Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Who at 50

The Who are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band this year.  They just released yet another compilation album called The Who Hits 50.  Besides it being their 50th year, I thought this might be a play on words, that they might actually have a compilation with 50 songs on it.  I was wrong – it has only 42.  Close, but no cookie.  So… as is my wont, I compiled my own list of 50 Who songs that I like.  I did it with the Rolling Stones in 2012, so now it’s The Who’s turn.  Most of them were written by Pete Townshend, a handful were written by John Entwistle, and there is one cover.  I threw in one solo song from Pete Townshend [because I can, but there’s a reason].  Here they are, in chronological order:

Singles 1965-68
I Can’t Explain [1965]
My Generation [1965]
Substitute [1966]
The Kids Are Alright [1966]
Happy Jack [1966]
Boris the Spider [1967] [Entwistle]
I Can See For Miles [1967]
Magic Bus [1968]

Tommy [1969]
Overture/It’s a Boy
Pinball Wizard
The Acid Queen

Live at Leeds [1970]
Summertime Blues

Who’s Next [1971]
Baba O’Riley
My Wife [Entwistle]
The Song Is Over
Behind Blue Eyes
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Pure And Easy [2003 Deluxe Edition]
I Don’t Even Know Myself [2003 Deluxe Edition]

Singles 1971-72
Let’s See Action [Nothing Is Everything]
Join Together

Quadrophenia [1973]
The Real Me
The Punk and The Godfather
I’m One
Helpless Dancer
Is It In My Head?
Love Reign O’Er Me

Odds & Sods [1974]
Long Live Rock

The Who By Numbers [1975]
However Much I Booze
Dreaming From the Waist
Success Story [Entwistle]
In a Hand or Face

Who Are You [1978]
Had Enough [Entwistle]
Trick of the Light [Entwistle]
Who Are You

The Kids Are Alright [1979]
A Quick One
Young Man Blues

Empty Glass [Pete Townshend – Empty Glass, 1980 – Who band demo on remastered Who Are You]

Face Dances [1981]
Don’t Let Go the Coat
The Quiet One [Entwistle]
Another Tricky Day

It’s Hard [1982]
Eminence Front
Cry If You Want

Endless Wire [2006]
A Man in a Purple Dress
It’s Not Enough
Tea & Theatre

Saturday, November 1, 2014

31 Days of Horror Movies - REC: Zombie Trilogy

Between 2007 and 2012, Spanish filmmakers Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza filmed three horror movies in Barcelona [REC, REC 2, and REC 3: Genesis].  On the surface, all three films are your typical zombie movies.  But unlike most zombie films, these films attempt to get to the root cause of what is causing people to attack other people and spread their affliction.  For the most part, all three movies are done in the Blair Witch Project technique of the “found footage,” like the events were recorded on personal video cameras [hence the word REC in the title of all three movies.
The first movie [REC] begins in a Barcelona fire station.  Ángela Vidal and her cameraman Pablo are at this fire station to film what happens on a typical night shift for a news program called While You Sleep.  While Ángela and Pablo are filming, the station receives a call about an elderly woman trapped in her apartment.  When the firemen and some police arrive on scene, they find the old woman incoherent and aggressive.  She attacks one cop, bites off his ear and part of his cheek.  They end up shooting the old woman.  Pablo gets this all on tape.  The cops want him to stop filming, but Pablo continues.  The residents of the building are scared shitless, while police and military try to seal off the building.  Ángela interviews a girl named Jennifer, who is sick from what her mother says is tonsillitis.  She says her dog is sick too, and he’s at the vet.  It turns out the dog attacked other pets at the vet and had to be put down.  As Ángela interviews other tenants about the dog, Jennifer becomes violently ill and pukes all over her mother and runs back to her apartment.  She got infected by a dog bite.

Quickly, more and more people of the apartment building get infected, leaving Ángela and Pablo as the only healthy ones.  They’re forced to flee to the penthouse.  It had been abandoned by some guy who was working for the Vatican.  He was searching for a cure for a virus that causes demonic possession.  The virus was confirmed in a little girl named Tristana Medeiros.  The Vatican guy had kidnapped Tristana and taken her to the penthouse to conduct his research and hopefully find a cure.  She got worse, and the disease she had become contagious.  The Vatican guy couldn’t find a cure, sealed the girl off in the penthouse and fled the scene.  Tristana found Pablo and Ángela before they found her.  Tristana attacks Pablo with a hammer after he trips and falls.  Ángela picks up the camera and keeps filming.  She starts to run, but she too trips and falls.  She dropped the camera but could not find it in the darkness.  As the movie ends, one can hear the demonic Tristana on the tape [camera still recording after being dropped], and Ángela screaming as she’s being dragged away.

REC 2 picks up where REC ended.  A doctor Owen and some Spanish special ops troops arrive at the apartment building to “control” the situation.  It turns out Dr. Owen is a priest sent by the Vatican to assist the guy who had abandoned Tristana Medeiros in the penthouse.  Dr. Owen was tasked to find a blood sample from Tristana that was taken from her by the other guy.  After getting Tristana’s blood sample, Dr. Owen performs some kind of religious rite. During which the blood bursts into flames.  The good news is that was the blood Dr. Owen was looking for.  The bad news is he has to get more blood, and the only way to get more is to capture Tristana.  While all of this transpires, there are three teenagers up on the roof.  They don’t have a clue what is happening in the building beneath them.  They soon find out and try to leave, but the building is sealed off from the public.  They soon find Dr. Owen.  One of the teenagers [Tito] is attacked and gets infected.  Dr. Owen forces Tito to tell him where he can find Tristana.  The answer – the penthouse.  So back to the penthouse they go.  Who should they find along the way?  Ángela!  She’s still alive and not infected.  I don’t know how she managed that, but she did.  Anyway, she told Dr. Owen she saw Tristana with the camera’s “night vision.”  When they arrived back in the penthouse, they find a bathtub filled with water that can’t be seen by regular light.  Suddenly Tristana pops out of the tub, grabs the one of the surviving special ops guy and drags him into the tub with her.  When the lights come back on, there’s no special ops guy and no Tristana.  Dr. Owen, Ángela and the last special ops guy try to remain quiet so they won’t alarm Tristana.  But then Dr. Owen’s radio makes noise and Tristana reappears.  Ángela is armed with a shotgun and blows Tristana’s head clean off. 

Dr. Owen is pissed because he wanted Tristana alive, but Ángela just wants to get out of the building.  When Dr. Owen refuses she starts to beat the crap out of him, and she kills the last special ops guy.  It turns out that Ángela was possessed after all [by Tristana], she could just hide it a lot better than everyone else.  She tells Dr. Owen she didn’t need his help getting out of the building.  She can impersonate his voice, and so knowing this, she kills Dr. Owen.  She uses his radio to tell those outside [in his voice] that the “operation” was over and that there is one survivor [Ángela].  She also tells those outside that Dr. Owen is remaining in the building because he’s infected.  When she is asked how she survived, she looks at the camera and smiles.

As the events in the apartment are taking place, its Koldo and Clara’s wedding day [REC 3: Genesis].  Koldo’s cousin Adrian and their wedding photographer are filming everything.  All goes well during the wedding, so the scene turns to the reception.  Adrian finds his uncle Pepe, who has a bandaged hand.  He says he was bitten by a dog [Jennifer’s dog?], but says he’ll be okay.  So while the reception guests are all dancing, we see uncle Pepe fall from a balcony.   Was he drunk?  Adrian caught him vomiting on camera before he fell from the balcony.  He also caught guys outside wearing hazmat suits.  Pepe’s wife went to him to see if he was ok, but he awakened and bit her neck.  He stands up and pukes blood all over another wedding guest.  Then a whole bunch of people get infected very quickly, and they attack other guests who were not.  In the ensuing chaos Koldo and Clara get separated.    They spend the remainder of the film trying to reunite.  
This stuff is all of your typical zombie apocalypse survival, and then something completely different happens.  The priest who married Koldo and Clara started reading from the Book of Genesis over the public address system.  As he reads, all of the zombies stop in their tracks.  This was the first time I had seen a zombie movie where demonic possession had figured into the mix.  Usually it was some kind of unexplained virus that made people want to attack others, but this was the first time that it was put into some kind of religious context.  When I saw all of these movies, the third movie was the one I saw first.  Then when I went back and saw the first two, this whole religious angle suddenly made sense.  But to get back to the story, one of the guests who had become infected didn’t stop in his tracks.  He was deaf, so when the priest began reading the Bible over the PA, he didn’t hear it.  He ends up biting Clara, who by this time had been reunited with Koldo.  She is slow to infect but Koldo knows she is doomed.  He carries her outside, where police and special ops troops await them.  They tell Koldo to let her go because she’s infected.  He refuses and shares one last kiss with Clara.  She bites off his tongue and starts to attack the armed police.  The police respond and mow down both Koldo and Clara in a blaze of gunfire.

This zombie trilogy isn’t your typical zombie fare.  These zombies didn’t eat their victims after they attacked them.  Their motivation wasn’t to satisfy hunger.  Their motive was to spread demonic possession.  For this, I give these Spaniard filmmakers an “A” for originality.

31 Days of Horror Movies - 28 Days Later

In almost every zombie movie I've seen, the zombie apocalypse is in full swing as the movie starts.  The cause of said apocalypse is never given - it just "happened."  Not so with 28 Days Later.  It all started with animal rights activists breaking into a lab where experiments are being conducted on chimps.  These activists are discovered by a lab employee.  As the activists begin their task of releasing the animals, the lab employee tells the activists that the animals are infected with "Rage."  This virus can be spread by contact with blood or saliva of the infected.  One activist is bitten immediately after she released one chimp, and almost as quickly she shows the symptoms of this "Rage."  She then attacks her fellow activists.  

The scene shifts to a London hospital, where we see some guy named Jim emerging from a coma.  This was 28 days after the incident at the animal testing lab, hence the name of the movie.  When he awakens, the hospital is deserted.  He checks himself out and finds all of London is deserted as well.  He stumbles into a church where he finds many people who appear to be dead.  Out of the shadows emerges an infected cleric.  He starts to run after several infected people wake up and go after him.  Unlike zombies in other movies, these zombies don't stumble around - they can run!  As the zombies give chase, two people (Selena and Mark) rescue Jim by throwing Molotov cocktails at the infected.  This results in blowing up à gas station, and so the fun begins. 

Selena and Mark take Jim to their hideout, which was a snack bar in a tube station.  Jim convinces them to go to his house to check on his parents the following day.  Once they arrive the Jim finds his parents committed suicide.  The three of them are attacked by infected people.  Selena and Jim survive unscathed, but Mark gets cut up, and he's infected.  He knows he's doomed, and Selena kills him almost immediately.  She tells Jim the same thing will happen to him "in a heartbeat."   So our two heroes start walking the streets of London when they find some blinking lights coming from a block of flats.  Since the do-gooders released the monkeys and the Rage, civilization collapsed.  There's no electricity, no running water, little food, not many people around.  The people who are around are infected with the Rage and want to puke blood all over you.  The thing about these zombies is that when they die, they stay dead.  You don't have to bash their brains in.  Shooting then is sufficient to kill them.  But I digress...  Selena and Jim go to the block with the blinking lights, where they get chased upstairs.  They're rescued by a cab driver named Frank.  He lives there with his daughter Hannah.  After spending the night, Frank plays them a military broadcast.  It says to come to a blockade northeast of Manchester to find a haven and the 'answer to infection.'  So off they go... 

The four travelers reach the blockade.  When they arrive (after a detour around a burning Manchester), they blockade is deserted.  Frank is soon infected, and soldiers come out of the woodwork to kill him.  The three survivors are taken to a secluded mansion that been fortified.  One notices very quickly that Serena and Hannah are the only females there.  As the major in charge shows Jim around the mansion, they meet Mailer, an infected soldier who is chained up in the back yard.  The 'answer' is to find out how long it takes for Mailer to starve to death.  The other part of the answer is to repopulate with any females attracted by the radio broadcast.  Uh oh... 

Our three travelers try to escape, but are caught.  Jim is taken away with an NCO who disagrees with the major's plan.  The NCO opines that the infection is limited to Britain while the rest of the world goes on living.   As the soldiers shoot their NCO, Jim gets away.  After he gets away from the soldiers, he sees an airplane flying overhead.  The NCO was right – Britain has been quarantined from the rest of the world.  As he tries to make his way back to the mansion, Selena and Hannah are being readied for a gang rape.  But after they try on the clothes that the soldiers provided them, zombies attack the mansion.  The soldiers beat back the attack, but in the ensuing chaos Jim manages to sneak back into the mansion.  One by one he’s able to kill some of the soldiers [and arm himself in the process].  Jim found Mailer, shot his off his chains and set him free.  Mailer begins to run around the house and kill off those soldiers that Jim hadn’t gotten to yet.  Jim found one last soldier who was in the room with Selena and Hannah.  Jim jumps him and starts to bash his head into a wall.  For good measure, Jim gouged out his eyes.  Selena thought the violence Jim showed to be so unlike him that she thought he was infected.  Just as she was about to kill him, she paused.  Jim pointed out that Selena took more than a heartbeat to try to kill him, at which time she realizes Jim is ok.  So as Jim, Selena and Hannah try to get away, they come face to face with the commanding officer, who shoots Jim in the abdomen right before the zombies get to him.  While the zombies are occupied with the British officer, our three heroes make their escape. 

Another 28 days later, approximately 61 days after the initial outbreak, we see Jim recovering from his injuries at a remote cabin.  The landscape suggests they are in Scotland.  Selena is sewing lots of bed sheets together.  When she is done, she Hannah and Jim spread out the bed sheets to spell out “HELLO.”  A fighter jet flies overhead the survivors and sees the “HELLO.”  He calls for a rescue helicopter, at which point the movie ends.