Boston

May 8, 2017

Pixies ‘Mutilate’ The Ryman in Nashville, May 5th 2017

Being in a city that is filled to the brim with musical on a nightly basis, you have to pick your battles and take advantage of the chances you get to see as many acts as possible.

I’ve learned this rather quickly living in Nashville, TN.

Living in South Florida I became complacent and came to terms with the fact that I was likely never able to see bands that I admire and have been listening to for years simply because of geographic discrimination. Unless I was willing to drive several hours, I was going to be stuck with a small pool of shows to pick from. That isn’t to say that I didn’t see several acts I really enjoyed in Florida, but living in Nashville has given me the chance to see acts I probably wouldn’t have been able to see without going the distance. This bring me to the Pixies, one of the seminal bands of the mid-to-late 1980s, a band that inspired Nirvana and so many other acts that created the angst-ridden grunge landscape that so many people lament about to this day.

Two special things happened on May 5th 2017; I saw the Pixies live for the first time and I also attended a concert in one of the oldest music venues in the United States, the Ryman Auditorium. There is something about the venue, the Ryman, where you feel a sense of history and a ghostly aura that hovers around the room. Legends have played there, new and old, and just being able to see a band that helped build a movement in music, even 30 years into their careers, is something very special.

The quartet consisting of Guitarist/Vocalist, Black Francis, Lead Guitar, Joey Santiago, Drummer, David Lovering, and Bassist, Paz Lenchantin, took the stage and began their set with arguably their most well-known song, ‘Where is My Mind,’ which most notably plays during the end credits of the film ‘Fight Club.’ The eeriness infected the venue as people sang along, swayed back and forth as it put the crowd in a trance. It personally almost brought me to tears.

The nearly 2-hour set consisted of fan favorites such as “Debaser” “Caribou” and “Wave of Mutilation,” as well as a healthy dose of new material from their 2016 album “Head Carrier.” The set was paced well and the band just came out and played music. No interludes, no crowd interaction, just two hours of music from their entire music catalog.

If you’re just seeing the Pixies for the first time, you of course are seeing the band with their new bassist, Lenchantin, instead of Kim Deal, the band’s original bassist. Of course I’ve seen numerous concert performances on TV and online, and both women hold their own, but seeing Lenchantin move on stage, she certainly had an aura about her in the way she moves and her vocals are the perfect foil to Black’s raspy offerings. While it would have been great to see Deal on the bass, and a treat to see “Gigantic” live, which is something that might not be done live anymore, seeing a new energy on stage with Lenchantin looks like it’s breathing new life into the band.

In addition to to the excellent set and acoustics, the light rigging was a welcome addition. It set the tone for several of the songs, and gave the entire performance more of a theatrical feel. The lighting told a story almost as much as the the music itself. It was the fifth member of the Pixies, if you will.

From fan favorites, to new material, May 5th’s show at The Ryman was a concert that I won’t soon forget. Seeing a band that has been putting out trendsetting music for over 30 years and still evolving isn’t something you see too often anymore, and despite the turmoil in recent years, it’s still great to see a band that is galvanized by one thing; the music and the crowd.

September 20, 2015

Black Mass

UNEASY

Johnny Depp was never really on my radar of great actors until he put on the gold teeth and somewhat affected swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Oh, I had seen him in films like Donnie Brasco and Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands.  However, I never really appreciated him as my kind of actor until he disappeared into the role of Captain Jack.  A role that truly made him an icon.  Then Depp began to make choices, mostly prompted by his friend and frequent collaborator Tim Burton, that turned his unique ability to disappear into a role a bit of a criticized trope.  Odd because the more he did what we kind of wish all of our actors would do, disappear into a role, the more we criticized.  Whether that be Dark Shadows, Alice In Wonderland, Mortdecai, The Lone Ranger, or Into The Woods.  It has been a somewhat unfair appraisal of Depp because it is obvious in hindsight that those films as a whole are the main problem.  The common denominator of those films and criticized Depp performances are also that they are light hearted tales.  People who still championed Depp hoped for him to do what he does best in more serious films.  The totally unremarkable Transcendence was not light hearted, but the film seemed to neuter every bit of personality or nuance Depp has.  Depp’s career seemed to be in critical limbo.  Fortunately for Depp, the film Black Mass has come along to not only break him out of that limbo but remind us how talented of an actor Depp is when put in the proper project.
Black Mass is the not-so-thorough true story of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and how his shady alliance with members of the FBI made him one of the most powerful criminals in the country.  If you have seen The Departed before going into this film, you will realize coming out how much director Martin Scorsese and actor Jack Nicholson borrowed from this infamous gangster’s life.  Since the backstory of Nicholson’s Frank Costello took kind of a backseat to Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s characters, I was delighted to hear that a film about the real Whitey Bulger was coming out and would hopefully fill in all those gaps.  Regrettably, As you can tell from the “not-so-thorough” descriptor in my opening sentence, Black Mass does not really flesh out Whitey as much as I or most would like.  Black Mass feels more like a collection of scattered moments, very well shot and well performed moments, that serve to drive the point home as to how scummy and terrifying Whitey Bulger was.  
What Black Mass lacks in specificity, it makes up for in its performances.  Johnny Depp certainly is the standout.  A performance that is worth the price of admission and worthy of Oscar consideration.  Thankfully, Depp is not alone.  Joel Edgerton, who is having a pretty good year with his earlier sleeper hit The Gift, matches Depp’s seductively slimey performance with an entertainingly sad and humanized one of his own.  Where Matt Damon’s character Colin Sullivan comes off as more a comically wormy character in The Departed, Edgerton’s version of a corrupt and desperate law enforcement official under Bulger’s thumb comes off as more real and relatable.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s brother Billy, impressed me since I was a little wary of how he would fit into this film and how well his Boston accent would hold up.  Cumberbatch nails every scene he is in, which left me wanting more insight into him, given how compelling a story it is to be the legitimate brother to a illegitimate gangster.  But the big names aren’t the only ones who shine.  Rory Cochrane, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple and even Dakota Johnson are compelling in their limited amount of time in the film.  
Whether it be Out Of The Furnace, Crazy Heart, or Black Mass, Scott Cooper seems to be making a career of helming films where the performances are stellar but the films themselves end up being only so-so.  It shows that as a director, Cooper knows how to get the best out of his actors, especially Johnny Depp.  He just needs a bit more polish and terms of telling a complete story in my opinion.  He knows how to create the tense and UNEASY atmosphere Black Mass needs.  I just hoped for a more indepth look at the man Depp creepily embodies.  Cook up your steaks, don’t give away the family secret, don’t put your wet fingers in the peanuts, don’t tell Whitey Bulger that you’re coming down with something, watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.   
November 2, 2013

Support Independent Film Dammit! (Stuck)

As any young person knows, more than ever, it’s hard out there for a pimp…..wait, no……that’s not how it goes.  Okay, got it, it’s hard out there for a millennial.  While it might not have the same ring and pop as the hit Three 6 Mafia song, it’s something that most post-college grads can relate to, unless you’re pimp, and if that’s the case, please see above comment.

“Stuck” is an indie film going into production in Spring 2014 with filming taking place in the greater Boston, MA-area.  Directed, written, and produced by Angela Palladino, “Stuck” tells the story about a group of millennial “stuck” in their small town after college.  I’m sure there are many of us that can relate to this.  There is nothing worse than leaving the safety of college only to thrust into the real world with little to no direction on what the next step should be.

With an experienced cast and crew, Ms. Palladino is trying to convey the frustrations and worries that all twenty-somethings have in this story that I might call “The Anti-Girls.”  Sure, some of us might be able to relate to the antics that Lena Dunham and her friends get into on the hit HBO show “Girls” but “Stuck” shows the angst juxtaposed against the hopes and dreams that we all have, along with the relationships we have with friends and lovers.

Inspired by films such as “Tiny Furniture,” “Drinking Buddies,” and “Garden State,” “Stuck” could very well be the millennial’s “Reality Bites” or “Singles.”

We at Simplistic Reviews fully support Independent Film and are happy to be working with Ms. Palladino in supporting “Stuck.”  There are numerous ways to help this Indie feature, but checking “Stuck’s” Indiegogo page is a great way to start.  During the production we will bring you exclusive production details of “Stuck” along with interviews from the director (Angela Palladino), cast, and crew.

Check out the links below to see how you can get “Stuck.”

Main (Stuck) Website
(Stuck) on Indiegogo
(Stuck) on IMDB
(Stuck) on Facebook
(Stuck) Trailer

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