Music Video of the Day: Low Rider by War (1975, dir by ????)


This is a song that really gets stuck in your head!

The song, of course, is about cars.  Myself, I’ve always associated this song with Dazed and Confused. I’ve also always liked that line about the low rider getting a little higher because it’s such a 70s line.  It’s like the parents think it’s about the car and the kids know it’s about the driver.

As for the video, my favorite part comes at the end:

Far out!

Enjoy!

AMV of the Day: War (Valkyria Chronicles)


Time for a new “AMV of the Day” entry and this time I found one that combines one of my favorite songs of the last couple years with an anime series that I’ve grown to like very much.

“War” is the title of the song and the AMV created by saberslayer. I grew to love this song after I first heard it play during my play-through of Remedy’s Alan Wake psychological-horror game. As for the anime series Valkyria Chronicles this was something that I wasn’t sold on when I first found out it was based on the PSP strategy rpg of the same name. Not being a major fan of anything Sony gaming-related I just dismissed the series as just another attempt by Sony to push the PSP since it wasn’t selling as well as it’s rival the Nintendo DS. Well, to my surprise I tried the series and ended up really liking it.

The video really captures the feeling of the song with the backdrop of a world that’s a mix of World War II Europe with anime-style techno-magic. Saberslayer does a great job in keeping much of the hyper-editing cuts that many amv creators have fallen in love with. While the video still uses some graphical flourishes like making certain scenes play out in sepia-like tones the rest of the video is pretty straightforward in terms of editing and it allows for the song’s tempo to match the video’s pacing. Saberslayer could easily have sped things up but to the detriment of the song and the video’s overall emotional impact.

This is one AMV creator I shall keep my eyes open for whenever they release a new video.

Anime: Valkyria Chronicles

Song: “War” by Poets of the Fall

Creator: saberslayer

Past AMVs of the Day

Battle: Los Angeles (Super Bowl TV Spot)


This site has been pushing the upcoming alien invasion film, Battle: Los Angeles since the first trailer started coming out several months ago. Sony Pictures has just released the latest one and this Super Bowl tv spot is shorter than the usual trailers, but it definitely shows the potential for this film’s awesomeness.

It pretty much uses some of the same footage from the previous trailers, but shows new ones of the soldiers’ reaction to the initial stages of the invasion and how they’ll be the one’s to have to fight the big fight.

The film comes out on March 11, 2011.

Song of the Day: War (by Poets of the Fall)


Since I had already chosen the latest AMV of the Day to feature the Finnish rock band, Poets of the Fall, I thought it only appropriate that the latest Song of the Day make it a double-billing. This latest chosen song for this music feature is “War” by Poets of the Fall.

The song features heavily in the psychological-thriller game, Alan Wake, on the Xbox 360. It’s not surprising to find Poets of the Fall as part of this game’s soundtrack since the groups past relationship with Remedy who developed the game and who also happen to be Finnish themselves. “War” was used as the score for the end of Episode Five in the game. Even the official music video shot by the band used the basic plot of the game for it’s visuals.

In years past the band’s albums were typically labeled as alternative rock which is probably why I never really heard about them until I heard them on Alan Wake. This particular song is the second track on their latest album, Twilight Theater, and moves the band from their alternative roots to a more symphonic rock sound. This symphonic sound actually gives the band a much more classic hard rock vibe than their previous albums and is probably why I’ve finally gotten into their music. And I shall continue to listen to them and their future musical endeavors if they continue on this new musical style.

War

Do you remember standing on a broken field
White crippled wings beating the sky
The harbingers of war with their nature revealed
And our chances flowing by?

If I can let the memory heal
I will remember you with me on that field

When I thought that I fought this war alone
You were there by my side on the frontline
When I thought that I fought without a cause
You gave me a reason to try

Turn the page I need to see something new
For now my innocence is torn
We cannot linger on this stunted view
Like rabid dogs of war

I will let the memory heal
I will remember you with me on that field

When I thought that I fought this war alone
You were there by my side on the front line
And we fought to believe the impossible
When I thought that I fought this war alone
We were one with our destinies entwined
When I thought that I fought without a cause
You gave me the reason why

With no-one wearing their real face
It’s a whiteout of emotion
And I’ve only got my brittle bones to break the fall

When the love in letters fade
It’s like moving in slow motion
And we’re already too late if we arrive at all

And then we’re caught up in the arms race
An involuntary addiction
And we’re shedding every value our mothers taught

So will you please show me your real face
Draw the line in the horizon
‘Cause I only need your name to call the reasons why I fought

When I thought that I fought this war alone
You were there by my side on the front line
And we fought to believe the impossible
When I thought that I fought this war alone
We were one with our destinies entwined
When I thought that I fought without a cause
You gave me the reason why

Review: The Wild Geese (dir. by Andrew V. McLaglen)


1978’s action war-film, The Wild Geese, is a film adaptation of Daneil Carney’s unpublished novel about a group of mercenaries on a mission during the turbulent, revolutionary times which beset central Africa during the 1960’s and early 70’s. It boasts an all-star cast of British actors who were a who’s who of the time. Under the direction of Andrew V. McLaglen, The Wild Geese, manages to be an action-packed and well-told film with some memorable performances from its cast.

The story begins with a meeting between Allen Faulkner (played by Sir Richard Burton) and British banker Sir Edward Matheson about a rescue to take place in the fictional Central African nation of Zembala. The first third of the film details Faulkner’s recruitment of the mercenaries who will comprise his team of 50 including an old friend of his, Rafer Janders (played by Sir Richard Harris) who reluctantly joins Faulkner for a last mission. This early part of the film shows a mercenary company in action as they train, prepare and make any last minute adjustments before they are inserted into enemy territory to begin their mission. The second half of the film covers the rescue of their mission target. An imprisoned and deposed African leader about to be executed by the man who overthrew him.

It is during this second third of the film where the action begins to pick up. While tame and quaint by today’s action and war film standards, the action sequences in this film was quite energetic and well-shot for its time. It also shows the mercenaries not as the typical good guys fighting the faceless and unnamed enemy. They’re shown using tactics that even people of today would find shocking. From using concentrated cyanide gas to kill sleeping soldiers in their barracks to the use of cyanide-tipped crossbow bolts to silently kill sentries. The film shows mercenaries for what they are and that’s soldiers paid by a private citizen and/or group to accomplish a mission using any means necessary to accomplish the task. It is this employer and hired hand dynamic which drives the final reel of the film as the success in pulling off the rescue mission becomes a moot point as betrayal works against the team and their continued survival deep in enemy territory.

The excellent performances by Burton and Harris as old war hounds whose only talent lies in waging war is accompanied by the roguish charm exhibited by a much younger Sir Roger Moore as Irish pilot Shaun Fynn. The rest of the cast also includes fine performances from Hardy Kruger as Pieter Coetzee, the racist Afrikaaner who slowly gains understanding as to the nature and consequences of the troubling times afflicting Africa. Even Stewart Granger as the banker Matheson shines in his brief but pivotal role in the film.

For a small film (when compared to other war epics of the era), The Wild Geese actually has an epic feel to it that should’ve appealed to an American audience, but instead fell by the wayside as its release Stateside was troubled by bankruptcies within the production company. With the advent of home video, and now DVD, the film has become a big cult-hit amongst fans of the war genre, especially those of the mercenary film subgenre which is still dominated by subpar releases. It is a testament to the work of director McLaglen that the film never slows down too much to ruin the pacing of the film. The film never gets too enamored with the war scenes to lose sight of some of the political and philosophical themes the film starts to explore in the last third of its running time. Some might say that his direction was quite workmanlike and make it sound like a negative. In fact, this workmanlike quality allows the actors and the story to take center stage.

The Wild Geese is a rare gem of a war film which delves into a little-known subgenre. With some very strong performances from a cast full of knighted British actors, a former Hitler Youth and real-life mercenaries hired as extras the film manages to distinguishes itself from the many awful war films which began to dominate the late 70’s and early 80’s as tiny studios began popping up outside of Hollywood. A wonderful and underappreciated war film which should entertain even the most jaded film fan.

Review: Terminator Salvation (dir. by McG)


It has been 25 years since a certain James Cameron introduced the film-going public to the post-apocalyptic world of Judgement Day. While he’s never really fully shown the war-torn future ruled by the machines in the the two films he directed in the Terminator franchise he does show glimpses of it. It’s these glimpses of desperate humans fighting to survive against Skynet and its machine hunter-killing robots which have always intrigued and made its fans salivate at the thought of seeing it realized. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003 tried to show how it all truly began, but again it just hinted at the future battlefield and not the full-blown war. It is now 2009 and the most unlikely filmmaker has finally shown what the future of Judgement Day looks like. McG’s Terminator Salvation succeeds and fails in equal amounts yet has laid the groundwork for the future of the franchise as a war series instead of of its past as installments of what really is one huge chase film.

There are many things which work in Terminator Salvation and one of them happen to be its director McG. A director who is much-maligned for his too campy Charlie’s Angels set of films would’ve been the last name to look to for a restart to the stalled franchise. His direction of this fourth entry in the series was actually very well-done. There’s none of the cartoony and way over-the-top action set-pieces of his Charlie’s Angels past. Instead he moves the film along in a brisk and energetic pace with very little downtime for much introspection. It is this pacing which makes this a good and, at times, an above-average action-film but also serves to make any of the scenes questioning what it is to be human (once again) and machine seem tacked on. The first three films in the series have delved into this theme and question too many times for a fourth attempt make it seem any more relevant than the previous times.

McG went out to make a war entry to the series and to an extent that’s what he did. While there are chases to be had it doesn’t necessarily mean its all about John Connor once again (though the film does make it a point of targeting him again in its own fashion). Terminator Salvation has finally shown what the world looks like after the events of the third film and what had been hinted and teased at in the first two. The world is a desolate place with ruins of landmarks to give the audience a reference point. We see Los Angeles a tumbling and crumbling wreck which looked eerily like something out of the recent Fallout 3 scifi-rpg game. Even San Francisco makes a post-apocalyptic appearance as a major Skynet headquarters. McG achieves this post-apocalyptic look by bleaching out the film’s color palette to the point that browns and greys dominate. He actually achieves to add grittiness to this film which his past films had never shown him having the ability to do. While this film won’t sway people to admiring his skill as a filmmaker it does show some  growth. Then again he does have a hold of a film series which is nothing but B-movies elevated through bigger budgets and access to the latest in film FX. If I have any gripe to point out about the action in the film it’s that there’s not enough of it to truly convey a “War Against the Machine” scenario. We get these tantalizing hints, but not something on par of what a fuure war should look.

The budget could be seen on the screen as the film uses a combination of CGI and practical effects to pull off a much more complex robotic army for Skynet. It’s the robots and machines which keeps bringing the audience back each and every time the series releases a new entry. We don’t just have the Human Resistance fighting the typical T-800 or even the more advanced T-1000 or T-X. We get the earlier versions of these human hunting and killing machines. From a brutish and zombie-like T-600 we see in the LA-scenes to newer and bigger specialized Skynet soldiers like the anime-inspired mech Harvester which towers several stories high and literally harvests humans it finds to take back to SKynet’s R&D bases. When the original Terminator does make an appearance it’s both a welcome and a surprise as McG’s technical wizards find a way to bring back the original exactly the way it’s supposed to look. I’m sure the Governator of California would want to have that physique and youth back.

As an action-film Terminator Salvation works well enough when the action appears on the screen. Now as a film that tries to delve into the philosophical trappings of the series it doesn’t so much as fail and sink the film, but almost does which would’ve been a shame. While not the worst in the series in terms of storytelling it does come across as very scattershot in what story it wants to tell. The film actually has three ideas which could’ve been used to make it’s own film. Is the film a story of John Connor and his rise to his prophesized leadership of the Resistance (he’s a leader of a branch of fighters, but not yet of the whole group in this film)? Or is this film about the search and attempt to make sure the person who will be Connor’s father stays alive to allow what transpired in the past to happen (time-travel can be a tricky and confusing thing to comprehend)? Or is Terminator Salvation the story of the new character Marcus Wright and his quest to find out just who, or what he is exactly? It’s all three of those and all three weren’t explored enough to make one care too much for the story being told. There’s great ideas in all three but trying to combine them into one coherent storyline mostly falls flat and uninsipiring for a film trying to be the war movie in the series. For what are war movies mostly but attempts to show inspiration in the face of desperation. There’s very little of that in this film. If the writers had been given a chance to further streamline the story into one major arc then this film would have benefitted greatly in the long run.

With acting very tightly tied-in with the story being told it’s only logical that the performances by the cast rarely go beyond acceptable. Christian Bale’s John Connor is always dour and brooding. He’s almost becoming a typecast for any role that requires for him to be the down man in any party. He does this ably, but he doesn’t bring anything to the role which hasn’t already been explored in past entries. His performance does show hints of mental instability as the weight of being the savior and prophet of the human race may be starting to get to him. The other two pivotal roles in the film have more meat to play around with. Anton Yelchin as the teenage Resistance fighter destined to become John Connor’s father in the past shines in the scenes he’s in as he elevates a bland script with some youthful energy and hints of the adult Kyle Reese fans of the series know so well. Then we arrive on the newest character in the series: Marcus Wright.

Little-known Australian actor Sam Worthington was recommended by James Cameron for the role of Marcus Wright. Like Anton Yelchin’s performance, Worthington’s work in the role of Wright saves the film from mediocrity. While it is not a start-turning performance by any means Worthington does make it difficult not to pay attention to him throughout the film. The man has presence and every scene he is in shows why Cameron himself has faith in being the latest to carry the Terminator torch. The rest of the cast is quite a throwaway in that we never really get to know any of them and invest anything in their well-being.

Terminator Salvation is a very frustrating film in that there’s so much great ideas to mine. The series has always tried to explore such themes as fate, predetermination and human free will. While the third film in the series was quite lacking in memorable action sequences this fourth entry makes a mess of trying to explore these themes. Again, it seems as if the film’s script was rushed into production with very little doctoring and as the production continued forward no one bothered to point out just how average and bland the storyline does sound despite being the most overly complex of the series.

One thing I am sure of is that the one person people thought would be the weakest link in this film instead happens to be its strongest. McG and some inspired acting from two newcomers keep the film from becoming a total failure. Terminator Salvation is an able and, for most of it’s running time, a very good action film with brisk pacing and energy in its action sequences. Enough of these elements keeps the film’s fractured and scattershot of a storyline from sinking the film into total failure. As a summer tentpole action film it delivers on some of what it promises, but it could’ve been more and better. Some would settle on calling this entry in the franchise a failure, but I am always an optimist and a fan of action thus I’ll land on calling this film a successful failure.

Review: World War Z (written by Max Brooks)


I was one of many who heard about Max Brooks’ satirical guide book The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. Being a huge fan of George A. Romero’s Dead series of films and just the zombie subgenre in general, I was intrigued by the release of this guidebook. From the first page to the last I was impressed, entertained, and hooked on Brooks’ serio-comic take on how to survive a zombie outbreak. One section of the book which really caught my interest and has remained a favorite to reread over and over was the final one which details the so-called “historical” instances of past zombie outbreaks throughout history. From as far back as Ancient Egypt and Rome up to the late 1990’s. My only gripe about that section of the book was that it was all-too-brief. I felt that it could’ve been made longer and even would’ve made for a fine book on its own. Maybe I wasn’t the only one to have wished for such a thing to happen for it seems that Brooks himself might have thought the same thing. His latest book in his trip through the zombie genre is titled World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and it takes the final chapter of his previous book and expands on it. But instead of using past “historical events” to tell his story Brooks goes into the near future to describe what would happen if the zombies ever did bring the human race to the brink of extinction and how humans finally learned how to fight back and take back the world.

World War Z is a fictional account of a worldwide outbreak of the living dead in the near future and judging from some of the descriptions of places and events in the beginning of the book it won’t be too far in the future. WWZ is done in an interview-style format with each chapter consisting of first-person interviews of individuals who lived through the Zombie War from its initial outbreak to it’s final battles and mop-up operations. The sampling of survivors interviewed range from soldiers who fought the losing battles in the early going of the war when lack of information, outdated tactics, and illogical reactions to the zombie outbreak contributed to humanity almost losing the war. These soldier survivors explain how humanity became its own worst enemy when it came to protecting its own and combating the growing ranks of the zombies. Some of the mistakes were unavailable as information on how to combat the zombies were far and few and even then most were unreliable. Some mistakes on the other hand many today would consider as unconscionable as war-profiteers and those willing to keep a hold on their own power and who would sacrifice their own people to keep it so.

There’s also the regular people who survived the war and who made great contributions during the dark days when humanity were pushed into isolated and fortified pockets of resistance as everywhere around them the zombie army grew exponentially. Some of these people were just children when the outbreak first began as rumors and unsubstantiated news reports. It’s the words of those children now adults that show how war and conflict really takes the biggest toll on the smallest and helpless. One could substitute the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Balkans and even Africa in lieu of Brooks zombie war and this book would still resonate. There’s a particular entry of how children left to their own devices to try and survive alone in the wild with zombies all around have turned feral to the point that their capacity to learn and develop into adulthood has become stunted or even halted permanently.

World War Z: Battle of Yonkers

Battle of Yonkers

Brooks’ novel also puts in little veiled references to the events occurring now in the real world. There’s mention of the unpopular war in the Persian Gulf as having a detrimental effect on the morale of troops once they returned home and how this helped make the initial fight to stem the tide of the zombies a losing proposition from the outset. There’s also mention of Iran as having acquired a nuclear arsenal and how this leads to an incident early in the Great Panic of the zombie outbreak that speaks volume of what could happen if unstable states acquire weapons of mass destruction. Brooks’ also gives a prescient look into a near future where the US and Europe stop being the economic superpowers of the world and step aside for the economic juggernaut that is China and India. All these inferences of today’s geopolitical and economical events mirrors what might just come into fruition.

The interview format really gives the book a sense of realism despite the outrageous and fantastical nature of the book. As I read the book I was reminded of Stephen A. Ambrose’s books on the men and women who fought during World War 2. Ambrose also used interviews and personal accounts to make up the bulk of his books like in Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers. Having a personal take on the events gave his books more emotional impact and really brought the emotions of the conflict to those who never experienced it. The same could be said about Max Brooks’ World War Z. Even though the novel was speculative fiction from beginning to end it still made the reader think of how such an event, if it ever came to pass, could be so tragic, disheartening but in the end uplifting as it once again shows that humanity could still pull itself together through all its petty misunderstandings to survive. On a more stylistic point, Brooks’ novel shares some similarities to Theodore Judson’s sci-fi epic Fitzpatrick’s War. Judson’s book also tries to chronicle a future war which was shaped by religious and ideological forces. Where Judson goes way into the future of an alternate Earth, Brooks smartly stays to a more foreseeable future that readers of his book would most likely see happen; hopefully a much brighter and less-zombified one.

Brooks’ decision to forgo the usual linear and narrative style for this book also allowed him a certain bit of freedom to introduce one-shot characters in addition to those who appear regularly. In a more traditional novel such one-shot characters would seem useless and even unnecessary, but in this interview format it makes more sense since it’s really just a collection of personalities trying to describe their own take of the Zombie War they lived through. Some people I know who have read the novel have said that there’s little or no talk of love and relationships in World War Z. I, for one, was glad that Brooks didn’t try to force certain “interviews” where it talks of survivors finding love and relationships during the outbreak, through the war and all the way to the mop-up. This book chronicles tales of survival and horror. As much as a tale of love would’ve been a change of pace to all the death and horror in the interviews it would’ve been too drastic a change of pace. I would think that the last thing that most people would have in their minds when trying to survive day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour would be to stop for a moment and have sex, cuddle or other less-than survival behaviors.

All in all, Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War takes a serious look at a fictional and fantastical premise and event with a serious eye. The book manages to be tragic and terrifyingly spot-on about how the world governments today could fail when confronted by such a horror of tremendous proportions. Unlike his more satirical first book on the zombie subject, World War Z shows the flaws and failings of humanity and how it almost led to its extinction, but it also shows humanity’s stubbornness in the face of total annihilation and how it could come together in cooperation to not just survive but take back the world. In times of extreme adversity man can be brought to his knees but also show his resilience. A great novel and one that deserves reading from not just fans of the horror and zombie subgenre, but those who enjoy taking a peek into what could be, no matter how outrageous.