Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weekly wRant!! "About sausages and buns"

From the title you might think that I'm going to talk about something perverted (I could only hope for so much), but in reality I got the bizzare request to talk about an uneven cruelty in our lives. A devastating acurance that has killed many defenseless bbq's. The tale of the 8 Hot Dog pack and the 10 Hot Dog Bun Pack. 

This may sound silly now, but how many times have you been at a get together or party and realized that there will always be those lonely buns that will never get a chance to be digested. They have to succumb to countless days of lounging in the back of a cupboard, to rot and be forgotten. 

Imagine it this way: You are at said party and you are the 9th wheel. How would you feel? That's why I am starting a protest! We must save those depressed wallflowers and rid them of their wheelness! (Ahem!) Ok I steered away from the subject at hand, but the truth of the matter is that everyone needs a sausage... No wait... a com-pa-nion (riiight). In a universe where flawed objects are dismissed it's time these delicious buns get their chance! So, I encourage you fellow readers that the next time you set out to have a scrumptious Frank,actually have a Frank! They are healthier, taste better and come in packets of... Wait... WHAT??!!! 12??!! Packets of twelve??!!! MOTHER FUCKER!!

Rocklahoma: Live on HDNet

Rocklahoma 2012

On Sunday, 27th of May, the music festival Rocklahoma had its final day.  Luckily for the people not in Oklahoma this weekend, Mark Cuban's HDNet decided to air the last day of the festival live for people to see.  Rocklahoma is a hard rock festival held in Pryor, Oklahoma.  It’s a hard rock festival with a southern tinge to it.  Obviously the bands playing it are mostly in that style although there are some that leave that mold a little bit.  From the heavier stuff to the more progressive and alternative.  This is a review of the last day of the festival which was aired on HDNet.  Out of the four stages, we got two, which is pretty damn good.  Most of these band I have never seen or heard live, so this will be a good experience.

 (Hard Rock Stage)

The first thing that really jumped out at me was that the vocalist didn’t sound so good.  HDNet had some problems trying to fix the sound and have it fit well for the TV crowd so that might have had something to do with their sound.  Sometimes the musicians were nice and clear but you could’t hear the vocalist and other times it was the complete opposite.  It took them a little while to fix it, but later on, they did.  I had never heard this band before but what I heard wasn’t that impressive.  Either way, this was never really my style of music, so I understand why I wasn't that into it.  It was not bad, just not my cup of tea.
Black Stone Cherry
(Main Stage)

The band showed a lot of energy even though the place was still pretty empty.  It was obvious to me the difference between BSC and the previous band in the way they sell themselves at the same time they sell their music.  They were able to fix the sound issues about half way through their set and it sounded pretty good.  I’ve been a fan of their music since they released their self titled album back in 2006.  Its southern hard rock at its best.  Interestingly enough, their next to last song was a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”.  It wasn’t a bad one, just sort of lacked feeling.  They closed their set with one of my favorites from their self titled album, “Lonely Train”.

Charm City Devils
(Hard Rock Stage)

This is another band that I had never heard before this live show.  Good energy and the music was okay.  His banter is pretty lame.  I love it when people who have probable never lived outside of the United States proclaim it the best country in the world (if the singer of this band has lived outside of the US for some time, I retract my statement towards him and keep it for everyone else.  I wish they would play so he will shut up.  I actually liked their style.  Give them a listen.  It's hard rock with some obvious southern roots.  Their version of the traditional folk classic "Man of Constant Sorrow" isn't bad at all.
Puddle of Mudd
(Main Stage)

They had some entertaining songs back in the day, but nothing that really spoke to me.  Truthfully, I haven't heard any of their stuff since their Come Clean album.  I sort of realized why that was while listening to their set live.  I really don’t like Wes Scantlin’s voice.  It sort of takes me out of the songs.  Come to think of it, I don’t think its that I dislike his voice… he can’t sing worth a damn live.  Really bad.  I don't know, I was just so disappointed in this whole performance.  It was definitely one of the downers of the night.  The music was alright, but considering who the headliners are, okay is worse than mediocre.

(Hard Rock Stage)

Aranda are a band from Oklahoma City and their music is as safe as that picture of two of them.  Their biggest claim to fame is that Kelly Clarkson covered one of their songs.  Hey, whatever gets them fans is fine by me.  This was a little too Nickleback-y for me, but they were okay.  Nothing special.

(Main Stage)

This is one of the sets I was looking forward to the most.  I had never heard their music, but Eddie Trunk (who was hosting the event) mentioned something interesting about them.  These guys are just plain fun to listen to and watch.  Vocalist Jesse James Dupree knows how to work a crowd and both guitar and bass players are pretty damned good.  Their music is southern metal to its oomph degree.  With songs like "My Moonshine Kicks Your Cocain's Ass" and "She Loves My Cock", they will have no problems with people questioning their credibility to play is a festival like Rocklahoma.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Dupree is not the next coming of Freddie Mercury, but his voice fits perfectly to their party heavy style.  It’s gonna be hard to top their set.  Dupree played the “Star Spangled Banner” with his mouth on guitar.  And finally, the bastard played a song with a freaking chainsaw.  A chainsaw.  And then he burned the stool he was chainsawing… fuckin' awesome.  They have just gained a fan.
Art of Dying
(Hard Rock Stage)

Another band I had never heard.  It's too sad for them that they had to follow up the amazing show that Jackyl put.  It sounded like every other generic band out there.  Which is never good.  At least if people hate you, they will talk about you.  These guys are just... meh.
(Main Stage)

I’m a big fan of Queensrÿche.  Maybe not their newest stuff so much, but the band have been making amazing music for a while and it's a little weird to see them along with all these hard southern rock acts.  Either way, I was definitely looking forward to this set.  Geoff Tate is definitely one of the best vocalists in hard rock music.  I would probably put his up there in the pantheon of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio.  Just listen to a song like "Queen of the Reich" and tell me differently.  Tate and the band decided to move away from the heavy metal scene and more into prog metal music (which is why I think they are so underrated in most circles).  Still, there is something about the band that is really special.  They played a good mixture of old and new stuff for this set, which left me satisfied.
(Hard Rock Stage)
This is an interesting group.  Vocalist Chad Gray (Mudvayne), guitarists Tom Maxwell (Nothingface) and Greg Tribbett (Mudvayne), basis Bob Zilla (Damageplan) and drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Damageplan) are the members that comprise the southern groove metal band.  They fit perfectly in this festival.  Their aggressive style was definitely a contrast to the more low-key southern hard rock bands that played before, but these guys really brought the pain and the energy.  It's great to see Vinnie Paul back behind the drumset.  These guys are heavy and I much prefer Gray here than in Mudvayne.

(Main Stage)

If you haven't heard of Chickenfoot, then go to YouTube or wherever and listen to this wonderful super group (if you will).  The team of Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony (ex-Van Halen) on vocals and bass respectively, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on drums and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.  The great thing about this group is that when you listen to them live (this being the second show on HDNet were they have played live), you can see how much fun they are having up there.  Sure, Hagar can no longer be the spark plug that he was before, he can still hold a crowd interested.  Also, it is also worth noting that one of my biggest fears for this group was Joe Satch and the fact that he didn't come from a band background (unlike the others) and I thought it would be a little difficult for them to mix well.  They did a good job mixing tracks from both albums and playing the classic Montrose track "Rock Candy" as the closer to the show and the festival.
Overall, I would say this was a pretty damned good show with the highlights being Jackyl, Queensryche, Hellyeah and Chickenfoot.
I will definitely be looking at more Live Concerts from HDNet as this was definitely a winner even though it was 8 hours long.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

WrestleMania XXVIII: Falling Short, With Style

Can we talk wrestling on The Shit Is Dead? Well, it matters to me, so the answer is YES.

Another year, another WrestleMania. It's been 14 years since I've been following wrestling religiously. My first WM was WretleMania 14; Stone Cold vs HBK with Mike Tyson as the special enforcer. Feels like forever ago. The product has changed, it seems like the target audience has as well. But with the return of The Rock, it looks like they're once again trying to give us back the Attitude Era. To me, it doesn't seem like the best idea, I have my reasons, but let's see how it turned out:

The Buildup:
The buildup to Mania this year revolved around John Cena and his yearlong feud with The Rock who seemingly has made his long awaited return to the world of wrestling. Obviously Mr. Johnson got the top billing he deserves, but unfortunately he's not exactly back full time, so for a year of buildup Cena ended up with a lot of pointless opponents (that shitty Kane feud comes to mind) while he waited around for Dwane to show up. For a whole year we waited for Rocky to finish filming his movies and doing his promotional tours, and what we ended up with seemed a bit underwhelming to me. We got a month of back and forth face to face banter between the two, and a shitty tag match at last year's Survivor Series. I would have liked more brawling, make the feud personal. As much as they told us how important this match was, it wasn't important enough to make Cena or Rock throw the first blow, they seemed content to just talk at each other for a year, which in the wacky world of wrestling seems highly unlikely.

The other match everyone was looking forward to was the "end of an era" match in the Hell In A Cell between Triple H and The Undertaker. If the cell wasn't enough to sweeten that deal we also got Shawn Michaels in there as the special guest referee. I was much more excited for this match than the main event. Predictable as it has become, I expect nothing short of spectacular from Taker's "Mania Streak Matches", especially the last couple of years. The buildup to this was exactly what you'd expect: meaningful, personal back and forth promos that blur the line between what's real and what's scripted. And the fans ate it up to a point where I dare say this was just as anticipated as the main event.

A couple of years ago it surprised me when neither title seemed as important as other matches on the card, but at this point it feels like the norm. This year the big title match was without a doubt CM Punk against Chris Jericho. Two of my personal favorites facing in their first big match. I say that because they have gone at it before, just never with any build or anything big on the line. The WWE Championship might be playing second fiddle to the big matches at Mania, but don't let that fool you, these two could very well steal the show.

Of course, the World Heavyweight Championship was also on the line at Mania with Bryan Danielson Daniel Bryan defending against Sheamus in a match that should have happened last year at WMXVII for the US Title, but was kept on the pre-show and then turned into a shitty lumberjack match last minute. These two have a lot to prove, and a lot to live up to.

The Event:
The show kicks off with what seemed like a metric fuckton of pyro that when on longer than the actual first match of the show. I had a feeling we'd be getting it first, and we did...

World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - 
This match was pretty much pointless. I take that back, it wasn't pointless, I think it showed the WWE brass that DB is connecting to the fans. Bryan was ridiculously over with the crowd, 'Yes' signs everywhere, 'Yes' chants the whole time. It saddened me to know that Sheamus was going over no matter how hot the crowd was for Bryan.

As soon as Bryan turns around he gets hit with one of Sheamus' twelve finishers, the Brogue Kick, and that's all she wrote for Daniel Bryan's title reign. Quite the shame, especially when I'm sure pointless matches will get more time later on the card. I'm sure these two could deliver an above average match. As a matter of fact, I'm willing to say that Daniel Bryan could have a good match with anyone on the WWE roster if given proper time to work. But we moving on.

Kane vs. Randy Orton
Why wasn't this match the opener? I really don't get it. WWE needs to learn never to have their champions jerk the curtain, especially when you have a pointless grudge match to follow it up.

These two seemed to phone it in for Mania, which makes no sense to me. The pace was slow and it had very few surprises. The only shock was at the very end of the match when Kane actually picked up a clean win over Orton with a less than stellar looking Chokeslam off the top rope.

Intercontinental Championship: Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes
Believe it or not, I kind of enjoyed the build to this match. Rhodes has really progressed as a character and as a worker in the past year and his mocking of Show for his failures at WrestleMania was actually pretty entertaining.

With that said, this is still a Big Slow match.

It wasn't bad, just not a Mania caliber match. Show finally gets his win at the big show (pun totally intended) and picks up the IC Championship for the first time.

Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve
I'll give Maria Menounos all the credit in the world, she got in there and did her thing. Was it any good? No. Should she have gotten the win? No. But she did anyways. Meh.

Hell In A Cell: The Undertaker vs. Triple H, with Shawn Michaels as the Special Guest Referee 
I was genuinely surprised how early on the card this happened. To most people, this has become Mania's number one attraction. The Streak has become the biggest thing in wrestling, and every year the WWE does it's best to convince us that they've got the guy who's going to end it. Year after year, come Mania, I become a skeptic once again, yet Taker keeps proving me wrong.

Trips and Taker stole the show, by a landslide. I felt sorry for The Rock and John Cena, not as much for Punk and Y2J, those two can hold their own.

This match told a great story, the Cell wasn't even necessary. It was almost like the cage was there just to protect the audience from these two throwing shit out of the ring. HBK still has some of the greatest reactions in the biz, his faces were pivotal. The other thing that helped this match was the fact that Jim Ross was calling the action (I really hate Michael Cole and Booker T as announcers). They even let them bleed (slightly) to my surprise.

When it comes to technical wrestling though, it wasn't a masterpiece. It was more of a brawl, but that's what it was meant to be. One of those rare cases where the wrestling gets overshadowed by the story and what the match actually means.

Of course, The Streak remains intact. I never really expected Trips to end it, but I will admit he made me jump out of my seat a couple of times. Hell of a match.

Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy
This match replaced the Money In The Bank Match, it had every noteworthy wrestler on contract thrown in for no reason. Instead of hyping up the talent, they decided to show off the General Managers of both Raw and Smackdown, which is as smart as smart as having an entertainment reporter wrestle a match.

Nothing special. Team Johnny gets the win making him the GM of both shows. Oh joy.

WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Who truly is the Best In The World? That's a tough one to call, but it was the tagline in this match. And honestly, it lived up. What Taker and Trips did for storytelling, these two did for flat out wrestling. Good ring physiology  and know how.

The finish to this match had most on the edge of their seat with each wrestler countering the others submission move. Finally, Punk locks in the Anaconda Vice to force the tapout and retain his title.

Depending on your preference, this could have easily been match of the night.

The Rock vs. John Cena
I wish I felt sorry for these two, but I saw this coming.

This match was a huge flop in my book. They gassed way too fast, the crowd was worn out from the other awesome matches, and over all the match just wasn't all that good.

As big a star as he is, Cena simply isn't that great a worker. To express it more accurately, he's as good as whoever he's wrestling. If he we're wrestling The Rock back in 2002, this could have been awesome. What we got was ring rust, and lots of it. Rocky botched a couple of big moves that definitely cost the match, and the crowd was so dead that they didn't really care. Sure, they popped for the finish, but it felt more like a mercy cheer.

Yes, Rock went over. And as happy as I should be about that it just doesn't make sense to me. If Rock is going on another one of his 'vacations', why have him go over someone whom you get to keep? I think this was the moment for a character change from Cena, leading to a victory. I'm not saying full blown heel turn, just a modification. Maybe some rougher tactics.

Unfortunately the way I look at it the year long hype came back to bite the WWE in their giant corporate ass. The main event paled in comparison to both Taker/Trips and Punk/Jericho.

My Impression:
Two matches don't make a card, no matter how good they are. We got a lot more shit on this card than we did good. And the main event fell flatter than Scotty Goldman's gimmic. On top of that, eight matches for a four hour show is laughable, I didn't cover any of the shit backstage segments because they shouldn't even be on the show, keep that shit on Raw.

While it was better than the past couple of WrestleManias, it's nowhere near the best one ever, no matter what Michael Cole tells you.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Fuck Battleship... We're reviewing Clue!

This week on The Shit Is Dead we're kicking it old school! And we are starting it off with a bang! Literally. We have revolvers, lead pipe, ropes, knife. Se the pattern? Recognize it? If you don't than you should be ashamed of yourself! Because this is one of most cleverly constructed movies of all time. I am of course talking about Clue. In 1985 Director Jonathan Lynn and Paramount Pictures gave us a comedy of murderous proportions. With an amazing A-List cast (for that time) that had you laughing till popcorn came out of your nostrils.

"...Ftom Trrrrransylvania!"
Not only did they work the main story line from the Parker Brothers game, but they also gave you twists and turns to keep you second guessing who the murderer is. And as the plot thickens, you find yourself submerged in the action. With an awesome opening sequence which introduces none other then legendary Tim Curry (All transsexual Transylvanian jokes aside), where he proceeds to, present to us each character in this epic game.

We soon see comedic big shot actors such as Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mall, Madeline Kahn and Michael McKean enter the premises of Hill House (all with lightening and spookiness) Now I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't watched this movie, but the plot goes a little something like this: All the main characters from the game have been summoned to said Hill House to try and confront the person who has been blackmailing them for various political, moral and scientific reasons. All the names such as Prof. Plumb, are alias' that have been given to them as to protect their identity.

With quirky dialogue and a pace that makes you feel like you're in the theater (the live one, not the sticky floor and popcorn one) you are either at the edge of your sea or laughing hysterically. As the characters find out they know each other for various incriminating reasons, the action starts to unfold. New characters not included in the game start to appear as a direct reference to the main characters.

"Who shot JR?!"

You know it would suck.
We get beautifully constructed background for each character, my personal favorite is Mr. Green's storyline, but, you'll have to watch the movie to pick one of your own. A 50's theme, with clothes, music, cars, the whole shebang, to transport you back to a time when J. Edgar Hoover was still in charge and if you're not amazed by it, you can still laugh it in to the plot of the movie. I will say this though, after watching this movie, playing the game has never been the same.  I doubt they could accomplish that if they had made a movie about Monopoly or Sorry. That would be depressing, and we thank you for never trying ton make a kid's film out of those (just saying).

Also a bonus feature, when you buy the DVD version of the movie (as if you had a choice nowadays) you get the theatrical bonus that everyone who is a fan loves. Three endings, all In a row. You see, when it was released this was the fun part of the climactic ending and they were kind enough to include it.

So my old schooler's as I wrap up this review I want to encourage you to check it out...REALLY  It's awesome. You have Doc and The Transsexual together in a movie. I'ts sexy time travelling babies people!!!

Eny's Score: Nine and a hal... Fuck it, ten full coked up Chihuahuas.
The Lady hath spoken!

The Top 10 Best TV Shows of the 2011-12 Season

Okay, so May is almost over and, with it, the last remnants of this past television season are starting to fade away. So all we have left is to sit down and look back at what came of it.

This is my take on the best shows to grace TV land this year:

#10 - Once Upon A Time

I didn’t know what to expect when this show was first announced. For starters, it had a few things against it.

It was the second show premiering in the Fall that involved Fairy Tale characters living in the real world (the other one being NBC’s Grimm). It was a show that starred Snow White and, seeing how the beloved character (to some; I particularly feel indifferent towards her) was just about to star in not one, but two high profile movies (you know which ones), it felt like we were being force-fed something that nobody was really asking for.

And, finally, it was being produced by ABC, who just happens to be owned by a little company called Disney, so whatever creative risks could be taken with the characters were going to be kept to a minimum by the Mothership.

Boy, was I wrong…

OUAT, admittedly, didn’t start off with the right foot. The first few episodes were somewhat meandering in their pace and the new interpretations of these Fairy Tale characters were nothing new or even refreshing, for that matter.

But they stayed with you. Episode after episode, you couldn’t help but find yourself immersing into the cheese-tastic ridiculousness of the story and its surprisingly endearing players. Everyone from Mr. Gold, to Queen Regina, to, yes, even Snow White and Prince Charming eventually found their way into the cold crevices of my heart and pulled at the strings until they eventually bought real estate and settled into a nice, cozy apartment complex with two swimming pools and a basketball court.

With strong ratings throughout the year and a heavy character-centric story-arc that has been building since the very first episode, I find myself anxiously awaiting September to come around and bring on the next 22 episodes.

My Sundays are simply not the same without it.

Best in Show:
'Skin Deep' by Jane Espenson

The episode spotlighting Beauty and The Beast was, far and wide, the best episode of the entire season. It was a highly entertaining piece of fluff that had more than enough heart and plenty of little twists and turns to keep the story moving at a brisk pace, all the while setting up future storylines that, thankfully, have paid off in the latter episodes.

In short, this series simply had no better episode this season.

#9 - How I Met Your Mother

After an uneventful sixth season, I was anxious to see what the last multi-camera sitcom worth watching anymore was going to do next.

I was nervous. I love this show and these characters in a way that defies logic.

HIMYM is one of those staples that you always can go back to no matter where you are in life and you’re guaranteed a laugh. It has always taken creative and narrative risks and has injected new life into a stale format that has been outdated for more than 15 years now. But after a considerably transitional sixth year, it needed to come back stronger than ever before, as we head right into its final years.

And, thankfully, it more than delivered.

The writers had to be more than aware of this because what we got was episode after episode of that same ballsy writing we had grown accustomed to way back since seasons 2 and 3. From the ducky tie to Robin’s Christmas revelation to the birth of Lily and Marshall’s baby (who, incidentally, has the coolest middle name ever), it’s been a very eventful season and, as we head into the show's final year, I can’t help but feel confident that the emotional investment will pay off wonderfully in the end.

Any other sitcom would’ve run out of things to say by now but after 8 years HIMYM keeps firing on all cylinders. And that’s as great a testament to the incredibly talented cast and crew behind this wonderful show.

Best in Show:
Ducky Tie’ by Carter Bays & Craig Thomas

Don't be fooled by the promo above. That is merely one of the two stories being told in this episode, and it's not the one that makes it stand out amongst the rest.

A quick trip to a teppanyaki restaurant turns into a war of attrition between Lily and Barney with unbelievably hilarious results for both of them, as they try to outwit each other. This episode marked a return to form in the ridiculous, over-the-top situational humor that has made this series a modern comedy classic.

#8 - Game of Thrones

At this point, who hasn’t heard of Game of Thrones?

If you’re looking for a quick synopsis, you’re out of luck. I’m here to gush about it and offer my impressions of the series this season, not write up a detailed account of the story so far.

And yes, before you say anything, I’m keenly aware that the second season of Game of Thrones hasn’t wrapped up its run yet. And yes, I’m aware that its first few episodes were somewhat uneven in their pacing and narrative structure. And yes, I know we haven’t had as much of Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister as we wanted (which is odd, because he was in just about 70% of the book in which this season has been based on).

But, in the end, does it matter?


Perhaps, more importantly, do I care?


The fact remains that this show has maintained a level of quality and entertainment far beyond and above the vast majority of what you’d ordinarily find across all entertainment platforms. Every episode is brimming with enough subtext, great dialogue, rich and fully developed characters and engaging storylines to carry it comfortably above the rest of the pack.

Game of Thrones is a brilliant, fantasy epic that has plenty for even the most jaded of viewers. As we await next Sunday’s season finale, I can’t barely contain my excitement for what’s to be an incredible third outing.

A storm of swords is coming, ladies and gentlemen, and the fields of Westeros will be bathed in blood.


Best in Show:
Blackwater’ (for now) by George R. R. Martin

Plain and simple, this episode was all about Tyrion and Peter Dinklage did not disappoint. Martin’s script wasn’t perfect but it had enough tension and brilliant character moments to carry what is, essentially, a 55-or-so minute battle with plenty of blood and viscera to satiate our collective sadistic needs.

As we head into the last episode of this season, I can’t help but wonder if this entry might change. After all, coming up next is the House of the Undying, where a blue rose blooms from a Wall of Ice. I wonder if that’s significant in any way…?

#7 – Homeland

I had zero expectations regarding this show when I first saw it. All I knew was that Claire Danes and Morena Baccarin were involved and it had to do with the CIA trying to prevent a terrorist attack or some such.

What unraveled before my eyes as I delved into the the pilot was an intricate web of events so compelling, so intriguing, that it kept me glued to my screen for the duration of the entire series.

The story’s very simple: Claire Danes stars as Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with bipolar disorder (which she conveniently neglected to tell her superiors about) who, on her last day in Iraq overseeing an operation to take down Al-Qaeda cells, learns that an American soldier that was taken hostage has been turned.

Cue to a few months later and, lo and behold, Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine sergeant, has been found by a team of soldiers during a raid after being presumed dead for eight years. He’s welcomed by an ailing nation as a hero and what follows is a complex game of metaphorical cat and mouse, as Carrie tries to learn the truth behind Brody’s imprisonment and if, by any chance, he happens to be a terrorist with plans of attacking U.S. soil.

I’m not going to divulge anything more about the plot because half the fun of watching this show is trying to figure out who Brody is, as opposed to who he was. The one thing I will say, however, is this: nothing is as simple as it seems.

Homeland was a great success. A second season is slated to air in late September on Showtime and, after the completely unbearable cliffhanger of this first season finale, I can’t wait to see it.

Best in Show:
The Weekend’ by Meredith Stiehm

As nerve-wrackingly intense as the season finale was, this episode simply takes the cake, eats it, buys another one and eats it too.

The relationship between Brody and Carrie takes an interesting turn and throws everything regarding for a loop. After this one episode, all the players involved are at markedly different places than they were when the story started. It’s one of those episodes that throws the entire dynamic for a loop (and successfully, I might add) and sets up an inevitable fallout from which no one will walk away clean.

#6 - New Girl

Talk about biggest improvement of the year. And in such a quick handful of episodes at that.

I was curious about this show from the start because I’ve always had a fondness for Zooey Deschannel’s dry and detached quirkiness. From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to Eulogy, to 500 Days of Summer, I’ve been a quote/unquote fan of her work for years now. So, needless to say, the thought of a sitcom starring her seemed like a really cool idea.

Sadly, the pilot disappointed me. It’s not that it wasn’t funny. It was simply a case of having too much all over the place and a main character that was a little too crazy, rather than quirky.

The next two episodes didn’t do much for me but, being a fan, I was determined to see it through against my better judgment. By the time the fourth episode swung by, however, I was hooked. And I’ve never looked back since.

So, what happened?

Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone and the inimitable Max Greenfield happened.

The show became a little less more about Jess (Zooey’s character) and considerably more about the ensemble. That decision alone changed what could’ve been a quirky, if sometimes annoying, and uneventful sitcom into must-watch television for me.

Even Zooey turned the crazy down a few notches and gelled with the cast to such an extent that, by the time the show wrapped up its first season, I found myself scouring through iTunes to download as many episodes as I could, just so I could hold on to those characters for a little while longer.

New Girl is an utter joy to watch. If you tried it when it first came on and gave up on it quickly, go back and watch it again. Believe you me when I tell you: it’s worth it.

Best in Show:
Secrets’ by Josh Malmuth

After discovering the horrifying truth between two of her closest friends, Jess realizes she can’t live in an apartment full of secrets and decides to open the floodgates. What ensues is the very best example of how far this show has come since its lukewarm inception into the burning ball of crazy, awesome hilarity it’s become in such a short time.

If you do watch it, look out for a comment about Indian food. If you don’t laugh out loud at what transpires immediately afterwards, then I’m afraid your soul is dead and you should buy a new one.

Also, raccoon hands.

#5 - Happy Endings

Now, a lot of people have called this show a single-camera HIMYM. Or I could just be making it up for added effect. Who knows?

The point is, however, they would be half-wrong. But Happy Endings is much more than that.

A relatively under-the-radar sitcom about a group of friends and the woes of the dating world, this show debuted to moderate ratings halfway through the 2010-2011 season, managing to score a full season order for September 2011 there but for the grace of the TV Gods. The show works with an ensemble (I’m starting to detect a pattern on this list) that consists of an SNL alumni, a Scrubs alumni, a son of a Wayans, the daughter of Jack Bauer (if you don’t know who that is and consider yourself a TV aficionado, you're in deep trouble, ‘cause even I know who that is and I hated 24) and two other guys that, up until that point, had been relative unknowns.

But, as is the case with all great sitcoms built around an ensemble cast, they are all incredibly talented and they all have chemistry with one another to spare. So much, in fact, that if their collective chemistry was able to be converted into actual energy, it could power New York City for an entire year. And that’s (not) a scientific fact (but it should be).

I realize I may be over-selling it, but the accolades are well-deserved. For a relatively new sitcom playing with a tried-and-true premise, who some might argue (myself included) has been used to death, this show has never failed to make me laugh nor stop caring about whatever mundane problems its unbelievably lovable cast may be dealing with at any point in its entire run.

Every episode of this season has been a genuine delight, full of laughter and joy and great little moments that still bring a smile to my face just by thinking of them.

The show’s ratings have improved considerably and it has a full season order for the Fall, so if you haven’t checked out one of the funniest sitcoms in a good long while (and trust me, there are plenty that, for lack of a more apropos expression, suck) you owe it to yourself to watch Happy Endings.

Best in Show:
The Butterfly Effect Effect’ by Jonathan Groff & Sierra Teller Ornelas

It’s time for Brad and Jane’s annual Spring Smackdown and the gang needs it more than ever before: Winter has been relentless and Max is slowly turning into Winnie the Pooh as he slinks further and further into Hibernation Mode. This episode is one of those rare cases where, no matter how absurd the premise may be, everything about it works.

Especially Max. Because now I want to live with a bear that sounds like Tim Allen too.

#4 - Fringe

Ah, FOX…

The network that has notoriously pulled the trigger on many a great genre show on what I can only presume to be a whim (and, of course, money but who cares…?), has been airing for four long and difficult years what I can only describe as the best drama on network television. Period.

Forget what you think you may or may not know about Fringe.

The fact is, if you haven’t been watching it since its inception, you have missed out on a unique and compelling narrative that challenges the greatest dramas ever aired on this medium to a Free-For-All Deathmatch and holds its own remarkably well against the lot of them.

Fringe is an unapologetically complex show that plays the giant sandbox that is Science Fiction without sacrificing a single ounce of heart and believability. The characters are richly textured with complicated relationships and the situations they’re constantly being thrust upon are always exciting and suspenseful.

This show has battled against low ratings during its entire span, at the risk of cancellation on more than one occasion, but it never sacrifices its story for the sake of a bigger audience. Fringe is, for all intents and purposes, the smartest, most intriguing show in network television and this fourth season has been an incredible ride.

To talk about the specifics of the story would be a moot point, since we try to keep this a Spoiler-Free environment, and it would require me to explain an incredibly intricate maze of back-stories for you to understand it at all.

More to the point, it doesn’t matter if you don’t. At least not anymore.

Fringe is heading into its last 15 episodes staring this September. The story is reaching its inevitable conclusion and its cast and crew, who’ve tirelessly delivered incredible story after incredible story, are preparing for one last round before they ride off into the proverbial sunset.

The show has survived the claws of cancellation time and time again, and now it's time to say goodbye.

So if you’ve missed it, it’s your loss. Nevertheless, you're always more than welcome to join at any time the millions of devout fans that have kept this show on the air long after it stood to reason that FOX should take it off the air.

It is simply the best drama you’re going to find on primetime network TV and this past season, with all its twists and turns, has been an utterly fantastic thrill to watch. There’s simply no denying it.

And neither is John Noble’s long overdue Emmy.

Best in Show:
Worlds Apart’ by Graham Roland and Matt Pitts & Nicole Phillips

This episode was, for me at least, two things:

First, it served as a resolution of sorts to many lingering threads that had been weaved since Season 1. And second, it was a showcase of the incredible levels of talent of the production’s gifted cast. This episode had everything you could possibly want from a show like Fringe. That and so much more.

Its pacing, relentlessly brutal. Its story, moving, suspenseful and intriguing. Its cast, at the top of their game.

There were many great episodes on this season of Fringe but, in my book, none of them hold a candle to ‘Worlds Apart.’

#3 - Doctor Who

Before I start discussing why this show is on this list, I want to make one thing clear:

Doctor Who is my all-time favorite show.

I want you take that into account as we discuss not only why it’s here, but what that means regarding the top two remaining spots on this list.

Now that we’re all settled on that little fact, let’s talk about why Doctor Who, a show that only aired six episodes in the Fall and one during Christmas, deserves to be so high in this list.

Well, for one thing, it’s Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat (SPOILER ALERT: more on him later) and secondly, it’s Doctor Who period (it’s my list and I can choose what I want, bias or no).

If you’ve never watched this show, it’s about a 900-or-so year old alien who travels through time and space in a ship called the TARDIS with people he meets during his (mis)adventures. The show has been around for almost 50 years, in one way or another, and it is, arguably, at its creative apex right now.

Out of the seven episodes that were aired last Fall, six were absolutely brilliant and unique in their own way, and only one could be argued to be disappointing (unless you know the episode’s writer’s history with the show, in which case, you knew what was coming).

From Tom MacRae’s beautifully-crafted, ‘The Girl Who Waited’, to Gareth Roberts bro-mantic romp, ‘Closing Time’, to Steven Moffat’s hilariously and misleadingly titled, ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, this show continually raises its own stakes without so much as a hint of ever dropping the ball since the aforementioned Moffat (lovingly called The Moff by his legions of devout fans) took over the reigns as show-runner back in 2010 and brought along Matt Smith, a lanky genius of an actor, who’s currently playing the Eleventh (and, arguably, best) incarnation of The Doctor.

The show is returning this September with six new episodes (five during the Fall and the Christmas special) as it gears up for next year’s fiftieth anniversary extravaganza.

There’s no better time to be a Whovian. There’s a reason Doctor Who has lasted as long as it has and why it’s as big a phenomenon as it is. If you come into it with an open mind and a desire for great adventurous fun, you’ll understand why.

Best in Show:
The Girl Who Waited’ by Tom MacRae

First of all, yes, I know Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ was part of Series 6 of Doctor Who, along with this one. BUT it was released in the first half of the series, which aired during Spring, so it doesn’t count for the purposes of this list.

If there’s one word I can use to describe Tom MacRae’s ‘The Girl Who Waited’ it would be “BEAUTIFUL.” Just like that, all in caps.

This episode epitomizes the great dynamic this show has between The Doctor and the innumerable slew of people he’s had for Companions: the story, in the end, is that of the Companions, because we see The Doctor through their eyes. We can never be The Doctor. He’s too wonderful, too mad, too clever and too terrible for us to be him. But the Companions are people just like us.

And just like they are discovering The Universe in all its infinite splendor while traveling with a madman in a box, so are we.

In this episode, newlyweds Amy Pond and Rory Williams, affectionately called The Ponds, take center stage as they get separated on a world where timelines overlap one another at different frequencies with The Doctor stranded on the TARDIS, while desperately looking for each other.

And that’s as far as I go.

Watch the episode. If you can’t find the inherent charm, romance, whimsical sense of adventure and eloquent wit behind this show and be utterly enamored by it with one of its latest and greatest outings, then I really pity you.

#2 – Community

I dare ANYONE to find any comedy currently on the air that’s better than this show.

I do. In fact, I dare you to find that comedy’s best episodes and stack them against any single one from this season of Community.

The outcome, dear reader, will not be in your sitcom’s favor.

Yes, there was no paintball this year. Yes, I found that disappointing because, let’s face it, ‘Modern Warfare’ and the two-part paintball finale of last year are sitting comfortably amongst the greatest sitcom episodes of all time. But, considering the output of brilliant episodes this year, I’ll say that’s not as big an issue as one might think.

Don’t believe me? Watch them. Watch them all. And then slap yourself 71 times across the face for being an idiot (once for every episode of Community produced so far).

There’s just now way around it: Community is the most original, funniest sitcom on TV right now. It’s risqué, intelligent and it bears no qualms about being insanely absurd but, at its heart, it’s really a show about a group of friends who, on their own, are social outcasts, finding solace in one another, thus becoming a tight-knit family in the process.

Season 3 was jam-packed with incredible episodes, from the History Channel-type war documentary, ‘Pillows and Blankets’, the Law and Order tribute, ‘Basic Lupine Urology’, an 8-bit romp in Nintendo-land, ‘Digital Estate Planning’, the Hugo Award nominated (coincidentally in the same category as #3 on this list), timey-wimey farce, ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’, to what I can only describe as the most emotionally satisfying season finale of the year, ‘Introduction to Finality’.

The cast is, by an insurmountable margin, the single best ensemble on network television, comedy or no. These people, from Joel McHale to Chevy Chase, to Alison Brie, to Dr. Ken Jeong (yes, he’s a real medical doctor and, yes, that just makes him much more awesome), are so incredibly in sync with one another that not a single frame goes by that isn’t bursting with chemistry. Every joke is pitch perfect and the entire machine that is this show runs in wonderful unison. Take out one piece, and I shudder to think what would happen (something a bit closer to THIS, perhaps…?).

This show is coming back next year with 13 more episodes but, sadly, the creative voice that has steered the ship for these past three years is gone, creator and show-runner Dan Harmon.

That said, this may not necessarily prove to be an entirely bad thing. The cast is coming back and the new show-runners used to produce Happy Endings, so there’s a silver lining (or, at the very least, wishful thinking).

Regardless, I’ll be watching.

Best in Show:
Pillows and Blankets’ by Andy Bobrow

Out of all of the shows on this list, choosing just one episode for this series proved to be the hardest but, in the end, The Day The Feathers Flew won.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about this episode is brilliant.

If you’re going to watch just one thing from this list, just one, then make it this episode. You will not regret it.

#1 – Sherlock

The Woman. The Hound. The Fall.

That’s all we were told by Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat months prior to the show’s return this January.

The first series (“season” in British) ended with a brutal cliffhanger and left us hanging for well-over a year and a half before its resolution.

Why so long, you may ask?

Because Sherlock is a show unlike any other. And that is quite literally, in more ways than one.

For starters, each series consists of three 90-minute long episodes. And, because that’s simply not enough, it’s set ENTIRELY in modern times. To which by modern, I mean 2012 (at least, as of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’).

Each episode is written by a single writer (two of which just happen to be the creators of the show) and then, over a period of a couple of months, it’s taken into production with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the notorious consulting detective himself and his friend and colleague, John Watson, respectively. The problem is, these two actors are currently in demand.

How much in demand, exactly?

Benedict is currently starring in J.J. Abrams Star Trek sequel and Martin is playing Bilbo Baggins in the adaptation of The Hobbit, the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So, by the time their schedules free up in time to shoot the next series, quite a while has passed.

And that creates a bit of a problem.

We’re being starved for so long, only to be served a mere handful of what equates to breadcrumbs and then we’re starved indefinitely again.

But, great Moffat’s hair, what delicious breadcrumbs they are!

Those three episodes are packed with so much action, so much comedy, so much drama, so much emotion and so much clever dialogue that you’ll find yourself gushing over every nanosecond of every frame of the show.

This year we were treated to the three most popular stories in Sherlock Holmes cannon, and each was as brilliant as the one who came next. First off, we had Irene Adler (The Woman) courtesy of The Moff himself. He was tasked with getting the ball rolling after the incredible reception that the first series received. More importantly, perhaps, he had to find a clever way to get out of the pinch in which he left our two main characters at the end of the series 1 finale, ‘The Great Game.’

Did he deliver?

If you have to ask, clearly you’ve never watched anything by Steven Moffat. And, trust me when I tell you this: you should feel very ashamed of yourself.

Following the intense thrill ride that was ‘A Scandal in Belgravia,’ we came up against the legendary Hound. Written by Mark Gatiss, ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ was a noteworthy adaptation of one, if not the most adapted Sherlock Holmes story.

Peppered with devilish humor and a dollop of sheer terror, the episode was as standalone as you could possibly get (in fact, Sherlock only takes the case because he’s bored), all the while preparing us for what’s to come next:

The series 2 finale, ‘The Reichenbach Fall.’

The episode that defied expectations, seeing how its writer had penned the worst episode of the show so far during its first series, and blew them all out of the planet’s face. This is what the previous five episodes were building towards and Steven Thompson more than delivered.

Sherlock Holmes V.S. Jim Moriarty.

And that’s all I will say, because you can ask everyone that has seen it already and they will tell you: the less you know going into this episode, the better.

The last five minutes will leave you cursing at the natural passage of time, begging it to move faster up until Summer 2013, when we’ve been told the next series is likely to air. That’s how utterly demented and brilliant they are.

In summation, if your entire experience with Sherlock Holmes begins and ends with the recent Robert Downey Jr. films, then this show is perfect for you.

Simply because, after watching these 6 incredible episodes, you’ll never want to watch them again and the world will be better for that.

Steven Spielberg once called Benedict Cumberbatch the best Sherlock Holmes he’s ever seen onscreen. Do yourself a favor and watch the show. Then you’ll understand why, at which point, you’ll be a “Cumberbitch” for life.

Best in Show:
A Scandal in Belgravia’ by Steven Moffat

Without a shadow of a doubt, the single best episode of any show to air this season.

Bold statement, true, but out of all the people that I know that have seen it, I’m quite sure most of them would agree with me without a moment’s hesitation.

It’s simply that good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alexis' Judas Priest in Madrid concert review

When I decided to go to Madrid as an exchange student, I knew that living in that city would give me the opportunity to attend more concerts than I could ever dream of in Puerto Rico. The amount of Rock bands that come to play in Spain is truly overwhelming, and even the most ardent music lover is bound to miss a few shows. However, one I could not pass up on was the mighty Judas Priest. Arguably the best Heavy Metal band of all-time (and certainly my favorite), they’re not called the “Metal Gods” for nothing. With numerous classic albums to their name, Priest has composed anthems that have managed to transcend the Metal genre in terms of popularity.

After strong opening sets by UDO and Blind Guardian (hearing Udo’s band rip through “Fast as a Shark” was a particular highlight), Priest took the stage a little before 10 pm with their classic “Rapid Fire”. The band’s (as well as the crowd’s) energy level was extremely high. Scott Travis pounded the drums like a madman, the guitars were sounding extremely heavy, and Rob Halford’s voice was on point. “Metal Gods”, “Heading Out to the Highway”, and “Judas Rising” followed, and they were all great performances, especially the latter. I would’ve preferred “Freewheel Burning” over “Highway”, but it’s a minor complaint. “Highway” is the more popular track between the two, and if I had to bet on which one they’d perform, I would’ve put my money on the bigger hit.

At this point, the band decided to take it back to their first three albums. I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) that they played “Never Satisfied” off their debut album, Rocka Rolla. That record is not exactly a career highlight, to say the least. “Whatever, it’s just one song. The next ones will be better”, I thought. Priest then proceeded to play “Victim of Changes”, “Starbreaker”, and “Diamonds & Rust”, so I was right, to an extent. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to hear them, but they are all songs one would expect them to play. I would’ve loved to hear “Dissident Aggressor”, a song so heavy for its time, that Thrash pioneers Slayer covered it years later.

While all this is going on in my head, I realized that something very disheartening was happening right before my eyes - new guitarist Richie Faulkner sucks. It’s not that he can’t play K.K. Downing’s riffs and solos effectively; it’s that he has absolutely ZERO chemistry with Glenn Tipton. Now that K.K. is out of the group, the two-headed axe monster he created with Tipton is completely gone. Faulkner and Tipton do not play off other at all; they are clearly two separate guitarists who happen to be in the same band. When K.K. was up there, watching him play with Tipton was pure magic. They traded solos and riffs with ease, and even their body language suggested they were completely in tune with each other. Now that Faulker is in the band, the two guitar players just stand on the opposite corners of the stage and go through the motions.

As if this weren’t bad enough, we’re about an hour into the show, and it is painfully clear that Halford’s voice does not have the same power it had at the beginning. The show hit its low point when the band “performed” their classic “Breaking the Law”. I’m still in shock from what I witnessed at that particular moment. As the band started to play the song and the crowd began to sing the words, Halford elevated his microphone stand to about 8 feet and proceeded to enact the song’s lyrics with hand gestures. I payed 65 euros to hear this mother fucker sing, and instead I’m hearing thousands of Spaniards scream the words in broken English. Needless to say, I was pissed. Extremely pissed. “Step on my kicks by accident and I’ll pop a cap in yo’ ass” pissed. I don’t know if this means I’m too naïve, but I thought “maybe this is just something to get the crowd involved and he’s going to sing it after that”! Nope. Instead, the band left the stage and Scott Travis started to play a very average drum solo. I could tell that would lead into “Painkiller”, so being the huge Priest fan that I am, I kind of forgave Halford for taking “Breaking the Law” off. “Painkiller” is an extremely difficult song to sing, especially at his age, so I can’t blame the dude for needing a breather. But, fuck, not during “Breaking the Law”! Oh, well.

When Travis finally played the intro to the song, it was another disappointment. He slowed the tempo down considerably, which made the song lose much of its heaviness and attitude. Also, Halford’s break didn’t do anything to help his voice, as he was straining throughout the whole performance. His body was completely leaned over as he screamed the words into the mic. It could be seen by some even more naïve than me as a “Metal” pose, but I knew he did it because it was the only way that he could get out what little power he had left in his voice.

The next moment was also a major let-down. After leaving the stage for a while, Halford emerged with the Spanish flash draped over his shoulders and led the crowd to a series of “whoa yeah” chants. Amazingly, his voice sounded great! This also pissed me off. WHY COULDN’T HE JUST SING BREAKING THE LAW INSTEAD OF DOING THIS CRAP?! Ugh.

The last songs the band played were “Hell Bent for Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”. These two are undisputed Metal classics; so of course, they had to fuck them up. Halford’s voice was so gone at this point that he SPOKE the chorus to both songs instead of singing them. For a guy that’s so into having the crowd sing, he made it damn near impossible to sing along when he changed the melody of the songs to fit his faded voice. “There’s maaaanyyyy whooo triiiieeed to prooove thaaat they’re faaasteeer, but theeeyyy diiidn’t laaast aaand they diiieeed as they triiiiiiieeeeed” became “There’s many/who tried/to prove/that they’re faster/they didn’t last/they died/as they tried”. LAME!

After finishing the set with random screams that seemed totally forced and unnecessary, as if to prove he “still had it” (if he truly had it, he would’ve skipped that crap and just sang the songs correctly), the band returned to play “Living after Midnight”. Perhaps not surprisingly, that was one of their best performances of the night. The song is pretty easy to play and sing, and always gets the crowd pumped up due to its simple structure and catchy melody.

In conclusion, I was very disappointed by this show. Some might say that they’ve been doing it for more than 40 years, so it’s obvious that they won’t sound the same as they at the height of their fame and glory, and that it’s my own fault for getting so overexcited. It’s a fair point, but I saw Aerosmith in 2007 and Iron Maiden in 2008, and those guys totally kicked ass. Bruce Dickinson and Steven Tyler have been screaming their lungs out for about the same time as Rob Halford, and they still sound amazing. While I can’t blame a 60 year-old man for being past his prime, I still expected more out of this experience. It hurts me to give the show a four out of ten, but I’m afraid it’s the only score that can do it justice. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go blast “Exciter” on my iPod and act like this never happened.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

We are still alive!

Don't worry everyone.  We are still here and alive.  School and work have gotten in the way a little bit, but soon we will be up and running once again.  We also have something planned that will hopefully be a lot of fun.  Stay tuned!

-The Shit is Dead Staff