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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brand New live in Long Island, NY

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

I feel kind of weird coming back from New York City and not being able to tell anyone about Times Square, Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, my unsuccessful attempt to find Nas’ house in Queens or any other popular New York tourist location.

The only thing I did see, was really the only thing I cared about, and that was the Brand New show Saturday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island New York, right down the road from Hofstra University.

My three friends and I didn’t even get to New York until after midnight Friday night/Saturday morning and we were up so late that night, we didn’t even bother to do anything productive before the show on Saturday, besides eat at a New York Deli, and of course, I ordered eggs instead of a sandwich.

But this isn’t a blog about New York, in which I could literally write a 20 page paper filled with curse words about the 12 hour drive on the way home, in which five of those hours were just sitting dead stop in traffic, but that’s neither here nor there.

The show started at 6 p.m. with Kevin Devine taking the stage first, I got in my seat during his last song, so it was hard to take anything away from his performance.

Up next was a band that I’ve been very much into since seeing them open for Brand New back in October and that was Manchester Orchestra. They played an extremely small 5-song, 30-minute set but they couldn’t have picked a better selection of songs closing with the haunting seven-minute “Where Have You Been?” featuring Kevin Devine.

Thrice took the stage around 7:15 p.m. I saw lead singer Dustin Kensrue perform an acoustic solo set earlier this year at the Grog Shop but I haven’t really paid much attention to Thrice since high school. Not because I don’t like them, just because I kind of fell behind and never caught up with their last three releases which have been applauded by most critics.

Needless to say, they only played two songs that I knew (aka pre-2003) and the set was filled with newer material that wasn’t bad, just hard to judge because I don’t know much about it.

The fourth band to take the stage, and one that was just as anticipated by most of the fans as Brand New, was Glassjaw.

As for me, I’m not drinking the Glassjaw kool-aid. I could go as far as saying I hate Glassjaw. Way too heavy for me and on top of that, they haven’t released any material in seven years but the fans loved them as their set was filled with a whole lot of energy and a whole lot of loud, really loud.

Just after 9 p.m, Long Island’s own, Brand New, took the stage immediately jumping into the instrumental track, “Welcome to Bangkok,” of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me with three guitarists, two drummers and a bassist on stage.

The band then jumped into Sink, the seventh track off their new album, Daisy. When I saw Brand New in October, they took an odd approach as to not playing any new material until the seventh song of the set. This time, it was the second song.

For the next 90 minutes, Brand New played a heavy mixture between their new album, Devil and God and Deja Entendu before finishing off just before 11 p.m. with perhaps the song their fans love most and a song rarely performed live, Seventy Times Seven, which was the only song performed off their first album, Your Favorite Weapon.

My personal highlight was lead singer Jesse Lacey playing a solo electric version of my favorite Brand New song, Limosine, towards the beginning of the set, something he didn’t do when I saw the band live in October.

Another shining spot of the night was when the lead singer of Manchester Orchestra, Andy Hull, assisted Lacey with performing the acoustic, Play Crack the Sky.

The venue, which holds about 18,000 people was not filled to the brim, as expected. But I would venture to guess there were between 12,000 to 14,000 people in attendance in which Lacey, among the other lead singers, thanked constantly noting there wouldn’t be that many people there if all the bands weren’t there together.

All in all, it was a pretty incredible experience but just don’t ask me anything else about New York.

Brand New’s setlist:

Welcome to Bangkok
You Won’t Know
Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t
Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades
Sowing Season
You Stole
Bought a Bride
At the Bottom
Play Crack the Sky
Seventy Times 7

Friday, November 27, 2009

Best movies of the decade: 25-1

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

25. The Weather Man (2005) - Definitely in the minority with this movie but I find it hilarious, even if I’m still not sure if it’s meant to be. Nicholas Cage plays a weather man who is separated from his wife and children and is not liked by anyone. It’s a movie for people who have a very dark sense of humor.

24. Old School (2003) - Three middle-aged men/losers trying to start a fraternity house? C’mon, one of the funniest movies of all time. Hands down.

23. Zodiac (2007) - Long movie but worth it about a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with solving the case of the Zodiac Killer. Great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr.

22. Collateral (2004) - Not a big fan of Jamie Foxx or Tom Cruise but they put on a great acting display as Cruise plays a hitman who holds Foxx, a taxi driver, hostage all night while Cruise travels to five different stops to make his kills. They are surprised to find out how similar they are to each other.

21. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - Was surprised as to how much I really liked this movie about a dysfunctional family driving across the country to enroll their daughter into a beauty pageant.

20. Borat (2007) - Huge fan of Da Ali G show, where Borat was always my favorite character, and this movie is 10 x funnier than the show.

19. Match Point (2005) This Woody Allen film centering around a love-triangle that turns tragic literally kept me on the edge of my seat for much of the two hour runtime.

18. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) -Yes, a Will Ferrell movie cracked my top 20 because in Stranger Than Fiction, he proves he can actually act.

17. The Wrestler (2008) - Mickey Rourke is fantastic as a washed up wrestler trying to re-establish his career and re-kindle his relationship with his daughter who wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

16. Reign Over Me (2007) - Yes, an Adam Sandler movie cracked my to 20. Again, thanks to solid acting from Don Cheadle (as well as Sandler) and a story line that revolves around 9/11, this makes for one of the more emotional movies of the decade that had tears rolling down my cheek not once, but in three different scenes. Yeah, I said it.

15. 28 Days Later (2002) - I hated this movie the first time I saw it but since then has become one of my favorite horror films of all time. It’s about A London man waking up from a coma and realizes he is one of the last humans left on earth.

14. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) - One of the better stories about revenge. After a man is falsely imprisoned, he escapes years later to plot revenge against those who betrayed him.

13. The Dark Knight (2008) - Christopher Nolan creates by far the best super-hero movie ever by turning the Batman series into a completely dark mystery thriller.

12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) - The story of Robert Ford who idolizes Jesse James, but grows to hate him and does anything he can to be in James’ position by any means. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are rock solid in this long, but fascinating film.

11. Mystic River (2003) -Soild acting and great writing and directing. Rather depressing story about three friends reuniting following the death of one of their daughters.

10. No County for Old Men (2007) - One of the most suspenseful films I’ve ever seen and is by far my favorite Coen Brothers movie, and that is saying something coming from the brothers who brought us The Big Lebowski. Fargo, Blood Simple, Millers Crossing and some other great movies.

9. Crash (2004) - I instantly fell in love with this movie about race, stereotypes and the interacting stories between various couples who battle prejudice on a day to day basis.

8. El maquinista (The Machinist) (2004) - Another movie about guilt, doubt and the perception of reality. Bale loses the pounds then loses his mind.

7. Lord of War (2005) - A film about a arms dealer questioning the morality of his profession all while trying to sustain his relationships with his family and dodge the federal agents who are after him.

6. In Bruges (2008) - This film is like no other movie that I’ve seen in recent memory. Two hit men are holed up in Bruges, Belguim after a job gone wrong. One hates the city, the other falls vastly in love with it. They are told to stay there until orders come in from their boss but they become easily distracted. This dark comedy-drama comes to an earth-shattering climax.

5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
(2007) - The story of two brothers strapped for cash and their plan to rob their own parent’s jewelry store backfires tremendously. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are great in this Sidney Lumet film.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Perhaps the most creative film of the decade about a couple who undergoes a brain procedure to erase each other from their memories but fall in love again following the procedure. Jim Carrey puts on a criminally underrated performance in this overlooked drama.

3. The Prestige (2006) - Another Nolan film about a rivalry between two magicians who will do absolutely anything to outperform each other. Phenomenal performances from Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine.

2. The Departed (2006) - Yes, the ending is a bit absurd but the two hours that live up to that may be the most entertaining, well-acted two hours of cinema this decade leading up to the extremely quick conclusion.

1. Memento (2000) - This isn’t even a question for me. My favorite movie of all time. Another Nolan directed film about a man suffering from short-term memory loss who uses notes and tattoos to search for the man who he thinks raped and murdered his wife. One of the most confusing movies you’ll see but is always a great topic of debate.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best movies of the decade: 50-26

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

I Compiled a list starting with 185 movies from 2000-2009 which were all films I’ve seen and were highly rated on IMDB, Critics, Rotten Tomatoes and many nominated for Academy Awards. About 90 percent of them, I own in my 300 plus DVD collection.

Some of the things I considered when making this list:
* Which ones have the best chance of standing the test of time? Meaning, which ones can you watch 10 years from now and feel like the plot or the movie isn’t outdated.
* Which ones can you watch over and over again without getting sick of it.
* Obviously, writing, directing, acting and creativity of the film.
* Movies that may not be entertaining/worth watching over and over again but must be seen at least once because the message or historical importance.

I immediately went through the list of 185 movies as fast as I could and put a star next to the movies that HAD to be listed without thinking twice about it. From there, I compiled 26.

Then I went through the list as fast as I could again and put a minus sign next to the movies that I could go without seeing again. Not that I don’t like the movies, just that I didn’t consider them to be in the top 50. Here, I crossed off 110 rather quickly, only thinking twice about a dozen of them.

That left me with 49 movies and only 24 to choose.

I then went through the list a second time, looked at the movies I didn’t pick right away and asked myself why, then decided if they were worth putting in the top 50.

From there, I actually tried to rank them, but obviously that is hard to do when you’re talking about condensing hundreds of great movies into the top 50.

So I give to you, MY top 50 movies of this past decade:

50. The Believer (2001) - Ryan Gosling plays a Jewish man who becomes anti-Semitic. This movie is tough to watch at times because of the content but is worth watching at least once.

49. Insomnia (2002) - This is the first of four Christopher Nolan-directed movies on this list with a star-studded cast of Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. While investigating a murder, Pacino accidentally shoots his own partner and tries to live with the guilt..

48. I am Legend (2007) - Will Smith has slowly but surely started to take on more mature and serious roles and this is one of his better movies about the last man on earth. He is literally the only person on screen for the first 45-55 minutes or so and I never once lost interest or got bored.

47. The United States of Leland (2003) - The acting by the always solid Don Cheadle and Gosling is wonderful in this story of a young man’s experience in a juvenile detention center.

46. Chaos Theory (2007) - This little heard of movie featuring Ryan Reynolds is both funny and dramatic as an obsessive compulsive husband and father unravels the truth behind his family’s history.

45. In the Bedroom (2001) - This is one of the more depressing movies on this list about an middle-aged woman who is going through a divorce while dating a college-aged student that ends in tragedy.

44. Remember the Titans (2000) - If you haven’t seen this movie, you might as well pack up your things and get out of town. Cheesy at times (aren’t all sports movies?), but a great story nonetheless.

43. Across the Universe (2007) - I was very skeptical about seeing this movie because, one, it’s mostly a musical and, two, I thought it’d do one of the greatest bands of all time a huge disservice, but the story is told wonderfully through Beatles music.

42. Green Street Hooligans (2005) - Plot centers around a Harvard undergrad who is expelled, moves to London where his sister lives and is introduced to the violent underworld of soccer. This is basically the UK version of Fight Club, only nowhere near as good.

41. Knocked Up (2007) — In typical Judd Apatow fashion, this movie is funny, sad and heartwarming all at the same time. Also Seth Rogan’s first starring role.

40. Juno (2007) - Didn’t think I’d like this movie too much because I despise Ellen Page, but the story is solid and the supporting cast is great, especially Jason Bateman.

39. 500 Days of Summer (2009) - Only one of three 2009 movies to make this list but this deserves a spot. A story about a man who falls in love with a woman who doesn’t believe in love and his attempts to make her believe in their relationship.

38. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Original, funny and all around, a real great movie. Simon Pegg’s hot streak cooled off following this and the also solid, Hot Fuzz.

37. Matchstick Men (2003) - Nicholas Cage is fantastic in this movie about a obsessive compulsive professional con artist.

36. Wedding Crashers (2005) - Another hilarious adult comedy about well, crashing weddings (or in Will Ferrell’s case, funerals.) Unfortunately, Vince Vaughn has tried to play the exact same character in every single role since.

35. Half Nelson (2006) - Finally the role that got Gosling nominated for a well deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. Gosling plays a drug addicted high school teacher who connects with one of his students, whose brother is a drug dealer.

34. Superbad (2007) - Another Appatow movie that provides the laughs, heart and fun.

33. 40-year-old Virgin (2005) - See above.

32. The Hangover (2009) - By far the funniest movie I’ve seen since Old School and in time, may be one of the funnier movies in the past 10-15 years.

31. Into the Wild (2007) - Emile Hirsch gives a great performance as a young man who throws all of his possessions away and tries to live in the wild.

30. American Psycho (2000) - By far one of the more disturbing movies I’ve ever seen and the sickening thing is, it’s supposed to be a comedy. This has become a cult classic and Christian Bale’s claim to fame (before Batman, of course.)

29. Man on Fire (2004) The story of an ex-hitman sent to protect a family whose daughter was kidnapped. One of Denzel Washington’s finer performances.

28. Inglorious Basterds (2009) - Saw this movies twice within the first week it was out. The opening 20 minute scene is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in any movie in my entire life.

27. Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others) (2006) - A German film about a secret service agent instructed to observe and surveillance a writer and his actress girlfriend. This film is very moving and has one of the more jaw-dropping scenes of the decade.

26. Anchorman (2004) - Saw this movie at least three times in the theater as to this day, stands as Will Ferrell’s funniest movie. This movie boasts countless quotables.

I will post my top 25 movies of the decade on Friday and coming in December, I'll list my top 100 albums of the decade.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ten in the Morning: Favorite movies of the decade

Ten in the Morning counts down one man's top 10 favorite (not necessarily the best) movies of the past decade:

10. "The Machinist" (2004) - The only thing more disturbing than Christian Bale's weight loss for this film is the dark, chilling story line. Not exactly a lot of re-watch value here, but a well-made movie. Bale's performance is impressive.

9. "Cast Away" (2000) - Tom Hanks' finest performance as a actor. Not many can pull off a one-actor ensemble for the majority of a movie. Hanks does it here.

8. "Miracle" (2004) - Even though we all know the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, it's a rush with every viewing.

7. "Frost/Nixon" (2008) - Perhaps the most compelling two hours of movie-viewing this decade. An absolute must-see.

6. "Minority Report" (2002) - Hands down, this futuristic thriller is Tom Cruise's best film of the decade.

5. "Batman Begins" (2005) - The franchise will be forever grateful to director Christopher Nolan and Bale.

4. "V for Vendetta" (2005) - The tale of a masked vigilante is action-packed, heartwarming and makes you think. Difficult to do is this age of movie-making.

3. "Rocky Balboa" (2006) - You have to credit Sylvester Stallone for pulling this one off. Somehow, he brought back the charm of the original to the this, the sixth installment of the franchise.

2. "Casino Royale" (2005) - The James Bond reboot and orgin story starring Daniel Craig, who was superb in the role, blew me away on the first viewing.

1. "The Dark Knight" (2006) - Simply the best. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Most anticipated ‘best of’ lists:

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

As we enter the final month of the decade, I’ll shortly post a list of best albums and best movies of this past decade and I’m willing to bet no one will agree with me and I’m also willing to bet I could care less.

I already know what the best movie of the decade is and it came out in 2000 but you’ll have to stick around to see which one it is. (*hint* The main actor’s name in the movie rhymes with Shy Fierce.)

I have still not decided how many movies or albums will be on the list but I figure the albums list will be longer as there were so many phenomenal albums to come out in the past 10 years.

I’ll also post a list near the end of December of the best albums of 2009 as a few possible contenders have yet to be released as they make a push to up their sales more towards the holiday season.

Normally, I’d also post a list of the best movies of 2009, but those lists aren’t worthy until Oscar season, which won’t be until end of January early February. Not to mention, I haven’t made it out to the theater as much as I’d like this year. So for now I’ll leave you with the three best movies I’ve seen this year out of not too many:

3. The Hangover
2. Inglorious Basterds
1. 500 Days of Summer.

A wonderful and thought provoking list, I know. But I have my homework ahead of me and must plow through hundreds and hundreds of movies and films to see which are worthy of making the list.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New York State of Mind

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

I loathe New York.

I don’t know what it is because I’ve never been there, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way.

To put it bluntly, it don’t sit well with me.

Just before my 18th birthday and a few weeks before I bolted for college, my family took a family vacation to New York City and I refused to go.

They tried to sweeten the deal by telling me they’d be attending a Yankees game.

I haven’t talked to them since.

I’m a very impatient person and I can’t even fathom the thought of getting stuck in the infamous New York traffic, getting screamed at by loud-mouthed-no-good New Yorkers, or my biggest fear, running into that mob boss who I’ve owed money to since I was a teenager (Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a resident of Ohio. I'm actually in a witness protection program following a tough stint with the mafia.)

And don’t even get me started on the Yankee$.

However, there is one thing that is finally bringing me to New York, which I will be visiting the weekend following Thanksgiving.

And that my internet friends, is the band Brand New headlining their biggest show ever at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY.

What started off as a joke between my roommate and I has turned into a commitment that is way over our heads.

We won’t even be leaving until Friday evening because of our work schedules and of course with traffic mixed in, we’re most likely looking at a 10 hour drive and with my luck, I’m sure several blizzards will be mixed in. So we should be there by 2 a.m. Saturday, which I hear is the perfect time to visit the Big Apple.

(*Note* I'm not sure if it'll really be 10 hour drive, because according to the map it's only like, 15 inches away.)

I also didn’t even mention the awkwardness that will ensue 25 minutes into our trip because my roommate and I will have already run out of things to talk about.

It’s probably not the smartest thing to drive 10 hours to New York when you’re only going to be there for a 30-hour period or so, but I imagine it will be worth it.

On Oct. 1, I saw Brand New headline at Tower City Amphitheater. It was the first night of their tour.

Tower City holds about 5,000 people. Depending on the stage set up, Nassau can hold more than 18,000.

I think it’ll be pretty special to see one of your favorite bands on the first and last night of the same tour.

Aside from being their biggest headlining show, it will also be Brand New’s hometown show as they are all from Long Island.

Lead singer Jesse Lacey told Spin Magazine earlier this year that the event will be special to him because when he was 11-years-old he attended his first concert there to see Bruce Springsteen.

Of course following that weekend, I’ll post my review for the show.

However, that is solely based on whether or not I make it out of New York alive.

Show Line-up:
Kevin Devine
Manchester Orchestra
Brand New

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Weezer: Raditude

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

Since Weezer stopped taking their career seriously years ago, it’s hard to write a serious review for Raditude, the band’s seventh studio album which was released on Tuesday.

Lead singer Rivers Cuomo has always been a little off, his lyrics have always been extremely simple but yet he was born to write a catchy pop song.

Like it or not, some of the biggest pop rock songs in the past 15 years have undoubtedly been penned by Cuomo (“Buddy Holly,” “Say it ain’t so,” “Island in the Sun,” “Hash Pipe,” and a string of others including one of the decades worst songs, yet inexplicably their biggest hit, “Beverly Hills.”)

The album’s lead single, “(If you’re wondering if I want you too) I want you too,” is undeniably catchy and like other Weezer songs, defines simplicity.

Raditude is a harmless album. It’s not trying too hard to be anything other than a fun pop album and it's not to be taken too seriously. It’s short and to the point.

It’s hard to imagine why a 40-year-old man would want to write a song about hanging out in the mall (“In The Mall”) a former classmate getting “hot” (“The Girl Got Hot”) or letting it all hang out on the dance floor (“Let it all hang out”), but Cuomo does what he does best, writes songs that will stay stuck in your head no matter how ridiculous the content of the song actually is.

Somewhere in the past decade, Cuomo traded his self-loathing, anti-social personality into someone who just wants to party all the time (“Can’t Stop Partying”).

Speaking of “Can’t Stop Partying,” which was co-written by none other than Jermaine Dupri and features a guest verse from Lil Wayne (bet you never thought you’d hear “It’s Weezer and it’s Weezy” in a Weezer song) it’s moments like this where I just sit back and think in my head, this is the band that created the 1994 classic Blue Album followed by 1996s masterpiece, Pinkerton?

But this is where we are with Weezer in 2009. No longer as brilliant as they once were in the mid 90s, they are still a band that has to be reckoned with.

Cuomo has let his guard down in the past five years, actually allowing other bandmates contribute to the writing process on their albums, allowing others to even sing lead vocals (See: Red Album) and on Raditude, he has many co-writers including Dupri, Butch Walker and Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler from the All-American Rejects.

My only recommendation for fans of Weezer who are going to buy Raditude is to do yourself a favor and dish out a few extra bucks for the deluxe edition which includes four extra songs.

Like the Red Album, it is much better with the songs from the deluxe edition and as to this day, one of my favorite Weezer songs was only featured on the Red Album’s deluxe edition (“King.”)

For those expecting anything close to any material from the Blue Album or Pinkerton, don’t even bother with Raditude.

Those who are willing to accept Weezer for who they are and who they’ve become since then, shouldn’t be surprised and will be rather satisfied with Raditude.

Take it for what it's worth and just don't expect to be blown away anymore.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Referee from "Rocky" dies

The individual that helped create perhaps the greatest scene in sports movie history has passed away.

Longtime boxing referee and judge Lou Filippo at age 83 died Monday in Los Angeles.

Filippo was a World War II veteran and one of boxing top ring officials, but for moviegoers he's best remembered for his dramatic count to 10 as Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed knocked each other out in the 15th round of their heavyweight fight at the end of "Rocky II."

As we all know, Rocky just beat Filippo's count to 10 to become the unlikely heavyweight champion. For fans of sports movies, it has to be right up there as one of cinema's most dramatic sports scenes.

- Mark Podolski