Suspended Animation (Asking Alexandria, Asking Alexandria review)

It’s evolution baby.

And if you think an old dog can’t perform new tricks, you haven’t seen what a day at home alone and the treat of steak will do as a motivating factor.

If you’re still confused what that means for this weeks Watch Culture review, maybe just ask?

 

 

Asking Alexandria – Asking Alexandria

released December 15, 2017
******* 7/10

Asking Alexandria are an English rock band, comprised of lead vocalist Danny Worsnop (returning after a short one album deparature), guitarists Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell, drummer James Cassells and bassist Sam Bettley.

Initially formed in 2006 by Ben Bruce, the band evolved into a six piece in 2008 and then adjusted their lineup one more time before their debut album in 2009 – Stand Up and Scream. Asking Alexandria released two more full length albums Reckless & Relentless (2011) and From Death to Destiny (2013), before the departure of Worsnop in January 2015. At that time Denis Stoff and the rest of the band released The Black in 2016. But Stoff didn’t last very long and left the band within the year, with Worsnop returning to lead live performances before his official return. And so we arrive at the fifth album and what a doozy it is. It’s self-titled and a very hard turn away from previous efforts, but it feels oh so fresh.

For starters, the self-titled album is much less metalcore and much more melodic hard rock in sound. When you listen to track no. 2 Into the Fire, you’ll immediately notice how they’ve dialed back on the guitars, and tried to fill that void with more electronics. Yes I ignored the track opener, which I’ll get back to in a second, because Into the Fire is the first single, and a signal that these guys have converted to full on arena rock.

Alone in a Room is a hallmark of high end production, multi layered sonics, and thoughtful lyrics, a typical hype machine to get you started with the tone of the rest of the record. Under Denver follows similar notes at the midpoint, and is a welcome pick me up.

The third and fourth songs are a bit of a wash (Hopelessly Hopeful, Where Did It Go?), with Where Did It Go? being particularly self-congratulatory… but when we get past the ego stroking, the next rack, Rise Up, is a sobering moment and way more naturally motivating to listen to.

 

For all of the effort to move away from their original successes, Worsnop and the rest of Asking Alexandria do make a point to nod to their past. When The Lights Come On features a lyrics form Stand Up, and Room 138‘s chorus is the same melody as the bridge from another song on that first record. On top of that, Room 138 is an excellent unofficial closer with lots of emotions packed into 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

 

Pros: Later tracks seem to fit the bill and redeem this tonal shift. Vultures, When the Lights Come On and Room 138 are all very enjoyable to listen to, and Under Denver will also grow on you if you give it some time.

Cons: Eve should have been a demonstration that Asking Alexandria still ‘had it,’ but the vocal work and backing instrumentals don’t stand up (pun not intended) and comes across weakly. Ironic given that it was the first song recorded. And I love combining rap and rock as much as the next guy, but Empire is hokey at best and offensive at worst.

Runtime: 47 minutes

Points of Interest: This is their first album working with producer Matt Good, a staple in the post-hardcore community. And Taylor Larson mixed the record, which is excellent, because because he played with Good in the band From First to Last for a couple of years.

It’s obvious that these guys enjoy making music together, and their creativity is alive and well, even if not all of the new songs gel well together. This is not the renewal of a sound we’ve heard before, and that’s going to upset some purists. But I really enjoyed the anthemic tone set and the risks they’ve taken to make this record, even if it doesn’t all work together perfectly.

theories Summarized

A great album to celebrate the return of Worsnop and an opportunity for them to explore a direction to take in this next chapter, deciding to self-title the album was a symbolic move and I appreciate the thought. I have a theory that this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Asking Alexandria. But I won’t tell.

Tim!

Why The 1970s Are Inspiring Films Today (Cross Talk Ep. 30)

There are definite echoes and recurrences of the 1970s cropping up in film.

It was a time of very serious filmmaking, when grit and resourcefulness were championed, emotions were raw and characters had very simple motivations. You killed my partner? I’m coming after you. We can’t make our marriage work? Let’s get divorced. Our crew needs to get home from the edge of the universe? There’s time to investigate an alien spacecraft.

Tensions were high, politics was laden with so many revolutions – sexuality, gender equality, television, nationalism, race relations. But at the core of it all were stories about characters, and the depth of field pushed backdrops to the edge of our attention.

For the sake of argument, I’m just going to quickly list off a bunch of famous films from that timeframe to demonstrate my point. Ready? Here we go. Star Wars, Jaws, The Exorcist, Alien, The French Connection, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, All The President’s Men, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, MASH, Apocalypse Now, Annie Hall, Rocky, A Clockwork Orange, Halloween, The Deer Hunter, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Carrie, Serpico, Chinatown, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sure I didn’t select comedies like The Muppet Movie and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but even those movies featured Nazis and a frog legs merchant. And were weird as shit. I’ll let you figure out which villain was for which film. Yes, there were complex films like Airport, but on that note, disaster films, exploitation and “B movies” were prominent in a decade of civil unrest. Any of this sounding familiar yet?

As we start to look back on the 2010s, I can see that there is a definite correlation in critical filmmaking and so we have some spiritual successors to 1970s classics. Movies like A Ghost Story mimic the epistemological 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Logan channels Badlands, The Man with No Name trilogy and so many other flicks like Five Easy Pieces. But maybe Baby Driver was more your speed, creative cuties? What about The Driver, The Italian Job (technically the 1960s, but just barely), and Smokey and the Bandit?

You know what, just watch the latest episode and decide for yourself if we are entering into a second renaissance of 1970s minimalism in film. AKA the return of the 1970s.

Cool right? Yeah, its a great idea to explore how themes repeat themselves over time, and yes there still plenty of examples of films inspired by the 1980s, but I have to wonder if anybody else is noticing this connection?

I hope you enjoyed watching this episode as much as Chris and I enjoyed recording it. But you know what we love more? Comments! Shares! And new subscribers! Check back in a day for an album review and a theory on why metal music gets better as you age.

Tim!

Home Improvement (My New House and Other House Keeping Thoughts)

Where I came from, holding a door open for a stranger was absolutely necessary (especially the elderly), and minding your parents wishes at all times expected, but I also had the great privilege of choosing my career path, focusing on creative acts and experimenting with belief systems as I grew up.

A strange combination of conservative Christian roots and post-modern ideals indeed, dear readers.

Now, in case you are wondering what my interpretation of that lifestyle could possibly look like, I’ll start by telling you some of my thoughts on living life. I have strong tendencies towards moral relativism and pluralistic truth-finding, while my creative energy is highly self-referential and irreverent – this is likely why I gravitate towards satire. And satire is best represented in popular culture (in my humble opinion of course). Also, my humour is starkly dry, and I hate injustice of any kind, so satire lends itself well to those values. But on the other side of that coin, I am fiercely loyal to maintaining family traditions, believe in the importance of a cultivated education that never ends, and I will happily defend that etiquette, discipline, and spirituality have their place in properly developing a human being. Even more-so as I step off the singles ledge and into the deep-end of parenthood.

It might seem contradictory to have those combination of beliefs, but I think of it this way, we should carve out what doesn’t work, always holding onto the core pieces that give us structure.

Also, there is an old adage about sweeping your own front door before you sweep the entryways of others, which make perfect sense to me. It’s a universal truth about minding your own business, that we shouldn’t assume to know the first thing about someone. We live in a world today that is very quick to judge or pass judgment on others without looking at ourselves first. We are quick to judge people based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, how they make an income, what their income level is, based on where they live and even based on their past life experiences.

But life is way too involving to waste time and energy on what other people are working through. I really can’t see how you would ever run out of things to do to improve yourself, which is likely why I happen to think of houses as marvellous objects and excellent metaphors for change.

Tool Time

As you may know, I’ve been making lots of changes to this brand ever since I started this timotheories business back in November 2014, and for many, it seems like a natural progression to buy property after a certain period of time renting a space. Many people rent for a few years and then pick up a mortgage when they’ve tucked enough savings away.

I decided to to buy a property too. But I did it because I want to have more freedom over my daily life

Buying a house meant finding a mortgage broker who would approve a loan, searching through hundreds of listings, and then viewing more then twenty of them, before finally making an offer. After I put my offer on the table, I was approved. Which meant I could move forward with the next step – I had an inspection of the property done, I put down a deposit,  worked with my insurance company to set up the house insurance, got the lawyer to draw up some paperwork on the sale of the house, and finally closed on the deal.

As I mentioned already, I bought this particular house for a few reasons, one of which was to convert the bi-level bungalow property into two rental units. And I’ve already started that process by replacing the old furnaces and hot water tank with brand new energy efficient models. You see creative cuties, I want to rent both properties and luckily the house came with two furnaces; furnaces that were 20 years old mind you. So rather then continue a string of repairs and having to coordinate with handymen, I signed up for a lifetime warranty plan and replaced those machines. That way I can just give any heating and plumbing concerns over to Always Heating and Plumbing whenever a tenant has an issue. For free. No surprise bills, and the annual maintenance schedule should help keep them alive for many years.

theories Summarized

I also want to pay off the house faster, and turn the house into a source of passive income. That way, if either Mysticque and I lose our jobs, we still have money coming in which could be used to buy another property, build a studio over the garage of our primary residence, or any number of big expenses. It’s a lot of work, but as I’ve said before, home improvement is essential if you want to make a difference in this world. You work with what you’ve been given, but each of us has an opportunity to improve on what came before, by mixing the old and the new.

And if you can keep up that habit, you’ll find you don’t even have time look at your neighbours house, let alone try to sweep up their front step. Leave that mess to the Jones’ and start planning to put in your hot tub instead. Just a theory to consider.

Tim!

 

One Flight Stand (American Made review)

Criminal activity always seems oh so sexy, doesn’t it dear readers? But I swear it isn’t until the bitter end of the barrel that the people who live this way become regretful of their actions. A tale as old as time, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

 

American Made (2017)

Cast: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Caleb Landry Jones, Alejandro Edda, Mauricio Mejia, Fredy Yate Escobar
Director: Doug Liman
released on blu-ray January 2, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Audience Score 79%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Doug Liman is an American director and producer. He’s made Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper, and The Wall, but he is best known for Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity, Fair Game, and Edge of Tomorrow – because those last five movies are good and the others are just eh. Friends with Jon Favreau, he made Swingers for $250,000 and it made $4.4 million, launching the careers of its actors and Liman.

He also shot that commercial for Nike of Tiger Woods bouncing a ball on his club repeatedly before driving it. Just so you know that he is capable of both brilliance and drivel, he also made the garbage fire starring Hayden Christensen, known simply as Jumper.

Thankfully American Made is an excellent film.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the late 1970s, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a pilot for commercial airline TWA, is contacted by CIA case officer, calling himself Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). He asks Seal to fly clandestine reconnaissance missions for the CIA over Central America using a small plane with cameras installed.

Later in the 1970s, Schafer asks Seal to start acting as a courier between the CIA and General Noriega (Alberto Ospino) in Panama. During a mission, the Medellín Cartel picks Seal up and asks him to fly cocaine on his return flights to the United States. Seal accepts and starts flying the cartel’s cocaine to Louisiana. The CIA turns a blind eye to the drug smuggling, but the DEA tracks Seal down. To avoid the authorities, Schafer moves Seal and his family to a remote town in Arkansas called Mena.

Later, Schafer asks Seal to run guns to the Nicaraguan Contras based in Honduras, Central America. Seal soon realizes that the Contras are not serious about the war and starts trading the guns to the cartel. The CIA set up a Contra training base in Mena and Seal flies the Contras in, but many of them escape as soon as they arrive.

Seal’s freeloading brother-in-law JB (Caleb Landry Jones) moves in, needing a job. Eventually, he starts stealing money from the Seals and is caught by Sheriff Downing (Jesse Plemons) with a briefcase full of laundered cash and is arrested. Seal gives him money and a plane ticket to Bora Bora so he can leave. JB demands weekly cash and insults Lucy. Barry tries to chase him but JB’s car explodes; it is implied Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) had JB’s car rigged with explosives, killing him so that he would not snitch.

Eventually, the CIA shuts the program down and abandons Seal, who is arrested by the FBI, DEA, ATF and Arkansas State Police simultaneously. Seal escapes prosecution by making a deal with the White House, which wants evidence the Sandinistas are drug traffickers. They ask Seal to get photos that tie the Medellín Cartel to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Seal manages to get the pictures, but the White House releases them as propaganda against the Sandinistas. Seal is prominently shown in the pictures, which leads to his arrest, and to the cartel plotting revenge.

Seal is convicted but given a light sentence, 1,000 hours community service for the Salvation Army. Moving from motel to motel fails as a way of remaining in hiding because the community service is performed at the same building every night. Assassins sent by Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) and the cartel easily locate Seal and kill him; the CIA then destroys all documentation and other evidence to avoid being implicated in drug smuggling. But in spite of this Herculean effort at covering everything up the CIA still becomes embroiled in the infamous Iran–Contra affair.

This is not a film of historical accuracy, the real Barry Seal was an obese man, who got his start smuggling marijuana and eventually upgrading to cocaine with the Medellin Cartel. He was not kidnapped by the Cartel, and he didn’t meet them in person until many years later, and he definitely didn’t crash land in suburbia. But that doesn’t stop if from being incredibly entertaining and well crafted to emulate the life that Seal led.

Tom Cruise always oozes charm, but this film just might be one of his better performances in the past couple of years. Yes he does great things in the Mission Impossible franchise, but something about working Liman gets that right mix of crazy and fun (read: Edge of Tomorrow). It’s a movie about drugs, guns, and a soldier of fortune, and it all works with the handycam voiceovers Seal supplies.

Pros: It looks like it was filmed in the 1980s, and the cheeriness of the film helps offset the grim nature of it’s subject matter, and the eventual death of Seal. Bonus points for Domhnall Gleeson and Sarah Wright as supporting cast, they do everything to elevate Cruise and play off him perfectly.

Cons: The peril that Barry Seal faced running drugs and guns never truly seems real on the screen, you don’t believe he’s in danger, until he actually is. Pablo Escobar doesn’t seem that scary either, and we all know better.

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Points of Interest: The man Barry speaks to in the hallway is George W. Bush, son of Vice President George W. H. Bush.. The title originally began filming under the title Mena. No one actually takes any cocaine in the movie, unless you count Tom Cruise wearing it after the crash.

It’s playful but shallow, and that’s where the movie struggles to maintain a perfect level of escapism, but if you can ignore the historical inaccuracies, and many won’t even bother to look into it, then you’ll very likely enjoy yourself watching this flick. It’s a period piece that sets a good standard for what a late summer blockbuster should look like.

theories Summarized

In short, yes I think you should watch American Made. Tom Cruise still has lots of star power to offer when he gets handed the right roles, and Doug Liman does an excellent job recreating the world leading up to the Iran-Contra scandal.

And for even more fun… you should watch my solo Watch Culture video review of The LEGO Batman Movie! I’ve got lots of love for this movie from 2017… so much so that I did both a blog post and then came back for the video version. Check it out! And don’t forget to leave a comment, subscribe and share!

I’ll see you tomorrow with my first School Of Thoughts post (formerly known as Wisdom Wednesdays).

Tim!

Transcendental Model (Miguel, War & Leisure review)

So much protest, so much hate, so much to consider.

But also so much to celebrate.

There’s this theory (most would saw governing law!) in science about energy and how it can exist in a variety of forms, such as electrical, mechanical, chemical, thermal, or nuclear, and can be transformed from one form to another. I’m hoping this week’s artist can help transform sociological conditions into something a little more positive.

 

 

Miguel – War & Leisure

released December 1, 2017
********* 9/10

Miguel Jontel Pimentel, better known as Miguel, is an American signer, songwriter, actor and producer.

Son of a Mexican American father and an African American mother, he has been deeply invested in music from a young age; dancing to all of the R&B, funk, hip hop, jazz and classic rock that his parents introduced him to. He later switched gears as a teenager and began to dabble in creating music. While most kids were experimenting with sex and drugs in high school, Miguel was focused on learning about studio production, and by the time he graduated from high school, he auditioned for the production company Drop Squad.

After some learnings, he signed with Black Ice Records in 2004, but ultimately walked away to pursue an authentic look and sound. Then in 2007 he landed a deal with Jive Records and was finally ready to release his debut album, but was sued by Black Ice and had to wait another three years over a contract dispute.

Despite all of this, his debut album, All I Want Is You (2010), was a sleeper hit that garnered him much attention and success, against it’s limited promotion at the time of distribution.

That’s a lot of exposition.

And we haven’t even gotten to the dissolution of Jive Records, which resulted in Miguels move to RCA, and the release of Kaleidoscope Dream. This sophomore effort was a critical success, won him a Grammy and incidentally led to the generation of an internet meme (the Miguel Leg Drop). This third album, Wildheart, was also pretty good, but there aren’t a lot of nuggets there… so let’s move onto War & Leisure.

The first single Sky Walker is one of my favourites, with it’s upbeat tone and springbreak attitude, and like a good drink, it pairs well with the seventh track Told You So. That one could likely be another single later on, with it’s inverse of emotions. Pineapple Skies and Banana Clip both have a very California vibe to them, which makes sense given Miguel’s LA childhood.

Wolf has so much passion, that I couldn’t help but consider it as another of the must-haves. I’m a sinner, a savage, but mostly I’m a wolf. Yeah you are buddy, yeah you are. Blues and fierce. And if you like blues, check out Caramelo Duro.

Harem is a love song heavy on the bass and electronics, sans the gouda. And check out Anointed if you want it even more passionate, eat your heart out Fifty Shades of Grey. But at this point it’s obvious that Miguel is a capable lover, and a sympathetic one too (see Criminal, City of Angels), but this isn’t just a leisure album, it’s one of combat too. It’s a comeback of the best regard and we’re all along for the ride.

Pros: I love The Weeknd just as much as anybody, and especially as a Canadian. For he channels Michael Jackson pop oh so well, but now I don’t ever have to wonder what it would sound like if Prince and MJ set a play date.

Cons: Unfortunately I’m not quite sure where to place Come Through and Chill. It’s laid-back and very R&B, but the booty call element reminds me too much of R. Kelly and it’s out of place against the rest of the sex positive messaging.

Runtime: 48 minutes

Points of Interest: Miguel regularly practices transcendental meditation for balancing his life, and has been with model Nazanin Mandi since 2005, and in 2016 they announced their engagement. Now is the closing track on the album, but the first song that was worked on.

It’s always difficult to write a good review without spoiling the album for my audience dear readers. But thankfully, I’m struggling to put into words how much I enjoyed listening to this all week in a cold January (while I struggled with furnace problems, no less). Miguel manages to hit that sweet spot between entertainer and messenger this time around.

theories Summarized

Yes is the answer. The question is, should you buy this? I’m not even going to entertain the question of when. I have this theory we can continue to expect great things from Mr. Pimentel, transcendental even.

Tim!