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Monday, November 29, 2010

15 Absolutely Terrible Novelty Songs

15. Baz Lurhman - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
A so-called fake graduation speech set to music doesn't sound like a great idea for a song.  Well, it wasn't.  Despite this song being exceptionally annoying and even a little pretentious, it was a pretty big hit.  We have to give special kudos to Chris Rock for making a funny spoof of this boring song with "No Sex In the Champagne Room".

14. 69 Boyz - Tootsie Roll
This was a mega-popular dance hit that seems to have been long since forgotten.  It is an annoying array of "whoops!" and "yeahs!" with a series of bass-heavy cut and paste riffs.  69 Boyz is one of those sad one-hit wonders that tries to hold onto fame by continuing to occasionally release an album.  Their 1998 album was hilariously titled "The Wait is Over", I wonder if anyone actually had the heart to tell these assholes that nobody was actually waiting for their comeback.

13. Vanilla Ice - Ninja Rap
In the 1990's, songs (mostly rap songs) where often themed off of characters or events surrounding the movie on which soundtrack they appear.  Ninja Rap, from the first Ninja Turtles sequel, has everyone's favorite "very" white guy dancing to the groove, pompadour bouncing around to the beat.  This song is made annoying simply by the shear shameless promotion of the film.  Hey!  I have an idea, let's pay popular musical artists to write three minute commercials for our films!  Speaking of which...

12. M.C. Hammer - Addams Groove
Like Ninja Rap, Addams Groove is a painfully uninspired, utterly silly rap song by the Hammer about the titular creepy family.  The video is actually worse than the song as it is a chaotic series of cuts from the film mixed with M.C. Hammer reacting to them, even though most of the scenes weren’t even filmed with him in mind, and anyone who's seen the movie would know that.  There are moments where the stars of the film actually appear in material filmed for the video, but it's another terrible example using the pop charts to promote a mediocre movie.  Good job Hammer!  You freaking sellout!

11. Rodney Dangerfield - Rappin' Rodney
Rodney Dangerfield is one of those stars that continued to show up in things well after his prime. Rappin' Rodney was his foray into the music world.  Back up singers refrain "No Respect, no respect" as he rambles self-deprecating punchlines that aren't funny and were definitely not written for the song, as Dangerfield doesn't even attempt to say them to the beat.

10. Falco - Rock Me Amadeus
Austria gave us Hitler.  They also gave us Falco.  Can we bomb Austria?  This amazingly pretentious artist raps his way through this new wave era puddle of vomit.  Falco sounds like he's hiccuping his lyrics as his voice bounces as though he's riding along a gravel road in a shopping cart.  The video is pretty heinous too. the opening of which has Falco traversing a ballroom floor is bad enough but when we cut to him dressed like Mozart, belting the chorus as though he's teaching us a lesson...  too much.

09. Taco - Puttin' On the Ritz
The song is bad enough.  It is a very wordy song attempting to sound like a cross between classic big-band and new wave pop and is completely abhorrent.  The video doesn't help much either.  Taco struts around a back alley, surrounded by hobos.  The singer’s makeup is so thick he looks like a mime.  Add a couple of backup singers in top hats and blackface and you have an utterly offensive disaster on multiple levels.

08. Baha Men - Who Let the Dogs Out??
Most people have heard at least the chorus of this song.  If you where unfortunate enough to go to any school where some version of canis lupus familiaris was the mascot, you probably heard its chorus at every game and rally (But only the chorus).  The song was featured on numerous commercials as well (only the chorus).  It is one of the most overexposed disasters in music history.  Those fortunate enough NOT to hear the songs reggae verses that do not seem to go with the chorus at all should not seek to hear the full version, it will haunt your dreams... I mean nightmares.  Then again, has anybody actually heard the full song?  Or has the copyright owner just parsed it all the way to “chorus-only” at this point?

07. Aqua - Barbie Girl
The 90s was the era of bad club hits, Barbie Girl is one of the more egregious examples.  Aqua's Lene Nystrom sings in squeaky detail about her life as a plastic doll while the vocal duo's more annoying half, male singer Rene Dif, grunts his way through his lines as Ken.  This is one of the worst bubblegum hits of all time, an unbearable audio kick in the ass.

06. Rick Dees - Disco Duck
I dare you to try to sit through this PoS from the first chord until the end.  You probably can't.  You have a song about a guy that turns into a duck on the dance floor.  Neat!  At its worst, the song has moments where we are treated to an unintelligible Donald Duck impression.  This song is pure torture.

05. Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers - Monster Mash
The 50's were littered with strange songs where singers would either:
a) sing in strange voices or really annoying falsetto on their songs, or
b) would name the band with a theme and stick to that theme with all of their songs.  
Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers fill both of these categories with this utterly painful classic.  This song is a favorite of either sad middle-aged people who think it's a "cute" song for a Halloween Party, or annoying friends who like to play songs to piss everyone else off.

04. Buckner & Garcia - Pac-Man Fever
Buckner & Garcia where a novelty band that appeared in the early 80s with a record comprised entirely of songs themed off of popular video games.  "Froggy's Lament" and "Do the Donkey Kong" did not chart, "Pac-Man Fever" did.  This is probably the most uninspired of any of the other songs on this list and follows a very generic sound, you know exactly where this song is going to go.  It's unbearable.

03. Sheb Wooley - Purple People-Eater
Another 1950's crap fest about a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people-eater.  The rockabilly sound is bad enough, but the strange sound effects in the song add its insidiousness.  If I could have my pick of one song that I could kill forever, so that it would never be heard again, this one would be given very careful consideration.

02. CW McCall - Convoy
Rednecks like big trucks.  That is the theme of this song about “truck drivin'” from 1975.  The song has the auditory appeal of Rosie O'Donnel in labor, sounding like an even worse version of all of the other country crap from the same time.  I hate this song, but it gets worse.  The song was so popular that in 1978 we where treated to a movie that was even worse than the song!  That only makes me hate Convoy that much more.

01. Leonard Nimoy - The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Arguably one of the worst songs ever, in any category, the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins is a bizarre display by Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy.  You are treated to a summarized story Tolkien's character's journey through Middle Earth, except, as soon as Spock starts singing, you will find yourself on suicide watch for one week. That's a promise.

Monday, November 22, 2010

After the Fat Spy...

Kill me.

Before the Fat Spy...

I'm about to watch one of the most insidious films of the 60's.  A movie so bad that it hit public domain long before its copyright went up.  This one just might kill me.  I've survived Plan 9, I stomached Eegah!, I banged my head against the wall during Leonard Part 6 and my brain shut off during Judge Dredd.  I don't know if I will make it out of this alive.  You can check on me, but I may be in convulsions before the end of the first act, if I can even tell where that is here.  Wish me luck, I'll be back with you later, I'm going to take this one in doses, I can only subject myself to so much torture at a time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some My Favorite Video Game Moments (In No Particular Order)

Shadow of the Colossus - Colossus #13: Phalanx

Up to this point, my first time playing through Shadow of the Colossus, I was already pretty sure this was my favorite Playstion 2 game ever.  However, the second this mile-long massive monster towered out of the sand, tore off into the sky, and soared above the dunes, I was like “Yep.  This is pretty much the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game.”  Then, once I figured out the death-defying feat that is bringing this thing down, I was like “Okay, I take that back.  This is the greatest thing ever!”  This was truly the epic highpoint in one of the most impressive video games ever conceived. 

Illusion of Gaia - Drifting

The 16-bit era didn’t have a lot going in the form of cutscenes.   Illusion of Gaia was about as cinematic an experience one could have at that time, and the point where Will and Kara are shipwrecked, drifting alone in open water on a piece of debris was a story point that elevated this Enix classic to more than a game, but a sort of interactive movie.  The event takes place over several days, marked by trigger events where you have to interact with different objects to progress the time (there’s a point in the game that takes place in a prison cell that is similar but not as dramatic).  Each moment the two young heroes situation grows more and more dire, and we feel for these characters in a way that we would not experience for another four years with the release of Final Fantasy VII.

Contra 3 - 3rd Boss

You arrive in a very small room with two hanging robotic Terminator skeletons.  They drop down and attack you, interestingly, they die as fast as they fell.  There’s silence, then the boss music kicks in as eight fingers break through the wall behind you, tearing it open and revealing a very big Terminator skeleton who’s head takes up most of the space you have to move around.  This fight, once you know the mechanics, isn’t really much of a challenge.  Still, the introduction is one of my favorite boss reveals of all time.

Final Fantasy X - The Wedding
At this point, we already know many of the truths about the Greek tragedy that is Final Fantasy X’s story.  Still, the Guardian’s love for and duty to the future High Summoner Yuna is unbreakable, and when they hear she is to be wed to the vile Seymore, you want them to blow Bevelle temple right into the stratosphere. It doesn’t happen that way, of course, and the events that begin with the characters grinding down the steel anchor supports form Cid’s airship, landing amidst hundreds of Yevon’s soldiers, and facing the evil Maesters at the top of the temple’s epic staircase is intense.  The point at which Yuna builds up the courage to jump off of the top of the tower, summoning Valefor on the way down to rescue her from a messy gravity-induced death, is breathtaking.

Half Life 2 - Meeting Alyx

Down the hall of a decrepit building, you get owned by a Combine baddie and get knocked out.  Don’t worry you’re not dead… wait… Is that an aaaangel????  No.  It’s Alyx Vance, all around butt-kicker-chick with a dopey headband.  She greets you, introduces herself, and becomes an important ally throughout the game’s story.  This is a simple, quick moment, but Alyx is such a great character, it’s impossible not to include her.

Psychonauts - The Milkman Conspiracy

Psychonauts is an epically funny game, and the Milkman Conspiracy level is one of the most bizarre examples of Tim Schafer’s brilliance.  It’s bizarre because it has creepy zombie girl scouts going on about some Milkman as if they where headed to an oil drum filled with laced punch, it’s brilliant because the street turns upside down while you walk on it.  This hole level is counted as a moment because it is one the greatest examples of strange humor and ingenious level design.

Uncharted 2 - Chole meets Elena

Uncharted 2 is a wonderfully cinematic experience.  It’s probably the best written game of the current generation and the character’s interactions are so natural, it’s easy to forget they aren’t real.  Drake works with Chloe early in the story, and in the city you bump into good old Elena Fisher, reporter and all around pain in the ass, but you still love her.  When the two meet for the first time, it is a very awkward moment as Nate is trapped between the new girl and the last girl.  Elena even introduces herself as “last year’s model,” completely unsurprised by Nathan Drake’s finding of a new “leading lady.”

Five Worst Things to Ever Happen to Movies

There are a lot of things that have been used to make movies bad over the years (bad promotion stunts, tabloid controversy, Pauly Shore), but there are five that really bug me.  These five things make me dread going to the movies, I often face-palm in their presence, and they are often deal-breakers for me, making me instantly hate the movie I’m watching.  Sorry if you don’t like the list, but to speak for this list (because I wrote it): the feeling is mutual.

5. Animals
Over the Hedge (2006; Dreamworks)
    Okay.  So movies with talking animals do well.  Why?  Kids seem to gravitate to anthropomorphism as though it where Ritalin.  They are mesmerized by the fact that that a dog, cat, horse, pigeon, marmoset, or any other non-human creature is speaking English.  This appears everywhere: in movies, television, games, books, comics…  Every-freaking-where!  It’s not the animals that bother me so much as how they are presented.  Disney is responsible for this nonsense, and I will never forgive him for it.  Disney was often able to do it right, with charm and good animation (well, not so good anymore but… we’ll get to that shortly).  

     Some live-action movies used animals as characters and they weren’t always bad.  Films like Bringing Up Baby and National Velvet were animal movies that felt natural, but in movies  like Dumbo and Pinocchio audiences where subjected to singing foxes and dancing mice.  These, incidentally where creatures most Americans made a point to kill or repel at first sight, but we are teaching our kids that they sing?  What the HELL is wrong with people?  If my dog suddenly broke out into song and dance I would check myself into the hospital, and fast.

4. Dubbing
I hate you Godfrey Ho.
     Most of the classic foreign films, such as the works of Akira Kurosawa and Fritz Lang, used subtitles to present the story to those of us who are not fluent in their native languages.  Across the bottom of the screen, text would provide a rough translation of what the actors are saying, while we became engaged by the events on screen.   Yet, despite having to read while we watch what’s going on, subtitles are usually not at all distracting to those of us who are used to watching foreign cinema.  It’s a sort of strange phenomenon that you are reading, and you know it, yet you don’t notice you’re doing it.  It’s sort of automatic and natural.

     However, Hollywood found (as they usually do) a way to screw this up.  The dreaded English Dub.  99.999999% of the time, the dubbing is unbearable.  The actors that provide the English voices sound nothing like their onscreen counterparts should and the mouth movements have never matched up well at all.  The only exception to this is foreign animation, as this is easily masked because the characters’ mouths are not speaking naturally (normally they just flap open and shut).  Still, when you watch a b-grade kung fu flick circa 1978, and you hear the terrible dubs over the original soundtrack, you can’t help but laugh.  My personal favorite is when the mousey-voiced guy dubs the big fat dude.  Classically terrible.

3. Ledges
Vertigo (1958; Paramount Pictures)
     Hollywood never found a ledge it didn’t want to hang an actor from.  Thanks a lot Hitchcock!

     Vertigo used the idea of a fatal fall to build tension, and to create truly suspenseful scenes.  Nobody could make you fear for a character’s life more than Alfred Hitchcock.  Still, ever since that piece of perfect cinema had its leading man (James Stewart... Duh!) hanging fearfully from a ledge, we have seen this scene over and over again.  At this point, since the end result is about as original as opening credits, there is no suspense.  None.  None at all.  It worked with Hitchcock because he was notorious for killing off big stars in his movies without a flinch, so we said to ourselves: “Is he really going to die?”  Now we watch Denzel dangle or Statham swing and just think: “Okay, now just get up and throw the guy off already.”

     There are a lot of ways these clichéd scenes play out, but they typically boil down to a few basic categories:  1)  Guy A chases Guy B across the roof, Guy A jumps and makes it, Guy B jumps and slips, he ends up hanging by his fingertips; 2)  Guy A throws Guy B off roof and Guy B is hanging.  Guy A stomps on fingers, or uses a pole to jab (if pole is used Guy B will usually grab the pole and use it to pull Guy A off);  3) Character will fall, but instead of dying, will hit a number of objects on the way down, kind of like a human Plinko game.  Don’t worry, the Guy is fine;  4) Guy A is hanging, Guy B gives a monologue.  Now, those aren’t all of the scenes I know, but those are common examples.

2. Product Placement and Tie-Ins
     This is the worst example of shamelessness in corporate cinema.  Nothing sucks you out of an experience like flagrant commercial promotion of a product.  The worst offenders are the soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  Other industries who refused to pass up sticking their products into mediocre Summer blockbusters include national pizza chains, car manufacturers, and the worst offender of all, video game companies. 

     This was at its absolute worst in the late 80’s into the 90’s, but it’s still very prevalent today, often appearing more subtle.  Back in the day, you would go to your local Burger King and there would be ads for a major summer flick everywhere (there still are but not like back then) and then, you would go to the theatre, by a soda, and on the cup would be the movie, with a Burger King logo, then the movie would start and we would be hit with one Burger King logo after another.  It’s painful…  And sad.  Some of the most notorious offenders are the Wizard, which was essentially a 2-hour Nintendo advert, and Leonard: Part 6, which might have put its stars into diabetic comas from all of the Coke they consumed in the various “dialogue” scenes.

1. Computer Animation
     This is the biggie.  I know this is going to piss a lot of people off, so before you start ranting, I don’t care.  I really don’t.  I know what movies are good and what aren’t.  This is what I do.  I am a movie aficionado, trust me, I’m a professional.  Well, not really a professional but you get the picture. 

     CGI: Computer Generated Imaging.  It was a medium of special effects that showed promise in its infancy.  We saw movies like Jurassic Park, Jumanji, and Toy Story and said, this is going to just get better and better.  We watched in amazement as T-1000 melted and took the form of the actor he was standing next to in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  To go even further back, Tron gave us a taste of the 3D world few had only read about in niche science magazines.  It was wonderful!  So WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!?!?!?!?!

     It’s simple.  With the boom of the world of technology that just exploded in the late 90’s, we saw thousands of new little 3D modelers pop up from various sci-tech schools and one studio after another begin pumping out CGI-laden crap.  We saw disasters like Lost In Space, the Star Wars Prequels (and Special Editions), and silly uninteresting monsters in movies like Godzilla and the Jurassic Park sequels.  With all of the technology, one thing became apparent over time: the animation was getting… worse?

     As we saw the world of video games get prettier and prettier, the animation in movies seemed to digress.  Eventually a few directors decided to just do away with actual sets altogether and just film the whole damn movie in CGI.  The most obvious example is the CGI fetishistic bore-fest that was Avatar (or as I like to call it “Dances With Wolves: The Blue Edition”).  With all the money, time, and resources that went into making the Na’vi “human,” it was lost in the dreaded Uncanny Valley (and extremely uncomfortable “love scenes“). 

     So there you have it, my top five of a laundry list of clichés, and gimmicks that Hollywood has used to make movies worse and worse through the years.  Now before you FREAK OUT and start bombing your keyboard with your sticky and strangely aromatic fingers, you should know, this list is MY opinion.  You are more than welcome to share yours, but I probably won’t read them, because that’s just the kind of person I am.  So blatantly defending Avatar or Burger King ads in movies would be a sad waste of your time.  You can share for the other people who may read this and think “This guy doesn’t know what he is talking about.”, but just know, nobody reads this blog, so you’re wasting your time there too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The First Post: Why You Care.

     There are a lot of blogs online.  Millions.  So many of them are locked into a niche that keeps their laser pointer appeal focused on ideas like The Rod Stewart London Concert Blog and How Celebrities Celebrate St. Patrick's Day which leave their audience sort of... limited.  You aren't like the readers of those articles, however.  You are better than them!  Yeah!  I said it!  You see you have an understanding that the opinions of one asshole such as myself matter when they cover the things you actually care about.  That's why you clicked on the title right?  Now, if you are one of those people who know me, and are reading this to shut me up about it, you just wasted your time reading the above sentence and that is your punishment for thinking to yourself "I really don't give a crap what this is about."'

     So who am I? Where do my opinions come from?  All of these will slowly be revealed over time, but I will say I am a Libra, I am a musician, artist, and all around self-important jerk.  You'll find that out the first time I go on a rant about the Wii or Shia LaBeouf, but if you are a Wii or Shia LaBeouf enthusiast, God help you, and the Shia LeBeouf Playing Wii Blog can be found here.  (If you ARE Shia, then please read this.)

Now that you have a deeper understanding of why my opinion is more important than yours, you will continue to read this, salivating into the crevasses of your keyboard awaiting my next oh-so-important post.  With each post, a gift, and with each gift, you learn more about stuff you already knew; because that's what blogs are for, to reinforce the fact that you like something, by reading over and over stuff you already knew about that something.

Ok, I realize this preceding did not actually explain anything that will be in this blog, so if you are still curious, READ THE FREAKING TITLE!

I mean...  Really?