Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ministry – Relapse (2012)

It is fairly problematic to rate Ministry albums of late. To be more precise, every album since the release of 2003’s Animositisomina. The underrated long player that was the last involving Al Jourgensen’s bassist and partner in crime, Paul Barker, before he reached his tolerance with Uncle Al and left. Barker joined Jourgensen in the mid 80’s and was integral in co-creating the band’s best and most defining work including The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and the vastly influential, Psalm 69 from 1992. Guitarists Mike Scaccia and Tommy Victor remain the only consistent members alongside Al since the split with the void filled by a handful of session and tour musicians that varies from almost album to album. Four new recordings – not including the cover albums – have been released without Barker and in his contributing absence, the first three ranged from average (The Last Sucker) to good (Houses of the Mole), but essentially inconsistent and certainly don’t reach the heights of the legacy that Jourgensen and Barker shaped and are now forever judged against by long-time fans. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, Relapse is no different.

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The Wrestler (2008)

In one scene from The Wrestler, there is a response from Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) when after just having bypass surgery following a heart attack, he is told by his doctor that he must stop putting steroids into his system and can only perform mild exercise. It is as much bemusing as it is heartbreaking: “But Doc, I’m a professional wrestler!” The significance of that assertion to Randy’s story of a once great wrestling icon, now twenty years later relegated to Community Hall matches and unsatisfying signing appearances, is cemented by it being said with such conviction and pride by the actor. He is a wrestler. That is what he does. That is what he knows. Rourke embodies Ram and all his flaws in such a sincere way; the authenticity of his colossal performance raises the bar for realism.

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He Got Game (1998)

Spike Lee’s homage to the game that he loves is a passionate father and son story that hits all the right marks, most of the time. Shot in less than a month, the film was famous for Lee’s choice to use a real NBA player in the lead role of Jesus Shuttlesworth. After several considerations, he landed on (then rookie) Ray Allen.

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Drag Me to Hell (2009)

The idea of cult director Sam Raimi returning to his horror roots with Drag Me to Hell was an exciting prospect. Add to that enthusiasm an impressive trailer and strong word of mouth and you’ve got some fairly high expectations. Virtually from the get go, they’re almost bettered with a prologue that deafeningly slams you into your seat. It’s a powerful effects belter and provides early evidence that Raimi is in his element here and that he is definitely approaching it with a nostalgic attitude. The fact that the original treatment was drafted up not long after Army of Darkness was completed is not surprising.

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Diary of the Dead (2007)

For his fifth zombie film, genre legend George A. Romero chose to re-stage the beginning three days and nights of his initial outbreak, thus making Diary of the Dead forever linked (for better or worse) with his original much respected work, Night of the Living Dead, more than any of the others. Rather than just being a re-tread of that groundbreaking movie however, Romero opts to modernize the situation, giving us a very 21st century essay of the events.

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Trees Lounge (1996)

The title of this finely humble film, Trees Lounge, is the name of a New Jersey bar that acts as thirty something Tommy Basilio’s (Steve Buscemi) second home throughout it‘s running time. We initially find him hung-over, waking up in the Trees fifteen minutes after last call, demanding a shot of Wild Turkey. Tommy has just been fired, broken up with his pregnant girlfriend of eight years whose now involved with his once friend and former boss Rob (Anthony LaPaglia). Despite unable to keep his own car running, Tommy mooches around town looking for work as a mechanic, but spends most of his time getting drunk at the Trees making strained if appropriate acquaintances with some of the locals. Namely one Mike (Mark Boone Junior), who himself has his own domestic issues but has chosen to spend his “vacation” coming to the Trees everyday.

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Mastodon – The Hunter (2011)

Of the newer breed of hard rock/metal bands to emerge in the last decade, Mastodon it seems have an aura around them which grants a unique anticipation whenever a new album is announced. The four enigmatic figures that make up the Atlanta quartet are unique unto themselves as well; extremely charismatic, funny, intelligent and minus chips on their shoulders; they carry an enthusiasm for playing and producing music that rubs off on all that call themselves followers of the band. Their discography (of which 2011’s The Hunter is their fifth official long player, but sixth proper release overall) reflects their attitude and musicianship better than most of their peers. All this combined breeds a group that is massively respected by their contemporaries, fans and critics alike. So after over two years since their proggy behemoth, Crack the Skye was released, and much discussion regarding the band’s musical direction, Hunter is out in the world and ultimately, it is possibly the best indicator of where Brann, Brent, Troy and Bill are with their skills and vision as well as serving as an almost justification for their refusal to repeat themselves. Sprawling concept album ideas are on hold this time; tight, self-contained tracks with plenty of chest hair are the order of the day.

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