American Rants

The terrible tragedy that happened to Jem and the Holograms

Poor Jem.

For Three years and 65 episodes, Jerrica Benton and her friends transformed into a stellar band of pop stars – all with the help of a hologram computer and badass earrings. It was strange and dreamy and something that could have only been created in the 80’s. For many Jem was a shining beacon of everything cool.

That’s a lot of hard work for one 80’s pop star. After years of hard work being an absolute icon (reruns continued into the early 90’s), and creating generations of dedicated fans, Jem and her band the Holograms received their first live action movie. Last week the first trailer premiered and… it was this:

Well, at least there should be a trailer released for a movie about Jem and the Holograms, but where that trailer is is a complete mystery. The trailer that was uploaded couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the iconic TV show. There are no Misfits, Eric Raymond is now a woman, there isn’t even a hint of original music (which would be ridiculous for a movie about a band). This packet of questionable material certainly leaves a lot to be desired. A lot.

Putting the Jem title on this is a bit insulting to fans. Fair enough if you want to make an uninspired, crap movie but if you claim something is based on a certain content, make sure it is there in some form or another. While it might seem like a lot of hoopla over a movie and a cartoon, people have to remember that this was a character who broke a lot of barriers. She was a young woman who could do everything: she could balance being in charge of a foster home and be a CEO of a record company.

Stefanie Scott, who plays Jerrica’s sister Kimber in the movie, told Superhero Hype:

“I think you have to see the movie to understand. You can’t put it all in the same movie, and I feel like it really does set it up in a cool way. I think a lot of the things that people think are missing are in there. You just have to see it to understand. You can’t put the whole movie in the trailer. I want people to see it so they can see it’s a heartwarming story,” she continued. “It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story about family, but the music is incredible and it’s really our rise to fame and then after that… I think it really needed to set up the story before we could get into everything.”

First off, isn’t the purpose of a trailer supposed to bring hype and excitement? Shows what people know…

But so much for girl power. Heartwarming and coming-of-age stories are so rare these days, right? Angst has its place, but it certainly doesn’t in a story about Jem. Girls need all types of women to look up to, and denying them a character that has power and talent is actually really sad. This is clearly a movie targeted at teen girls and probably not the 30-year-old fan demographic. Even still, it’s a bit insulting of the writers and anyone else involved to think that this is all young girls can handle.

But reminisce about the good old days because there is no way anyone could compete with Britta Phillips.

There is also a really cool IDW comic based on the show going on right now. Check that out to see how adaptions should be done.

The magic of Robyn Hitchcock

The concept of someone or something being “underrated” is kind of silly if you think about it for too long. Actually, rating any band is strange. Musicians end up where they are because, well, most of us are in the minority when it comes to taste.

Going on five years now, I have been under the spell of English musician Robyn Hitchcock and his various other projects. His music often weaves between complex and whimsical themes, yet there is a magic that is in this music that is so difficult to put into words. If my love for England could be put into a sound, it would probably be summed up in his single “I Often Dream of Trains.”

And I have tried to see him perform live. This has somehow been one of the greatest “disaster” of my music life. When I am in the States, Hitchcock in the UK. When he is in the US, I have gone over seas. In a way, this has only added to the mystery of the man.

Hitchcock is the type of musician you can spend your days sinking your teeth into. Some songs are like a painting telling a story while others give a philosophy in under five minutes that you could mull over for hours.

Despite the adoring love from many, Hitchcock is rarely spoken about in major music publications. Most people seem to have skimmed over him entirely. It would be for a number of reasons, but like many that have been deemed underrated, there is something to their music that makes them unappealing to the masses. That reason more often than not has to possibly deal with subject matter.

While many people can relate to partying or falling in love (both are popular subjects in pop music, if you have yet to notice), but singing about complex feelings or even about the atmosphere of a moment. It’s not easy to share those types of subjects, but for those who can understand it’s worth holding on to.

The Heartburn Waltz

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Now that Valentine’s Day is over, I’m a bit sorry I was cynical. I am not single or alone. Many of us have lives filled with people who love us.

Today, my mom and I watched both Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day shows that were on ABC on Friday. They are just sweet enough to get a tooth ache, but through it all the best part is (of course) Vince Guaraldi’s music, especially the frilly “Heartburn Waltz” that dances in and out of the original 1975 Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.

In the show, Charlie Brown doesn’t receive any cards for Valentine’s Day until some girls feel rather guilty for forgetting. According to the Peanuts documentary, children all over America felt so sorry for the poor cartoon boy that they sent him cards. It’s that sweetness that’s worth remember on a day that can be so cynical.

On a side note, the Valentine’s special was at a five-year ratings high. Loving that the shows are still getting, well, loving all these decades past.

The understated king of cool

Link Wray is one of the greatest artists to have eluded even the most interested of music fans. His music has  consistently slipped under the radar of awards and recognition, but he’s someone that probably demands considerably more praise. His guitar skills are definitely remarked upon from time to time when referencing the heavy sound that later inspired heavy metal bands and punk, but this is a career music much better when you take in the sum of all parts. Wray definitely had a unforgettable style.

Beyond his early days in the 50s of rockabilly instrumental hits like “Rumble” and “Rawhide” (as heard in the video above), further albums of his career are incredible hidden gems. His 1971 self-titled album is one of those gems, which to this day still seems to be over-looked and under-appreciated.

Can you start a renaissance for an artist that seems to be blowing away? Hopefully. Wray is certainly an artists that needs to be re-evaluated. Maybe someone will take the time.

The day an obsession went too far (probably)

Being unemployed for any amount of time has never been good for my health.

Since I was 15, there have been few periods in my life not spent either working, going to school (or usually both). People have told me to enjoy this time I have before I enter the “real world” of adulthood. There is nothing enjoyable about waiting around for two months waiting to get back to work. Maybe I could get a hobby, but there is no motivation when you could just sit around and watch a marathon of Hoarders: Buried Alive.

This is my reasoning for playing the Gremlins Gizmo game for the Wii. Probably because I really have no other excuses.

IMG_0571 My poor father took me out of the house for the first time in a few days. As there is a used gaming store going out of business, we decided to take a look at the picked-over selection.

As a side note, the Gremlins have somehow taken over my life. Even reading that sentence over has made me realise my situation is perhaps a little more pathetic than I’ve been able to admit to myself. The movie terrified me as a child. Stripe and co constantly raided my nightmares and I absolutely refused to join in at the height of the Furby craze.

And yet… and yet mogwai have now become ‘my thing’. I even went as a sort-of female version of Billy Peltzer for Halloween. Even as we approached the store, a vision of Gizmo flashed into my mind. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t surprised to see him staring back at me from the shelves of the sad store.

Unfortunately I’m the type of sucker who can’t resist the sweet face of a fictional monster, so I bought (25% off, baby) the game completely unaware of what I had done.

Gremlins Gizmo is kind of a shit game. There really isn’t two ways to put it. Like most Gremlins merchandise, the game is aimed towards young children. Always a bit bizarre considering the movie’s dark tone and the sequel’s occasional mature-content (sexy gremlin, anyone?).

I could tell instantly when turning on the game I had entered some sort of bizarre mishmash of a child’s innocence learning to be spooked for the first time and a game made purely for Gremlins die-hards. There are plenty of references in the game that only people who know their Gremlins films would get (the dancing game, being able to play as one of the scrapped mogwais from New Batch).

Before I knew it I was three hours in and had poor Gizmo dressed as an alien. I couldn’t resist. Even in a video game I couldn’t stop myself from needing to reference the book’s back story for the mogwai from an alien world. He bobs around playing with toys, racing a little doll car and spends time learning about constellations. It’s a strange universe, but it’s the one I’ve entered.

The mental decline of a young-woman and her mogwai.

The mental decline of a young-woman and her mogwai.

I’m not even entirely sure if I’m supposed to say if this is a good game or not. If there’s any dignity involved, I would say this game is a completely stupid waste of time.

But there I am, still thinking about trying to play it again later. Even if it’s just to see what other costumes there is to unlock.

Whatever. Haters gonna hate. Right, Giz?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIwrP1Od0Qw&w=420&h=315%5D

Wicked Wednesday: What’s the point of the Universal Monsterverse?

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I’m not going to be cynical.

I’m going to try not to be cynical.

Oooooh but I’m going to be cynical.

A few months ago, it was confirmed that there will indeed be a “Universal Monsterverse.” This is a project that has probably been something a long time coming after the success of the Marvel Universe. As each Halloween goes by, there seems to be less horror films to be excited about – let alone anything of substance (remember when horror films could be the occasional Oscar contender?). Where has all the horror gone?

Could the Monsterverse be the resurgence in suspense that horror fans have been waiting for?

More importantly, is there an audience waiting for this? The first film to begin the ‘universe’ was October’s Dracula Untold. So far, the film has made $212.7 million on a $70 million budget and that’s nothing to scoff at. It’s no surprise that the studio is seeing dollar signs. No matter that it was not a terribly interesting or inventive vampire movie, it’s always money that speaks. The film had a quick re-shoot at the end where the ending was given a more “open” ending, meaning (cynically, sorry) that the Dracula story will be worked into future projects.

Claiming that Dracula Untold was a part of the ‘verse seems lazy and very much an after-thought, but vampires are easy to sell to a modern crowd. How will a 21-century Creature from the Black Lagoon look? Will audiences still care about an invisible man? Will we have to sit through another shit-show like 2010’s Wolfman? The most intriguing aspect will be how they will proceed with directors and what style will be chosen.

There is definitely a major cult following for the original Universal Monster films going strong, but I’m not convinced that there will be one in this decade for a new batch. Most of the original monsters in the Universal films had origins dating beyond film, so why brand this as a “Monsterverse”? Will be seeing some those famous tropes? Or is this just another way to cash in on an ignorant and bored audience?

It has been easy to be cynical, but any positive movement in horror films is a welcome one – fingers crossed that this might be the moment.

The Monsterverse is coming whether we’re ready or not. If I may have one humble request: please, PLEASE stop with the origin stories! PLEASE.

The horror! The HORROR! 

Martin Scorsese to direct Ramones biopic

It was bound to happen some time: a Ramones movie is possibly on it’s way by 2016 with director Marin Scorsese is attached. The film will be a part of a large number of projects being released for the 40th Anniversary of The Ramones.  Where did this desire come from for big directors to be in charge of music films? I mean, Clint Eastwood, did you really think making Jersey Boys was a good idea?

I love the brudders. Since I was 12 I have read every piece of literature about them that I could possibly get my hands on, and have written extensively about it. And yes, this adoration is definitely skewing my thoughts about the film. The Ramones have one of the most interesting stories of any band I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. It’s almost like a complex drama that played out in real life. A lot of it is actually really heart-breaking like Joey Ramone’s struggle with OCD or the “love-triangle” between Johnny, Joey and Linda Ramone.

If anyone has the grit to do it, it might just be Scorsese, but I’m not too hopeful. The Ramones’ estate promises authenticity, but don’t hold your breath. If there’s anything Hollywood loves to do, it’s fuck up a good story. Hopefully I am proved wrong. If any band deserves the biopic treatment, it’s the Ramones. It really needs to be done right, and if casting somehow is spot on it might just succeed.

But really, who on this planet could come anywhere near Joey Ramone?