Thursday, December 31, 2009

UFC 108: Evans vs. Sanchez- Echo calls it

No offense to the folks stepping into the octagon this weekend, but I can’t remember the last time I was so unexcited to catch a UFC event. There are a couple standout athletes about to continue their individual quests for a shot at their respective belts, but I’m not expecting much fireworks out of this week’s card.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Gilber Yvel
Yvel has a ridiculous amount of experience but I don’t think he’s going to be able to keep up with Dos Santos (which, if I’m not mistaken, is Spanish for Two Santas.). Yvel will make a good stepping stone for Dos Santos, but that’s about it.

Jim Miller vs. Duane Ludwig
I find myself being a fan of Miller. Nothing about the guy really stands out in my mind but he’s a strong competitor and easy to root for. Duane Ludwig, however, bears the simple yet effective nickname of “Bang.” That’s all I really have to say about that. In all seriousness, this is going to be a pretty evenly matched competition, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller walk away with the decision.

Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout
Talk about another well-matched competition. Still, Stout can’t match the killer instinct Lauzon possesses and that will be the deciding factor here as Stout finds himself being overwhelmed, brought to the mat and quickly tapped out.

Dustin Hazelett vs. Paul Daley
This one’s a toss-up depending entirely on where the fight ends up. Standing, Hazelett won’t be able to withstand the crushing blows of Daley. If Hazelett can get “Semtex” to the mat, though, we’re looking at a completely different fight. I imagine Daley has been working his takedown defense like a mad man and, if that’s the case, I don’t see him having too much trouble finding his opening and wishing Hazelett a pleasant slumber.

Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
As much as he gets on my nerves, I can’t deny the caliber of athlete Rashad Evans has become, so I’m not exactly expecting Silva to walk right through him. I would have preferred to see Rampage shut Evans’ mouth with his fist, but I’ll settle for a big win on Silva’s part instead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review: Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures, comprised of Queens of the Stone Age lead singer and guitarist Josh Homme, Foo Fighters lead singer/guitarist (turned drummer for TCV) Dave Grohl and Led Zepplin bassist John Paul Jones, recently dropped their first offering in disc form and, with three powerhouses such as these guys making all the noise, you should already know you’re in for a wild ride.

With musicians coming from three of the genre’s all-time best bands, the album, not surprisingly, borrows from all three sounds. Homme, Grohl and Jones all bring their own brand of dirty rock to the table and the result is something pretty special.

With Homme on the mic, it’s hard not to feel like you’re listening to a new QOTSA offering, but that’s not a bad thing in my book.

More like a well rehearsed jam session, TCV features 13 tracks of driving drums, grungy riffs and throaty bass lines any fan of smoky barroom rock should find easy to love.

There’s a little less gusto than I would have expected but otherwise, from “No one loves me and neither do I” to “Spinning in Daffodils,” there’s little not to like in this musical experiment.

What impresses me is the fact the album literally feels like a bunch of rock legends got together in a garage one day and bounced some ideas around until they came up with a collection of songs to call their own. It’s a solid sound that’s decently polished while still managing to hold on to plenty of “rough” around the edges.

What impresses me even more (and this is a credit to the talent on board) is how these three musicians can, on a whim, pull together a batch of ditties that so effortlessly puts the vast majority of what you hear on the radio these days to utter shame.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hip-hip-hooray for Christmas vacation!

Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but it looks like Echo is heading out the door to join the family on the other side of the state for some good old fashioned

Anyway, per usual, that means will be going on a little blogcation for the rest of the week. Expect a few more updates before the New Year, including the first annual "Best of the Year" post, the idea for which I am officially stealing from our friends over at Peppered Thought.

I'm lazy, though, so the staticEchoes version will be a single post pulling together my favorite movies, comics, music, games, etc. from the previous year rather than a whole bunch of different posts.

Anyway, have a safe and happy holiday and see you back here in a week...or so.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: The Boondock Saints- All Saints Day

I, like many folks, first saw The Boondock Saints thanks to a college “You haven’t seen this movie!?” moment. It’s one of those films nobody just happens upon at the local movie store. Someone always mentions it then freaks out when someone else admits they had, until then, never heard of it. Thusly, the virus spreads.

I’ve watched the original a dozen or so times in the past seven or so years and I feel comfortable saying it is, quite simply, one of my favorites.
Great characters, fun writing and loads of gratuitous, pious violence by a couple of Irish brothers spouting a kickass family prayer before offing seedy criminals and placing pennies over their eyes. Good fun.

Years ago, the first rumblings hinting at an unneeded sequel started circulating and I immediately cried foul. Few films actually need a follow-up and Boondock Saints goes at the top of the list for films that most certainly do not.

However, the geeky fan of the first that I am, I simply had to head out to see this latest offering. Thankfully, it was only marginally terrible. And I say this as someone who, for all intents and purposes, can say I enjoyed All Saints Day. If you’re one of those people who can ignore the bad and let yourself just enjoy a cookie cutter copy film, then you should be just fine here.

Though in a different order, many (and I mean MANY) of the first Boondock’s trademark scenes have been recreated under slightly different circumstances for All Saints Day. The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind here, even if Boondock 2 did manage to break many things that were fine the way they were.

A tale of vengeance, the boys find themselves back in the states when a mock “Saint” calls them out with the murder of a priest. Violence ensues.

Other than the terrible acting, nothing else about the film was so bad I couldn’t forgive it, even if there was little point and minimal charm. The boys get some new guns and starts shooting folks while making some decently clever quips, the end.

The final shootout was actually a pretty decent scene and the conversation leading up to it (I don’t want to give too much away) features acting so good if feels out of place in this film.
If you’re a fan of the original and don’t tend to treat things you really like as though they were holy artifacts, you should get enough enjoyment out of Boondock Saints: All Saints Day to warrant a watch.

If you are some kind of psycho-fan or don’t really understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the original, stay far, far away.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Read it: Locke and Key- Crown of Shadows, Supergod, FVZA

Locke and Key- Crown of Shadows:
Before I get to my comments, let me first say that if you haven't read the first two volumes of this excellent series, Welcome to Lovecraft and Head Games, you will have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on in Crown of Shadows.

With that being said, I recommend this first issue of the new arc just as wholeheartedly as I recommend the first two volumes. Joe Hill's writing is getting sharper as he begins to fully realize the world he's created and Gabriel Rodriguez's art is as solid as ever.

The two highlights for me were seeing the antagonist, Zach, made as vulnerable as everyone else and the awesome ghost fight that spans a fourth of the book's pages.

If you've read the earlier stories, you don't need me to tell you to grab this one ASAP. If you're new to this world of ghosts, keys and doors that lead to all reaches of the imagination, I suggest you find some trades and get caught up. It looks like this third trip to Key House is going to be every bit as good as the last two.

I'm not sure what to think of Supergod. The idea of the world's superpowers genetically creating their own "saviors" only to be destroyed by them is interesting and a lot of the text (the post-apocalyptic recordings of the seemingly all-knowing scientist Simon Reddin) gives us plenty to think about but, for me, Supergod doesn't work so well as a comic.

Garrie Gastonny's art is great and Warren Ellis' words are as engrossing as ever, but the lack of character and world are a hindrance here. The comic is one long lecture accompanied by pictures. While I appreciate having all those pretty images to look at, they feel sadly unneeded.

I'm interested to see where the story is going, but most readers will likely want to pass on this one.

FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency:
I can't say enough about Radical as a publisher. Not only have they delivered great books like Hotwire and Shrapnel, but they're doing it in a way no other publisher dares try--no ads, glossy print and loads of content. FVZA is the latest evolution of Radical's push to be one of the top publishers out there. The first of three issues costs $4.99, a dollar or two more than most books, but there's literally twice the amount of content.

But we're here to be entertained, amiright? What good is all that content if it's not engaging? While I'm more or less sick of the whole vampire craze, FVZA does a decent job of changing things up a bit, warranting at least a look. The bloodsuckers of this world are grotesque, violent and impotent. While some sexuality is shown in this first issue, the ending lets the reader know that will almost certainly be the last of it. These vampires aren't here to woo you or send shivers down your spine. They are here to, and I quote, "rip out your #$%^ing throat."

Zombies take a backseat this issue, but I expect to see more of the horribly hungry hordes in the coming issues. Issue one is, primarily, a history lesson. You learn, along with two of the main characters (slayers-in-training), that vampires and zombies have been around and known about for hundreds of years.

While they were thought to be extinct, both sets of baddies are back in action and the FVZA, originally started by President Grant, must be reestablished quickly if humankind is to stand a chance.

It's a meaty read for a fair price and the content is pretty entertaining. For those who prefer their nosferatu to come sans sparkles, FVZA might be just the thing for you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

UFC 107: Penn vs. Sanchez- Echo calls it

Is it just me or does it feel like we're watching a new UFC card just about every week now? Don't get me wrong, I like to watch a bunch of dudes kick each other's faces just as much as the next guy. There's no second part to that comment, I just don't want you to get me wrong.

Paul Buentello vs. Stefan Struve
Buentello is a big 235 while Struve is one of the tallest guys in the sport. I'm interested to see how these guys stack up when they are actually standing toe to toe. As for me, I think Struve is going to have the upper hand here and will likely pull out the decision.

Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida
Kenny Florian is a great fighter and, despite what some may say, I think Clay Guida is one of the most exciting guys to watch in the octagon. While his smothering ground game has led to some snoozefests, he's fast, is never afraid to stand and fights like a rabid caveman. In short, I refuse to call against Guida. I actually see this one staying on its feet until Guida knocks Florian down and pummels his face until the ref finally pulls him off.

Jon Fitch vs. Mike Pierce
I'll give Pierce credit for being decently impressive in his somewhat short career. That being said, Fitch is going to absolutely crush the guy. Johnny boy is on his way up the ranks and Pierce is going to be little more than a stepping stone.

Frank Mir vs. Cheick Kongo
As much as I hate the guy, I can admit Mir is a solid fighter. Kongo, though, is the BETTER fighter, and will prove so when he knocks Mir out cold on his feet.

BJ Penn vs. Diego Sanchez
Penn is one of the best fighters in the world and he's now breaking noses at his ideal weight. Sanchez has more fights under his belt, but Penn's history consists of some of the best combatants out there. To be as vague as possible, Sanchez has more experience, but Penn has tons more experience. However, Sanchez is an amazing athlete and I would never say Penn is going to walk all over him, but I do see Penn managing a convincing decision in this one.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday mini-movies: End of the world edition

It occurred to me that, after like two years of Monday mini-movies, I have not yet posted one of my favorite viral videos of all time. This was one of the first of such clips I was introduced to in ye olde college days and it still gets a grin out of me despite more viewings than is probably appropriate.

More importantly, I'm amazed by how many people still haven't seen this clip.

And now, without further ado, I give you "The End of the World."

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale: Echo calls it

Most folks who tuned into this season of The Ultimate Fighter had just one thing on their minds- Kimbo Slice. Whether you considered him the laughing stock of MMA and wanted to see him get his face kicked in, or considered his Youtube to Pro story an inspiration and hoped he could prove his worth, something like a gazillion of you watched TUF each week to see the guy get dangled in our faces like a carrot following his early-season defeat by finals contender Roy Nelson.

Slice said he would fight again for the UFC and, though it never happened during the regular season, the man’s promise is coming true at the finale show.
But let’s not forget about the rest of the card. This free series of bouts will be on Spike (check your local listings and all that jazz) this Saturday night and, honestly, viewers could be in for a pretty good show.

Marcus “The Darkness” Jones vs. Matt Mitrione
Maybe I’m not giving Mitrione enough credit, but I have a pretty good feeling Jones is going to absolutely dominate this fight. The guy is huge, strong, and has a decent stand-up and ground game. Jones’ biggest weakness is his conditioning. If he can overwhelm Mitrione quickly, the fight is his for the taking. My concern is that, out of fear of making a mistake and thus blowing his shot at a future career in the UFC, Jones might throttle back and take too much time with this one, pushing him into deeper waters where he’s likely to drown. Even if we see this fight get out of the first round, though, I see the big man putting a decent sized hurt on Mitrione.

Frank “The Answer” Edgar vs. Matt Veach
First off, Edgar, I don’t like anyone who has “the answer” before I’ve even asked “the question.” I can’t trust a guy like that. As for the fight, we have before us two strong wrestlers with decent striking power, similar builds and practically identical records. Edgar has seen some tougher competition, though, and I think that’s what will make the difference in this fight.

Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander
I don’t think I could be more pleased with Slice’s first opponent. Alexander is no joke and, rather than throw a creampuff Slice’s way to earn favor with the fans, White has set up what could be a truly dynamite bout. Slice’s ground game, though improved, is still very weak. Thankfully, Alexander is a striker, and a strong one at that. I have a feeling Alexander is going to press in fast and try to overwhelm Slice, who will most likely be trying to keep his cool and approach this fight a bit too methodically. Slice doesn’t want to make a mistake and, if he’s thinking too much, that could very well be his undoing. My ideal outcome here is that both men walk into the center of the octagon, spend a few second feeling out their reach, and then go absolutely ballistic on each other. I’m a huge fan of Slice, but my head is telling me Alexander’s experience will help him find Slice’s narcolepsy button. My heart, though, says Slice will finally impress.

Matt “The Hammer” Hamill vs. Jon “Bones” Jones
Matt Hamill is a decent fighter but Jon Jones is going to absolutely blow through him. This kid is young, fast and off the wall. I don’t see how this fight can’t go to the ground considering both guys’ wrestling backgrounds but, grappling or otherwise, Jones will likely make short work of The Hammer. Keep your eyes on Jones. He’s going to be impressing us for quite a while.

Roy "Big Country" Nelson vs. Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub
I said this when season 10 of TUF kicked off and I’ll say it again, Roy Nelson has absolutely no business being on the show. Though he failed to impress me during the season, he’s too experienced a fighter to be in the octagon with these guys. He should have gone straight to UFC undercards rather than square off against inexperienced athletes with big dreams. I almost feel like everyone else on the show has been cheated with this one but, what can you do? That being said, Schaub isn’t exactly a slouch and, hopefully, he can snatch victory away from Nelson. The kid’s young but he’s got a surprising set of skills that could make him into a real challenge for Nelson. Unfortunately, I don’t see things going that way. Nelson will try to stand and, the moment he gets caught with a decent shot and starts to panic, he’s going to ride Schaub to the ground and try to smother him, per usual.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Movies to miss in December

December’s movies to miss are so weak I considered not even bothering with a post. But you people rely on me to tell you what’s going to be poop at the box office and, dang it, I don’t plan on letting you down.

Transylmania: The fact that this got a silver screen showing and movies like Trick R’ Treat can spend two years in limbo before going straight to DVD is an injustice. In Transylmania, a class of over-sexed hotties head to the cursed lands of Transylvania for a semester abroad. Topless vampiresses and leather-clad teachers are, of course, part of the curriculum as these youths discover they may be the only hope to overthrow an evil vampire and banish him from the school for all eternity…Or at least until the inevitable sequel.

Alvin and the Chipmunks- The Squekuel: Do I really have to explain why you should skip this one? Good. I was getting a little worried there.

Games to get in December

And, just as quickly as it began back in September, the great gaming flood of 2009 has at last slowed to a trickle. There’s slim pickings in December, but I’m sure everyone can find something that’s come out in the past three months to keep them busy.

Or, if you’re Richie McBigBucks and just have to buy more games, late January through March of 2010 is shaping up to be just as busy as any holiday window. It’s like developers are finally starting to understand there’s more months in a year, but somehow managed to shoot for the same “new” timeframe. Go figure.

7th- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
8th- The Saboteur (PS3, 360)
8th- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii)
26th- Final Fantasy Chrystal Chronicles: Chrystal Bearers (Wii)

The Wii shows signs of life this month with two games that might be worth your moolah. I quite enjoyed earlier Chrystal Chronicles games, so here’s hoping the Wii iteration improves on the formula and gives Final Fantasy fans something to tide them over until the uuber-beast known as XIII releases next year.

Shattered Memories is set to release on the PSP in a couple months, so those who don’t have a Wii at least have options when it comes to getting the crap scared out of them. A retelling of the original Silent Hill game, hopefully the near lack of combat and focus on moody scares will work, cause I loves me some Silent Hill.

For those gaming on the PS3 and 360, the only real (hopefully) winner coming out this December is the unique WWII action title The Saboteur. Taking place in a black and white world that gains color as you help to overthrow the Nazis with stealth and cunning, The Saboteur looks to breathe new life into an era that has been done to death by first person shooters.

Oh, and there’s a new Zelda game for the DS. But, if you own a DS, chances are you’re waiting outside The Wal-Mart to purchase Spirit Tracks at this very moment. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review: Tom Waits- Glitter and Doom Live

I am greatly saddened when I think about the fact I missed out on Tom Waits’ 2008 Glitter and Doom tour. Why the show has not been released on DVD I’ll never understand but at least those of us who were unable to attend can now hear what all the fuss was about thanks to the CD release of Glitter and Doom Live.

This two disc set features 17 tracks pulled from Waits’ most recent trek across the U.S. and Europe as well as a thirty minute compilation of the man’s rants and musings between songs known as “Tom’s Tales.”

I popped in Tom’s Tales at the beginning of a five hour Thanksgiving holiday drive to see the family and, half an hour later, I regretted the fact the gravely fabulist would not be keeping me company the full way across the state of Arizona.

So, he’s got the narrative right, but how’s the music?

We’re talking about Tom Waits here. While his gruff versus are a bit hard to understand at times and a couple songs didn’t exactly wow, I consider it a real treat to hear such raw versions of some of my favorite tunes.

From a chop-shop version of Singapore to a wicked retelling of my favorite Waits spoken word bit “Live Circus,” all the way to the emotional Falling Down and romantically sweeping I’ll Shoot the Moon, Glitter and Doom is a top notch collection of rag-tag beats and off-tempo belting that will effortlessly put a smile on your face.

Newcomers be warned: If you are unfamiliar with the man’s work, this is not the place to get started. (See Rain Dogs, Mule Variations or Bone Machine for a proper introduction.) For those who have been listening to the howling madman of music for a while, though, Glitter and Doom is exactly what you hoped it would be- Tom Waits in his purest, most unrefined glory.

Read it: The Stuff of Legend

Free comic book day is a mixed blessing. There are so many options but, dammit, you can only pick one book to take home free of charge.

As such, each year I try to pick up something unique or outside my regular pull list. This year’s choice was a first chapter preview for the book “The Stuff of Legend” and, blazing through that delectable appetizer; I immediately added the title to my must-have list.

Just glancing at the book’s cover, you would not be faulted for assuming The Stuff of Legend has a few things in common with Toy Story. Much darker and profound, though, The Stuff of Legend would be more akin to a Toy Story directed by, say, Guillermo del Toro.

Set during World War II, Stuff of Legend begins with the kidnapping of a young boy, pulled into his closet (and the world of lost toys beyond) by the Boogeyman.

The child’s loyal (and some not-so-loyal) toys decide it is their job to retrieve the boy, and so a brave few band together and march into the darkness to save the day.

Through the closet door, the toys become blood and bone beings- a stuffed teddy bear is a towering monster of teeth and claws and a featureless wooden Indian Princess becomes a savage, agile warrior. This is a nice touch since, being vulnerable, the sense of danger becomes very real for our small group of heroes.

What begins as a story about cuddly play things quickly evolves into a gritty battle between good and evil with a surprising amount of violence that demands the reader understand this is not the children’s bedtime story they first thought it would be.

Mike Raicht and Brian Smith write the story well, but Charles Paul Wilson III’s artwork is what really drew me in. The book is stark, beautiful, enchanting and detailed. Each page offers something new and amazing to see.

Book one has entered second printing and will likely be available alongside the first release of book two. If you missed out the first time around, don’t make the same mistake twice. If the content stays this solid, The Stuff of Legend might actually live up to its name.