Abraxas by Santana (1970) ** and Headhunter (2011) ***1/2

Abraxas by Santana (1970) ** First Full Listen

I hate George Lopez. He’s not funny. He shoots for the lowest common denominator, easiest jokes. He took a kidney from his wife and then divorced her. He’s the Mexican Jay Leno. Except, he’s also appointed himself America’s Hispanic Comedic Voice. C’mon Latino’s, shoot higher.

And that’s how I feel about Santana. They’re the George Lopez of music. Just because you’ve been around forever, doesn’t make you the king. Oye Como Oy Vey!

I saw Santana at Saturday in the Park. Let’s be more specific, I was in the same outdoor area with Santana. They were lifeless, bland, unengaging and played all that Mexican themed jam rock. So, five songs, forty-five minutes. No impression. I think some people play Santana the way some elevators play music. Outdoor BBQ music for an under attended cook-out. Background.

Abraxas is mostly instrumental in that jam rock way. Jam rock combines, to me, the worst elements of rock with the worst elements of jazz into a song that won’t end. Add the some hispanic spice. Now, it doesn’t end with bongos, because if you’re Santana, everybody in the zillion piece band gets some kind of solo in every song. Every song besides the two hits and two others are an instrumental. With solos. Did I say instrumental, I meant to spell ‘filler.’

Jam Rock takes what should sound like freedom, man, freedom of sound and calculates it down to an everybody gets to play aesthetic. Math rock has less math. The few live tracks at the end of the CD bear this out. They sound like note for note bad remixes of the same overlong songs from earlier in the album. C’mon, in the 18 years since it’s original release and the reissue, you couldn’t find a decent version of Black Magic Woman? Not very rock and roll. Not at all jamming.

The only passable songs are the two hits you know and Hope Your Feeling Better.

Oh, and Carlos Santana, the hat is looking played out. Take it off.

Do It: Stroganoff. It’s good.

Avoid It: Rancid Stroganoff. It’s rancid.

The Tweeter: Did you know grammarians Strunck and White would team up to rape babies and cheat at cards? Not true, but certainly nicer than their real accomplishment. #thatstupisstylebook

The Facing Book: Horrible pun based on picture in post. Repeat.

Bonus Movie Review:

Headhunters (2011) ***1/2 First Viewing

Art thieves make good movie anti-heroes. Yea, they’re bad guys, but who can be that mad at them? They’re stealing from the one percent. Boo, the one percent, go Robin Hood on his ass. Also, to most, art prices seem to be not only inflated, but arbitrary. The targets are seen as shallow status seekers or richer than God with the ego to match. Plus, there’s the whole sexy cat burglar aspect. I think that’s why there’s been more Art heist movies than actual art heists.

Roger is an art thief motivated by the oldest of motivations, the ridiculously hot girlfriend he’s trying to keep. Rogers’s pretty up-front about it, he’s short and not the best looking (think a Swedish Steve Buscemi which is is still pretty good looking, just not for Sweden) and he’s overcompensating.

By day, he’s a CEO headhunter for tech corporations and by other part of the day he’s an art thief. He uses the information he gleams in the recruitment process to find wealthy art owners and how to steal from the. He’s extremely competent at both jobs and likable because he knows his flaws.

Then he meets Jamie Lannister. Ok, the handsome actor who plays Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones. Still, Jamie Lannister. While it’s a cliché of heist movies to ‘have that one last big heist,’ Roger sets up that his goal was always, one big heist and out.

After the first third set up, the movie switches into full forward focused motion, like a shark. Roger gets put into some pretty intense situations and uses his wits to get out of them, believably. For action movies, I have a rule similar to the three stupid moves rule of horror movies, the action hero can benefit from “dumb luck” three times, then he’s out. I counted only one time I thought the hero got dumb lucky, everything else fell into the realm of plausibility and some of it was just downright clever, which is always the hope.

Shaun suggested this Swedish movie to me and it’s a great movie if you’re a fan of the “Things go badly” heist movies, which I am. And don’t be put off by it being a foreign movie with subtitles. There’s a lean American sensibility of the best American heist films in Headhunters. Certainly, if this was in English, it’s make a tidy profit in the USA. I hope it doesn’t get remade. Bigger (more explosions, car chases, etc) would not be better. The movie is intense precisely because it’s not big and dumb. The twists aren’t random or outrageous or crazy, but used to increase the tension and the immediacy of Rogers’s problems.

There’s zero gristle. Everything that is shown is used and not always the way you would expect. It’s crisp and easy to follow with a lead you can root for and damn, are those Swedes a handsome bunch. Although Steve Buscemi would be an ok choice for an American Roger. And Jamie fuckin’ Lannister.

Things I learned from Headhunters:
—If Jamie Lannister wants a job, get him that job.
—Be careful of moles when shaving your head with an old disposable razor. Okay, I knew that, but it’s an ongoing fear.
—Swedes got no problem with nudity which is awesome.
—The main character has a great answer to the question, “What were the worst ten minutes of your life?”

Next Up: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Aftermath (1994), The 400 Blows (1959), or Africa Brasil by Jorge Ben (1976).

And So It Begins, Again

Ever since I was a teen, I’ve watched at least five movies a week. I’m a total media junkie. Five Movies a week, 10 or so records, a boardgame or two, and a crapton of TV. Honestly, I’ve weighted it, a crapton. I’m in my mid 40’s now (remembering exact ages is for the soon to be depressed), so by my estimation I’ve seen thousands of movies.

On the Buddism scale of quiet zen reflection, I’m a total failure unless, as I imagine this is the way the world now operates, we’re just a collection of what media we’ve consumed. By that measure I’m an A Number One Success as an American. USA! USA! USA! (Sorry starving third worlders with your endless time to contemplate a meaningless life before a ripe old death at 23.)

Now that almost every movie, TV show, CD and book is just a stream or download away, I’ve kinda hit a brick wall. I now spend more time searching Netflix Streaming or Hulu than watching said premium services. I’m not a big fan of most mainstream, big studio fare, I like surprises and most popcorn movies have suprises surgically drained from them to appeal to the mass audiences their budgets demand. I know I’m sounding like a movie snob, but Prometheus this weekend, YO! (excited)

So while browsing the B&N movie book section, I came across two books where I wanted to see every movie in them. Granted, I’d already seen 2/3rds of the films in each book, but saw some gems I hadn’t seen. The books The 500 Essential Cult Movies and Horror!: 333 Films to Scare You to Death. I’d also been trying to plow through the Criterion Collection on Hulu, since my exposure to classic foreign films was a little underexposed. And for fun I added the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, so I’m not reviewing movies everyday.

Oh, I’m making another stab at a review blog. Basically, I always have four choices each day for the next review. In addition, there’ll be smaller reviews, twitter jokes and other errata every day. Also, the reviews may favor horror movies because that’s what I like. The format came about pretty quickly, check out The Rules for more info.

To quoteth DEVO, “Freedom of choice is what you got, Freedom from choice is what you want.”

The older reviews are just the bones of an older review site.

And so it begins again. Think of it as a another daily recommendation site from someone you sorta know. See y’all tomorrow.

First Up: 200 Motels (1971), A Bell From Hell (1973), 21 Days (1940), or #500. Aquemini by OUTKAST.