Aqua – Aquarius

Aqua
Artist: Aqua
Title: Aquarius
Label: MCA
Rating: 5.5/10

Aqua is the band most of us love to hate. Do you know what did it? It was that unlikely, annoying hit single “Barbie Girl”. They’ve been marked for certain as one-hit-wonders, but they’re back and apparently getting better.

“Cartoon Heroes” begins with helium-voiced Lene Hedin Nystrom and deep-voiced Rene Dif. On occasion, Lene will sound like that punk princess Gwen Steffani (No Doubt). While this track is silly as hell, it’s also really entertaining and infectious. It’s just as Lene sings, “Don’t take us all too serious.”

Even though I’m two seconds from digging a hole and sticking my head in it for admitting I like this track, I continue on.

“Around The World” isn’t too damn bad either. “We Belong To The Sea” might be the best track as Lene gets a bit more serious, and it suits her. I could see her being a huge success as a solo artist.

But finally, the letdown you knew had to come does. When Aqua relies on the clich, they are extremely annoying, enough so to make you want to vomit. Listen to “Freaky Friday”, “An Apple A Day”, and “Halloween”. Pure torture.

But Aqua has the ability to sound as professional as a Disney soundtrack, in a good way, with giant orchestration and power. “Aquarius” is made for Disney. It soars higher than any track and proves these guys can get serious and sound like a real outfit.

The best thing about Aqua is the power of Claus and Soeren who write the music. The dance rhythms are so powerful that you often forget the weak lyrics. The music makes the songs go down like candy while the lyrics are often like jawbreakers. Good or bad, Aqua is fun.

+ rae gun

Sixpence None The Richer – Interview [1999]

Sixpence None The Richer

Why sign with an obscure label like Squint when major labels like Arista were courting you?

We have been doing this for six years and over the years we have had several major labels interested. We’ve pursued them and they’ve pursued us. Eventually, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. We heard horrible stories of what has happened to other bands. It is really difficult to get a good shot because they try to sign tons of bands in hopes of getting that one band that will be really great and make them a lot of money. That is just a lot of pressure and more than what we wanted to take on. So, we always liked the indie thing better.

Squint was a dream deal for us because Steve Taylor (owner of Squint Entertainment) is a really great man and someone who we have been a fan of for a really long time. We are very like-minded artistically. It was a really good match up.

Were you nervous about hooking up with another small label after what had happened with your last label?

I guess we were. It was just that one thing outweighed the other. We were more afraid of signing to a major label and getting dropped and then having a record die because it just didn’t have a chance.

Do you think it is passe to be called alternative?

I think so. I don’t know what to call stuff anymore. It seemed to identify a certain type of music a couple of years ago and now it covers such a broad area that I don’t know what it is.

Have the band influences changed?

Yeah. Matt (Slocum, guitarist/songwriter) is inspired by a lot of strings now and is getting into his cello playing. That wasn’t the case for This Beautiful Mess and the albums before. This Beautiful Mess was very guitar driven. The last album (Sixpence None The Richer) has a lot of strings. It has changed a lot from record to record.

What about the Christian rock tag? Does it hinder you?

I think it does. It is going to and it has, but we are not ashamed about what we believe in. We’re all Christians in the band, but it is really scary to just come out and say we’re a Christian band because you are lumped in with all of the other Christian bands, which we are not exactly proud of being lumped in with. Sometimes because their music isn’t very good or they don’t represent themselves the way we want to represent ourselves. It doesn’t mean they are wrong, I just think music needs to be lumped into the same pile so everyone can hear it. That is what music is for and we want to be heard by everyone.

Do you find that the grass roots approach taken by your label makes the success of your chart climbing single, “Kiss Me”, just a little bit sweeter?

It is nice. It feels like a natural progression. I’m very aware that next month it all could dissipate and then we’ll just start over with a new record. We’ve been doing it for a long time, so it’s nice. We’ve worked really hard and these are the results. We learned a lot on the way.

How conscious is Matt about writing lyrics for you?

He just writes. I don’t think he has ever said, ‘I’m going to sit down and write about this or that.’ He is inspired by a book or by something that happens.

How would you describe your vocal style?

I just sing (laughs).

It seems that everyone uses the same word to describe your vocal style

Yeah, ethereal. Are you gonna come up with a new word?

We were hoping you would have a new word.

No, I’m sorry (laughs). I don’t know.

I heard you had some fun in France filming the grave scene for your video to the single “Kiss Me”.

Yeah, it was really interesting. I wish we had all that on tape. That would have made for a great video by itself.

I’m a really paranoid person when it comes to messing with the law.

Especially in another country?

Yeah, and the fear of never getting back [to the U.S.]. It was really weird. Steve Taylor is like a seven foot tall, crazy looking man and we were walking around this graveyard together. I was dressed up for the video and he looked relatively normal, but it was probably a strange sight when you have this really young, red headed girl and this huge, tall fellow walking around the graveyard. We had to get flowers twice and bring a potted plant to put on a grave, then go back out again. The guards must have thought it was weird that we had so many people to pay respect to.

What is the funniest memory you have of the band?

There are so many things. It is always a blast. Oh, wait, here it is. We had a talent show on our bus and we were on tour with this girl, Sarah Masen. Her sister was also traveling with us. So, we all had different talents. My husband did this dance for Matt (Slocum), you know, like this personal sort of dance. (snickers). It was just a brilliant night of fun. I wish we had that on tape, too.

What can someone expect when they see you live?

We’ve worked out the songs differently than they appear on the record so it’s not the same old thing. Obviously we can’t bring strings, so we fill that with a lot of guitars.

We don’t jump around a whole lot. A couple of the guys do move around a bit, but I tend to just not (laughing).

So you’re not exactly the Beastie Boys on stage?

No (breaks out in laughter) I wish I had the moves. And I’m not going to pretend that I do!

If you could sit in with any band, who would it be?

Radiohead.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I don’t know. I have other dreams and the biggest is to have a ranch in Texas where kids can come that are disabled or are not getting along at home. They could just send them to me.

Unfortunately, the call came down and it was time for Leigh to part for her show, so we weren’t able to ask what the band was planning for the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.At least we got it all on tape.

+ charlie craine

Busta Rhymes – Extinction Level Event

Busta Rhymes
Artist: Busta Rhymes
Title: Extinction Level Event
Label: Elektra
Rating: 8.5/10

Busta spreads propaganda like butter and his rhymes are just as smooth.

Calling out to the cities across the nation to rise to his power, “Everybody Rise” is the quintessential gnarling Busta. He is one of the rare artists who can continually use hooks that are made up entirely of screaming out just one word without sounding repetitive. Busta’s blaring of “Rise” rings much like that of his first qualified hit, “Whoo-ha!”

The futuristic sound meets the challenge set forth by Busta’s apocalyptic concept. The title track, “Extinction Level Event”, inundates us with Busta’s ferocious rhymes. “Against All Odds” showcases the futuristic qualities, featuring the Space Invaders sound filler. Busta is a business maven and this track is another chance for the entrepreneur to put forth his product, the Flipmode Squad.

Busta’s knack has always been unlikely rhymes with grit and a comedic element. The intro of (actually appearing at the end of track nine) “Gimme Some More” is a funny little piece of chatter. It’s the lyrics that keep you coming back for more. “Ever since Jimmy crack corn/ rockin’ on ever since the day I was born,” found on the song “Party Is Goin’ On Over Here”, is Busta at his playful best.

“Tear Da Roof Off” is destined to be a nightclub smash. Awesome beats flow behind the recurring “where my crew yo?/ Flipmode hit you off/ ya’ll know what to do okay/ tear da roof off.” Next on the hit list is “Keepin’ It Tight”. Its smooth chorus, “alright ya’ll/ you know we keepin’ it tight ya’ll,” is a rhythmic rapture that lays claim to Busta’s name. “Do The Bus A Bus” is a thumping party, satisfaction guaranteed.

Then there are the duets. The first is with Mystikal. “Iz They Wildin Wit Us & Gettin’ Rowdy Wit Us” is a drag racing flurry. Mystikal’s rap firestorm of verbiage is almost impossible to decipher. It took a few days to even begin to comprehend and still I don’t understand all of it. Lest you think that Busta was left in the cold by Mystikal’s pomp, you will quickly hear that his tongue is as twisted and quick as that of his counterpart.

Then there is Janet. Busta brings Janet Jackson on board for an erotic duet entitled “What’s It Gonna Be?!” Janet has been working hard to exchange her girlish image for a more sensual, sexy one. Busta has broken her mold. You’ll be surprised to hear Janet sing “gonna make your body wet/ gonna make your body scream out ‘yeah’/gonna make your body cream/ make you have wet dreams.” Busta’s fans will love this. If you thought the team of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Mariah Carey was hot, wait until you hear the heat in this lewd exchange.

What better way to celebrate the last year of the millenium than with Black Sabbath? “This Means War!!” features Sabbath’s “Iron Man” as it’s musical backdrop. Although Sir Mix A-lot has previously covered “Iron Man”, Busta took it to another level and decided to bring in the iron man himself, Ozzy Osbourne. This is one bizarre, yet intriguing partnership. Ozzy reformulates his lyrics for the chorus allowing Busta to show his dark side.

With an album released each of the last three years, Busta’s knack for writing hooks puts him at the pinnacle of hip-hop’s elite. This seventy-minute album is outstanding.

+ cc

VOD – Interview

VOD

Hailing from New York City, Visions of Disorder is a perfect example of the evolution of the vicious east coast hardcore sound. The five-piece band offers a wide variety of metal, ranging from the kick and stomp groove present in their past two releases to a more developed, tighter sound that creates a new presence for the band. They landed slots on last year’s Ozzfest tour and stints with Earth Crisis, Machine Head, and the reformed Sepultura. V.O.D. has progressed into one of heavy music’s great up and coming groups. We spoke with Tim Williams, lead singer of V.O.D., who is one of the best vocalists in the business. With the last album, he elevated himself to the level of Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) and Chino Moreno (Deftones). V.O.D.’s Imprint is sure to be legendary in hardcore circles. They may very well be able to make the big leap into stardom very soon.

How’s the tour?

Excellent! Couldn’t be happier with this shit. The shows have been big. I’d have to say each show has been great. On the east coast, we’ve already done all the shit, but in Texas and Cleveland we’ve probably had the best shows we’ve ever had in those states.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We go to Japan, then Australia, and we’re doin’ one show in Hawaii. That’ll be fun I guess. We’ll get home christmas eve, take two weeks off, and we’re booking shows for next year. Probably another tour of the states.

Who would you like to play with?

Bad Brains would be a cool. Sick Of It All would be fun. I would like to play with the Deftones and I’d like to get Overcast out, but i don’t know when the fuck that’ll happen. Of course, Pantera.

What do you think of Derrick(Sepultura’s new lead singer)?

He does great. Man, he does a good job. I mean, shit, Max’s shoes are hard to fill, but he does a great job. Sounds like him and he’s a great guy. He reacts to the crowd well. People are going off so I guess he’s doing good.

The new album is great.

Thanks man.

It’s progressed. It’s a little punkish. Some death metal.

I think we loosened up as a band. I think we realized that noise is a good instrument to use, so the noise influences started coming out a little bit and I think everybody just got more..You know, the first record everyone was nervous. We didn’t know if we wanted to do this or if we wanted to do that. Now, everybody just did their part, scrutinized each other, reworked shit, and everything seemed to go perfect.

Your vocals have changed a lot. You have a lot more range.

I’ve always taken lessons. I’ve also had more time to develop it. We were touring for a year and a half and that doesn’t hurt anybody. I got a lot more comfortable doing my thing.

Did you do anything different in recording?

The whole fucking thing was different! The first record, man, it was a complete tragedy. We were just listening to it last night and we all had to turn it off. It was just horrible! The material is there, it’s just the performance. The production is horrible. About the second record: We did it our way. We had a producer that was more into our thing, our style of music, and more like one of us. Plus, we recorded live and we didn’t do that on our first record. We were just way more comfortable the second time around.

How did you hook up with Phil(Pantera’s lead singer)?

Just through the Ozzfest [’97]. We became friends with him, took a liking to him, partied with him. I went down to his house a couple of times this year and I just asked and he said cool.

Is “Jada Bloom” written for someone?

No. I just always put myself into characters when I write lyrics in certain songs. It was just a character that I brought out of me.

Colorblind is more extensive than any other song on the disc. What were you trying to accomplish with that?

That’s our tribute to the fucking Doors, man! In my eyes it is. It just came out to be a long song. It seemed right so we just did it.

You’ve been all over the U.S. Where do you see the best hardcore scenes?

I don’t want to offend anybody, but Boston has one huge fucking scene. New York and Salt Lake City, Utah. Lawrence, Kansas is another good one. Sacramento, California has a vicious one. They get a little rough and edgy, but it’s good. Texas is cool. We haven’t really been to the south and northwest all that recently, but pretty much any big city is cool. Philly. East coast is just great.

Who do you think deserves more credit as a great band?

Man, Madball, Faith No More, if they’re still around. We had a chance to meet up with Mike(Faith No Mores vocalist) in San Francisco and that guy is great. I mean, he’s a fucking nut, crazy and shit, but he’s great. Overcast, Fury of Five. Off the top of my head, that’s all I can think of.

Where do you fit in?

I think we’re doing alright where we are. We’re getting a lot of respect from musicians and big bands. That means a lot because musicians are the hardest ones to impress. The metal kids are slowly taking to us.

What do you think of the Black Sabbath tour?

Phenomenal. We might be away, but if not, I’m there…

I want to name some bands and I want you to tell me what you think about them. Snapcase.

Great band. Progressing, but they can’t make up their mind if they want to go to school or be a full time band. I heard they were recording a record, so more power to them.

Eyehategod.

Phenomenal. My favorite fucking band. I’m not kidding!

Clutch.

Old Clutch, it’s unreal, but I don’t know what the fuck they’re trying to do now. They’re just doing their own thing.

Do you want to add anything?

Just be yourself, don’t get caught up in bullshit, and that’s that.

Alright. Well, thanks alot, man. It was great talking to you.

Thanks and you take care of yourself, man. Have fun.

+ rick hinkson

Incubus – Interview [1998]

Incubus

The crossbreeding in styles of music has become increasingly popular in the late 1990’s. Bands like Sublime, Limp Bizkit, and the Beastie Boys have all crossed over into the spectrum that many bands would be afraid to step into. The West Coast groove outfit, Incubus, has also been unafraid. They create a sound that can be heavy, yet melodic and emotional at the same time. They are strong, both instrumentally and vocally, and possess a knack for writing soulful tunes that allows them to integrate the elements of various musical genres. Their sound is recognized as thick by metal standards, while it is considered smooth by those in rap circles. Landing a slot on Korn’s “Family Values Tour” has given them an opportunity to play for a large audience. The response has been overwhelming. They’ve just been added to the huge Black Sabbath Reunion tour, sharing the stage with Pantera, the Deftones, and, of course, Sabbath. I had a chance to chat with guitarist Mike Einziger about the relatively young group and about their imminent success.

How long have you been on the tour?

We started the Family Values tour in Michigan. I think that was the 26th[of October].

Had you played with any of those guys before?

Yeah. The first tour we ever did was with Korn in Europe about two years ago. We’ve done quite a bit of touring with Limp Bizkit. We were with them at the Ozzfest.

What’s it like playing for so many people?

It’s fun, but it’s very different. We’ve been headlining clubs for the past seven weeks and just to jump up to arenas is pretty fun. There’s more room on stage and you can breathe.

Are you getting a good response from the fans?

Yes. It’s been amazing.

Did you expect this kind of exposure with just one major release?

I don’t know. Things just happen the way they do. We don’t really expect anything or not expect anything. We just kind of let things fall into place. I guess we just have fate on our side.

How would you describe your sound?

Our music is a mixture of different sounds and textures. Very funky, a good groove. It’s up and it’s energetic. Sometimes it’s heavy, at times it’s mellow. It’s got a lot of different faces.

Are you playing anything new on the tour?

No. We’re just sticking to material on the album.

Do you have any plans to record again?

After we’re done with Korn, we’ll have a few weeks off and then we’ll start a headline tour of the West Coast. We’ll probably spend a good amount of time while we’re home writing music. I don’t know if we’ll be doing any recording, but we’re going to start writing music. After we’re done with that headlining tour, we’ll go home for Christmas. Then we go back out on the road with Black Sabbath.

You’re doing the Sabbath tour?

The big Sabbath Reunion Tour. That’s going to be awesome, but we’re not really sure what’s going on after that. We’d like to make a new record sometime in ’99. We just don’t know when that’ll be.

Do you try to incorporate anything different into your live shows?

Yes, but when we’re not headlining it’s more difficult for us to do because we don’t have the stage time like we would when we’re playing our own shows. Between songs we do a lot of kind of weird drum and bass jams. We have this thing where I come out with an electric sitar and do this strange jam. We have little breaks where our DJ messes around. There are a lot of things we like to do, but we can’t when we open up for other bands. Plus, when [we’re] playing in front of a crowd where ninety percent of the people don’t know or care who [we] are, we like to stick to our material that’s on the record.

How long ago did you record SCIENCE?

It’ll be two years ago this March.

What did you try to draw from when you recorded that, lyrically and soundwise?

Well, soundwise we didn’t really rely on anything too much, except our own intuition, you could say. We’ve been working in this studio in Santa Monica, CA since we were sixteen years old and we really like the vibe of the studio. We know it really well. We know how to get sounds that we want, so we weren’t spending much time listening to other records. We just did a lot of experimenting with a lot of different things like microphones and that kind of stuff. We have a lot of confidence in our own taste and ourselves. Lyrically, Brandon writes the lyrics and they’re pretty much based on his experiences in life and his own views on society. Different mindsets, I guess. Most of it is based on a positive outlook or ideology. You know, unity, all that good peace and love stuff.

Has it been pretty much the same band since you started? I know you have a new DJ.

Yeah, the four of us, we’ve been together for seven and a half years. We started when we were fifteen and still in high school. Then we hooked up with a DJ after about four years together. We had our first DJ in the band for about two years, then we parted with him about ten months ago. Now, we have DJ Kilmore with us and he’s amazing. We’re really looking forward to writing music with him.

Was it a clean split?

There were problems in the band that were solved when he left. Things weren’t cool for a long time and then as soon as we did the thing we needed to do, everything went back to being cool. Everything’s wonderful now.

There are rumors of a live disc. Is there any truth to that?

No, actually there’s not. I haven’t even heard that one yet. They’re started all summer and on other tours throughout the year. This is the first time we’ve done anything with Rammstein.

What do you think of that group?

I think they have one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever seen. We get kids trashing them on our web site, but you know it’s funny, when you’re a little kid, just listening to music, it’s more about popularity and perspective. When you’re a musician, you see what goes into a performance. You have a whole different respect for it and those guys definitely have it together.

Do you see the next big thing being bands crossing over into various genres?

I think bands like Korn and Deftones have blown a door wide open. I mean, we’ve been through thick and thin as far as styles of music coming and going. When we first started, Primus and Faith No More were in their prime. Then that all went away and grunge came in. We’ve just done the same thing. Punk rock came back and got huge, then ska. Korn had nothing to do with any of that and when they came out, we weren’t even signed. They just blew the door open to a new realm of possibilities, a different style of music. It wasn’t punk or ska. It was hard, but it had a groove to it, not like hardcore thrash music. We’ve always had the problem [that] we’d get stuck at a punk show or a ska show and we always just stuck out like a sore thumb. I think both musically and lyrically between [the Deftones and Korn] there’s a world of difference. I think that the difference between those two bands, and even us, is so big. [It’s] lyrical content and music. I don’t think you’d see the Deftones bust out into a funk breakdown. There are big differences, but people just feel the need to lump things together. There’s just a lot of crossing over.

Where would you like to be a year from now?

It’s really fun opening up for Korn and other bands, but we’ve spent a majority of our time headlining, so I think ultimately we’d like to be doing our own shows. Make a really big production of it doing our own thing.

I’d like your perspective on some bands. Can you give me your opinion on a few that I name?

Sure.

Soulfly

Their style of music is not something I’m very into. I’d prefer mellow music, but I respect what they do and what Max (lead-singer of Soulfly) has done.

What about Clutch and Fu Manchu?

I’ve barely heard Clutch, but everyone we play with loves them. I listened to Fu Manchu and I really dug what they’re doing. They’re so not like everyone else. It’s almost like Hendrix and Black Sabbath, but not sounding anything like them. I really like what they’re doing, though.

Jamiroquai

That’s one of my favorite bands. That music has flavor. It has soul. That’s the kind of music I like. Whether or not it’s heavy, I like it. I’m just not into the all-out, hardcore screaming. It’s just mindless what to me.SabbathI grew up listening to them, and now, it’s a huge honor for me to play with them.

That’s about all. Anything else you’d like to add?

No, but thanks. Good questions!

Thank you and good luck on the road.

+ rick hinkson

The Wood

The Wood
Cast: Omar Epps
Studio: Paramount
Rating: 5/10

The Wood is all about a group of three male friends and their embarrassing boyhood experiences involving women. Bringing back the old school beats, the afro picks, and the Geri Curl is Taye Diggs, Omar Epps, and Richard Jones. The movie goes back to their days of growing up in Englewood, California, which means a whole lot of foot stomping, fist pumping non-stop laughter. The crowd in the theater was going wild. This movie doesn’t have any gang banging or drug dealing. We’re getting out of the hood and into The Wood.

The movie is built around Diggs, Epps, and Jones as three kids growing up and the evolution of their male/female relationships. Narrated by Epps as Big Mike, we hear the story of what has shaped them as men and what has cemented their friendship. The movie is laid out before us based on Diggs’ upcoming marriage. The three naturally get nostalgic and reminisce about life as boys in The Wood. Growing up in The Wood is like growing up anywhere else, and life is sometimes hard, but these guys put it all into perspective. This is a comedy that everyone will enjoy.

+ jonathan lin

In Dreams

Cast: Annette Bening
Studio: dreamworks
Rating: 4/10

In Dreams is a nightmare. The story takes too long to develop and Robert Downey Jr.’s character doesn’t show up until the end of this drawn out production. My flat 7-Up (not a corporate plug) gave me more satisfaction than this bore.

Neil Jordan shouldn’t be blamed for the poor script. His camera style and angles are amazing at times. The scene where Annette Bening walks in front of a semi, although unbelievable, is wonderfully shot and the water scenes are splendid. The entire film’s imagery is brilliant and alive with colors. Unfortunately, ratings are based on actual content rather than imaginative directing.

The plot isn’t very strong. Annette Bening’s character is drawn into a psychotic man’s dreams. Bening engages in some terrible overacting. Her poor one-liners are reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street. She reinforces this in saying, “No matter what happens, don’t wake me up!” The film spends entirely too much time on the development of Annette Bening’s character, or lack thereof. There is no cohesion among the various elements in the movie. So much of the film is unbelievable that you can’t help but snicker. The restlessness of the audience at my screening was indication enough.

+ charlie craine

Gladiator

Gladiator
Cast: Russell Crowe
Studio: Dreamworks
Rating: 9/10

A movie set during the time when Rome was all powerful, even more so than God himself, seemed ambitious back when Charlton Heston graced the robes for Ben-Hur. Back in those days, epics were made constantly. Today, movie budgets are usually more epic than the films. Gladiator has all of the ingredients for an epic tale, the old way: the rise and fall of a man who loses all and attempts to win it back in the face of the immovable force of the Roman Empire.

The opening sequence starts out fabulously. The sheer size of the battle is amazing. The fight itself was rather quick, and hard to follow as the camera swept around at a torrential pace. Russell Crowe plays the great General Maximus. After what he thinks is his last battle, he’s in for a surprise that causes him to choose between his family and his love for Rome.

After all hell breaks loose (I’ll let you find out what it is since I don’t want to give too much away), Maximus is bought and sold as a slave-turned-gladiator for the profit of his master. He must fight in what isn’t exactly your everyday sporting event. As a gladiator, if you win, you live at least one day longer. Losers are dragged out and thrown to the desert vultures. The fight scenes between gladiators are wonderful. Crowe shows intensity and deftness that I thought was beyond him. His battle-weary face and calm in the presence of death is chilling.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Commodus, the son of the fallen Caesar and mortal enemy of Maximus. Phoenix plays the part of the whiny and weak yet evil Commodus to perfection. You have nothing but hatred for his character. You find yourself cheering his failures and booing his victories.

The film itself was exquisitely directed by Ridley Scott, from the scenes of battle to the desert gladiator ring, all the way to the pillars of Rome. Everything feels authentic, bringing you in and never letting you go. The costumes are fantastic. The one problem I had was with the usage of words and phrases from an era over a hundred years before the birth of Christ.

The final act doesn’t let you down. It’s perfect because it’s what you expect, but don’t really expect to happen. You finally get what you want to see instead of something ruining it along the way. For a film that lasts well over two hours, you never find a chance to get restless or distracted. I only hope that Gladiator is the beginning of more epic movies to come.

+ charlie craine

Fight Club

Fight Club
Cast: Brad Pitt
Studio: Fox
Rating: 9/10

I was lucky to have an early screening that allowed me the weekend to sit on my review and reflect upon what might be the best movie I’ve seen all year. I needed the three-day weekend to figure out pieces of the film that I missed the first time around, but pulled together once I really thought about it. The bits I didn’t get the first time around will be ironed out when I go and see the film again.

In the end, Fight Club is about empowering ones self. The movie’s synopsis reads: You are not your job. You are not how much you have in the bank. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. These are the amendments that Tyler Durden lives by. This is how he goes through life, one experience at a time. And what an experience this movie was.

Fight Club is about fighting, but that’s not all. As a matter of fact, fighting only opens the door to a whole lot more. And inside this broken-down house lies the dual life of either a madman or someone in search of the opportunity to empower himself. This movie is intense. You laugh a few times, but the intensity is what keeps your eyes on the screen.

Most of the movie seems to be poorly written, as Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, is the prototypical bad-cool guy. Pitt plays his cool against Edward Norton’s average Joe. As Norton walks on the sidewalk, Pitt walks in the water filled gutter, Norton takes the bus and Pitt steals a sports car. As stereotypical as Pitt’s character seemed early on, you soon realize that the intense creature that is Durden seems to be coming unraveled, as all psychopaths do in the movies, but you are in for a surprise.

Fight Club touches on the strength of a man’s heart and soul, his ability to change the world. It may not be as far-fetched as it seems. The movie leaves you wondering what contribution you are making to yourself and the world around you. See this movie. Let it sit in your mind and swim around. Trust me, it will strike you right away, but it will torment you forever.

+ charlie craine

Usher – Interview [1998]

usher

Since the release of the single, “You Make Me Wanna,” Usher has done nothing but increase his celebrity. He credits his mother for more than genetics. “My mother introduced me to singing through church, then after that I did talent shows.” More impressive was his mother’s sacrifice in moving them from Chattanooga to Atlanta. “That is a great place to get recognized.” Once in Atlanta, he continued to do talent shows. It is at one of these shows that Bryant Reid, brother of LaFace Records co-president Antonio “L.A.” Reid, recognized Usher’s potential. Bryant arranged for Usher to meet L.A. Reid and, as Usher likes to tell it, “the rest is history.”

After his 1994 album, which was mediocre by his latest standards, Usher looked to make a change. He found it in executive producer Jermaine Dupri. A host of other top name producers (Sean “Puffy” Combs, Babyface, and Teddy Riley) added variety.

As an artist begins to pack away a few hit songs and a couple of million dollars it’s not unusual for heads to swell. Usher owes his ability to maintain a level head to his mother’s guidance. “She was the leading force in my career and she was always very supportive.” She is his mother, his manager, and his mentor.

Where did you learn to dance?

Studying. You have to study. It’s not all about getting up there and just freelance. A lot of people can do it, but it also helps if you have an eye for what is hot and what will be hot. I’ve been studying people like Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.

What’s up with leaving your shoes on the floor when you finish?

The ‘Shoe Man.’ I’m the shoemaker. (Laughs) They call me the king of the stage, so I’ve got to leave my shoes on the stage. They call me the ‘Prince of New Jack.’

Who are some of your musical influences?

The Jackson 5, Miami Sound Machine, Heatwave, Parliament, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder to name a few.

What was it like to work with the amazing group of producers you had for this album?

Well, some people have a lot of ego with them. Fortunately, I’ve worked with a lot of successful people and I’ve noticed the more successful you are, the less ego you have. I’m not gonna say that about everybody, but Babyface has definitely taken the time that was needed to make my record what it was. Maybe it took like a month to get it, but he did it. Jermaine and Teddy Riley took the time that was needed to find out what I like. Then they brought in Babyface for the mainstream and Teddy for his own crowd.

With your new career as an actor and model are you too busy for a social life?

I talk all the time.

Is there a significant other to speak of?

No particular girl. I talk all the time. (Pauses to laugh) I’m like L.L. Cool J. I need love.

What do you see in your future?

I’m in it for longevity. I want to do more acting, producing, choreographing, and even directing.

A new album is being outlined and it doesn’t seem he’ll stray too far from the formula that has insofar won him celebrity. Usher hopes to enlist some unusual collaborators like Elton John, Dr. Dre, and LeAnn Rimes. With Light It Up being shot next month, the premiere of his movie, The Faculty, and an opening spot on Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope tour, Usher is a very busy man.

+ sam conjerti