and end, and contains a clearly defined protagonist and antagonist, as well as wonderful sub-plots and characterizations. The artwork in this film stands out as it manages to give us a future reminiscent of a Flash Gordon serial of the 30’s or 40’s, but presents it with a technology that looks well ahead of its time.

To be this far into the review and not have mentioned the vocal talents should speak to just how good this film is. Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry do well to portray the innocence and intelligence of Lewis at different ages, while Wesley Singerman must have been in amazing shape required to portray the energy that is Wilbur. Though both lead performances compliment the film well, it is the supporting voices that bring the Robinsons to life that deserve the accolades. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself waiting for Uncle Art to speak just so you can hear the classic tone of Adam West.

Disney has brought new and old together here, and appears to be back on track in the field of animated film. The days of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King may be behind us, and that is indeed sad, but if this is the future, it does look bright though quite different. Let’s hope that future endeavors are this entertaining, and that we get to Meet the Robinsons again.

Recommendation: Don’t miss this in the theatre; bring the whole family, and then get in line to buy the DVD.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Written by Hombre Divertido

Though it could be called Talladega Nights on Ice, Blades of Glory will please the average Will Farrell fan.

In this outing, Farrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, the hottest thing to hit ice-skating since…well, just the hottest thing to hit ice-skating. His chief rival and polar opposite is Jimmy MacElroy played by a subdued Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame. The two tie for Gold at the American championship, a fight breaks out on the award podium, and they are both banned from the sport for life.

Jimmy becomes a skate salesman, while Chazz skates in a kiddie Ice show. Chazz’s drunken exploits on ice during the performance for the kids are some of the funniest moments in the movie. Luckily a loophole is discovered, and they can get back into professional skating if they team up as a pairs team i.e.: The Odd Couple on ice.

The situation of two men becoming a skating team while living and training together is ripe with laughter, and Blades delivers albeit at the rankest level. There are plenty of crotch shots, and Farrell strutting his stuff, and even a few well-crafted lines to keep the more creative fans happy.

If Blades lacks anything it is the ensemble cast that Farrell had around him in Anchorman. Though the performances of Heder, Craig T Nelson, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Jenna Fischer are adequate, the characters are unexplored, and subsequently overshadowed by the cameos of former ice-skating greats, or the performance of Jim Lampley as the skating announcer who has one of the funniest lines in the film.

In Anchorman Farrell was surrounded by well-developed characters played by incredibly talented actors. Though the performances of his supporting casts in Talladega Nights were good, they were not up to that of Anchorman, and the downward spiral continues in Blades. Ultimately we the viewers suffer for it.

Farrell is a strong enough actor to carry the film Stranger Than Fiction, but when doing an outrageous comedy such as this, he needs more support.

Recommendation: This film definitely has its moments, but you quite possibly will leave the theater unsatisfied. Wait for the video, and make it a double feature with Anchorman to insure a night of solid laughter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Umphrey's McGee: The Bottom Half

Written by Fumo Verde

Talk about putting magic on disc, Umphrey's McGee has done it again. Pack a fresh one, find the lighter, turn the volume up loud, and enjoy sitting courtside in the studio as you listen to the boys of UM put together another one of their fantastic CDs. The Bottom Half is all about goes deep into how one of the world’s premier jam bands puts together the music we are all coming to love.

Disc one is the ten-track CD that has the songs and jams that didn't make it on their last album Safety In Numbers, which El Bicho let me download in to my PC, but I still bought the CD because I want the liner notes and any extras that the band may have thrown in there. There are really only nine tracks because track four is the band discussing a song they want to play, which is track five, but that's just a taste of what they give us. Disc two holds the diamonds in the rough, with songs sung a cappella, short guitar jams that are discussed and will be expanded on in future shows, and other bantering amongst band mates that only studio walls usually get to hear.

Disc one starts with the title track, the unmistakable sound of UM comes alive, and I wonder why these songs didn't make it because they sound great to me. UM's lyrics have a truth to them, a meaning that comes through, giving us something to relate to. "I try not to be rude/ You know how I am/ I tend to bitch and moan..." I personally related to this line myself. "There's not a thing worth remembering when tomorrow brings someone new/ Get used to the thought you can't be what you're not, life has already got plans for you" flows the chorus, followed with the crashing of guitars, horns and drums. The keyboards smooth out the ruckus only to be chased by the flames of guitar riffs burning the song into its final embers.

Track two, “Bright Lights, Big City,” has a ‘70s funk sound as the lyrics flash images of where the band has been and what they have seen. It ends abruptly and leaves you hanging and wanting more. "Great American" follows and is a great jam because it brings in all of UM’s instruments into play, It takes you on a journey that at times feels like you're shooting the rapids of the Colorado river, yet slows down creating that lazy feel at the beach.

Disc two is where the fun really begins for the true fans. Twenty-eight tracks made up of jams and more of the band discussing what they liked and didn't like about what came out of that "last track." Starting off with “Words,” it is sung a cappella and highlights the natural harmony the men have together. No other band is so organic, so real and true to what they are.

One of my favorite tracks is called “Time Eater” and the reason why begins with the track that came before it. As the previous track’s guitar solo ended, the boys were asking the guys at the soundboard how long the solo took. When finding out the answer, the band was happy and stated that that little jam was a "time eater" and that during live shows that jam could be expanded "big time." Sounds great to me! Disc two is the jewel as you listen to songs you've heard before, but here they may sound a little different, and that's pretty cool.

This is a band that needs to be seen live; they have a relationship with the crowd that is hard to find in a world of sound bytes and one-hit wonders. This double CD reveals how a band of this caliber works and thinks. It gives insight to how a band can make music sound like it is done effortlessly. We can hear the effort these guys put into the work they love, which is music we enjoy and keep close to our souls. Thank you, Umphrey's McGee, for giving us, your fans, this chance to see how you guys put it all together. For any UM fan, this is a definite must-have.

This is Fumo letting you know the next time UM comes to L.A. or Orange County, El Bicho and I will be somewhere in the crowd puffing away and rocking out to one of the hardest-working jam bands around, Umphrey's McGee.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Written by Fumo Verde

Civil disobedience and racial profiling are just two subjects touched upon by writer-director Gabriel Range in this contemporary and controversial docu-drama Death of a President. Range and co-writer Simon Finch weave a tale of what the world has become since the attack of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, showing the rising tide of discontent in the American public towards a President and his policies--that President being George W. Bush. Using archive news footage and computer-enhanced imaging, Range and his crew blend the lines of what is real and what is not, producing a film with an eerie tone of reality.

It is a fictional story about the assassination of President George W. Bush on October 17, 2007 and what happens in the aftermath. Dick Cheney becomes President and pushes his own agenda, using the al-Queda connection and the war on terror to form a new Patriot Act, which gives the police, FBI, and other similar agencies the go-ahead to create a semi-police state. A young Muslim is arrested for the crime and after he is already convicted and sentenced by a jury, definitely not of his peers, the truth of the actual shooter if revealed. Each character that pops up to tell their part of the story gives us a viewpoint about this situation, and these viewpoints are as diverse as the country itself.

Filmed as if it were a documentary for A&E or the History Channel, Death of a President's small cast of actors did a fantastic job of portraying people who were close to the President. Like most documentaries that you see on television, interviews from those who were there and from those involved take us along for the ride. With creative computer effects and amazing editing, Range brings to life something that looks as if it happened yesterday. The footage of real demonstrations Range filmed lent to the reality of the production shots.

For example, in an interview on the extras section of the movie, Thumim stated that he had filmed a demonstration in Chicago on a certain street right at dusk. Upon meeting some of the demonstrators and mingling with them, he and Range invited them to be extras for a following shoot sometime later. That shoot took place on the same street at the same time where the real demonstration happened weeks before. The mixing of the demonstration that the production team actually filmed and the shoot that they did later added a facade of truth that brought out a gritty texture to the film and gave credence to its "realism".

The controversy arose do to the fact that they were using a sitting President as the "star" of the show. Both Republican and Democratic politicians denounced the film as outrageous and disgusting. For that alone, I consider this a movie that I will always hold dear. Not because it deals with the shooting of a President or the anger that most of the country has towards Bush, I just like anything that pisses off the Republicans and Democrats.

Generally I thought this was a well-made film, but the story, be it the assassination of Bush or any other President, although intriguing, left me wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place. It wasn't like Bush died and the whole world rejoiced until they figured out that Cheney was now in charge. The thing I like best about documentaries is the fact that you learn something when it's all over; with Death of a President I didn't feel that happened.

Yes, I understand why people are mad at the U.S. and why the world along with a good part of our own country can't stand Bush or his administration, but I knew that five years ago. Cheney becoming President should be a reality check for those screaming “impeachment;” that's a scary thought I would not like to have creep into my mind, but that's what would happen if impeachment or assassination--gods forbid--happened. I understand the reasons why Range and Finch brought this idea about and I do agree with them, yet I still feel like there was something missing in all this.

All in all I like the movie, the acting was good, the plot was interesting and it didn't run too long. If you can rent it for a dollar, and you have the extra buck then go for it. The CGI alone is worth seeing.