Witches Brew (1959, 1964, 2008) by the New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by Alexander Gibson

Categories: 2008 and Music.

This is one of those “Spooky classical” things that is generally entertaining but hardly anything more. It’s a good (but obvious) selection of famous “spooky” pieces, primarily from the Romantic era. The wife and I attended one of these types of things with the TSO one Halloween a few years ago and the selection wasn’t all that different (they just included some Bernard Hermann). I am not really a fan of these types of collections, but at least this one has a clear, definite them to it, unlike so many others. The CD version adds two pieces from later recording Read More

Granados: Goyescas; Allegro de concierto; Danza lenta (1990) by Alicia de Larrocha

Categories: 1990 and Music.

This is a performance that pairs the Goyescas with two earlier pieces, one a complete piece for piano, and the other a dance excerpted from his first major work. It seems de Larrocha is the Granados interpreter, as his catalogue is just full of her performances. The Allegro is pleasant but I wouldn’t pay much attention to it off by itself if it weren’t included with the rest of the program. The dance feels like it was included to pad out the program, as it’s just thrown in (and it’s so short it’s kind of hard to know why they Read More

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, Rupert Wyatt)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is the second attempt at “rebooting” the Planet of the Apes series and, I must assume, the more successful (since the Burton remake hasn’t let to other films). It is apparently intended as a prequel to the original film, and not as a straight-up remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, of which it is kind of similar to (a film I saw, perhaps in part only, something like a decade and a half ago). I haven’t seen any of the original films in ages, but this certainly feels like a serious attempt to make a better Read More

Faust (1994) by Charles Gounod, performed by Hadley, Gasdia, Ramey, Mentzer, Agache, Fassbaender, Welsh National Opera conducted by Carlo Rizzi

Categories: 1994 and Music.

I keep telling myself I don’t like French opera and I keep stumbling on to operas that I kind of like. I understand (I think) why this has fallen on hard times: it’s super long, it’s over the top, and nobody knows which version to perform. (The notes claim this is close to definitive, but who the hell knows?) But honestly, I like my operas over the top, and this one feels so much less obvious than the Bizet-type thing. I know I’m a huge snob about this kind of thing, but I can’t help myself. This is idiosyncratic enough Read More

Jazz (2001, Ken Burns)

Categories: 2001 and TV.

Jazz is a noble attempt to be the defining documentary about jazz, “America’s art music” and one of the greatest things to happen in human history, in my humble opinion. Burns has assembled his usual materials – pictures, quotes, historians, contemporary music – to go along with video clips and reminiscences due to the fact that much of this music was performed when it could be recorded either by audio alone or by audio and film. And it should be commended that the tried to do this, just like Burns should be commended for his other long-form documentary projects. But Read More

OU818 (1989) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This demo, their last before their major deal, starts out as a not very funny parody of a hip hop mix tape. Most of the actual musical material made it to the debut, and a lot of it is somewhat close to the sound of said debut, minus the production: the sound is clearly not up the Warner debut quality but also there is ample evidence that the band needed a producer (as in a person who would edit their work and tell them what works and what wouldn’t). And that may seem like an odd thing given that their Read More

Europa Report (2013, Sebastian Cordero)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a well-intentioned “hard” science fiction film that is hampered severely by the found footage technique – which, in 2013, is really, really tired – mixed with a Timecode-esque use of split screens, about zero budget, and some giant leaps in logic that such a “hard” science fiction film isn’t supposed to have. I admire these people for trying to make an intelligent space thriller, even through their “space” is nothing in comparison to the “space” of Gravity. But the budget is really limiting: the CGI is routinely terrible – the solar storm looks horrid – and all the Read More

The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny (1986) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Bungle’s first demo shows very little of the signs of their late demos that they were something unique in music, reviving a sound that had been dead since the late ’60s. And that’s weird. The demo is almost totally straight-up Metallica / Anthrax, albeit with a sense of humour that those bands never had. (Also, I hear Motorhead, but that comes through the Metallica influence. And there’s a death metal influence, I think.) The production quality is terrible. Only two songs on the album suggest this is not your typical thrash metal band: “Hypocrites”, a sort of ska pop song Read More

Bowel of Chiley (1987) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This second Bungle demo is a lot closer to their “mature” sound than the first (if you can call early ’90s Bungle “mature”) but they kind of sound like a metal-influenced Camper van Beethoven on crack here. I guess that doesn’t give full credit to their weirdness – even at this early stage they were significantly weirder than CVB, but if CVB really was an influence on Bungle (and I can’t help but think they were) this demo reeks of that influence more than anything else they ever recorded. It’s way crazier than CVB ever got, but it’s also a Read More

Goddammit I Love America (1988) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1988 and Music.

For me, this is the first Bungle demo that really sounds like Bungle, rather than a bunch of guys who would turn into Bungle later. A lot of that has to do with the presence of songs that make the debut, but they sound a lot better – more coherent, more obviously themselves instead of a Metallica- or Camper van Beethoven-wannabes, and just way more like the band I fell in love with. This is still pretty rough – they were still a ways from refining their very unique sound (and you could argue the debut was still very unrefined) Read More

Homefront (2013, Gary Fleder)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

Statham once again plays an inexplicably British American ex-whatever (insert: cop, soldier, FBI agent, etc.) who, via some kind of misunderstanding, finds himself at odds with his new community. In this film he has a daughter somehow – we don’t know how – and so it’s his daughter that causes the initial misunderstanding. Statham and daughter try to warn them, but these people just never listen. I mean, he doesn’t want to beat the shit out of everyone, but if he has to, he will. Franco is miscast as the bad guy – though he tries hard – and Ryder Read More

Cujo (1983, Lewis Teague)

Categories: 1983 and Movies.

I have never read any Stephen King, but I assume the reason he has so many fans is that his stories spend a long time on character development and sense of place – a sense that these are real people in real situations. And I must presume that this is what makes his horror work for so many people. But I must admit that with the exception of Kubrick’s version of The Shining, I do not find the film adaptations of his stories and novels to be scary in any way, shape or form. And a lot of time when Read More

Music in 1812

Categories: 1812 and Music.

This post will be expanded in the future. 1. Ludwig van Beethoven: “Allegretto in B-flat major for piano trio” WoO 39 aka Piano Trio No. 19 (9/10) I need to listen to this one a few more times before I can give a fair assessment. Read More

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: Bodie, Kontiola, Santorelli

Categories: Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

I’ve been busy lately and didn’t have time to comment on the Leafs signings of last week. Well, now’s the time: Leafs Re-Sign Troy Bodie, RW, 29, $600,000 for one year Last season: 3G, 7A for 10P, +5 in 47 games, 8:37 ATOI; Career: 9G, 12A for 21P -10 in 154 games, 8:40 ATOI; 82-game average: 5G, 7A for 11P, -5. Bodie had one of his best seasons, despite only playing 47 games, and so I guess the price is right. But this is a minor, minor player. Leafs Sign Petri Kontiola, C, 29, $1.1 mil for 1 year 5A for Read More

Why I Gave Up on Big Love (2006)

Categories: 2006 and TV.

I just finished the second season of Big Love, and I am giving up. I don’t need to watch the other three seasons. I’m not sure the people who made the show really knew what they wanted it to be. At the times the show seems to be an attempt at making a less profound, polygamist version of Six Feet Under, but at other times the show feels like a farcical dark comedy or dramedy. And the tone seems to swing wildly from episode to episode, or even within individual episodes. But the other issue is the excess of characters Read More

Why I Gave Up on Sons of Anarchy (2008)

Categories: 2008 and TV.

I had heard good things about Songs of Anarchy from various people before the wife and I finally got around to watching it sometime last year. She liked the first season a lot more than me – I found it over the top, soap opera-y, but at least it was entertaining. But the second season feels like a complete retread of the first, with more drama – this time internal – that is resolved in the most ridiculous Deus ex Machina kind of way. (I guess it’s technically not Deus ex Machina, since we the audience new about it from Read More

String Quartet; So You Want to Right a Fugue; Shostakovitch; Poulenc (1997 Compilation)

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I really like Gould’s quartet. I know it’s not the most forward-thinking piece for the time, but I think it’s among the second tier of its era and I really don’t mind listening to it. The fugue-song thing is a different story: I like it but it’s almost too clever. I like that it seems deliberately aimed at the establishment, but it’s still a minor goof of a piece. The rest of the disk is unfortunately fleshed out by excerpts of two nice pieces – a quintet by Shostakovitch and a kind of concerto thing by Poulenc. They feel reasonably Read More

Gould; MacMillan (2008) by Quatuor Alcan

Categories: 1921, 1930, 1956, 2008, and Music.

This is a decent compilation of Canadian string quartets from the 20th century. As I have said elsewhere, I like the Gould quartet though I feel like I should be a little less enthusiastic about it. The MacMillan pieces are fine, but they are typical of most if not all Canadian “classical” music I have heard – it’s obvious that the only reason they are played by anyone is that Canadians are patriotic. Nothing about MacMillan’s pieces would probably be notable if he were British or American, I suspect. Enjoyable, but nothing special. 7/10 Read More

Music in 1823

Categories: 1823 and Music.

This post will be fleshed out in the future. 1. Ludwig van Beethoven: 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli (10/10) Probably my favourite piano variations outside of Gould’s version of the Goldbergs. 2. Ludwig van Beethoven: Bagatelles Op. 126 (10/10) I have just heard these. Still thinking about them. Read More

Music in 1816

Categories: 1816 and Music.

This post will be fleshed out in the future. 1. Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 28, Op. 101 (10/10) This is one of those pieces where you can literally hear Beethoven’s innovations, especially if you listen to contemporary piano music, which sounds so staid in comparison. Read More

Music in 1802

Categories: 1802 and Music.

This post will be expanded in the future. 1. Ludvig van Beethoven: “Eroica Variations” Op. 35 (9/10) Pretty great stuff, but obviously not quite as impressive as the symphony they were used for a little later on. 2. Ludvig van Beethoven: “Six Variations on a Theme in F major” Op. 34 (9/10) This is a nice set that I just stumbled upon. But it’s not exactly his best work for piano. Read More

The Glenn Gould Collection Vol. 3: Johannes Sebastian Bach: The English Suites, the French Suites (2007 Compilation)

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is a compilation of Gould’s performances of many of Bach’s keyboard suites (originally intended for harpsichord but, as always, Gould plays them on piano). I am not sure of the original recording date because there is no booklet. I think he recorded them in the ’70s but I’m not sure. I believe I have already made it known that I am a big fan of Gould’s attitude towards the past: that music is a living thing that should be reinvigorated by new generations. Though I don’t mind period recreations, I think Gould’s attitude is far healthier and generally superior Read More

The Young Maverick (2007 Compilation) by Glenn Gould et al.

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is a collection of radio broadcasts Gould made for the CBC. It’s got a lot of his major performances, but these versions aren’t as good as the studio recordings if only because the sound quality isn’t very good. And that’s kind of annoying because I stumbled on this because I was looking for Gould’s performances of some Beethoven stuff and some more modern stuff. It’s a good survey of his talent and his idiosyncrasy (though knowing the pieces ahead of time helps, and I can’t say I know more than half to 2/3rds of them), but the sound quality Read More

London Boulevard (2010, William Monahan)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is one of those movies that makes you want to read the book, not because it’s so good you can’t help but read the book too, but because it leaves you wanting a lot more and you figure the book would provide it. Now, I know nothing about the source material, but I have to imagine that these plot threads would be a little more fleshed out in a novel than they are here. That’s the principal flaw of the film: multiple plot strands – all involve Ferrell’s character – and not enough time to go around. So we Read More

SAGA – Curse of the Shadow aka Curse of the Dragon Slayer (2013, John Lyde)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is s special kind of film. I have seen lots of terrible movies in my time, but rarely have I seen a film as derivative as this one: there are dwarfs (well, one), elves and orcs, and the odd cleric, and it pretty much feels like this is Dungeons and Dragons mixed with Lord of the Rings. In fact, this film borders on plagiarism, as it contains a Gollum-like character who calls himself by the Royal We and actually utters the word “precious.” But even aside from the obvious origins of these “ideas”, the whole rest of the script Read More

Grand Piano (2013, Eugenio Mira)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This film is way better than it has any right to be, mostly because of lots of character development and Elijah Woods (who is excellent), but also because of a stupid ending that is suddenly rendered good (or at least, not stupid). As the film progresses, it gets more and more preposterous / goofy, but it is anchored enough in believable characters – save, perhaps, Cusack’s – that it is far ridiculous than its Netflix description made it sound. (We watched it for a laugh, and for the first third of the movie, I thought I might actually be watching Read More