Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rejection of Regurgitation, Part 03

When the mass-remake craze started, the money came rolling in. How, however, not so much. Remakes have become old hat at best, and an obvious show of studio/producer laziness at worst. Why bother coming up with an original idea when there's some obscure (cult) classic out there waiting to be raped, pillaged, and run through the CGI grinder? A simple formula for success, in the eyes of the film industry, has become one that's run its course and possibly even doomed to failure because of a glaring oversight.

In many instances, filmmakers and executives pass off their dreaminess for cash as intention to re-tell "a classic story". Being real careful with that definition would serve some of these self-serving executives well lest they look like fools (or are we a little late?). A "classic story" is one so ingrained in to the public consciousness because it retains universal elements that allow people of all races, creeds, and ages to identify with it, allowing numerous versions and re-tellings without the story losing its luster. There are really only a relative handful of stories that fit this criteria - A Christmas Carol, Grimm's Fairy Tales, most of Shakespeare's output...things like that could fit.

Neither The Crow or Nightmare on Elm Street are "classic stories". Nor is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or so many other examples that have been mined. That doesn't mean they can't be retold, sure, but it takes more than a slick face lift to give it any life or a valid reason that people will want to go see it. Of course, that brings out another excuse for updating movies - the desire to use new technology on them, thereby dragging them in to the new millennium by the hair like a caveman scoring a mate. The added bonus in doing so is the tired adage of "introducing a classic to a new generation." By lumping all these excuses together, movie studios give themselves a built-in justification for remaking virtually anything they want.


And we'll get in to why next time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rejection of Regurgitation, Part 02

Last time we got on this, it was brought up how the re-makers of The Crow were using the excuse of bringing about a "more faithful adaptation" of the original work to reboot a movie that doesn't have to be remade.

Of course, there are plenty of excuses. Most of them have to do with new technology and filling out a story (that, oftentimes, doesn't have to be) and other flimsy, transparent see-thru justifications. Bigger budget! Bigger stars! If Hollywood makes EVERYTHING BIGGER, then people will pay to go see it, right?

Not so fast. There are quite a few prime examples of this reasoning going south - a handful of them happening very recently. Nightmare on Elm Street was recently regurgitated re-envisioned, only to fall flat on its face. The budget was there, the CGI was definitely there, a star name was in place (Jack Earle Haley, coming off a dominant turn as Watchmen's "Rorschach")...and it died a second-week death that Freddie Kruger himself would have been proud of. And had a cooler one-liner for than I could even dream of.

I haven't seen it myself (I have no reason to, as you can tell by having written something like this series in the first place), but I heard all about it. Some pf what I read and heard pointed out how confusing or over-stylized it was. The one common thread I saw/heard was how soulless the new Nightmare turned out to be. If box-office numbers are any indication, audiences certainly felt the same way...

...and that's a subject we'll get to next time...

Notable New Books - 10.27.10 - Orlando Comic Books |

Superman: Earth One and Death comes to Action Comics this week...

Now, on to Rejection of Regurgitation, Part 02...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rejection of Regurgitation, Part 01

Word out of Hollywood recently is Edward R Pressman is producing, Nick Cave is writing, and Mark Wahlberg could very well be starring in a remake of The Crow.

While we could discuss the individual merits of those contributions, the idea of “rebooting” The Crow should probably be discussed first.

The answer is, “No.”

There is absolutely no reason or excuse for this film to be remade. The excuse that’s been given is that they want to make a movie that’s more faithful to James O’Barr’s original graphic novel - or is it? Director Stephen Norrington has already been kicked off the project because someone didn’t like the “more faithful” screenplay he and Cave drafted. Be that as it may, let’s take them at their word just for a second. For the sake of argument, shall we?

The problem with that argument is that, save the exclusion of the Skull Cowboy and other factors (due to budgetary constraints), the original was already as faithful to the original as it could get. A bigger budget and improved technology, theoretically, would allow for a faithful adaptation--

--and no soul whatsoever. And therein lies one of - if not THE - main reason that remaking The Crow would be a worse idea than having Mel Gibson narrate a documentary about the Holocaust. The original work of The Crow was a man unleashing his anguish over the loss of his true. It wasn’t meant to be a cool series, or even the start of a franchise. The first film - and the tragedy that surrounded it - captured that emotion in a way that can not be duplicated. The Crow wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece or a technical marvel by any means, but every aspect of it came together to create a mood that certainly won’t be replicated by a bigger budget, more CGI, or any other excuse that Relativity Media can conjure up to justify this.

You know, there are 5 1/2 handwritten pages that this was culled from. Rather than let all that work go to waste, I’ve decided to break that down in to a series in and of itself. You just read Part 01. Feel free to keep coming back the next few days while we deconstruct the idea of “remakes” and “reboots” from stem to stern.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Music Review: Ice Cube - I Am The West

And to complete the Hip-Hop reprint 1-2...

Article first published on BlogCritics as Music Review: Ice Cube - I Am The West

I Am The West seems an awfully cocky...hell, outright arrogant title from the same guy that starred in “Are We There Yet”. It would be effortless to think that Cube went soft since his NWA (and first few solo album) days. War and Peace damn near put the nail in that coffin, and Laugh Now, Cry Later and Raw Footage didn’t do a whole lot to disparage that.

Quietly, however, Cube has stood by and stuck to the business savvy that caused him to realize that something was rotten in the NWA camp to begin with. Laugh at all the kiddie movies you want, but Cube (along with a handful of other OGs like Ice-T) have used their talent and street smarts to escape the abyss of the ghetto - and its stereotypical mentality - and built his own small empire.

In a musical sense, Cube has done it without modern Urban FM Radio, which has passed by all but the newest acts. I Am The West shows that Cube may be a dinosaur to some, but he still has a lot of roar left in him.

The best way to explain Ice Cube’s mentality going in to I Am The West is to let him do it himself:

For 7 or 8 years now the West Coast has been trying to do music that appeals to the South and Mid-West. The words, "too West Coast" would be heard throughout the industry whenever our music was played. Even by our own dj's. Left coast MC's were now trying to change their sound to cater to all the followers. We lost our way. Thank God for b-boys like Snoop, The Game & WC for keeping the West alive, but we were all guilty of over reaching. No more. At least not from me. I do it how I feel it; not how I think it should be done. Radio fucked us up. I hate the politics at radio. I don't know who to pay to get my shit played. Having a hot song is not enough. Ridiculous.

The record takes a minute or two to really get in to the groove. The intro “A Boy Was Conceived” gives way to the proper opening track “Soul On Ice”, which is more call-and-response hooks than actual content. The latter track is Cube warming up, for “Life In California” is where he really digs in to the current state of the art:

If Jay-Z can rap about the NYC
Why can’t I talk about the shit I see?
Without Alicia Keys, without going R&B
This ain’t Mowtown, this is R-A-P
...California swagger - fuck record sales
Industry outlaw like Josey Wales

As stated above, Cube is no position to even want to cater to the industry modus operandi. Having acquired the wealth he has (yes, even starring in family fare), he’s also in a position that he doesn’t even have to. Having that kind of freedom allows Cube to do it how he feels it.

Oddly enough, the beats Cube feels sound a lot like the Southern type. Some of the classic Funk of the West Coast sound (pioneered by Dr. Dre, who almost appeared on the album) is present. “Drink The Kool Aid” could have come from The Chronic if Dre and Cube were on speaking terms back then. However, a lot of the jerkier rhythms of the South style stand out like a sore thumb as well.

No matter the beat, Ice Cube is in form. “No Country For Young Men” is four-and-a-quarter minutes of old-school Cube at his finest. When Cube is on, focused, and alone, this is one of his best efforts in years. However, it takes eight tracks in to hit that momentum, as much of what comes before (like “Soul On Ice”) is rather sparse in content save for soundbites and tired tricks.

Part of the issue is that Cube, admirably, lets others have the spotlight on his record at times to mixed effect. OMG and Doughboy, his two sons, take turns on “You Know Who I Am”. WC and Maylay are also on the track and stick around for “Too West Coast”. Cube’s sons are dismissed in a move that almost suggests that it’s time for the adults to get serious, as “Too West Coast” rails against the dismissal of the West Coast sound and attitude by the mainstream.

Were it more focused and free of some of the guest stars, I Am The West could have been THE comeback for Ice Cube. Even though there is quite a bit of the worn-out, eye-rolling same-as-it-ever-was that pollutes Hip-Hop today, Cube shows he’s able to rise above that and deliver some of the best songs in the genre to this day. If only he could commit to something like that over an entire record, he’d be back to being unstoppable in music.

Say It Like It Really Is: An Interview With Chuck D

Getting a little catching up done here...

Article first published on BlogCritics as Say It Like It Really Is: An Interview With Chuck D

Chuck D rapped over 20 years ago about being a “Rebel Without A Pause”. In 2010, at age 50, he still means it.

Smartly staying out of the public eye and relying on a “do-it-yourself” ethic that has become more the rule rather than the exception, Chuck D has been Remixing The Industry for more than a decade. After splitting with Def Jam Records in 1999, Public Enemy took to the internet to continue building their legacy. That legacy is set to be on display in all its revolutionary glory on October 15 with the release of Bring The Noise, The Hits, Vids, and Docs Box: Greatest Sites and Sounds (Chapter 2 1999-2009) box set. Spanning the entirety of the group’s post-Def Jam output, the box set will feature 3 CDs and 3 DVDs of Public Enemy tracks, videos, live performances, and a lot more.

Chuck has also compiled many of his solo songs and side projects in to Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’, his first solo release in 14 years. The band is also currently on the fifth leg of their “Tour of a Black Planet”, which is set to wrap on September 17 before heading to Europe in late October.

Known as fair and square throughout his years, he still growls at the livin’ foul. When we had a chance to talk on the phone on September 7, Chuck was as gracious as a host could be. But he’s still every bit the Rebel...and there’s no slowing down any time soon, much less taking a Pause.

Michael Melchor: You’ve recently released your first solo record in 14 years, Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’. What led to putting out another solo album? And it’s only available at digital outlets, is that correct?

Chuck D: Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’ isn’t so much a solo album, per se, as it is a solo project. A lot of projects like Confrontation Camp and Fine Arts Militia are included in this, as well as a lot of other work I’ve done in the last 10 years. I’ve recorded songs for ESPN [”Get Used To Me”, for a Muhammad Ali tribute] and done several others throughout the last 10 years; Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’ collects all that together. If this were to be a physical release, I probably wouldn’t have done it. We’re in an age where we can deliver now without the hindrance of the business side of things. As it is now, I tend to make songs one at a time. The album concept was beautiful back then, but music has been a singles-driven medium for the last 10 years. I see something happening in the world, I can write a song about it and have it out there almost instantly.

MM: Is the recent song you released about the Arizona Immigration Law, “Tear Down That Wall”, on it as well?

Chuck D: “Tear Down That Wall” is on it, as well as the remix done by Johnny Juice, an excellent DJ out of Atlanta.

MM: Excellent. What outlets can you get Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’ at?

Chuck D: You can get Don’t Rhyme For The Sake of Riddlin’ on iTunes and Amazon, as well as on the Urban Aggregator on TuneCore. We’ve always taken pride in paving new digital roads for distribution, as well as everything else. It started with in 1998 and with our label, Slam Jamz, which was founded in 2001. Of course, there’s iTunes, Amazon, and things like that, as well as

MM: I was actually going to ask you about the impetus behind that site and what led to its formation...

Chuck D: - where Classic Rap lives on to the break of dawn. We actually used Classic Rock radio as our model. It used to be - or still is - that you hear newer stuff on the radio, but there are still places you could hear your Meatloafs, your Bostons, Cheap Trick, artists like that. We took that format, gave Classic Rap a home, and turned that in to our own industry. For Hip-Hop, is now that medium where you can hear the classics. Programmers now won’t put a Salt & Pepa or Dana Dane next to, you know, Waka Flocka. So we created a place for that. We also now have, which is a home for Classic female artists. That sort of thing is necessary for the existence of Rap. To make albums, songs, or videos, artists need a platform to be heard, and the internet is now that platform.

MM: I was going to bring that up as well; you talked about going online back in 1999 and talked even then like you knew this sort of thing was coming. Well, I have to say, you were right. [Laughs]

Chuck D: Well, audio and video files were inevitable. I don’t really take any credit for that, I just happened to pay attention to where the business was going. When I have a song or an album I want to get out there, there has to be a way to release it. I won’t beg anybody to put it out, so I had to figure out an avenue to release it myself. In figuring that out, we paved new roads. Of course, we kind of had to pave the road while were driving on it. [Laughs] But we’re at a point now where artists can record, distribute, and get paid from their bedrooms. You have to have a sense of what’s going on now to be able to do that. It’s an instant process; if somebody says something one day, you can write, record, and release an answer to it the next. This is the sort of thing that Bob Dylan would be proud of. [Laughs]

MM: Exactly. Now, as far as physical releases, there’s a Public Enemy box set about to be released as well, correct?

Chuck D: Yes, the box set is due on October 15; we’re taking pre-orders for it now. There will also be a digital component available later on that month as an add-on. The new video from it, ”Say It Like It Really Is”, is out now.

MM: And, on top of all that, you’re also currently on tour.

Chuck D: We’re going in to the fourth leg of our tour, which is the Southern part of the US. The fifth leg will cover parts of Europe, the sixth will be in South Africa, the seventh in Australia, and for the eighth, we’ll be hitting the West Coast of the US. We’ll probably hit over in Asia sometime next year, maybe in to 2012.

MM: Man, so you’re headed all over the world, basically.

Chuck D: Well, places like South Africa, we’re only hitting a few spots. We’re one of the few artists who understand how to rout the world on a tour like this. If the powers that be in the US would pay attention to something like that, that’s great. Otherwise, they become too shortsighted, thinking artists can just sit home and collect their money.

MM: You also now have a backing band with you, is that correct?

Chuck D: Yeah, we do - in fact, that’s their name - The baNNed. They consist of Brian Hardgroove on bass, Khari on guitar, and Mike on the drums. All of them, along with DJ Lord, comprise our rhythm section. We got the idea from playing with The Roots in Japan back in ‘99. We thought we needed some flexibility. Public Enemy is still myself, Flavor [Flav], Professor Griff and the S1Ws. With all of those components, we’re able to put on a unique show that stands up to - and even surpasses - what we did years ago. You can’t always do the same thing the same way you always did. It gets too restrictive. You have to move beyond just having a rapper and a DJ. We wouldn’t be on world tours now if this idea didn’t work out. [Laughs] We wouldn’t still be viable if we were still doing the same stuff we did 15 years ago. We’re not an “oldies” act - there’s nothing wrong with that, but we always covered new territory by having new ideas.

MM: The baNNed is also working on an album of of re-interpretations of the Nation of Millions album, is that correct?

Chuck D: Yeah, their record, It's Back to a Million of Us to Hold a Nation, is in the final stages now. We liked the idea of them taking something like that and making it new. The model works so well in the sense that it doesn’t have to work immediately. There’s no need to sell a million copies overnight, which is what a lot of cats get caught up in. If you can come to the people with your music and let them get it, they will.

MM: No need for the instant gratification that many feel they need and get gouged for, which is what a lot of our culture has turned in to.

Chuck D: Right. What’s the building you have there in Orlando? Isn’t that the Amway Arena?

MM: For the time being, yeah. They’re actually opening a brand new one - the Amway Center - real soon. I think it’s around the beginning of October it’s set to open.

Chuck D: Yeah, you pay $150 for a ticket to see somebody there, chances are you’re paying for the building. Big Daddy Kane, Run-DMC and guys like that, back then, charged $10 and when you came to see them perform, they gave you all they got. More artists now are stuck in an offstage “reality” and now giving much of a performance where it matters. You look at reality TV. Flavor Flav had his, sure, but at the end of the day, he’s still a musician. What does Kim Kardashian do? Sure, she’s on TV and she has an ass, but aside from that, what exactly does she do? The concept of people being famous just for being famous, I don’t get that at all.

MM: Well, now there’s been a pattern recently of artists getting booed off the stage - at least that happened to Smashing Pumpkins. They got off light, though; Tila Tequila and Guns N’ Roses had stuff thrown at them...

Chuck D: Didn’t Tila Tequila have shit thrown at her? Like, real, human shit?

MM: Yeah, she did. You bring up the idea of offstage reality and performers not delivering where it counts, I’m really starting to wonder if we’re seeing a backlash to that idea now.

Chuck D: With an economic recession and crazy ticket prices, PR now is at an all-time high. There’s no negotiation with the fans from any artists. When a fan says an artist is lazy, it’s just like in sports. It’s not like people can do better than what they see on the field, but people get mad at seeing an athlete or a performer just being lazy. It’s that laziness that pisses people off. Something has to differentiate the artist from the spectator. If you take the “awe” - and I know this is the incorrect spelling, but in a case like this, it has to be spelled this way - take the “awe” out of the audience and something has to give. The effort has to be put forth by the artist. Hip-Hop, at its core, is a performance art. That’s how it got started is people rapping for a crowd; all else came afterward. Once that effort is gone, what else is left? Public Enemy, in our shows, we plan on bringing the performance aspect to the front. We’ve never competed with any other artists or anything; our biggest competition is ourselves. We always say on the road, it’s “us against us”. Either you do the songs or the songs do you. [Laughs]

You can follow Chuck D on Twitter at MrChuckD (“I’ve recently become a ‘Twittidiot’ thanks to Johnny Juice,” Chuck laughs) and also e-mail him at Be sure to visit and the Slam Jamz label for all the latest on Public Enemy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Michael Oeming takes on Left 4 Dead - Orlando Comic Books |

The artist of "Powers" and "The Mice Templar" goes after the Infected.

Having a BLAST with this Comic Book Examiner gig, I'm not gonna lie.

Oh, and that Facebook reorganization thing? Hit a snag, to say the least. I can't change the name of the page unless I delete it. Like a virgin on prom night, Facebook...thanks for nothing.

In the meantime, I at least updated the bio and still decided to make the page what I wanted - a landing pad for ALL my writings. (Or as many as I remember to post, anyway.) So, feel free to go enjoy. And thanks a million once again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Notable New Books - October 6, 2010 - Orlando Comic Books |

A new weekly feature spotlights the biggest of comics' new releases every week!

(Man, I've been a writing FOOL today!)

The Who to release classic live album with re-release of classic live album - Orlando rock music |

The Who are set to release a classic live album. Oh, and "Live At Leeds" is getting a reissue, too.

I've talked with Marc about this one. Good to see they found a...solution...and decided to put it out there.

New Article, New Gig, New Announcement

The "Superman" reboot has a director. One that's rather used to doing comic book movies.

Yep, that's right - a new gig. On top of being the Orlando Rock Music Examiner, I'm also, as of this past Friday (October 1), the Orlando Comic Books Examiner. As big of a nerd as I am, do I even have to tell you how giddy I am about having this gig, too?

For those of you playing along at home, this also means that the Rock Examiner Facebook Page is in for somewhat of an overhaul. It's about to become the catch-all for all my writing online, whereas my personal page will be relegated to being more personal. Although I'm not 100% settled on exactly how I plan on handling everything quite yet, I do know the two will be distinctly separate. A professional page and a personal page. That should happen...before I go to bed tonight (October 5 - RIP, Brian Pillman).

So, if you're interested in basically subscribing to everything I post online (without having to do much work at all), it's this simple:

1) Hop on over to the (soon to be changed around but, as I type this, still the) Rock Examiner Facebook Page.
2) Click on that "Like" button.
3) Enjoy the updates in your feed.
4) And that's it.

I appreciate the support (i.e. readership) more than I can even express. It's meant quite a bit to me to be able to pursue a career as a hobby. And vice versa. And it's all your fault. I couldn't be happier about that.

Thank you again. And enjoy.