Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy – review

Like the hard-rock equivalent of Brian Wilson’s “Smile,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” was one of the greatest records that never was–a project more fable than fact, more speculation than actualization.

Guns N' Roses
Artist: Guns N’ Roses
Title: Chinese Democracy
Label: Interscope
Rating: 9/10

Corporate line:
Like the hard-rock equivalent of Brian Wilson’s “Smile,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” was one of the greatest records that never was–a project more fable than fact, more speculation than actualization. Created over 15 years with countless producers and musicians, the album often seemed as if it would remain forever mired in the swamps of Axl Rose’s legendarily unpredictable personality. When the disc finally did appear, the musical landscape had changed so significantly that many wondered if Rose’s fans even still cared.What the faithful got for their undying loyalty may not have been classic GnR, but it was an unquestionably powerful slice of enigmatic, genre-pushing hard rock which retained some the group’s famously rebellious attitude. Sonically, “Chinese Democracy” benefited from its long gestation period by incorporating bits of many post-“Spaghetti Incident” sub-genres, including nu-metal, electronica, new garage rock, and post-grunge. Luckily, even after all his bizarre, Michael Jackson-like personal travails, Rose lost little of his lyrical bite, shooting back at disbelievers with the fervor of a much younger and hungrier artist, leaving admirers wondering if perhaps the best was still yet to come.

The good:
“If The World” – Over a beat that sounds like it was made for Jamiriquai, Axl gets the most out of every note. This easily could sit on “Use Your Illusion” and is my favorite track on the album and gets constant plays in my iPod.

“Chinese Democracy” – Burn, baby burn from the opening licks to Axl Rose’s great vocals.

“Shackler’s Revenge” – Rose mixes up his vocals and is completely relentless. The chorus as epic as any ’80s rock hit.

“Better” – Buckcherry better be worried because the king is back and they could only wish to hold a candle to King Rose.

“Street Of Dreams” – Axl can still hit notes that not even your little sister dare take on. And even in this ballad it sounds solid. Rose knows what he is and doesn’t stray from it.

“Scraped” – Hard rock and totally bad ass. This is what GNR is made of.

“I.R.S.” – Solid rocker. Rose shows he hasn’t lost his touch.

“Madagascar”- Big and bold like the frontman.

The rest:

“There Was A Time” – Not a bad song, it tries to be epic without having the right ingrediants–but it does have some poignent lyrics: “Broken glass and cigarettes/ Writing on the wall/It was a bargain for the summer/And I thought I had it all.”

“Catcher in the Rye” – This could have been left behind.

“Prostitute” – Rose has pulled out his best David Bowie impersonation.

Finally:
Guns N’ Roses, or should we say Axl Rose, sounds as good as ever. It defies logic. “Chinese Democracy” took 13 years and there was no way this was going to be good. How did it happen? Who cares. It makes me want to run right to iTunes and buy up the old albums because I forgot just how great GNR were. Come back of the decade? I’d say so.

Q-Tip – The Renaissance – review

Modern hip-hop and R&B music can both arguably be divided into pre- and post-A Tribe Called Quest for the artist known as Q-Tip.

Q-Tip
Artist: Q-Tip
Title: The Renaissance
Label: Universal
Rating: 7.5/10

Corporate line:
Modern hip-hop and R&B music can both arguably be divided into pre- and post-A Tribe Called Quest for the artist known as Q-Tip. Consider the jazzy sampling, laid-back tempos and boho-chic vibe he introduced, then mull over the bohemian posturing and sounds of the neo-soul movement, plus any rap music that shies away from hardcore posturing. All roads lead back to ATCQ and the beats, rhymes and life of one man: Q-Tip. And now the time is ripe for “The Renaissance,” the Abstract MC’s first solo album in nine years.

Back when rap production was all about James Brown samples and dense, agitated sonic collages, Q-Tip was digging deeper into the record crates for snatches of stand-up bass and obscure jazz. The influence of that first sonic renaissance is still being heard. “I see the Tribe legacy as one of the strongest in modern music,” Q-Tip admits. “From us came so many artists, like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, the Fugees and Kanye West. I feel very honored to have been able to contribute in such a way that, 20 years later, it still is a reference point.” Produced primarily by Q-Tip with plenty of live instrumentation and a love fixation, The Renaissance is a stark portrait of the artist as an elder statesman. One listen to the frenetic drumming and strutting live bassline of a track like “ManWomanBoogie” reveals that Q-Tip is on a mission to create original music as timeless as the tracks he used to sample once upon a time. It’s also obvious that the title of his latest album is no accident. “The Renaissance is significant because for some time now people have questioned the integrity of hip-hop,” he reveals. “I feel like the time is ideal for something that has a revisionist spirit to it.”

The good:
“Won’t Trade” – Easily the album’s best moment. Q-Tip sounds strong as ever.

“Official” – Either Q-Tip is sucking down helium or he’s grabbed a b-side from his younger Tribe days.

“Move” – Hot beat borrowed from the Jackson 5 made all the better by Q-Tip’s slick rhyme style. So what do you got Kanye?

“Dance On Glass” – Another helium track where Q-Tip rips it freestyle. Q hasn’t been this tight since the Tribe was pounding woofers and flicking tweeters.

“Life Is Better” f/Norah Jones – Norah Jones sings the same thing over and over–which means she was wasted. Luckily Q-Tip doesn’t waste any time. Does he take a breath?

“Believe” f/D’Angelo – Q-Tip does his best Outkast impersonation. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t good.

The rest:

“Gettin’ Up” – Has its moments of quality Tribe-like lyrics and other moments of being average.

“Johnny Is Dead” – I love Q-Tip but this is boring.

“We fight/we love” – Sappy and weak chorus. Whoever provides the female vocals better go back to the drawing board.

Finally:
Q-Tip is back and we won’t go as far as saying he’s better than ever, however this is his best release since “The Low End Theory.” Q-tip is on his game. There are a few tracks that don’t hold up and its easy to forgive him. Rarely does an album title nail it, but this is a renaissance.

Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul – review

Oasis, one of the most commercially successful rock bands in history, release their seventh studio album (produced by Dave Sardy), “Dig Out Your Soul.” The group’s first album since 2005’s “Don’t Believe The Truth,” “Dig Out Your Soul” marks a new sound for Oasis. Hailed as the band’s best work in a decade, “Dig Out Your Soul” offers a musical oasis for rock fans everywhere!

oasis
Artist: Oasis
Title: Dig Out Your Soul
Label: Reprise
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
Oasis, one of the most commercially successful rock bands in history, release their seventh studio album (produced by Dave Sardy), “Dig Out Your Soul.” The group’s first album since 2005’s “Don’t Believe The Truth,” “Dig Out Your Soul” marks a new sound for Oasis. Hailed as the band’s best work in a decade, “Dig Out Your Soul” offers a musical oasis for rock fans everywhere!

The good:
“Falling Down” – Noel offers the album’s best moment. This is similar to his collaboration on “Setting Sun” with the Chemical Brothers. This is the Noel gem that you always hope and wait for and he delivers.

“I’m Outta Time” – The best lyrics on the album come from Liam’s own pen: “If I’m to fall would you be there to applaud /Or would you hide behind the law.”

“Bag It Up” – Outside of the line about “heebie jeebies in a bag” this is a brilliant track that is closer to early Oasis than anything they’ve done in the last five or so years.

“The Turning” – Whenever Oasis is full of piss and vinegar it’s good for everyone. Liam snarls about shaking your rag doll, the messiah and fallen angels. What else could you ask for as they contemplate every sort of aspect of the rapture–it’s not clear if Liam is talking about meeting his maker or making babies. And then at the end it sounds as if Noel is paying a bit of homage to The Beatles with his “Dear Prudence” riff.

“The Shock of Lightning” – The first single has an urgency that is surprising for a band that is on their seventh album. It’s curious how much fun a song can be without having an discernible meaning whatsoever.

“Soldier On” – Dark, brooding and a smart closer.

The rest:
“Waiting For The Rapture” – Usually the songs that Noel takes on and sings are very good but this sounds borrowed from a John Lennon solo album without the brilliance.

“(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” – This should have been left behind.

“To Be Where There’s Life” – The biggest miss as the boys try to get mystical ala the Beatles “Within You Without You.” The difference? The Beatles recreated a sound–Oasis made a mess of it.

“The Nature Of Reality” – This isn’t much better. This is some serious filler.

Finally:
“Dig Out Your Soul” has its moments–both good and bad. It’s not as good as “Don’t Believe The Truth” because it lacks any really great moments. “Dig Our Your Soul” has interesting songs that take Oasis in different directions but nothing feels big, epic and burns in your brain all day long. There are no songs that grab you all day long and force you to go back and listen again. Oasis has always been a band that made you listen again and again except on “Dig Out Your Soul.” You’ll listen if you are a fan and you will find a few songs worth listening over and over, but where the hell is a song even as good as “Part of the Queue.” Those simple, splendid songs are all but nonexistent. I’ll complain but I’ll also be listening again tomorrow.

Watch the video for “The Shock of Lightning”

Nightmare Revisited – review

Nightmare Revisited
Artist: Nightmare Revisited
Title: Soundtrack
Label: Disney Records
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
With “The Nightmare Before Christmas” franchise growing each year, Walt Disney Records is releasing a brand new cover album, “Nightmare Revisited.” The album features unique, ALL NEW RECORDINGS on the eccentric cult classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack, covered by a diverse group of artists across different music genres. Artists such as Amy Lee from Evanesence, Korn, Rise Against, Shiny Toy Guns, Flyleaf, Polyphonic Spree, and more! Take a spin with these great songs and show us there is still plenty of nightmare to revisit.

The tracks:

“Overture” f/DeVotchKa – Sounds a scottish hoe-down rather than an opening track to a Halloween movie.

“This is Halloween” f/Marilyn Manson – Marilyn Manson is the king of creepiness and his take on this song is brilliant. Manson might be the only artist that could take a song of this album and put it on his own album.

“Jack’s Lament” f/The All-American Rejects – AAR opens brilliantly but this is the sort of song that needs a visual to hold it together.

“Doctor Finkelstein/In the Forest” f/Amiina – Purely instrumental–good for a nap.

“What’s This?” f/Flyleaf – Perhaps my favorite song from the movie–except for “This is Halloween.” Flyleaf’s take doesn’t really do the song justice when performed as a rock track because it’s missing the atmosphere.

“Town Meeting Song” f/The Polyphonic Spree – The Polyphonic Spree shows you what Pink Floyd might do if they were making a soundtrack for a kid’s movie. Here is a suggestion–The Polyphonic Spree and Danny Elfman should get together and write an album. It’d be brilliant to say the least!

“Jack and Sally Montage” f/The Vitamin String Quartet – Another instrumental interlude.

“Jack’s Obsession” f/Sparklehorse – At first I thought–who is this chick singing… nope, it’s a dude. Big mistake.

“Kidnap the Sandy Claws” f/Korn – This song is brilliant. I haven’t heard Korn have this much fun in a decade.

“Making Christmas” f/Rise Against – This is the complete opposite of the Korn track. It lacks atmosphere and playfulness. Rise Against doesn’t make Christmas–they make a Rise Against song without thinking about the overall idea.

“Nabbed” f/Yoshida Brothers – Who are these guys? I had no idea until I looked them up. I want all their albums. Their music is beautiful. This is the only instrumental track that made me listen over and over again.

“Oogie Boogie’s Song” f/Rodrigo y Gabriela – An instrumental track that has the opposite effect of the Yoshinda Brothers.

“Sally’s Song” f/Amy Lee – What can’t Amy Lee sing? Amy Lee is magical. If I was Danny Elfman and Tim Burton I’d be trying to figure out how to get this voice on future projects.

“Christmas Eve Montage” f/Rjd2 – Block rocking beats. Techno/hip-hop has connection with this soundtrack.

“Poor Jack” f/Plain White T’s – As much fun as it sounds–it’s not really more than a color by numbers cover.

“To the Rescue” f/Datarock – This techno track doesn’t fit–no, not in the least.

“Finale/Reprise” f/Shiny Toy Guns – The soundtrack to your nightmares. Is it too dark? So it would seem.

“End Title” f/The Album Leaf – Another miss.

Finally:

There are some really interesting and fun tracks. The usual suspects are absolutely brilliant: see Marilyn Manson, Korn and Amy Lee from Evanesence. There are some huge surprises like the Yoshida Brothers. It’s rare that you get a soundtrack and find an artist that makes you want to go out and buy their albums like the Yoshida Brothers do. If you are a fan of the movie, like myself, this still isn’t a must buy–however those four or five tracks certainly are worth downloading.

Motley Crue – Saints of Los Angeles – review

I grew up a Crue fan… and would have never predicted that they would ever disappear. They seemed like a franchise that could never die.

Motley Crue saints
Artist: Motley Crue
Title: Saints of Los Angeles
Label: Eleven Seven Records
Rating: 7/10

The goods:
“Down at the Whisky” – This will remind old Crue fans of better days. Again, Mick is phenomenal. (read our Mick Mars interview from way back)
“Saints of Los Angeles” – The song has some good and bad. The chorus is lame, but the verses are great. The open line of the chorus “We are the saints/ we signed our life away” sounds contrived and forced. It’s a shame a little more work wasn’t put into the chorus to equal the power of the verses.
“This Ain’t A Love Song” – The Crue try to reinvent Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch” and don’t do a bad job of it.

Somewhere in the middle:
“Animal In Me” – Not an entirely bad song. It sounds too much like a modern rock band with all the angst and shoe-gazing. The Crue wrote love songs in the past that never really sounded downhearted. They always had a good time even when they had their hearts ripped out. This sounds like M.C. Hammer trying to be a ganster rapper. It’s not the tried-and-true Crue formula that made these guys great. Just compare “Animal In Me” with “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).”

The rest:
“L.A.M.F.” – L.A.M.E.
“Face Down in the Dirt” – Singing about how they’d rather be dead with a bullet in their head than wearing a three-piece suit or getting a real job is funny coming from a bunch of rich guys. The irony is that Nikki Sixx was named the president of Eleven Seven Records–maybe he doesn’t have to wear a three-piece suit but he has a job that’s more than writing songs and playing bass. The other interesting item is that three other people contributed to writing the songs–aside from Nikki Sixx. How can this be the band’s voice when they didn’t write the song?
“What’s It Gonna Take?” – The best part of the song is Mick’s solo. Even with his health problems, Mick is phenomenal. And Tommy Lee rips it up. The song is too monotonous and doesn’t have the big, glam chorus that they produced in the past. The problem is that the Crue cast a big shadow–one that is very hard to live up to.
“Motherf**ker of the Year” – There is no way the old Crue would have written a song like this–probably because their record label wouldn’t have let them. No matter how provocative the song is it isn’t very good.

Finally:
I grew up a Crue fan… and would have never predicted that they would ever disappear. They seemed like a franchise that could never die. They were the Google of rock.. that is until “Dr. Feelgood,” or maybe it was “Girls, Girls, Girls.” At that point they tipped from a rock band for metal fans to a rock band for the jocks and cheerleaders. I will admit to liking “Girls…” as a teenager. It was catchy as hell and impossible to get some of the songs out of your head. But it was all too corporate rock. The biggest problem with “Saints of Los Angeles” is that it wasn’t really written entirely by the Crue. They have some combination of James Michael, Dj Ashba, and Marti Frederiksen on every song. Also, there are some very good songs and some terrible songs (“Welcome to the Machine”). There is no perfect Crue album and yet some are classics. This is easily their best effort since their heyday and that says a lot. It’s a better effort than anything the Rolling Stones have given us in decades.

Watch the video for “Saints of Los Angeles”

Alanis Morissette – Flavors of Entanglement- music review

“Flavors of Entanglement” offers a plethora of highlights, including the hauntingly beautiful lost-love lament of “Torch,” the clear declaration of “Moratorium,” the hypnotic ebb and flow of “Tapes” and the aspirational “In Praise of the Vulnerable Man.”

Alanis Morissette
Artist: Alanis Morissette
Title: Flavors of Entanglement
Label: Warner Bros.
Rating: 6/10

Corporate line:
Alanis Morissette’s new album “Flavors of Entanglement” is co-written and produced by Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Imogen Heap), the album is Morissette’s first original studio release in four years.

While hewing to a familiar process – creating songs as snapshots of her life – Morissette found cathartic support during a big transition in her life. “I often write in retrospect, but this was written in real time,” she says. “This record helped me through some fragile moments. Every song was like a life raft.”

Morissette’s penchant for eclecticism, whether musical, spiritual or otherwise, brought new sounds and styles into this latest effort, which she previewed for fans during her recent tour with Matchbox Twenty. Among the new songs included in her electrifying live set were lead single “Underneath,” which reflects Mahatma Gandhi’s notion that “You must be the change you want to see in the world”; “Versions of Violence,” a jarring deconstruction of human behavior, and “Citizen of the Planet,” a poetic narrative of her life story and transnational perspective set against a backdrop blending Eastern percussion, strings and electronic hues.

“Flavors of Entanglement” offers a plethora of highlights, including the hauntingly beautiful lost-love lament of “Torch,” the clear declaration of “Moratorium,” the hypnotic ebb and flow of “Tapes” and the aspirational “In Praise of the Vulnerable Man.” Morissette also explores the often cyclical nature of learning in the pensive, rock bottom-capturing “Not As We” and the ecstatic freedom of “Giggling Again For No Reason,” before wrapping with the Phoenix-rising closure of “Incomplete.”

“There’s not another artist-male or female-who can take you on the kind of emotional journey that Alanis can,” says Sigsworth. “She has this ginormous, super-massive, planet-eating emotional range. She goes all the way-10 on the Richter Scale-and we’re at the epicenter with her as she sings whole worlds into existence. She can be raging and hostile, distraught and desolately heartbroken, glowingly nostalgic, sensual, breezy and self-deprecating-all in one album.”

The hits:
“Underneath” – This isn’t so easy to put into the hits category. It’s slightly above average as a single. It’s not great and barely compares to the brilliance of her first album.
“In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man” – With a title like this you’d never expect it to be so good. It makes you wonder what that genius, get the sarcasm please , Ryan Reynolds was thinking.
“Torch” – Simple, raw and emotional. This is Alanis giving her vulnerabilities to fans.

The rest:
“Versions of Violence” – The song and the beats don’t mesh into anything great. There are ingredients missing here–and his name is Glen Ballard.
“Citizen of the Planet” – It’s bizarre. A song with a gorgeous hook and verses and yet the lyrics are awful. Usually Alanis writes writing great lyrics. Here she falters.
“Straitjacket” – This sounds like a bad song written for Britney Spears–and trust me Alanis doesn’t sell it any better. The beats don’t fit her style at all.
“Moratorium”

Finally:
I love Alanis–just read our previous reviews and interview. But “Flavors of Entanglement” just doesn’t it do it for me. The Nine Inch Nails beats and her beautiful voice is better suited singing big hooks. These twoingredients are oil and water. The songs are a better fit for Madonna than Alanis. I’d say Ryan Reynolds got off easy–easier than the guy from “You Oughta Know.”

Watch the video for “Underneath.”

Rambo – DVD review

Twenty years after the last film in the series, John Rambo (SYLVESTER STALLONE) has retreated to northern Thailand, where he’s running a longboat on the Salween River.

Rambo
Cast: Sylvester Stallone
Studio: Lionsgate
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
Twenty years after the last film in the series, John Rambo (SYLVESTER STALLONE) has retreated to northern Thailand, where he’s running a longboat on the Salween River. On the nearby Thai-Burma (Myanmar) border, the world’s longest-running civil war, the Burmese-Karen conflict, rages into its 60th year. But Rambo, who lives a solitary, simple life in the mountains and jungles fishing and catching poisonous snakes to sell, has long given up fighting, even as medics, mercenaries, rebels and peace workers pass by on their way to the war-torn region.

That all changes when a group of human rights missionaries search out the “American river guide” John Rambo. When Sarah (JULIE BENZ) and Michael Bennett (PAUL SCHULZE) approach him, they explain that since last year’s trek to the refugee camps, the Burmese military has laid landmines along the road, making it too dangerous for overland travel. They ask Rambo to guide them up the Salween and drop them off, so they can deliver medical supplies and food to the Karen tribe. After initially refusing to cross into Burma, Rambo takes them, dropping off Sarah, Michael and the aid workers…

Less than two weeks later, pastor Arthur Marsh (KEN HOWARD) finds Rambo and tells him the aid workers did not return and the embassies have not helped locate them. He tells Rambo he’s mortgaged his home and raised money from his congregation to hire mercenaries to get the missionaries, who are being held captive by the Burmese army. Although the United States military trained him to be a lethal super soldier in Vietnam, decades later Rambo’s reluctance for violence and conflict are palpable, his scars faded, yet visible. However, the lone warrior knows what he must do…

Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars as RAMBO, filmed on location in and around Chiang Mai, Thailand. Also starring are Julie Benz (Dexter), Paul Schulze (The Sopranos), Matthew Marsden (Resident Evil: Extinction, Black Hawk Down), Graham McTavish (HBO’s Rome), Rey Gallegos (American Wedding), Tim Kang (“Third Watch”), Jake La Botz (Ghost World), Maung Maung Khin and Ken Howard. RAMBO is produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton and John Thompson. Executive producers Randall Emmett, George Furla. Executive Producers Jon Feltheimer, Peter Block, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein. Executive Producers Andreas Thiesmeyer, Josef Lautenschlager. Executive Producers Danny Dimbort, Boaz Davidson, Trevor Short.

The review:

The world changes, but Rambo doesn’t. At least that is what Stallone wants us to believe. It’s true… Rambo even says so with his too-angry-to talk tone: “things never change.” Even if things don’t change the overly aggressive killing machine can’t help but do the right thing no matter the situation.

Even if every speck of reality is thrown out with the corpses Rambo litters the earth with, this is one disturbingly fun action flick. It really helps us fellows get our testosterone out but not so interesting for the women in the audience–at least it’d seem. Rambo is a balls-to-the-walls killing machine. This is “First Blood” times ten.

Finally:

Stallone still shines as Rambo. It’s all rather shameless and not critic worthy and yet it’s a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching and will again.

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets – DVD review

Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) embarks on a new adventure in director Jon Turtletaub’s sequel to “National Treasure.” Ben and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), take great pride in their ancestors and their family’s devotion to the United States.

National Treasure 2
Cast: Nicolas Cage
Studio: Disney
Rating: 5.5/10

Corporate line:
Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) embarks on a new adventure in director Jon Turtletaub’s sequel to “National Treasure.” Ben and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), take great pride in their ancestors and their family’s devotion to the United States. When Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) produces a page from the diary of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth allegedly linking Ben’s great-great grandfather to the plot, Ben and Patrick set out on a path to clear their family’s name. Ben also believes that the diary page contains hints to the whereabouts of a treasure map leading to an ancient city made of gold, and soon the hunt is on. Tech expert Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) and Ben’s now ex-girlfriend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) join the Gates in their quest, which takes them from Washington, DC, to Paris, London and the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s true that the storyline and the actions of Gates and his team–which include breaking into the Queen’s study at Buckingham Palace, sneaking into the Oval Office, and kidnapping the President of the United States–are completely unbelievable. But with a storyline built on true, interesting trivia and great locations, this film is an amusing, family-friendly romp. Cage has some great moments as Gates– loyal, patriotic, fair to a fault, and very funny as he goads on Buckingham Palace security. Harris plays Wilkinson with just the right air of mystery and menace: is he after fortune, or does he just want to leave his own mark in history? Helen Mirren fits the bill as Ben’s mother and Patrick’s estranged ex-wife, Emily, a scholar and historian in her own right.

The review:
“National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” doesn’t have the vigor of the original. The story isn’t as fresh and maybe that’s because the concept was already played out. It’s the typical failed sequel where a formula worked for one move and the inevitable decision is made to make another. The problem becomes a business decision of not ruining the franchise while being too conservative and hurting the franchise. The entire premise of Gates’ connection with Abraham Lincoln is a huge reach just to make a movie. And Cage as Indiana Jones is a joke this go around. He couldn’t be a bigger bore. Especially after just seeing the new Indy movie.

The extras:
* Deleted Scenes with Jon Turteltaub
* Outtakes and Bloopers
* Audio Commentary with Turteltaub and Voight
* Secrets of a Sequel
* On Location
* Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase
* Inside the Library of Congress
* Underground Action
* Cover Story: Crafting the Presidents’ Book
* Evolution of a Golden City
* Knights of The Gold Circle

Finally:
This won’t even keep the attention of young adventure hunters. You have to wonder how long it will take for Cage to lose all credibility.

Untraceable – DVD review

Directed by Gregory Hoblit (“Fracture”), “Untraceable” follows F.B.I. cybercrimes specialist Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) as she attempts to track down a serial killer who brazenly displays his murderous deeds on the Internet.

untraceable
Cast: Diane Lane
Studio: Sony
Rating: 4/10

Corporate line:
Directed by Gregory Hoblit (“Fracture”), “Untraceable” follows F.B.I. cybercrimes specialist Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) as she attempts to track down a serial killer who brazenly displays his murderous deeds on the Internet. Aided by fellow agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) and local detective Eric Box (Billy Burke), Marsh tenaciously hunts for the elusive criminal in rainy Pacific Northwest settings, but as she closes in on her target, he deviously finds ways to get closer to her, all the while killing his victims in increasingly faster fashion. Clearly referencing a number of renowned thrillers–most notably the “Saw” films, “Seven”, and “Silence of the Lambs”–“Untraceable” is far from an original cinematic exercise. However, Lane’s steely, smart, and beautiful heroine ably anchors the film, which also benefits from its appropriately gloomy Portland, Oregon, backdrop. As with any effective suspense movie, the thrill is in the chase, with the cold-blooded killer proving to be quite adept at disguising his real location, even as his disturbingly popular site remains prominently on the web (hence the picture’s title).


The review:

There are a tons of movies that could be written around a cyber-killer–none have been good so far and “Untraceable” doesn’t change that. It’s almost laughable to have a guy kill and do it more viciously depending upon the number of people come to his site. Diane Lane should have known what she was getting herself into. “Untraceable” is little more than a movie made in hope of making money on YouTube fans. Director Hoblit tries hard to keep upping the ante of how to kill and torture people, but like most of the “Saw” movies it grows weaker instead of stronger.

“Untraceable” is unwatchable.

The Great Debaters – DVD review

Denzel Washington directs and stars in this uplifting drama based on a true story about a small East Texas all-black college in 1935 that rises to the top of the nation’s debate teams in a duel against Harvard.

the great debaters
Cast: Denzel Washington
Studio: Genius
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
Denzel Washington directs and stars in this uplifting drama based on a true story about a small East Texas all-black college in 1935 that rises to the top of the nation’s debate teams in a duel against Harvard. A poet and debating coach at Wiley College, Professor Melvin Tolson (Washington) sees debating as “a blood sport” and recruits the meanest and brightest, including troubled Henry (Nate Parker), driven Samantha (Jurnee Smollet), and the 14-year-old prodigy James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker). Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (no relation) plays Farmer’s father, the initially unsupportive president of the school. There’s tough training, romantic heat over the attentions of fiery Samantha (the first girl on the team), and some no holds-barred racism (including a witnessed lynching) before the big match-up against the Ivy League school, adding to the overall emotional force. Though feel-good historical competition movies like this have been done before, Washington serves up his effort as a lean, mean family dinner, with minimum fuss and maximum nutritional-educational value. Historical accuracy may be thrown to the wind more than once–Farmer is the only real student among the team, and the final debate was against USC, not Harvard–but the acting is uniformly superb. It’s great to watch these kids slowly incorporate Tolson’s incredible poise and intellectual rigor into their lives, and the message is as important as ever. Oprah Winfrey served as producer.

The review:
As both a director and actor, Denzel Washington shines. This certainly isn’t an epic and yet it’s still very inspiring. The movie’s true power is in its cast. Forest Whitaker isn’t on screen very long but he makes a definite impression. The young cast featuring Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett and Denzel Whitaker are surprisingly good. Don’t be surprised to see more work from them. “The Great Debaters” is formulaic but that doesn’t hurt the movie to badly. It takes some skill to make sure it doesn’t get too sappy or slow. Washington does a good job directing and walking that fine line necessary to keep “The Great Debaters” interesting throughout.