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Reviews (Album, Movie, TV)
BLANK's Best 12 Films of 2013 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jack Evans, Matt Miller & Rusty Odom   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 16:29

12) The East


Oftentimes, filmmakers struggle to build a taut thriller even out of the most black-and-white good-guy-vs.-bad-guy scenarios. That makes it all the more commendable that, in their second feature together, Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij inject a significant dosage of moral ambiguity into a highly entertaining political thriller. No character in The East is strictly good or evil, be it Marling’s conflicted undercover investigator, Alexander Skarsgard’s eco-terrorist demagogue, or any number of revenge-fueled cell members. The East takes its punches at both sides of its central conflict, but the film is more engrossing for its richly-formed characters and speedy plot, and even with a third act that stumbles somewhat, it’s still one of the year’s most actively engaging thrillers.

-Jack Evans

 

11) Nebraska

This black and white story of an elderly Midwestern man, trying to get from Montana to Nebraska to pick up prize money that doesn’t exist, may be one of the biggest surprise favorites of the year. Although on the surface this film appears a mock of its confused protagonist, Woody, played by Bruce Dern, it is truly about a son trying to reconnect with his father one last time. Dern brings one of his best performances and Will Forte, who plays his son, David, proves that he can be a serious actor. This great acting, along with an intriguing, yet simple, storyline is what makes “Nebraska” one of the best films of the year.

- Matt Miller

 

10) American Hustle

Only David O. Russell (“The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) could create a film about the Abscam political scandals of the late 1970s and make it such raw, emotional human drama. Not only that, but the characters developed from Eric Singer’s original script to tell this story make “American Hustle” one of the funniest movies of the year. Russell takes a historical tale almost preposterous to begin with, and tells it through the words of two con artists, played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Both shine in their ability to keep you laughing, and Bradley Cooper, with a hilariously bad perm, is crucial in driving the film’s momentum. Along with Jennifer Lawrence, whose character may be the craziest of the group, this cast is stellar in providing non-stop, head shaking laughs. Although “American Hustle” is structured around cynical manipulation, it is also generous and kind in spirit, making it one of our favorite films of 2013.

- Matt Miller

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 20:19
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BLANK's Favorite TV Shows of 2013 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Matt Miller, Danna Breaux & John Flannagan   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 17:05

5) Arrested Development – Netflix


For many years the show’s creators and actors kept the idea of its return a mystery. Would it be a movie or just a few episodes? Can they even get the actors all together? Truly, it was no simple task. With the creators unable to get every actor there for large amounts of time, the show took a daring route, profiling each character in their very own episode. The approach was risky, intertwining each story, while bouncing back and forth in time through the episodes. Did we expect anything less?

The show continued to do what it does best, with each family member more extreme than ever, along with endless reoccurring jokes and a slew of celebrity guests. It’s impossible to put any character on a pedestal, as each actor brings distinct, dysfunctional qualities that make this family the most ‘unique’ ever on television. This anticipated return satisfied and thrilled those who had long yearned for it, leaving them wondering what could be next for “Arrested Development.”

- Matt Miller

 

4) Game of Thrones – HBO

First things first, George R. R. Martin has taken the genre of fantasy and lifted the whole darn thing into the realm of fine literature with his cycle of novels, A Song Of Ice And Fire. HBO has taken this series to the small screen as Game Of Thrones, the enormously involved tale of the struggle for the Iron Throne and dominion over the realm during a major preternatural upheaval of the entire world. From the 800 ft ice wall in the north keeping out scores of undead killing machines to the bizarre and savage lands of the east to the sweltering seat of power (and all the corruption you can possibly stand) in the south, this show has it all. Game of Thrones is packed with magic, romance, mystery, intrigue, knights, kings, giants, lords and ladies, and HEAPS of gratuitous violence and sex. If you haven't already seen the first three seasons, I'd tell you to go ahead and marathon the series ASAP, but then you'd just be pissed off like the rest of us until April 6th. Save the marathon for the weekend before the 6th and read the books in the meantime. Oh yeah, they've got dragons, too! And John Snow. Welcome to your new obsession.

-Danna Breaux

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 19:54
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Broken Bells "After the Disco" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Johnny Sughrue   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 23:42

Your valentine wants this. It’s hard to resist the long awaited second album by Broken Bells featuring producer/programmer/instrumentalist Danger Mouse paired with the guitar and crooning of Shins vocalist James Mercer.

Broken Bells’ blend of boyish acoustic melodies and lo-fi electronica has been revved up this time out with the sounds of the seventies dance floors. But it’s not true disco that the guys are trying to replicate it’s more like the spirit of the late night disco party injected into their somber synthetic tunes.

Mercer’s falsetto sounds right at home, that is insecure and restless beaming over the sparse Euro-disco beats laid down by Danger Mouse.

The title track and “Holding on for Life” are prime examples of where the duo’s heading, creeping along with a Soft Cell-like groovy disco.“Leave It Alone,” however, is more dramatic and majestic with Mercer’s increasingly powerful vocals backed up by eerie vocal melodies and a finger-picked minor key acoustic guitar.

A lot of the rest of the album seems to take some clues from other new wave trash disco progenitors like Junip or even the recent Arcade Fire, but glimpses of Mercer’s past Shins syrup show through as in the slower tunes “Lazy Wonderland” and even “The Angel and the Fool.”

Feeling their way through the new sound is something that two pros like Mercer and Mouse might call second nature, and even the less memorable tunes are executed with confidence and glitz. Therefore, “After the Disco” brings lots of it to your Valentine’s Day cheer ‘cause Broken Bells are into their thing and that thing keeps chiming on.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 23:45
 
Classic Review: Neil Young & Crazy Horse's "Ragged Glory" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ken Lay   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 23:45

Neil Young has always marched to the beat of his own drum --- both literally and figuratively --- you just never know what you’re going to get when one of his albums lands in record stores.

That is what’s both fascinating and frustrating about the rock legend that has composed both straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll LPs and country works along with techno synth-rock, blues-jazz and rockabilly albums.

Some of these works are good, some are bad but the one constant is their originality.

In 1990, Young reunited with Crazy Horse, his longtime band, and went back to his roots with Ragged Glory.

The contents of this LP ushered Young and his band mates into a new decade with their traditional guitar rock sound. This incarnation of Crazy Horse features Young (lead guitar, lead vocals); Ralph Molina (drums, background vocals); Billy Talbot (bass, background vocals) and Frank Sampredo (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 23:48
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Ampient: Music4 Projec PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alec Cunningham   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 16:19

Local musicians join forces in an ambient collaboration

Ampient, an experimental ambient project that comes to you from a handful of Knoxville musicians, has recently released its newest collaboration of tracks simply titled Music4 Projec. Although it was originally formed in 2009 by the well-known local musician Todd Steed and members of the group have varied from year to year since then, this specific release has been a collaborative between Steed, John T. Baker, George Middlebrooks, Brett Winston, and Toby Applegate.

The group notes that multiple tracks on the release were created as a nod to Brian Eno, the musician who initially founded the idea of ambient music back in the 1970s. Ambient music is intended to reduce the mundane occurrences of everyday life by providing a soundtrack to enhance your day and stimulate your mood. And as is the purpose of this type of music, this album is designed to be one that will make you think.

The release begins with a track by Baker titled, “Music For Yardwork,” which employs sounds comparable to those of a lawn mower. Similarly, you can easily imagine yourself as a traveler being taken on a musical journey with “Voyager.”

These musicians have taken piano, guitar, and strings instruments and wrapped them in a layer of electronic processing in order to give off its intended conceptual air. In doing so, they’ve managed to put immense personality into this predominately instrumental project of theirs.

Each musician brings their own particular style to the table. Middlebrooks, for instance, tends to produce a sound founded strongly around the synthesizer in his roaming, lengthy tracks. And although most of the tracks are of traditional length, the contributions made by him range from being almost seven minutes in length to being a full sixteen minutes long.

Winston, on the other hand, takes an entirely different approach. His songs are much shorter in length – the longest of the six tracks he contributes barely reaches four minutes. Each of his songs have titles that have to do with flying in an airplane, such as, “Island Home in the Sky,” “Travel Delays,” and “Crash Landing Safe Return.” He also adds a stronger sense of structure to three of his songs by introducing lyrics into the composition.

The differences in style can be explained by each artist’s individual musical background. Winston, for instance, comes from a band called The French, whereas Baker’s origins come from his solo pop career, and Middlebrooks hails from an ambient-infused rock trio called Stolen Sheep.

This might not be an album meant for every type of music lover, but if you’re not already a fan of ambient music, this album can easily grow on you. Some of the most notable tracks include “Music For Yardwork,” “Crash Landing Safe Return,” and “A Towel That Smells Summer Fresh.” Music4 Projec can be listened to in its entirety and can even be downloaded for free at ampient.bandcamp.com.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 16:23
 
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