MEEK AT THE MOVIES : MAN OF STEEL ( Rating 2 ** )

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Zach Snyder’s always been big on bluster and pizazz but a bit lacking when it comes to the essentials of storytelling. Take “300” or “Sucker Punch,” which made for titillating trailers set to edgy, esoteric rock (Nine Inch Nails’ “Just as you Imagined” layered on clips of the Spartans battling Xerxes in “300” may be the greatest music video/movie trailer of all time); but when it came to holding an audience’s attention for 90 minutes, only fanboys and cultists who dug Gerard Butler’s CGI-enhanced abs and righteous barking, or Babydoll and her bustier-wearing ilk beating down misogynistic ogres, could go the distance – because that was all there was: alluring visuals and sound bites, sans the bite.

One major early steppingstone was his 2004 remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” which featured an eclectic cast (Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley) and zombies that could run at full tilt. Danny Boyle had done that bit before and better with “28 Days Later …” and there’s really no one who can out-shamble Romero  in the walking dead genre — which he pretty much invented. Yet sure enough, in the maddening, flesh-ripping mayhem, Snyder carved out his niche as a hyperactive visual stylist.

Anyone who saw “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” an animated adaptation of a children’s serial, would have to admit it was a surprising and pleasing departure from what one might expect of Snyder. And then there was “The Watchmen,” which certainly ranks as the most well done but widely disregarded superhero flick of the new century. It was Snyder’s moment to find that delicate and articulate balance between character development and special FX razzle-dazzle.

But on to “Man of Steel.” Snyder inherited script by Christopher Nolan (director of “Memento” and “The Dark Knight”) and David S. Goyer (writer of the “Dark Knight” series), and the special FX (which you can experience in 3-D to boot) are top shelf. Sometimes too much of a good thing can overwhelm the senses – imagine being trapped in an elevator that a bottle of richly redolent perfume had recently spilled in.

The narrative cuts neatly into three chapters spanning time and universes. We begin on the planet Krypton, where Jor-El (Russell Crowe, doing better than Marlon Brando in the 1978 version) is father to the first naturally conceived child in decades – a taboo, because newborns are harvested from a “Matrix”-like aquarium and their destiny (warrior, scientist, bureaucrat, laborer, etc.) is genetically predefined. The science and reasoning on that don’t make much sense, nor that Krypton, for all its future-tech machinery and spaceships, is about to implode because Kryptonians have exhausted the planet. (No forecasting, no way off ?) In such final moments, General Zod (Michael Shannon), a character you might remember happily from “Superman II,” launches a coup to save the race. Even though the planet is crumbling, when he is thwarted, the Kryptonian government follows its bureaucratic habits and gives Zod his due process : which is to send him off to a deep-space prison.

I’m not sure why they’re not headed for the distant stars themselves, but at least Jor-El encapsulates his natural-born son and sends him off to Earth.

The second act does not take up with the baby being found in the cornfield by the Kents; that’s all told smartly in flashback vignettes, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner giving wonderful, full-bodied performances as the adopted parents. Instead, we catch up with Clark (a buff and apt Henry Cavill) as a young man working McJobs on a fishing boat, as a bar back and so on. Occasionally he’ll save someone and mysteriously disappear. One of these side jobs lands him on an icecap as a civilian aiding a military operation to find out what’s trapped under the ice. Perky  (and somewhat annoyingly snoopy) Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is there too, and, as it turns out, what’s under the ice is the ship Jor-El sent to Earth long ago (again that forecasting thing). Most importantly, a father-to-son message in hologram — and that essential blue lycra suit and red cape.

Now we’re cooking, and you’d half expect Gene Hackman or Kevin Spacey to drop in as Lex Luthor, but Nolan and Goyer’s script is darker than that. Before Superman can do too many good deeds, Zod shows up (it seems that prison was a safe haven) on a colonial mission of sort. He wants to rekindle the race of Kryptonians and to do so has brought along a “world forming” machine that will basically rebuild Earth to suit the new race and wipe out humans in the process. It’s here we learn that the Kryptonians had an imperialistic yen and a history of re-forming other planets for their own (which all somehow perished when Krypton did). The implication is that they’ve been practitioners of genocide and genetic engineering, but let’s not digress into politics, morality or a self-ward reflecting mirror.

The end game is a ballistic spectacle with Zod and his underlings and Superman beating each other through buildings and gas stations. Skyscrapers fall, F-15s get punched out of the sky and things blow up in grand fashion. But it goes on too long.

What’s missing in Snyder’s Superman is a dash of the hokey goodness that Christopher Reeve contributed to the role and the comic cold cheesiness that Gene Hackman and Terrence Stamp brought as Luthor and Zod in the ’70s and ’80s.

In all this, the mention of Bryan Singer’s 2006 “Superman Returns” feels lost, so much so in that it feels redundant with Snyder’s vision. Will this one catch fire, where the other one didn’t? Time is the judge, but I think people no longer care – or the newer versions know how to wow, but not woo.

The Reeves series set up Clark Kent as a man with flaws; Cavill looks and feels the part, but he’s so brooding, impregnable and dark there’s not much joy in the affair. A dark hero, yes, but into all darkness must shine some lightness. And logic.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies

MASSACHUSETTS : ED MARKEY WINS — OUR ANALYSIS

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Ed Markey (D), Congressman from the 7th District, was elected our state’s new Senator yesterday, defeating Gabriel Gomez (R). The final totals show the race wasn’t even close. The percentage margin was exactly 10 : 54.8 to 44.8.

642,988 people voted for Markey, 525,080 for Gomez. Add in the small vote won by a third candidate and you find that about 1,200,000 of us voted — more or less 35 % of all our registered voters. This was much less than the nearly 60 % of us that voted in January 2010, when Scott Brown (R) won his now legendary, 5 point victory over Martha Coakley.

The low turnout was no surprise. Both candidates seemed to want it that way. Markey, so that he could tiptoe to victory on Democratic enrollment numbers while keeping Republicans unaroused; Gomez, so that he might lull Democratic “low information” voters (as GOP bloggers call them) asleep while whispering “pssst, I’m a Republican” in GOP voters’ ears.

Gomez’s strategy didn’t work. Markey’s did.

The State’s Democratic party is happy to tout its estimable GOTV operation for the result. It had, so is claims, from 7500 to 15,000 volunteers — depending on who is doing the claiming — working the Markey campaign during the final week. And the state’s GOP is happy to congratulate itself on producing a mere 10 point defeat “in this deep blue state,” as it calls Massachusetts, for the party’s first-time candidate who never ran for office before. (Actually, he did — for selectman in his town of Cohasset, a race that he lost.) Of course the GOP assertion is wrong. Ten points is a big loss in any open-seat race. Major GOP statewide candidates in our state have done quite a bit better these past six years. As for the Democratic party’s claim, it too over-reaches. Volunteers cannot make votes; they can only bring voters to the polls. The voters do the deciding; and in this election, having seen and heard both Markey and Gomez in three debates, they did decide. They chose Markey.

Why did 55 % of us choose Markey ? Two reasons stand out. First, Markey touted his long experience in Washington; Gomez decried it. But Massachusetts voters value long experience in Washington. it’s how we get Federal dollars delivered to our defense and technology industries and to our educational institutions, which employee huge numbers of us. Long experience in Washington is also how the policy priorities of Massachusetts voters get enacted into law. Gomez was never able to make a case why Markey’s long experience was a detriment.

Second, Markey made clear to the voters that he fully supports (1) the rights of women to make their own reproduction decisions and (2) solid gun control legislation, including an assault weapons ban. Gomez offered half a loaf : the abortion decision, but with limitations and qualifications; on gun control, background checks but no assault weapons ban. On these two issues, our voters chose the full deal, not the half-price.

Can there be any doubt, after Scott Brown’s defeat last year, much because of his half-way on women’s issues, that Massachusetts voters will not vote for a half slice of these two issues ? And there was a deeper weakness in his campaign : as a Republican running in Massachusetts for national office, he had to bear the totally toxic blot that the national GOP means to our state’s voters today. Only by running a campaign of full insurgency, AGAINST the national GOP — including against Mitch McConnell as Senate leader — could he have made a case to Massachusetts voters. It might not have worked. Maybe it COULD not have worked. but the attempt needed to be made. It wasn’t.

The vote shows just what Gomez gave up by running a campaign of “pssst…” and issue dilution. Solid Republican towns like Douglas, Sutton, Tolland, Granville, and Charlton heard his “psst…” He carried them by 50 points — just as well as Scott Brown did in 2010. He carried some almost as Republican Merrimack valley border towns — Methuen, Dracut, Tyngsboro — by 30 points; again, very like the margins won by Brown in 2010.

Everywhere else, however — in the swing suburbs between Route 495 and 128 and in the Boston core — Gomez did worse, much worse than Brown. Brown won Peabody by 20 points; Gomez by 2. Brown won Haverhill by 30 points, Gomez by 11. Brown won Marblehead and Quincy; Gomez lost both. Brown lost Boston two to one; Gomez lost it 7 to 2. Brown lost Cambridge 4 to 1; Gomez by 8 to 1. Brown lost western Massachusetts 2 to 1; Gomez, 3 to 1 and in some towns, much worse. Gomez came nowhere near Brown’s percentages in most of our outlying, old mill cities. Brown lost Salem by 8, Gomez by 25; Lynn by 2 tlo 1 instead of 5 to 3. Brown did respectably in Springfield; Gomez lost it by 30 points. Brown almost carried Worcester; Gomez lost it by 18 points. Gomez was trounced in New Bedford and Fall River.

One formerly Democratic old mill city does seem to have moved itself to the GOP. Brown carried Chicopee by 8 points; Gomez won it b y 6. For political campaign planners, is matters. For the rest of us, looking statewide, not much considering the state’s stand on the issues that concern our voters most.

Markey’s victory speech and Gomez’s concession summed up the two campaigns. Markey talked issues; Gomez talked SEAL and veterans. Markey spoke like a Senator, Gomez like a Navy pilot returning from a deployment overseas. His heroism we applaud. But politics it isn’t and wasn’t — and won’t be, if Gomez makes another run for major office in Massachusetts.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

ROAD NOISE : 2ND EDITION (June 23, 2013)

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WELCOME TO THE 2ND EDITION OF ROAD NOISE —- WHERE YOUR ROAD/MOTORING INTEREST AND THE AUTO WORLD MEET  !

ROAD EVENTS & MUSEUMS :  AS WE ENTER INTO THE SUMMER SUN, THE LONGEST DAYS, IT’S TIME TO HAVE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ENGAGE IN SOME OUTDOOR AUTO EVENTS.

HERE IS ONE EVENT THAT WE HAVE ENJOYED, ONE THAT BRINGS BACK A FEEL OF THE 50’S & 60’S :

TRY SKIP’S HAMBURGERS — LOCATED ON ROUTE 110  IN MERRIMAC, MA. THEIR ACRES OF GREEN GRASS ACCOMMODATE A MONTHLY CAR SHOW SCHEDULE. THE BIG EVENT THIS TIME TAKES PLACE ON JULY 13TH — A CAR SHOW AND CRUISE NIGHT, IN NEWBURYPORT MA.

ROAD FEATURE VEHICLE : HERE IS THE PHOTO OF MY LAST POST’S SPECIAL INTEREST VEHICLE : A SMALL ELECTRIC- POWERED MINI SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS. ASSOCIATES OF MINE IN ATLANTA ARE DEVELOPING THIS VERSION. THIS VEHICLE TRANSFORMS A STANDARD MANOEUVERABLE AND EFFICIENT LOCAL CAR INTO AN OPEN INTERIOR SPACE LSV, BUILT TO HOUSE THE DRIVER’S OWN WHEELCHAIR. WITH THE ELECTRIC REMOTE, REAR DOOR HATCH OPENS ALLOWING THE WHEEL CHAIR TO ROLL UP TO THE STEERING WHEEL AND DRIVE AWAY.

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(PHOTO COURTESY OF CARS AND CARTS ATLANTA GEORGIA)

ROAD NOISE AUTO RACING NEWS

AT THIS TIME WE REPORT ACROSS THE POND : NAMELY, THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 24 HOURS OF LEMANS, WHICH FINISHED AN HOUR AGO AS OF THIS WRITING.

HERE ARE THE CLASS WINNERS, FOLLOWED BY OUR NOTE ON THE UNFORTUNATE ACCIDENT OCCURRING IN THE FIRST HOUR OF THE RACE.
MP1
1. #.2 Kristensen/Duval/McNish Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron Quattro.
2..#8 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid.

3. #3 Gene/Di Grassi/Jarvis Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron Quattro.

LMP2
1. #35 Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan.
2. #24 Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan.
3. #26 Rusinov/Martin/Conway G-Drive Racing Oreca 03-Nissan.
GTE-PRO
1. #92 Lieb/Lietz/Dumas Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR.
2. #91 Bernhard/Pilet/Bergmeister Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR.
3. #97 Turner/Mucke/Dumbreck Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8.
GTE-AM
1. #76 Narac/Bourret/Vernay IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
2. #55 Perazzini/Case/O’Young AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 305 laps.
3. #61 Gerber/Griffin/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia * 305 laps.

Ret. #95 Simonsen/Poulsen/Nygaard Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 –2 laps accident.

TRAGIC : DANISH DRIVER ALLAN SIMONSEN IS REPORTED TO HAVE DIED AAS A RESULT OF A MAJOR CRASH DURNG THE FIRST HOUR OF THE RACE. WHILE COMPETING IN THE GTE CLASS, DRIVING THE NO. 95 ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE, HE EXPERIENCED A LOSS OF CONTROL. COMING AT HIGH SPEED INTO THE TERTRE ROUGE CORNER OF THE TRACK HIS  CAR FINALLY STRUCK A BARRIER.

WHILE THE RACE WAS STOPPED AS REPAIRS MADE TO THE TRACK, SIMONSEN’S FAMILY  REQUESTED THAT THE RACE BE RESUMED. AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM ASTON MARTIN RACING MANAGER JOHN GAW WAS MADE AT THE SCENE:

“On behalf of all of us at Aston Martin, I  would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the individuals and families whose friends or loved ones were involved in today’s terrible tragedy.”

… AND OF COURSE WE ALL FEEL THE SAME.

CERTAINLY THE RACE CIRCUITS ,AS WELL AS THE COMMON ROADS WE ALL TRAVEL, SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED BY ALL US AS FOR THE RISKS WE TAKE AS DRIVERS. (AND THE BENEFITS BESIDES, OF RACING AND THE ROAD.) MAY WE ALL DRIVE AS SAFELY AS WE CAN IN THE CIRCUMSTANCE WE ARE IN.

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^ THE NUMBER 95 ASTON MARTIN AS DRIVEN BY ALLAN SIMONSEN.

ROAD ECONOMICS:   ROAD NOISE’S QUESTION LAST WEEK WAS “WHEN IS THE CHINESE CAR OFFICIALLY COMING TO THE US ?

IF THERE’S  INDICATION THAT  CHINESE CARS ARE APING THE KOREAN CAR EXPERIMENT IN THE CARRIBEAN, BY BEING USED IN RENTAL FLEETS, LET’S RECALL THAT THIS TEST MARKET STRATEGY LAUNCHED KOREA’S HYUNDAI “‘HYUNDA,” AS THE BRAND WAS CALLED WHEN FIRST BROIUGHT TO ST. MARTIN.

A HERTZ RENTAL CAR AGENCY MEMBER HAS NOTED THAT THE CHINESE CARS ARE COMING TO THE U.S. BUT NOT FOR AT LEAST THREE MORE YEARS. OF COURSE IF YOU WANT TO TRY ONE FOR SIZE THERE’S THE RENTALS AVAILABLE DURING YOUR WINTER ST. MARTIN VACATION…

ROAD LAW & SAFETY  ITS WAS A BAD WEEK FOR THE CHRYSLER CORP. JEEP BRAND. IT’S BEEN UNDER PRESSURE TO ROLL OUT A RECALL OF OVER 1.2 MILLION GRAND CHEROKEE AND LIBERTY JEEPS. THE COMPANY HAS BEEN PUSHED HARD BY THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION TO DO SO. AND IF THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH, DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE 96,000 JEEP BABY STROLLERS THAT WERE RECALLED ? YES, BABY STROLLERS WITH THE JEEP NAME. APPARENTLY THE TUBE TIRES WOULD BLOW OUT

The recall Stroller made in China and has model numbers starting with JL031, JL032, JL034, JL035 or JL036. And has “Jeep” printed on the side of the stroller

WE HAVEN’T HEARD OF ANY PROBLEM WITH JEEP’S ELECTRIC-BATTERY KID’S CARS. SAW A BABY BLUE ONE RUNNING THE SIDE WALK DRIVEN BY A LITTLE MISS WEARING HER OVER-SIZE SUNGLASSES AS HER MOM ON THE CELL PHONE FOLLOWED CLOSE BEHIND.

WELCOME TO SUMMER….

Till the next edition …. Enjoy your summer drive … —  Charles Barris / “Road Noise”

KAT GOT YOUR TONGUE : ” GUSHING ” ?

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Hello there faithful Kat readers!

Today’s topic is, without a doubt, one for the books. Whether it could be characterised as fact or be read as fiction will depend on the documentation — its origin and its time period.

So here’s the deal : despite a multiplicity of preferences and interpretations of truths, the question remains : “can women ejaculate ?”

This question has been frequently asked in history, yet still lacks even a minimal yes or no. Medical professionals in every field have investigated female ejaculation. You figure that with a surplus of “researchers,” someone would have a concrete answer. Instead, I have found loads of compiled data that suspiciously mimics the pornographic depiction of “gushing.”

For the confused among you, “gushing,” in medical terms relates to coital incontinence. Think of it as pissing yourself while screwing, minus the urine.

The consistency of the gush resembles abundant release of a diluted saline. Personally, I neither embrace or dismiss the concept of “gushing,” but I’m most definitely pro-orgasm in any form. Regardless of texture, whether it be scant and gelantinous or profuse and concongealed I’m for it, supportive of each viscosity.

Being rewarded with a release comparable to what our our male counterparts get, alongside us, is a concept reassuring enough. Come on now, there aren’t to many situations that justify the use of your “Oh-Face,” except for ejaculation ! So to get back on track, I’ve read research dating from the 16th Century to right now. Oddly enough, there’s much fascination about the speculated paradox and origins of the passion envoking secretions. Still, for all the passing centuries, the question of female ejaculation has generated few concrete answers. Hypotheses, however, are many.

The majority of these hypotheses actually run parallel. Each study describes the “gush” to be an accumulation of vaginal discharge happening both before orgasm and after. Thankfully, one Alexander Skene came along to clarify the issue. He advanced anatomical principles in his account of how para-urethral glands operate. Para-urethrals are glands surrounding the urethra; appropriately, they’re called “the Skene’s Glands.”

However, as with all great discoveries, there’s always the few who wish to one up the other. Obstetricians and gynaecologists writing after Skene had done his research, disputed Skene’s Glands theory. Their counter argument suggested that the urethra had its own para-urethral ducts and glands rather than there being independently operating glands surrounding the urethra.

Analysis of the fluids released following the hypothesis’ revealed insignificant amounts of urine traces. Which contradicted both Skene’s theory and its opponents — but raised yet another riddle : the fluid specimens collected contained a protein similar to that found in semen !

Despite the laboratory data depicting to this mysterious seepage, I’m sure you readers are curious about the frequency of its occurrence. Or so I hope — otherwise this blog is rendered pointless. But you, my readers, have more confidence in me than that, right ?

According to a survey of 200 women done in 1994 by Kratochvil. only 6 % of women reported an experience similar to ejaculation. Another 60% reported a release of fluid without a “gush” (classified as a fluid volume of 1 to 5 ml). Could it be possible, on such statistics and studies, that female ejaculation may be a fantasy occurring only in pornos ? It’s bad enough that Planned Parenthood reports that 30% of women have trouble reaching orgasm and 70% can’t orgasm on penetration alone ! These aren’t encouraging statistics, are they ? Completely unmotivating !

So let’s say, hypothetically, guys, that you’ve acquired the rare skills to pleasure that 6% who experience a sex result debated for centuries….kudos to you. Nothing is more congratulating than a women who likes you enough to practice what may or may not be “urophilia.” Even so, my findings are neither here nor there, and I myself couldn’t reach any hard-core answers. I guess the importance isn’t whether you can “gush,” or “ejaculate”; it’s whether you can actually orgasm.

In any case, generating three to 15 involuntary and pulsating contractions of the vagina far outweighs the over hyped squirts of Jenna Jameson — anyway you parse it.
So what do YOU think?!?

— Kat Gottlich / Kat Got your Tongue

CRYSTAL CLARITY : ADAM BEYER @ BIJOU 06.21.13

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There haven’t been many techno sets as masterful as the two hours that Sweden’s Adam Beyer sculpted in Boston on Friday night for an awed crowd at Bijou. Using the most minimal equipment — two CD players and a mixboard, no PC program — thus running only two channels, Beyer played with a clarity or tone and precision of texture unmatched in the techno DJ universe. He proved that clarity and precision are part of techno’s very message, the why and the how of its reconstruction of song and sense; the power of techno’s groove and the shine of its visions of urban noise and inner dream.

Other techno DJs, even the best — think Stefano Noferini, Dubfire, and Chris Liebing — evade the genre’s call for clarity by incorporating aspects of house music into their sound. Noferini imports the harsh beat of rave; Calderone, the sentimenatlity of soul; Liebing the abstract mechanics of German “industrial.”  Not so Beyer. He DJ’s fearlessly. The techno that he stretched into two hours of growly, grainy stomp — overtopped occasionally with pricking, sparkles — sounded as singular as possible. It was techno being techno and techno only. A sound so uncompromising could easily have bore dancers; at Bijou, however, Beyer’s craftsmanship detailed every tone shift, every texture nuance, and aligned them in progression narratives that relentlessly seduced his Bijou fans

Beyer never allowed his tracks to go untweaked. Tall as an NBA foward, slim and long-fingered, he bent his body to the music, reached onto the mixboard, dinged its knobs like a guitarist. He stuttered riffs, slammed beats home, fade-knobbed one line of tones, burst another. He gave extra attention to track pitch. As he played one CD, he was cueing the other, making every jab, boom, plunk, and purr speak with almost theatrical accuracy of diction. And if Beyer’s diction was mostly an urban din, not voices, it spoke a message as fascinating to the body as any voice on a stage.

His set beagn simply with a basic bluesy four to the floor, a force drive that scooped up dancers’ bodies. Gradually Beyer complicated his sound. Drop-ins talked back to the groove. The groove growled, as if arguing with the drop-ins. In the second hour Beyer changed beats, switched from funk to samba, tooled in some orchestral ear fluff, even at one point slid in a talker’s monologue. Yet nothing that he added to his basic sound led it astray or into vagueness. Even at set’s end, as his sound stuttered like scatted jazz, Beyer’s hand held tight to the throttle and brakes of his mixboard, concluding its stretch with a rattle of laughter.

Having local master DJ Wil Trahan open was an inspired choice. Though Trahan usually plays soft, soulful house, he loves what he calls “heavy techno.” In front of Beyer, “heavy” was what he was called upon to play, and did, with a relish evident in every scrape, buzz, and rumble of his PC program.

rating : sublime

—- Deedee Freedberg / “Feeling the Music”

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : WORLD WAR Z ( Rating : 2 1/2 stars )

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Zombie apocalypse and anything vampire seems to be the hot ticket out of Hollywood these days. The subtext, that we prey on each other and that life is a precious and fragile thing, is a piquant notion that gets magnified to its fullest when examining how man comports himself as civilization crumbles.
Sans rules and with limited resources, what would you do? Snatch and grab, help out or hole up doomsday prepper style?
That’s the special sauce that makes any apocalypse-cum-horror flick grip the road. Real people, super natural horror, deep shit. George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” was more about the dynamics and dissent amongst a band of survivors barricaded in a farm house than it was about the throng of shambling flesh scratching at the walls. Decades later, guys like Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) and Zack Snyder (the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”) got the nifty idea to make the dead move at warp speed.
Speed kills and given the choice in “Jurassic Park,” who would you really want to face, T-Rex or the veloci-raptors?
“World War Z” does zombie on a grand scale and goes at the genre in new ways, even if the rabies outbreak that is transforming people in to flesh ripping berserkers is similar to the rage virus that fueled the “28 Days Later” series.  You get bitten and in seconds you’re one of them, a maniac on angel dust spreading the disease. The decayed, mangled weak-kneed dead in Romero’s tales and TV’s “The Walking Dead” have nothing on these Olympic athletes.
The outbreak comes suddenly and fast as Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, who snatched up the rights to Max Brooks’s 2006 book) and his family wallow in a Philadelphia traffic standstill and a wave of the rampaging infected sweep through, shattering windshields with their heads, chomping and biting, and increasing their numbers. It’s a terrifying beginning of the end.
Gerry, it turns out, is a recently retired UN operator who was adept at getting in and out of such hellish hotbeds as Liberia and Bosnia. Those survival skills keep the family alive for a night in a Newark housing project, and to get the family out and onto the safety of a flotilla of military vessels off the coast, Gerry has to agree to get back in the game. Bureaucracy and governments are eroding all around the world, and so Gerry, a SEAL team, and a Harvard educated biologist set out on a viral forensics mission of sorts to find a potential cure. The journey sends them to Korea, Wales and Israel where the Middle East flashpoint of contention has seen this coming and taken all their settlement walls and set them outward-facing.
The globe-hopping plot drops Gerry in one harrowing situation after another– I’m not sure what was more unsettling: the transformation of coach class on an airliner into a neck biting brood or being trapped in a W.H.O. laboratory (a veritable maze) with dormant undead at every turn. The scripts and Pitt play Gerry right, though; he’s not a can-do skull basher, he’s a thinker and a plotter, susceptible, vulnerable and human, more MacGyver than Rambo.
The film — directed by Marc Forster, who’s been all over the map with “Monster’s Ball” and a Bond credit — does an effusive job of rendering the world spanning terror. The scenes of broad carnage–that Philly traffic jam and the scaling of the wall in Israel by a zombie flesh ladder, which must be some type spin on the Tower of Babble — astound in scale, authenticity, and the seamless blend of FX and live action. If the story bogs down, it’s in its disjointedness. Each stop along the way feels like a chapter written by a different author; and that would be correct, as the script credits listed in IMDB require more comas that I care to entertain.
The end also comes (too) quick and rushed (and a bit of a groaner to boot), and there’s not enough screen time for Mireillie Enos of “The Killing,” who plays Pitt’s wife and the mother of their two daughters. The family tie binds the film nicely and Forster and Pitt hold it from going over and into cliché and hyperbole. The result is lithe and agile, and intrinsically eerie enough to keep your stomach pinned to the back of your throat throughout.
—- Tom Meek / “Meek at the Movies”

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THIS IS THE END (rating : 3 ***)

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“This is the End” may be the most meta-vanity project ever to come out of Hollywood, where things meta usually don’t fly unless Charlie Kaufman is involved. The film co-written and co-directed by Seth Rogen has Rogen playing Seth Rogen — the asshole extrapolation of himself.  James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride all do the same. Baruchel is the one out of towner visiting Rogen in Los Angeles. Baruchel despises LA and just wants to hangout and smoke weed and watch 3D TV, but Rogen pries him off the couch and drags him to a house party at Franco’s manse.
Pot humor and pop up party guests like Rihanna keep the slow moving premise (Baruchel also hates Hill and is a bit of whining wet noodle to boot) alive, though there are nuggets of WTF humor that snap you out of the stupor : for example,  Michael Cera (yup, the anemic sweet wimp from “Juno”) doing blow and getting a rim job in the bathroom while sipping an effete cocktail that he seemingly relishes more than the sex act.
If that’s not an apocalyptic vision, the real apocalypse does arrive. A la the Rapture and Judgment Day, ‘good’ people are sucked up in blue tractor beams; the middlers and miscreants are left on Earth to perish in the building inferno. No one at Franco’s party gets beamed up to say the least, and, as the hills of Hollywood burn, it takes a while before the revelation sets in, and when it does, the sink hole from hell (literally) opens up and takes all but the main lads.
Most everything on view is aflame, and the six performers bunker up in Franco’s art-deco fortress, smoke more weed, divvy up supplies and jockey for masturbation rights to the lone porn mag in the house. McBride, so funny and unshakable in “Pineapple Express,” turns out to be the loose cannon, depleting the supplies in a matter of minutes; and Emma Watson shows up to provide a sexual distraction, not to mention dissension and Potter jokes.
This film, ostensibly birthed by the 2007 short film “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse,” gets teeth from its self-deprecating nature. When wondering if they’ll be saved, one the insightful lot remarks, “They always save actors and famous people first.” One of the film’s wittier turns has Franco breaking out the video-camera from “127 Hours” and the boys making a cheeky, low-fi sequel to “Pineapple Express.” Things that don’t work so well are the heavily peddled spoof of “The Exorcist.” It’s dull, uninspired flatness will leave your head spinning.
Outside creatures that look like the minions of the Gatekeeper in “Ghostbusters” or some rubber costume baddie in a Scooby Doo episode tear up the turf. Eventually the posse must venture out; and when they do, the scale of special FX won’t wow you so much as make you wonder how such a hokey skit idea stretched into a feature length film got such big dollars.
“This is the End,” won’t get you any deeper into the personas on display or change your perception of them, no matter how you feel about them, but it will make you laugh — and test your patience a bit too.
—- Tom Meek  / “Meek at the Movies”