MEET THE REFERENCES
Movie Review - Date Movie
by Daniele Hauptman
If you like playing Scene It, you’ll love watching Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer’s new film, Date Movie. This movie is anything but subtle, and I love it. It’s basically a cinematic collage of sexual innuendoes strewn with random movie quotes and a multitude of pop culture parodies and then wrapped with a giant bow of brazenly offensive racist, sexist, potty jokes. It’s everything I expected and more.
Plotwise, Alyson Hannigan plays a fat girl (yes, she’s beautiful on the inside) named Julia Jones who wants to find true love and is willing to go to great ends to fulfill that dream. It’s like a movie remix of Pimp My Ride vs. The Bachelor vs. Meet the Parents vs. Bridget Jones’ Diary vs. pretty much every other cheesy movie that’s come out within the past ten years. And yes, there’s even some Lord of the Rings thrown in for all you hobbit-lovers out there (including myself). And no, it really doesn’t make sense, but it works anyway.
Date Movie is so unbelievably bad that, somehow, it’s amazingly good.
The more I think about this movie, the more I notice that it really is a reflection of the society in which we live. It’s completely random, almost to the point of inflicting ADD on the audience. It makes the viewer reflect on things such as the ridiculous nature of reality television and Michael Jackson’s relationships with little boys. Ranging from exploitative bum-fights to Paris Hilton’s confusingly sexual car-wash burger commercial, this movie covers anything and everything on which American society tends to focus its five-second attention span.
The movie, however, focused way too much on making fun of particular movies to the extent that they completely hijacked entire quotes and scenes. For example, they took the entire scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding, where the wedding party bursts into song (a parody of Aretha Franklin’s “I Say A Little Prayer”), which I thought drew out the joke for too long. They also focused too much of the movie on parodying Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers. At one point, Julia, her family, and Grant are in a trailer driving to meet Grant’s parents, when Julia’s dad threatens to kill Grant if he disrespects his daughter. And of course, just like in Meet the Fockers, there’s a potty-trained cat and a baby that knows sign language. But this time, instead of the baby making signs to show that he needs to poop or that he doesn’t trust someone, he makes a bitch-slap sign that stands for “keep your pimp hand strong.” To its credit, the movie recognized its own ridiculous flaws, by ending with the fake Napoleon Dynamite (Josh Meyers) going, “Is it too late for another reference?”
This movie is definitely worth seeing, if only for the love of sheer randomness. It makes fun of every cheesy date movie imaginable and the cheesy lines that make them what they are (think, “You had me at hello”). If you expect to be blown away by intelligent or political humor, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you are looking for a movie to watch after taking some bong rips, you’ve come to the right place.
Website Review - Cultnews.com
by Erin McCarthy
I first heard about Cultnews.com when the site gave its opinion to MSN with regards to Tom Cruise’s recent proselytizing for Scientology. I have always found cults interesting from a psychological perspective—their leaders, the people who choose to join and remain in them, and why those individuals participate in bizarre, destructive, and sometimes fatal behaviors associated with the cult. Aside from the more obvious groups, like Charles Manson’s and Heaven’s Gate, I didn’t know too much about them. The website is maintained by Rick Ross, who started his career as a cult expert in 1982 when his grandmother’s nursing home was infiltrated by an extreme religious sect in Arizona and he assisted in ridding them from the area. Through extensive personal research, Ross has emerged as a leading figure in cult information and awareness.
Initially upon accessing the site, I thought I would survey the “Cult FAQ” section from the extensive list of options in the menu. This page gave brief, informative answers on the more obvious cult-related topics, such as “Defining a Cult,” or “Destructive Cult Mindsets.” If an individual were looking for more information on a particular topic, such as mind control, there are links within each of the paragraphs. This section is excellent for a beginner who really needs the basics in order to understand more of the gritty, specific information provided throughout the site.
Under the “Sponsor Links” heading, you can do everything from join a cult-awareness forum to look up information in the archives. One search for Heaven’s Gate brought up 252 hits consisting of magazine and newspaper articles from around the world. Ross’ section of links is good in that there were many, but a few of the links are broken. Despite this, his website is so extensive that you probably won’t need to look at too many other sites for information.
This is only a small portion of Cultnews.com with the real focus being on up-to-date news. All of the groups or topics are in alphabetical order, and I was shocked at some of the names I saw on the list, like Amnesty International, but Ross stresses that not all of the groups he lists are bad—some just have cult-like followings. Also, some of the topics have a cult-like interest, such as the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping or intrigue in UFOs, so they meet the criteria for being on this site.
The scope of the site is broad, so the main page can seem really intimidating. Initially, I thought the website was only about harmful cults, but it really covers every aspect of cult-culture imaginable. Ross isn’t trying to educate his readers, but inform them. Ross took just about everything he knew on cults plus his external resources and put it on the Internet. Its organization is just incredible so you don’t have to take everything in at once.
If you’re bored on a snowy afternoon and are even slightly curious, I highly recommend checking out this site. I can guarantee it will suck you in with its interesting and bizarre content.
NOT BURNED OUT
Video Game Review - BLACK
by Jason Perkins
From the developers of Burnout, whose sophisticated physics and graphics engine made it possible for a racing game to be fun again, comes BLACK. Those that have played the Burnout series know how frantic and exhilarating the gameplay is, and they can expect the same here.
Right from the title screen, players are treated to an excellent score by Chris Tilton, who also composed the Alias and The Incredibles soundtracks. Those surround sound speakers you jerry-rigged in the common room will finally receive the vigorous, demanding workout they were designed for. The menus are crisp, the background animation is smooth and exquisitely detailed, and the sound effects are as charismatic as something with only aural qualities can be.
You assume the role of agent Keller, a generic, highly trained black operations specialist, and (coerced by a generic government dirtbag) disclose the specifics of your assault on Seventh Wave, a generic arms-dealing terrorist faction. What passes for a story at this point is not particularly interesting or creative, but neither is it critical. After this bare-minimum plot, Keller begins his flashback, and you are abruptly heaved into combat. The missions are fairly linear and not very involved at all. Shoot through bad guys, advance to arbitrary finish line, begin next flashback and mission.
Where the game excels, however, is the action. Like any movie worth its salt, BLACK has a lot of explosions. Its cinematic style paired with the exceptional visuals makes for a great popcorn game due to the very generous supply of volatile weapons and containers. Entire cars, towers, and buildings can be demolished instantly, yet they don’t feel excessively fragile. Again, like its cinematic counterpart, each detonation in the game is welcome, impressive, and bigger than the last.
On the rare occasion that nothing is exploding, the gunfights are very satisfying. The range of weapons isn’t extensive, and they all feel pretty similar in terms of stopping power, but the number of opponents and their clever use of cover prevent the levels from being a straight run-and-gun affair. Running headfirst into an area might be fun the first few times, but will not get you any closer to achieving your goals. The artificial intelligence isn’t terribly bright, but a pair of dexterous thumbs, equally adept use of cover, and efficient manipulation of your surroundings will be required for your success. Those buildings and explosions I referred to can harm you just as easily as they can help.
BLACK will probably only take six hours or so to finish on normal difficulty, but it is entertaining the entire way through. It doesn’t try to do too much and branch out into areas that would detract from its gameplay. Possibly the biggest feature lacking here is the absence of any multiplayer. Similar games, most notably SOCOM, have thrived with play over the Internet, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, the developers left it out. What all this translates to is an extreme deficiency in re-playability. One run through the normal mode will be sufficient to see almost everything the game has to offer with no real incentive to go through it again.
Overall, the game can be adequately described as “gun porn.” It looks great and feels good while it lasts, but it’s over quicker than you’d like.
Album Review - Scarlet: This Was Always Meant to Fall Apart
by Justin Touretz
Labeling Scarlet within a musical genre is a difficult task. You can throw them in with grindcore, metalcore, or just about any heavy metal subgenre you wish. The truth of the matter is that this raucous quartet embodies both what is unique and painfully unoriginal within this scene. With their newest release, This Was Always Meant to Fall Apart, this retooled lineup delivers on the album’s promise; they start out with an energetic and distinctive sound only to have it all quite literally fall apart.
Listening to the opening track “Obsolete,” you’d swear that the next half-hour was destined to sound as if Muse replaced front man Matthew Bellamy with Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins; yeah, it’s pretty weird, but quite interesting. As the song ends, it reaches a climax seemingly hinting at a truly unique and unprecedented sounding CD full of electronic stops. What follows just doesn’t make sense: instead of delivering on the promise of “Obsolete,” the guys from Scarlet throw in a completely unrelated run-of-the-mill metalcore song called “Swarm Manifesto.”
This is best explained by one look at the CD sleeve, Fall Apart was produced and mixed by Andreas Magnusson and Randy Vanderbilt—Scarlet’s drummer and guitarist respectively. This isn’t to suggest that the CD is a wash, it just isn’t properly put together. The guys would have been better off if their label, Ferret Records, had forced them to go outside the group instead of recording at Magnusson’s Red Planet Studio.
The one benefit from Magnusson and Vanderbilt taking the reigns of the production is that the guitar and drum parts sound absolutely amazing. If you are a fan of screeching guitar licks, check out “Lyssophobia,” which hails as the band’s most solid riffing. For some of the best metal drumming I’ve heard in years, you’ll dig virtually the entire album since Magnusson can change time signatures on a dime.
If “Obsolete” was just drumming, the first half of the album would stand out as a super tight example of what solid metalcore should sound like. Brandon Roundtree steps up to the plate as the new singer/screamer and spits out a mix of guttural shrieks and clean vocals that any metal-head would love. Scarlet really shines on “The Separation Of” as Roundtree’s voice handles the transition from utter chaotic terror to falsetto-like crooning all within the lines, “Singing their heavenly songs/ Convincing they do no wrong.”
Scarlet’s EP of this album hinted at a possibly genre-defining record, but the full length tends to just fall into one long riff, but a tight riff at that, as the songs don’t separate well from each other as the album progresses. Each one sounds more and more like the last until you can’t even tell the difference. If you enjoy rocking to bands like Converge, give Scarlet a listen, but don’t expect them to give you anything new.
PANO’S HAS THAT SPECIAL TOUCH
Restaurant Review - Pano’s
by Amanda Lerman
In one of the only economically sub-thriving areas in Buffalo, such as Elmwood Avenue, it is quite difficult to emerge as a hot spot and successful business. Pano’s, the cozy Greek-American diner, born as a tiny spot down the street, has grown to be one of the most raved-about restaurants on Buffalo’s West Side. With its elegant atmosphere, friendly service, sensible prices, and quality food, what more could you ask for?
Pano’s puts to shame every typical Greek-American diner you’ve been to with its varied menu. They bring to the table possibilities of anything from traditional Greek food of far better quality than your typical Greek restaurant throughout Western New York to the classic favorite steak and eggs to the happiest ending of anyone’s meal, a scrumptious slice of Oreo cake. Dinner specials also include the ever-popular lamb Souvlaki as well as beverages such as Greek coffee and a large assortment of beers, wines, and soft drinks. The beauty of their menu is how it’s aimed to please all audiences—vegetarians, meat lovers or those who keep kosher and stay out of the Jew “naughty book.” Anyone can find a great meal and be more than satisfied with their order. So, if you happen to have dinner plans with an incredibly picky friend who bemoans everything possible, drag him/her by the hair to Pano’s and show them what there is to love.
Not only are there a million different choices of foods, but portion sizes are large enough to be able to take home for another meal. This comes in handy for the next day after your rambunctious night when your leftovers sing your name from the fridge. The food is also of high quality, and meals include a large variety of side dishes, keeping your taste buds on the edge of their seat. Customers are given the luxury and power of creating their own orders the way they want them prepared, furthering Pano’s goal of pleasing all of their customers and making them feel important.
Pano’s not only keeps your mouth happy but your eyes and overall mood happy as well. The elegant, romantic setting brings a comfortable, homey feeling to their customers, equipped with beautiful strings of lights, pretty plants, and scenic pictures accessorizing the walls with images of its home, Elmwood. Hygiene is also of high importance to Pano’s proven by their continuously shiny utensils, cozy booths, and clean bathrooms, which create a comfortable feeling to the customers of how they must keep their kitchen as well. The friendly and attentive service is yet another great quality of the diner, as well as the several cute waiters, who you’ll want to wrap up with your large portions. Make your faces, but you and I both know it can’t hurt!
The sensible prices, averaging at $15 for a full meal, including drink, appetizer, and entrée, keep customers’ wallets and tummys filled to the brim. Also, parking and seating are rarely problems.
Due to Pano’s wide array of spectacular specials with fabulous service that is friendly and efficient, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone and everyone. Make sure to pay a visit to 1081 Elmwood Ave and have a slice of this amazing experience.
BEAUTY AND THE LOBSTER
Album Review - Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
by Michael Torsell
Over the course of their career, Belle and Sebastian’s musical output has been varied. After debuting with a pair of now legendary albums, Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister, the group’s follow up albums, The Boy With the Arab Strap and Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, hardly matched up to the albums preceding them. At this point, it was assumed that the group may never live up to their early work; however, Belle and Sebastian, after losing two of its founding members (bassist Stuart David and cellist Isobel Campbell), regrouped and pulled off an amazing comeback. With 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle and Sebastian shed their earlier twee leanings, revealing a fuller and tighter sound. With the release of the group’s sixth album, The Life Pursuit, the Scottish group has solidified their status as indie-pop band par excellence.
The Life Pursuit opens up with “Act of the Apostle,” a quasi-psychedelic piece sounding unlike anything the group has done in the past. The most noticeable change is how much fuller the group sounds; Belle and Sebastian have benefited significantly from better production. While their low budget analog recording ethic was endearing, higher values brought with it a much tighter, clearer sound complimenting the band’s lush instrumentation. Glossy production may initially put off low-fi enthusiasts, but it allows songs like “Acts of the Apostle” to be realized.
They follow up the opening track with the incredible one-two punch of “Another Sunny Day” and “White Collar Boy.” Both songs are excellent and possibly some of the catchiest in the group’s large repertoire. There is no lack of good songs in The Life Pursuit. Tracks like “Sukie in the Graveyard,” “We are the Sleepyheads,” and the first single, “Funny Little Frogs” are incredible and show Belle and Sebastian at their anthemic best. Ending the loose narrative about a young girl dealing with her ill mother within these songs is “Acts of the Apostle II,” a reprise of the opening track. Following this is a two-song coda, which, while excellent tracks, could have been placed between the two “Acts of the Apostles.” The Life Pursuit never loses steam, thus never gets boring from listen to listen. Instead, the album proves a rewarding musical leap forward for a band who people had previously thought to be out of the game.
Belle and Sebastian’s latest album feels like a culmination of everything the group has been working on over the last ten years. Their sound has been fully realized and the higher production value strengthens this maturation. Working off a variety of influences, the Scottish group has created a solid album that borders on perfect (if not for the awkward track placement at the end). Belle and Sebastian has tightened their sound and made a mature and memorable LP that represents some of, if not their absolute, best work to date. A sure pick for old and new fans.
BEATS AND GLITCHES
Album Review- Prefuse 73: Security Screenings
by Peter Scheck
Stepping out of the backseat as a guest MC and DJ, Prefuse 73 takes the driver’s seat in a walkthrough of style and homage to electronic music with his new album, Security Screenings. It separates the new from the old with an instrumental response to his at times pop-cultured super-hip album Surrounded by Silence.
On Screenings, Prefuse is more all-encompassing DJ than beat-maker for the heroes of the underground. You won’t find El-P or Ghostface rhyming over this one, but you will hear comrades Four Tet and Babatunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio subtly appearing on their respective tracks. Unlike most guest spots these days, they come in quietly and seem a natural part of the song. They let themselves out when they’ve done the job.
The first track, an abrasive, ill-cut introduction to the CD, is like the first day on a new job. Prefuse lays out the track as a warning—if you think this is stupid, you might as well turn it off—and flips back and forth from sample to sample. It resembles the runner stretching before a race or the singer doing vocal exercises before an operatic performance.
From there, the second track sneaks up on you, creating the first bone-crunching beat of the album. “With Dirt and Two Texts” is distorted, static, and alien—but presses forward with a further representation of the sort of music displayed: glitch.
There couldn’t be a better name for this genre. Most times, melodies are often bizarre and seem anything but melodic, but their counterparts often work with them to achieve the goal of off-kilter rhythm. It’s a type of music you can’t help but nod your chin to, but have little idea of what instrument or combination is making it so lively.
The album’s high points are indisputable in both their originality and progressive movement. “Always It’s Gonna Be Like That” features a female vocalist, her voice cut and rearranged, yet sounding as pure and appropriate as if you heard it come from her mouth. The samples scramble as her voice, at the track’s end, retains a pitch. They search frantically trying to find their way to meet her pitch: a climax that is the stuff of true, passionate songwriting.
“No Origin” is a track that stretches through several variations from a cut-up piano jazz recording to a horn arrangement that would make Zappa proud. It is one of the album’s unarguable strong points, nearly a parody of pop songwriting. Its motion seems to travel from verse to chorus and back again before reaching a bridge into the final stretch. The song makes you think of your own lyrics, but as Prefuse understands on this recording, they have more than enough going on to fend for themselves.
The album closes, following a Adebimpe vocal appearance with “We Leave You in a Cloud of Thick Smoke and Sleep” in a fade out. It holds true to its title after a heart-aching quiet induced by a barrage of samples. Then, after moments of silence, comes back with a couple of guys talking drunk in the city with a throwaway beat in the background. I thought he was getting away from trash samples.
He showed me.
OSCAR NOD DUE
Movie Review- The Squid and the Whale
by Audrey Odhner
The Squid and the Whale is writer and director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographically based re-telling of a New York family and their adjustment in the aftermath of divorce during the 1980’s. In just 81 minutes, Baumbach manages to weave a thoughtful and complex cinematic narrative, which registers in poignant resonance with the experience of modern American life.
The quirky, imaginative signature of Baumbach’s best-known work on 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (in collaboration with the definitely quirky Wes Anderson) is not as prominent here, but percolates under the film’s surface, emerging at moments which make its characters and the script’s ironies so endearing—at times, tragically so, like as we watch the younger of two brothers, pubescent Frank, delve confusedly into the world of adulthood while he is left behind from the shuffle of the family’s shaky navigation into new life territory.
This picture has no doubt similarly impressed audiences overall with nods of recognition in the form of Oscar, Golden Globe, and Independent Spirit Award nominations and wins at the Sundance Film Festival for direction and screenwriting. After viewing the film, I would agree with the disappointment of critics who feel that Jeff Daniels’ performance was wrongly overlooked—leaving empty-handed from the Golden Globes and completely unrecognized by the Academy Awards.
Indeed, for me, his performance was one of the film’s surprises. Though perhaps unfairly, Daniels will likely be best remembered for his shaggy van-driving, frozen pole-licking role beside Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. However, this only serves to accentuate what a striking performance he gives here. In my opinion, the other most engaging performance was that given by 14-year-old Owen Kline as the aforementioned Frank. He does a tremendous job of embodying and bringing to life what I think is The Squid and the Whale’s most complex role.
In addition to cast and performances, the film’s soundtrack also shines and makes for a solid, well-crafted component of the visual and psycho-emotionally engaging spectacle at hand. Still, at the heart of this film’s success is the story that Baumbach tells—written on-screen as though four different times over, foraging a window into the heart of each of the four family members’ experiences of the upheaval. Yet, fragmented and all, the result is a beautifully, sadly, though life-affirmingly cohesive story, which somehow falls together perfectly in spite of itself. Therein, The Squid and the Whale obtains a precarious balance, from which it seems Baumbach’s greatest triumph is clear—a sincere reflection of the dysfunctional, disjointed, dissonant wholeness that most modern American families, in spite of themselves, for better or worse, are.