Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Review of Unvarnished by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Hey everyone. Dana here. As you can see from my previous blog post, I did a movie review of one of the worst films ever made, The Room. This time, I'm reviewing a CD made by my musical inspiration, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. They released their new album, Unvarnished, a few weeks ago and I thought it would be appropriate to review it.  Heck, maybe she'll even see this! (Yeah, in my dreams, haha!) Since there was a Deluxe Version of this album for only two bucks more with extra songs and some stickers, it was definitely worth it. Well, here it is, everyone! Joan Jett's new album, Unvarnished! *insert applause here*

Let's take a look at it track by track.

Track 1: Any Weather (606 Version)

 I definitely love this as an opening track. The wall of sound that emanates from the speakers right when you press play means that there's a lot to say when words don't cut it. 

"Any Weather" has an upbeat, pure rock n' roll sound, but also has classical music thrown in there too. But what really struck me was the lyrics of this song. The chorus, "we can stay together through any weather, we can stay together through anything" can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.
Since Joan made
Unvarnished an autobiographical album, there's a chance that this song is about Hurricane Sandy since she lived through it. She's from Long Island, and it took a toll on her town, Long beach. But at the same time, the "weather" can be interpreted as a metaphor. The weather can represent rough times, good times, anything that affects normality. No matter how bad things get, you've got friends/family/loved ones that will stick by you and stay with  you. If that isn't a beautiful message to send out to fans, I don't know what beautiful is.

Track 2: TMI

This one is another favorite of mine off of this album. In August 2012, me and my boyfriend, Eddie, went to see her in Coney Island and this was one of the new songs she played for us aside from her hits and other songs from previous albums. I remember singing along to TMI when I was up front against he barricade and I remembered how catchy it was. Aside from the catchy sing-along type chorus, melody and heartfelt lyrics that anyone can relate to, I love the bass intro that plays along with the drums. Since I'm a bass player, I'm a sucker for bass breaks, bass solos, and bass intros. 
From what I get from this song, the title of the song pretty much speaks for itself. Not everyone wants to know every last living detail of everyone's lives. It's all about how stupid gossip, rumors, shit-talking and not having any filters is a waste of time, breath, and energy. People post passive aggressive Facebook statuses and everyone wants to know who it's directed to instead of just, oh I don't know, talking DIRECTLY to the person you got a problem with. With every waking detail about someone's day at the tip of our fingers, it reminds me of how teenagers are; always wanting to know who is sleeping with who, who has a problem with another person, blah blah blah. In other words, Joan says high school gossip is pathetic. I couldn't agree more.

Track 3: Soulmates To Strangers

Soulmates To Strangers...does that phrase sound familiar or what? Really, who can't relate to that?! I didn't even have to listen to the song to know that it was about drifting from someone. I mean, seriously, everyone has had someone that that they loved dearly and then drifted to nothing at all. Whether it was a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend, a husband, a wife, any kind of significant other...everyone has dealt with this at least once in his/her lifetime. I've had my share of boyfriends, "best friends," or people that I was close with. We used to talk every day and now, we're strangers. Some of them I haven't talked to in years because we either had a falling out, or we just talked less and less to the point where we don't even know each other. It's as if we never existed in each other's lives. Obviously, Joan lost someone special and it inspired her to write this song. If anything, she probably lost a lot of special people in her life since her songs are from the heart. Any song that speaks from the heart should be heard. I'd recommend this song to anyone that's currently dealing with a break up or a fight with a close friend. You're not alone. I promise.

Track 4: Make It Back

As soon as I heard the first few seconds of this song, it reminded me of songs that she wrote on her debut album, Bad Reputation. The guitar riff sounds something Chuck Berry would have written in the 1950's, so I can totally hear roots from older musicians in this song. The typical "one-four-five" chords that you hear in punk songs are heard during the verses as well. It's like I'm listening to a mix of 50's music and late 70's punk music.
With the lyrics, it sounds something along the lines of making through some kind of struggle, whether it was the hurricane or a personal struggle. But what I heard while listening to 102.3 WBAB while driving home from school tonight, this song really is about her experience during Hurricane Sandy. The opening verse about the sky getting dark, the wind getting stronger, houses going on fire, I was able to see everything in my mind while listening to those lyrics. The main chorus reminds me of the first track. Joan sings  "I know this train won't fall off the track 'cause I'm gonna make it back" many times throughout the song. The message pretty much says that despite the storm, things are gonna be okay and you're gonna make it through. Another inspirational song to listen to when things get rough. Really, why can't there be more musicians like her?

Track 5: Hard To Grow Up

Once again, the title speaks for itself. It is hard to grow up. Whether it's graduating college, looking for a full-time job with 40 hour week days, or having to grow up fast due to hardships, growing up is quite hard. But this one, was definitely an autobiographical song. Before this album was released, Joan's mother passed away. She was extremely close with her mother when she was alive, and "couldn't fathom" losing her back then. But now that she passed on, she really feels like growing up is hard. Losing a parent is one of the most heartbreaking things anyone can ever go through. I'm pretty sure every musician has written a song about the death of a loved one. For instance, I wrote a song about my friend, Casey Falconer, who died in a private plane crash on May 9th, 2012. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day wrote the song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" as a memorial to his father who died when he was only ten years old. When a loved one dies, writing a poem, a song, or anything is the most therapeutic thing anyone can ever do when something this upsetting happens to someone. Even if you're not so good at writing poems or if you're not musically inclined, just write your thoughts down. If you don't feel like speaking about it, write it. 

Track 6: Fragile

What I like about this song is the diversity of sound I hear from the other songs on this album and other songs from previous albums. There's a string trio (i.e, a violin player, a viola player and cello player) on this song. What rock n' roll song has a string trio accompanying a rock band?! It's brilliant! Roughly two minutes into the song, there is a string trio solo in lieu of a guitar solo. With the exception of "Sons of Liberty" by Frank Turner or multiple songs by celtic punk band Flogging Molly, I've never heard a classical string instrument like a violin, viola or cello (or all of the above) replace an electric guitar for a solo. How cool is that? Aside from the instruments, the lyrics struck me. 
Since life is fragile, it really does make you think about your own mortality, like what she sings in the second verse.While listening to them, I think about all of the things I accomplished or attempted and if I regretted any of those things or not.  Anything can happen to you and could potentially change your life. It can happen in seconds, it can happen many years from now. In short, never take your life for granted.

Track 7: Reality Mentality

This is another song I remember hearing when I went to her concert August 2012. Mainly because the melody of "Reality Mentality" stuck with me for the rest of the night. I remember singing the chorus because it was so damn catchy. Not to mention that phrase "reality mentality" is repeated multiple times throughout the song. From what I get from this song, it pretty much says that people in society live in a "reality mentality" instead of mentality that isn't based on what they've just seen. In other words, people believe everything they see on TV; whether it's a stupid ass reality show, Fox News, or anything that appears to be real when it really isn't. About two weeks ago in my Political Communications class, I watched a video by Professor George Gerbner called "The Electronic Storyteller," which pretty much means that people who watch TV are more prone to believe that everyone acts like what they see on the screen. For instance, news stories that depict crime and violence make viewers believe that there is crime and violence right in their own neighborhood. With that being said, the more reality shows and one sided news stories you watch, the chance that you believe everything you see significantly increases. Listen to this song and some how, watch the video "The Electronic Storyteller," and tell me that these two forms of media share the same message

Track 8: Bad As We Can Be

The wall of sound returns! Is it just me, or can you hear pure punk rock while listening to this? I hear Ramones and Misfits influences while listening to this. It makes me wanna mosh and maybe one day cover this song with my band! I'm usually not too huge on guitar solos, but I absolutely love when a guitar solo sounds like the chorus and it isn't just shredding all over the fret board  From what I get out of these lyrics, "I'm no good for you, you're no good for me, we're as bad as we could be," I can't figure  out if it's about breaking up, or both being bad to the point where they're meant to be together. I guess, interpret the way you want to. There's no right or wrong.

Track 9: Different

With the exception of the cowbell at the beginning of the song, the intro sounded just like "I Hate Myself For Loving You." I may love loud, lightning fast, upbeat songs, but this one is slower than the other ones. What I love the most about it is the lyrics. It's all about BULLYING; my biggest pet peeve. It's the biggest out of my other big pet peeves. Joan is to-the-point on this one. People stare at you, make fun of you, and treat you poorly solely because you're DIFFERENT. Oh hell no, NO ONE should ever be treated poorly for not conforming to the popular scene. No one should ever be alienated, excluded or get insulted for liking different music, wearing different clothes, having a different accent, or having anything that apparently threatens "normality" or whatever is considered "normal." Sounds like what I went through in high school! Why didn't this song come out when I was in high school, God dammit?! This would have been my anthem! But it's alright, Joanie, I forgive you. The fact that this song exists makes everything better. Apparently being different is "weird" or "isn't normal." Remember ladies and gentlemen, normality isn't universal.  At the close of the song, It ends with the drums imitating a heart beating. It sent shivers down my spine.

Track 10: Everybody Needs A Hero

Wow. Can you say surprise? For the first time, there's a ballad accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Holy crap everyone, this is pure diversity at it's finest. You begin an album with a wall of sound and close an album with a ballad. Holy crap. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I feel like this song is played for a slow dance at a prom or a wedding. When I thought Joan couldn't amaze me enough, she managed to surprise me by adding a ballad to this album. I'm at a loss for words with this one. She says everybody needs a hero...well, I have a hero. Her name is Joan Jett.

Overall, this is one of the finest albums I've ever listened to. What I love is that these lyrics are really mature and addresses serious issues like love, death, tragedies and hardships instead of lyrics that she used to write in her older albums from 25 years ago. Lyrics can be set to any kind of music, but all of these lyrics were appropriately placed with the right rhythm and melody. Every song sounded different; there were times where I'd listen to an album and one track would sound almost exactly like an earlier track. When I first heard that Unvarnished was going to be an autobiographical album, I had no idea that it would be so close to home and being able to relate to what she went through. Raw emotions is the only way to create something beautiful, and that's what I intend to do with my band. Joan Jett once again gave me a reason to keep doing what I'm doing, and I hope one day everyone has someone they look up to the way I do.

That's all, everyone. Thank you so much for reading. See you next week.
Until then, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Review of the Worst Film Ever Made: The Room

Hello everyone, Dana here. If you are reading this, congratulations. You're reading my first official blog post! I figured I'd start out with a movie review! What you are about to read is a thoroughly thought out review of one of the worst films ever made in the 21st century. I will be reviewing the 2003 independent film The Room.
Alright, so I have come to terms that this film is a prime example of what a movie producer should not do! The story is clichĂ©, the use of stock footage is excessive and inappropriate, there are several plot holes regarding minor characters, the dialogue is redundant, and the acting is extremely poor due to the cast’s lack of acting experience.

Let me begin with a brief summary and back-story to this film. The Room is directed, executively produced, and written by Tommy Wiseau, the actor who portrays the main character in the film. The story of The Room takes place in San Francisco, and
revolves around a successful banker named Johnny who has a fiancĂ© named Lisa. However, Lisa falls in love with Johnny’s best friend Mark, and has an affair with him because she thinks Johnny is “boring.” Johnny eventually finds out about it and ends up shooting himself in the head. With that kind of a story, the film is pretty much a soap opera that’s been extended to an hour and forty minutes. Every melodrama has a love triangle, but that love triangle shouldn't be the entire premise of the film. There are three sex scenes that occur within the first 25 minutes of the film and sappy ballads are dubbed over the sex scenes along with moans and sighs. If I didn't know any better, I thought I was watching a porn film with a high budget.

Films have establishing shots that show where the scene is supposed to take place. During the opening credits of The Room, there are multiple exterior shots of ambiguous places before there is a well-known shot of skyscrapers and trolley cars that tell us that it takes place in San Francisco. There are also multiple establishing shots before dialogue commences. There is so much stock footage of exterior shots, but 98% of the film takes place in Johnny and Lisa’s apartment. For example, Tommy Wiseau decided to take a wide shot of a church in San Francisco as an establishing shot. Meanwhile, the interior scene takes place in the apartment. This throws off the audience because they expect the scene to take place inside of the church. More unnecessary stock footage is used when Wiseau decided to take a pan shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from left to right and visa versa for 15 seconds each. Another example of unnecessary stock footage is used towards the end of the film; Wiseau takes an extreme wide shot of buildings and skyscrapers at night and pans to the left for a total of twenty seconds. Meanwhile, the next scene takes place in the same setting as the previous scene.

There are subplots in every film and television show since the emergence of the cinema. All subplots are supposed to have a resolution at the plot’s conclusion. However, there are several plot holes throughout the entire film. None of the minor characters in the film are introduced nor have any back story. The first plot hole in the film takes place when Lisa confides in her mother, Claudette, about having an affair with Mark. Suddenly, her mother nonchalantly says “I got the results of the tests back…I definitely have breast cancer.” The breast cancer subplot is never brought up nor is it ever mentioned again. The next plot hole takes place when Lisa’s friends, Michelle and Mike, walk into Johnny and Lisa’s apartment to engage in sexual activities. They were never mentioned prior to that scene, nor do they have back stories. They are not introduced until Lisa and Claudette walk in on them, so the audience wonders why these unknown characters are engaging in sexual activities in a random apartment. Claudette even asks "What are these characters doing here?" to Lisa after they walk in Mike and Michelle. I think this was not only a rhetorical question to Lisa, but also a question the viewers are trying to ask while watching this scene. However, the most significant subplot that occurs is a confrontation between a college student named Denny and a criminal named Chris R regarding a drug interaction on the rooftop of the apartment. Chris R holds Denny at gun point screaming where the money is. Johnny and Mark suddenly appear and take Chris R to the police after a brief fight. Denny never mentioned anything about drugs prior to the confrontation Once again, that subplot was never brought up nor is it mentioned again. There are also multiple scenes where Johnny, Mark, and their friends just toss a football around for no apparent reason. There is no significance to the football nor does it have anything to do with the main plot or the subplots.During the last twenty minutes of the film, a character that has no name nor was he ever mentioned throughout the film begins to chastise Lisa for cheating on Johnny with Mark as if he was in the film the whole time.

A good screenplay is supposed to have flowing dialogue throughout the film; lines shouldn't be repeated over and over again nor should the characters talk about the same thing they discussed in the previous scene. Most of all, lines should have significance. Lisa is always talking about how she doesn't love Johnny anymore and always says “I don’t want to talk about it” after someone argues with her. Whenever Claudette is having a conversation with Lisa, she constantly advises Lisa to stay with Johnny for financial support despite the lack of romance. Every time Lisa seduces Mark, he always questions Lisa why he is seducing him despite his knowledge that she no longer loves Johnny. Although the dialogue between the minor characters and co-stars are redundant, the things that Johnny says during his interaction with the other characters are even more repetitive.

Johnny starts every conversation with “oh, hi (insert name here)” and ends almost every sentence with a strange laugh even when serious subjects are brought up. There is a scene where Johnny takes a trip to the flower shop to buy Lisa a dozen of red roses. After he asks the clerk for the bouquet of roses, the clerk responds with “Oh hi Johnny, I didn't know it was you.” How in the world can someone not know who he is if the clerk knows him on a first name basis? After he is notified of the price, he just nonchalantly says “Here you go, keep the change; hi doggy!” and pets the pug on the counter in the same breath. That line of dialogue was so incredibly pointless that it was humorous.

There is another scene where Johnny is on the rooftop after hearing a rumor that he abused Lisa. He just rants by saying “I did not hit her; it’s not true. It’s bullshit; I did not hit her! I did not—oh hi Mark” after he sees Mark sitting on the rooftop. After a few lines of dialogue, Johnny randomly exclaims “I am so happy to have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much.” The audience already knows how much he values his romantic relationship with Lisa and his friendship with Mark, so why does he have to announce it? Oh wait, that’s right; Tommy Wiseau couldn't have been sober when he wrote this disaster of a story.

The final element that makes this film incredibly horrible is that the acting is so bland and so unbelievable that an elementary school play can be more professional than this film. At the beginning of the film, Lisa tells Mark that she doesn't love Johnny in the most monotone and unenthusiastic way that a sane human being wouldn't buy her “act.” Even though the majority of the cast lacked acting experience, Tommy Wiseau’s acting was far worse than any other actor or actress who starred in this film.

Roughly twenty minutes into the film, Johnny arrives home with his bouquet of red roses for his “future wife.” When he announces that he didn't get his promotion, he is so lackadaisical about his rejected promotion that no one in the audience would believe that he is angry and “betrayed” by his bosses and co-workers.

When he confronts Lisa about her rumor that he abused her, he over exaggerates his frustration by yelling “you’re lying; I never hit you. YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, LISA” and later says calmly and quietly, “Don’t worry about it. I still love you.” How does one make a huge fuss about his future wife “tearing him apart” yet calmly and peacefully tells her that he still loves her anyway? At approximately fifty minutes into the film, Johnny overhears Lisa and her mother discussing her infidelity with an “unknown man.” He then says out loud “How can they say this about me? I don’t believe it. I show them. I will record everything.” A professional actor would be devastated to overhear that his future wife had an affair with another man; if anything he would confront her and have her confess her infidelity to him. Instead, Tommy Wiseau speaks so calmly and emotionless as if he thinks it’s a sick joke. No, his acting is a sick joke. The entire film is a sick joke.

Now that I have critiqued the film in its entirety, I must say that despite its failures and lack of professionalism, I never laughed at a movie to the point of tears throughout all of the years I've walked this earth. The Room is one of those movies that is so incredibly horrible that it’s truly entertaining.  A person just can’t help but laugh at the poor dialogue, the unprofessional acting, the excessive stock footage and those strange “one liners” that one of the characters say out of random. Even though Tommy Wiseau truly sounds like a drug addict and looks like a washed out rock star, he is a genius. I can’t think of any other director/producer/writer that can create something so horrible that it becomes a cult following. I have watched this movie with my friends numerous times, and I end up laughing every single time. If you have never seen this movie nor have ever heard of this movie, please check it out on YouTube or purchase it on for ten bucks. It may not be an Academy Award winning movie, but it can at least put a smile on your face when you have been “betrayed” or had a bad day.