Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Counterclockwise – Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects


Hailling from Croatia, Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects are an eclectic, rock power trio.  Counterclockwise is their follow-up album to their debut 2010 album, Destination Unkown.

01. Too Much Is Not Enough – The album opens with a short 30 second track with subtle guitar and vocals which crescendos near the end to propel us into the next song.

02. Build Your Destiny – A driving beat and uplifting message, ‘Build Your Destiny’ shows that the band plays very well together, with the contrast between Ivan’s vocals and electric guitar, with the bass and drums supporting.  This track really showcases each of the band members without overshadowing anyone else’s performance.

03. What Is Underneath – With this song, the band explores the difference between people’s outward projections and ‘What Is Underneath.’  Alen really shines through with the drum-work on this track.  It ends with a very effective a cappella.

04. Driving Force – Powerful choruses and an energetic interplay between the guitar and bass make up ‘Driving Force.’  It is also the second longest track on the album, clocking in at over eight minutes.  Ivan has a blistering guitar solo near the end of the track.

05. Gilded Cage – “Gilded Cage’ is my favorite song on the album.  It starts out with a percussive cadence and a mellow guitar.  The vocals and instruments compliment the lyrics about a man contemplating life in a hotel room.  Ivan also has a chance to show off his vocal range.

06. Gift Of Life – After a brief intro, ‘Gift Of Life’ slams the listener with heavy guitar before settling into a bass groove.  The balance between heavy and light, music and silence in this track is impressive.  It would seem an exercise in control if it didn’t sound so natural and free.  Ivan unleashes another phenomenal guitar solo near the close of the track.

07. Time Travel – ‘Time Travel’ is a very unique track; Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects create some sounds from their instruments that I can’t say I’ve heard before.  It is very refreshing.  This is the only instrumental track on the album, and it is very well done.

08. Eclipse – The longest song on the album at 12 minutes, ‘Eclipse’ has a lot going on.  The beginning reminds me of one of those spooky rides at an amusement park, with a darker soundscape.  A minute in and the driving guitar kicks in and you can’t help but pulsate with the music.  This song is about inner struggle, and the band does a great job portraying the feelings and emotions through lyrics and music.

09. I Am – Acoustic guitar and solid vocals make up the intro to the last track on the album.  The transition from ‘Eclipse’ to this track was expertly done.  The blend of acoustic and electric along with softer and heavier music is very rewarding.  It ends with just a little bit of dissonance, which conveys that they are not finished.

Counterclockwise is a very tight album; from the singing and instrumentals to the mastering and presentation.  I get the sense that the band spent a lot of time making this album and getting it to sound exactly how they wanted.  I don’t know how much time they spent making this, but it is well worth your time to grab a copy and give them a listen.  I eagerly await their next album.

Album rating: 10/10

Official website: www.ivanmihaljevic.com


© 2013 Nate Phillipps

Friday, May 10, 2013

Enjoy The Darkness

The Story of Darksoul Theatre

Mikhail Tank’s Psychological Antidotes and Soul Prescriptions: The Story of Darksoul Theatre documents the events, emotions, and thoughts that led to his creation of Darksoul Theatre.  This documentary offers an intimate look at the inception and struggle of a performance artist.  Mikhail’s interests are theatre, spoken word, video, and a positive life outlook.

Presented in chronological order, Mikhail starts with his childhood in Russia and the oppression he felt creatively.  Upon moving to America for high school, he immediately took to expressing himself in any way, and anywhere, he was able.  From the lunch room to during class to the stage, Mikhail embraced the freedom his new home allowed.  From there he talks about his college years and collaborations, and even his plans for the future of his art and Darksoul Theatre.

The main theme of Psychological Antidotes and Soul Prescriptions is really positive messages for life.  Mikhail frames this life philosophy in terms of darkness versus negativity.  Mikhail feels the two are opposites, where negativity will bring you down if you embrace the darkness of yourself you know yourself, and can fulfill your creative potential.  He also poses a thoughtful question about the motive for creativity.  The question is whether one is creative to clear their soul, for money, or for the souls in the audience.

Visually, the documentary contains a mix of interview footage, studio footage, original performance footage, and interesting visual effects.  All-in-all it was well assembled and flowed nicely between the different elements.

Psychological Antidotes and Soul Prescriptions is an informative and emotional documentary.  Mikhail talks about struggles and challenges but always manages to see the positives in every situation.  He infuses himself in his art and holds nothing back, and in that sense this documentary would be more powerful if the viewer immersed themselves in his performances and art.  For an interesting and life-affirming documentary about one man’s creative outlets, peer into your inner darkness and watch Psychological Antidotes and Soul Prescriptions.

For more information check out Amazon or IMdB.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Egofest 2011: Part 1

If you missed the Friday night opening of Egofest, here is the rundown of the movies.

The Saving (MJ Slide & Rebecca Davis)

What happens when the dead influence the living in order to save lives?  In a film that touches on teen suicide, MJ Slide does a decent job conveying her message.  The one thing that could have made this film better would have been a longer runtime, as it covers such a deep topic.  Definately a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

Rating: 6/10

Archer (Erik Mauck)

When an elderly man has trouble moving on, he finds a friend in an unlikely place.  An all-around heart-warming and cute story, Archer is well shot and concise.  I kind of wish there was less reading from To Kill A Mockingbird and more character development, but perhaps that is part of the allure of the film.

Rating: 8/10

Clown Dad (Michael Lee Nirenberg)

A high school girl struggles with the fact that her dad is a clown, 24/7.  The first two minutes of this film were hilarious, and I was looking forward to more, as the concept is very interesting and original.  However, the film proceeded to drag on for 26 more minutes.  It opened with a quasi-musical style that was really well done, however that was not what followed with the remainder of the movie.

Rating: 3/10

Rediscover (D.A. Young)

In a dinner date, two people rediscover love.  The audio on this film was a bit wacky, and for film buffs, it was fairly predictable.  Some rough cuts and mediocre acting did nothing to improve the overall experience.  There was almost too much information given away in the first 45 seconds of the film, perhaps if it were more mysterious in the beginning, the 'twist' would have a bigger impact.

Rating: 2/10

Missing Elisabeth (Phil Seneker)

When a young boy loses his sister, the line between reality and imagination is blurred.  This film had absolutely fantastic cinematography.  Every shot looked amazing.  The story left a  little to be desired, but all in all a solid film.

Rating: 6/10

Cerise (John T. Trigonis)

When it comes to spelling bees, nobody seems to care about second place.  This film examines the life of a second-place spelling bee participant.  Great direction, well thought out script and a nice, tight film.  The highlight is probably the Wii boxing match, but every scene is enjoyable.

Rating: 9/10

SHC (Robb Thompson)

A skeptical artist and a super accurate psychic meet; sparks fly.  This may be the best short I've ever seen.  Everything is polished, even with the gritty feel, it's a polished grit.  The writing is superb.  The acting is spot-on.  And the editing is sublime.  This is the must-watch short of 2011.

Rating: 10/10

Way To Go, Christine! (Mark Thimijan)

When taking breaks at work conflict with the boss, only one can win.  This short is very real.  If you've had a stickler for a boss, you can relate to Christine.  This is one of those shorts where the story carries everything.  There was something weird about the aspect ratio/lens, but the story was so good that the rest didn't matter.

Rating: 8/10

Light (Lee Bishop)

Not really sure what to say about this film.  It was interesting because I wondered how high somebody would have to be to film the sun through their bedroom window.  It may be similar to how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop; the world may never know.

Rating: 1/10

Friday Night (Stephen Gurewitz)

At the tail end of an awkward date, a woman tries to escape her date's desperate, and drunken, advances.  This story was really well thought out.  I loved the awkwardness and the ending.  The sound and the camerawork wasn't quite as good as it could have been, but regardless an enjoyable film.

Rating: 7/10

A Musing (David Spies & Phil Seneker)

A struggling writer finds his muse in an unexpected location.  Witty, concise, terrific acting and expert cinematography make up A Musing.  A very engaging experience.  Make sure to check out this one!

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unknown (2011, Jaume Collet-Serra, PG-13)

Juame Collet-Serra (House of Wax, 2005) takes the helm of this action mystery dealing with mistaken identity. Collet-Serra shows growth from his directorial debut, as this is only his fourth feature-length project. Unknown is infinitely better than House of Wax, but it fails to be anything more than your stereotypical action flick.

Dr. Martin Harris, played by Liam Neeson (After.Life), is on a business trip in Germany when a taxi accident puts him in a coma. When he regains consciousness he discovers that another Dr. Martin Harris has replaced him and nobody, not even his wife, realizes the switch. With no identification and only the help of a young woman, Dr. Harris must prove his identity.

Rounding out the cast are Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds), January Jones (Mad Men), and Aidan Quinn (Jonah Hex). Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger are the shining lights in an otherwise bleak and uninteresting acting landscape. January Jones did not turn in a motivated performance. Her character was incredibly flat and wooden. If Jaume Collet-Serra wanted somebody who was able to match January Jones’ performance, they made the right choice with Aidan Quinn. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot to say as far as the acting goes.

Unknown is a straight-out-of-the-box action film in every regard. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it something worth going to the theater for? No. Everything from the direction to the acting and music are done in the cliché action-movie style. Juame Collet-Serra definitely does not try to reinvent anything here. Unknown falls into the category between mildly entertaining and mundane. If you’re looking for something to pass the time you could certainly do worse than Unknown, but if you’re looking for an action film to blow your mind you may want to look elsewhere.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unstoppable (Tony Scott, 2010) PG-13

With films like Top Gun, Man on Fire, and Domino, director Tony Scott is no stranger to action. As far as action goes, Unstoppable has plenty, and Tony Scott knows how to show it off. A film like this is a challenge because you are limited to the train tracks, it’s not like a bus with a bomb, so how exciting is a runaway train?

Denzel Washington (The Book of Eli) plays Frank, a veteran train employee who is weeks from retiring. Joining him is Will, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek), a rookie on the job. Animosity exists between the older veterans and the newer employees entering the workforce, as the older employees feel their jobs are being stolen by inexperienced workers. Frank and Will decide to go above and beyond their jobs and help stop an unmanned train before it causes massive damage and loss of life.

This film uses witty dialogue and intense action to move the viewers from point A to point B. The only thing missing is a decent story. Based loosely on true events, Unstoppable takes several liberties with facts, plot, and physics while failing to deliver any character growth. Unstoppable tries to give the viewers something, but the family subplots are uninteresting and completely unbelievable. As far as formulaic movies go, this one fits the mold. There are good effects and tense action, but despite that and the good acting, Unstoppable falls short of being a good film, and instead is regulated to being a mediocre film. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I just have no urge to see it again.

Ultimately, Unstoppable is an action film for the sole purpose of being an action film. The witty dialogue will not be enough to make this film anything more than an hour and a half distraction.

Rating: 5/10

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

The 3 Worst Actors

#3: Ben Affleck

There's a reason a whole three and a half minutes of the movie Team America were devoted to a song about how bad Affleck's performance was in Pearl Harbor (Michael Bay, 2001).  That reason is because he was that bad in Pearl HarborPearl Harbor is bad enough that we don't even have to talk about Daredevil (Mark Steven Johnson, 2003), but for professional reasons, I must.  When he plays a supporting role, he is tolerable.  His only redeeming factors are his roles in Kevin Smith films.

#2: John Cena

For these next two, it was tough, but when it came down to it, I simply had to decide who I liked least, and John Cena is less visible than my #1 choice.  I saw John Cena guest star in the TV series Psych.  It was not good.  He is a wrestler.  But for some reason, somebody thought to give him a whole movie, The Marine (John Bonito, 2006).  I don't know if I'd wish the Marine on my worst enemy.  If you take everything you don't like about Arnold Schwarzenegger's performances, and multiply them, you'll get a John Cena performance.  John Cena's only redeeming factor is he is very muscular, so I hope he doesn't read this...

#1: Dwayne Johnson

Anyone who calls themselves "The Rock" shouldn't be taken seriously, especially when they have a film where they play the tooth fairy.  Everytime I turn around I see this guy in another film.  Is anyone seeing a trend?  Two wrestlers making my 3 Worst Actors list?  Anyway, Dwayne Johnson starred in Doom (Andrzej Bartkowiak, 2005), which was much better as a video game.  Dwayne Johnson probably doesn't know anything about acting.  The best acting I've seen him do is as a CGI Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns (Stephen Sommers, 2001), which by no means was a good movie.  Dwayne Johnson's only redeeming factor is his role in Get Smart (Peter Segal, 2008) where the director knew how best to utilize him.

Honorable Mentions:

James Franco - Think Flyboys (Tony Bill, 2006)

Jennifer Garner - Think anything she's ever been in, most atrocious though Elektra (Rob Bowman, 2005)

Shia LaBeouf - I'm even having doubts about Harrison Ford after Indianna Jones & The Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls (Steven Spielberg, 2008).  And don't forget Eagle Eye (D.J. Caruso, 2008).

Adam Brody- Actually anyone involved with The O.C.  I did not see In The Land of Women (Jon Kasden, 2007) mainly because the trailers with Brody looked terrible.  Well, that and whatever Meg Ryan did to her face.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Due Date (Todd Phillips, 2010) R

Todd Phillips, the man responsible for The Hangover, Starsky And Hutch, and Old School tries his hand at a buddy road-trip comedy. While funny, Due Date is not terribly original, falls short of his previous works and leaves the viewer with serious doubts about the quality of The Hangover Part II.

Due Date stars Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man 2) as Peter Highman and Zach Galifianakis (Visioneers) as Ethan Tremblay. As far as the acting goes, Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis build a terrific rapport with each other, which brings Due Date out of the dull category and into the average category. Peter Highman is a high-strung, workaholic who is soon to be a father. Ethan Tremblay is an easy-going, eccentric aspiring-actor who wants to get to Hollywood to break into the industry. When their paths cross, Peter’s plans go right down the drain. After being placed on the No-Fly List, Peter’s only chance of getting home in time for the birth is a cross-country road trip with Ethan.

Overall, this movie is fairly predictable. There are some subplots that add interest to the film, and some liberties taken with reality that make it a comedy without consequences for the characters. Most of the humor comes from Peter and Ethan going for each others’ throats, but there are a few moments of gross-out humor that probably could have been left on the cutting room floor. The writing, directing and editing are all formulaic, which detracts from Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis’ performances.

Due Date is no Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but it is an enjoyable film that manages to be funny while still being mostly unoriginal. At the end, one part of me wanted a scene like the last scene in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but that closure never happened. Another part of me wished the ending would have been darker, as a majority of the movie implied, with whether or not Peter’s wife had an affair. For a feel-good movie unburdened by reality, check out Due Date.

Rating: 6/10

© 2010 Nate Phillipps