Album Covers That Deserve Death

The internet is littered with lists that chronicle the worst album covers in the history of music, but most of them are the same.  We’re all aware of how ridiculous the cover is for Whitesnake’s Lovehunter, and if there’s any album artwork on the planet that actively hates women, it’s the thankfully deleted cover for Ted Nugent’s Love Grenade.  But there’s a lot of dumb album covers that don’t get the ridicule they deserve, and since I’m nice and loaded, that’s what’s about to happen.

  • Korn – See You on the Other Side

If I were to get a hold of a time machine, travel back to 1832, and dropkick baby Lewis Carroll into a pit of ravenous wolves, I would be saving modern age from 90% of its shitty art.  I have no idea what in David Lynch’s name is going on here, but I’m guessing it’s Lewis Carroll’s fault, so I choose to blame him.

  • Danzig – 777: I Luciferi

“GRRRR I’M GLENN DANZIG AND I’M GONNA MAKE YOU SMELL MY CLAW GLOVE THING WHILE MY BANDMATES PLAY WITH THEMSELVES.  BUY MY RECORD!”  When Danzig was doing stuff like The Misfits and Samhain, the art he put together for his albums had a really neat DIY feel to them.  Around when his self-titled act took off, his Napoleon complex took over and he started filling his albums with photos of him with his shirt off, often times while he seemed to be molesting a trashy porn star.  To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, please draw your attention to the back of this record:

“Mmmm that’s right lick the glove girl, just like in Spinal Tap, oh yeah, DON’T LOOK AT ME, that’s right, oh yeah!”

Danzig definitely got his head shoved in one too many toilets in high school, possibly by Jerry Only and his friends.  I imagine the only girls who talked to him were his teachers, and even they openly hated him.  Instead of seeking therapy, he became a rock star with a seriously warped idea of what he looks cool doing, and a view of females that screams “I don’t fucking respect you people.”  But speaking of Jerry Only…

  • The Misfits – American Psycho

Hey kids!  Check out the latest Misfits record!  You know, the family-friendly band that sang about getting a messy blowjob from Jackie Kennedy, and aliens impregnating teenagers?  No?  Well you will now, because THERE’S A POSTER INSIDE! WOO-HOO!  We’ll also list some track’s you’ve never heard of on the cover, cuz they have the same names as horror movies and we gotta sell this shit somehow.

The Misfits were actually pretty good with Michale Graves fronting them, but this portrait of the Crimson Ghost is just plain wrongheaded.  Danzig co-opted that image from the 1946 serial and turned it into a punk rock icon.  Here, in his resurrected state, he looks like he’s trying to sell you a used car.

  • Madonna – Hard Candy

Ladies, let this be a shining example of the difference between aging gracefully, and trying desperately to cling to youth.  Faith No More summed up Madonna’s obnoxious need to reinvent herself ad nauseum in their classic tune “Midlife Crisis”, and that was back in 1992.  Hard Candy was released in 2008.

Madonna’s never been truly sexy, because she always tries way too hard.  Her attempts at sexuality usually comes off as forced like they do here, with the trashy spread eagle stance and dime-store dominatrix facial expression.  It doesn’t help that she looks like someone took her as a baby, loaded her into of one of those T-shirt guns, and fired her headfirst into a pole.  If Madge went away forever, I probably wouldn’t notice.

Hey, I just brought up Faith No More!  Segue!

  • Faith No More – The Real Thing

What the fuck am I even looking at?  A flaming raindrop over a dry lake bed?  Who comes up with this boring shit?  Whatever.  Usually with Faith No More, the better the album cover was, the worse the music was inside. This means that The Real Thing is one sweet record.  A sweet record with a dumb, nonsense jacket to house it.

  • Anthrax – The Sound of White Noise

Looks like The Grimace got diarrhea again.  Before this, Anthrax had some pretty kick-ass album covers.  Then they fired Joey Belladonna, hired John Bush, and tried to act like a grunge band, which apparently means having a bullshit abstract album cover, and filling the liner notes with photos of them looking aloof in diners.  The Sound of White Noise is actually a solid record, and “Only” is one of the best tracks Anthrax ever laid down.  But they entered the woods as a band after this album for obvious reasons, and the symptoms of the disease are on display above.

  • Slayer – God Hates Us All

While we’re picking on the Big Four of thrash, let’s look at one of the dumbest covers for a metal album, ever.  I can practically hear the meeting of dipshit marketing minds coming together and getting paid the big bucks to come up with bankrupt crap like this.  It would be easy to verbally destroy this affront to art, but Slayer’s own guitarist, Kerry King, already has.  When asked what the album’s art concept represented, he said the following:

“It represents a record company with absolutely no idea what the fuck they were going to do. If we would have had more time it could have been better. It looks like some seventh-grader defaced a Bible – cartoonish.”

There you have it, even the band thought it was terrible.  This is one of those instances in which in-store censorship yielded positive results, as the alternative cover was much better.

  • Metallica – …And Justice For All

Heresy!  But seriously, why don’t you just punch me in the face and tell me the justice system is corrupt?  It would have the same effect.  There’s a scene in the documentary Paradise Lost, in which then-teenager Damien Echols, who is falsely accused of killing children, explains the meaning behind this album cover/song in court.  In the film’s context, it illustrates a tragic irony, because Damien will eventually be falsely convicted of murdering kids.  Out of context, it simply illustrates how incredibly stupid and shallow this otherwise “iconic” cover art is.

  • Black Flag – Family Man

Oh Henry, get over yourself.  A “spoken word/instrumental” record?  Did you put that on there out of artistic pretension, or did you put it as a warning so fans wouldn’t crucify you after they paid money for this piece of shit?  Please do music and “spoken word” a favor and let life imitate your (cover) art, poser.

  • Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

Just look at the women here.  This is proof that listening to Limp Bizkit makes you stupid.

  • Mastodon – The Hunter

Mastodon has a great track record when it comes to killer album covers, so why they decided to go with an image that looks like a bull suddenly realizing it’s been shot in the ass on their latest record is beyond me.  Part of me thinks it was a marketing ploy to make people shell out a few extra bucks for the special edition, which sported decidedly less-stupid artwork.

That’s all…for now.

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Superman Returns to Krypton

This deleted scene from Superman Returns, detailing Superman’s visit to the ruins of Krypton, surfaced on YouTube after appearing on the new Superman Blu-ray box set that came out a few weeks back.  It’s a pretty neat sequence from an otherwise interesting failure.  I liked Brandon Routh, and I appreciate the big spectacle of it all, but the plot was a poorly thought out, weak-sauce re-hash of Richard Donner’s original.  Frankly, the film lost me when they had Perry White say “Does he still stand for truth, justice…and all that other stuff?” 

Bryan Singer took Superman, and American icon, and neutered him into a citizen of the world.  Gone is the Americana that Donner lovingly built in Superman: The Movie, and it’s replaced with a politically-correct we-are-the-world Jesus metaphor.  I get why he abandoned the X-Men, it’s not every day a filmmaker gets the chance to make a Superman film, but today, we’re left with a mediocre Superman spectacle and a shitty X-Men movie directed a hairy testicle with arms named Brett Ratner.  Here’s hoping the upcoming Man of Steel will get Supes back in the cinematic tradition he belongs in.

Where Have The Ushers Gone?

If you want to see how rude and inconsiderate people are capable of being, chances are going to the movies is a sure-fire way to find out.  Bad behavior is something that is practically expected when you attend a multiplex frequented by the mall crowd, texting and talking during the movie are the norm.  Recently though, I’ve even seen this kind of behavior at the theaters that cater to the art-house crowd.

When I went to see Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life at the Ridgeway Four here in Memphis (seen it twice now, the review is coming by the way), and there was an insufferable hipster couple sitting behind me that chatted in a loud whisper during the duration of the movie, sadly my harsh glances were unable to silence them.  Once the end credits began to roll, one of them sarcastically quipped “Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.”  This prompted me to angrily whisper “Then leave!”  I have no idea if they heard me or not.

I expect (but do not excuse) this kind of behavior from teenagers watching the latest Michael Bay bonanza.  However, when I’m going to see something decidedly outside the mainstream like this (save for the presence of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, which may attract members of the wrong crowd), I expect to be in a theater with like-minded folks who are there to see the movie, not to socialize during it.  I also expect to be in a theater with people who are more interested in the movie than their cell phones, which create a lovely light-show distraction for everyone unfortunate enough to be sitting behind them.

A couple of days later I was talking with my buddy Andy, who hosts the fantastic Hollywood Saloon podcast, and I brought this up.  Movie fans love to bitch about their bad experiences in the theater, it always leads to a good bit of catharsis.  But Andy said something that gave me pause.  He said: “Do you remember movie ushers?  What happened to them?”

Does anyone remember a time when someone was acting a fool in the theater, and a dude with a flashlight would come up and straighten their ass out?  When I say “acting a fool,” I mean anything from excessive talking, to simply putting your feet on the chair in front of you.  You don’t really see that anymore.  This begs the question as to why movie houses have felt the need to do away with ushers.  The most likely answer is to save money, theaters can hardly be bothered to keep projectionists on staff anymore.  Do they feel that their humorous PSAs that discourage talking and cell phone use beforehand do the job for them?  Because anyone considerate enough not to use their phone during the film has already turned it off, the rest simply don’t care whether or not a panda voiced by Jack Black insists they turn their phones off.  The Alamo Drafthouse is a theater chain that has the right idea, not only do they eject rowdy moviegoers, but they sometimes make an example of them as well.

Given how much we pay to see movies these days, especially when they’re in 3D, the presence of an usher in the theater should be a courtesy.  The usher should be there to ensure that paying customers can enjoy the film without having to worry about rowdy jerks spoiling it for everyone else.  Theaters may be concerned that this will drive off business, but so do the idiots they let run riot in their theater.  If the texters and the talkers do leave, good riddance, who needs ’em.  Those willing to play by the rules should be rewarded, not punished.  Theaters are constantly worrying about how to keep their attendance levels up, extending the customers this courtesy would be a big step in the right direction.

In closing, please observe Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s magnificent “Moviegoers Code of Conduct”.  As far as I’m concerned, these are the official rules of going to the theater, if you can’t abide by them, just wait for the DVD and watch the damn thing at home, because no one likes you.

The Green Lantern That Never Was

Stuart, my co-host over at the Midnight Movie Cowboys, is doubling-down on his defense of Martin Campbell’s boring Green Lantern, but he brought up a straw man towards the end which was interesting: the comedy take on Green Lantern starring Jack Black that never happened.  Robert Smigel, who is probably best known as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, penned a script, the first draft of which is available online.  Obviously the movie never happened because of fan outrage, and the studio opted for something more serious.  In late June, Smigel sat down with Vanity Fair after the release of the movie we ended up getting to discuss the Green Lantern film that never was, and the interview was an interesting look into what could have been. 

In the article, the interviewer indirectly makes a point that I think speaks true about the film that’s out now: if the Green Lantern movie we got with Ryan Reynolds was any good, no one would be talking about the one that never came to pass.  Trying to imagine a Green Lantern film with Jack Black seems ridiculous at first, but we did get a Green Hornet movie starring Seth Rogen this year (which I really enjoyed), so I guess anything’s possible when it comes to playing with popular brands.

 

Boondock Saints / Ten Years Later

Today over at Big Hollywood, Christian Toto asks if Boondock Saints is a film worthy of the “cult classic” label.  There is no question that Boondock Saints has earned its stripes in the “cult” part, you’ll often spot people with wearing T-shirts featuring the McManus brothers brandishing their guns, hanging posters inscribed with their killing prayer, and other such ways of wearing movie fandom on the sleeve.  The film has just gotten a tenth anniversary double-dip on Blu-ray, and if this is any sign that movie still has rabid fans ten years down the line, Amazon is having a hard time keeping it on the shelf (at the time of writing this, there are only eleven copies left in stock). 

However, I think it’s the “classic” part where Toto raises an eyebrow.  The story behind the making of Boondock Saints is far more fascinating than the film itself.  It’s all chronicled in the excellent documentary, Overnight, which shows the meteoric rise and fall of the film’s director Troy Duffy.  Hungry to find the next Quentin Tarantino, Miramax gave the untested Duffy a deal over the script for Boondock Saints that made the carte blanche given to Orson Welles by RKO for Citizen Kane seem modest by comparison.  But before Boondock Saints could even begin shooting, Duffy’s arrogant attitude and abrasive personality killed the dream partnership between Duffy and Miramax.  The buzz Duffy had already generated in Hollywood allowed him to move forward without Miramax, making Boondock Saints independently, and while it died on the vine in theaters, it found its following on video, the way most cult movies do. 

Had Boondock Saints been made under the Miramax banner, much of its appeal would never have been there to begin with.  Like most people who got into the movie, it wasn’t aggressively marketed towards me, it was recommended to me by one of the movie’s rabid fans.  This added to the film’s perceived edge, it was like being let in on something big no one else knew about.  Being in high school at the time, I was also the right age for it, the movie had quotable dialogue spoken by colorful characters in a violent premise.  Seeing two Irish dudes clad in black say a prayer before smoking some gangster scumbag seems like the greatest thing ever when you’re sixteen.  Boondock Saints was a classic case of right place, right time, but it hasn’t aged well.

Now that I’m older and have seen (a lot) more films though, the movie seems silly.  Boondock Saints is definitely a film of the post-Tarantino variety, but Tarantino’s pop-culture obsession is what makes movies interesting.  Duffy would have us believe he’s asking moral and spiritual questions about vigilante justice, given the idiotic man-on-the-street segment we’re subjected to at the end.  These questions, which have been explored with more nuance in much better movies, are drowned in a sea of juvenile posing and violence. 

Despite these criticisms, I think it’s fair to say that Boondock Saints is, in fact, a “cult classic,” simply because the public at large has deemed it so.  It’s rare a movie gets such a large, fanatical following despite a complete lack of support from the mainstream, and that’s why it deserves not just to be called a “cult movie,” but a bona-fide “cult classic,” regardless of what critics like myself think.

PS: If you’re a fan of this movie and haven’t seen Overnight, do so.  The truth is stranger than fiction.

PPS: If you haven’t seen Boondock Saints II: All Saint’s Day, um, don’t.  It’s a shit-sandwich the magnitude of which hasn’t been seen since the coming of Highlander II: The Quickening.

Green Lantern’s Blight

The other day, The Onion posted a hilarious video that made fun of the aggressive marketing for the upcoming superhero movie, Green Lantern. Green Lantern is a hero with a fanatical following, but he has nowhere near the level of recognition that DC superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have.  While would hardly call Green Lantern an obscure property, it seems bizarre that he would be the subject of a big summer movie with a two-hundred million dollar budget.

Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds, who has played other comic book heroes in the past.  These heroes include the wisecracking vampire hunter Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, and the wisecracking assassin Deadpool in the affront to God that was the Wolverine movie, both based on Marvel Comics properties.  In Green Lantern, Reynolds flexes his acting muscles by playing Hal Jordan, a, uh, wisecracking dude who gets superpowers from a ring acquired from a dying alien.

The Onion video is funny, but it highlights a problem that (I hope) many of us are somewhat aware of.  I remember as a kid, I would devour comics like Charles Bukowski devoured liquor, yet the idea of a Spider-Man flick or an X-Men movie was a pipe dream.  Now it seems like a new movie based on a comic book property is coming out every damn weekend, especially in the summer.  What I can’t quite wrap my head around is that they’re being seen by everybody, not just the geeks who grew up skulking around comic shops and getting in arguments with other patrons over whether or not Tony Stark could beat Ms. Marvel in a game of Edward Fortyhands.

I hate to sound like a snob, but as I write this, comic book movies are taking up five screens at my nearest local multiplex, and sequels are dominating another five.  The only movies playing that aren’t based on branded properties are Brides Maids, Super 8, and Jumping the Broom (and Super 8 is debatable given the heavy early-Spielberg nostalgia element).  God help you if you’re an art-house offering like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, which still isn’t playing in where I am in Memphis.

This sort of bitching is old hat for movie fans, but is anyone really that excited about Green Lantern outside of its cult following?  Or are people going to see it because they’re conditioned to get interested whenever they see Hollywood relentlessly advertise something they’ve maybe heard about previously somewhere before?  I’m aware hearing fanboys clamor about something on the internet doesn’t count, as their enthusiasm isn’t indicative of the populous at large.  If anything the spectacular failure of Snakes on a Plane and Grindhouse proved that the internet buzz can be meaningless.

What boggles my mind is that the people who would make fun of someone for reading comics will go out of their way to watch to catch Spider-Man 3 on opening weekend.  I had a roommate in college who watched Smallville religiously and never missed the latest superhero-themed blockbuster, but this same guy also berated me when I recommended a Superman graphic novel to him, telling me that comics are for babies.  This guy is one of my best friends, so I’m not bitterly getting back at the bully here, but this was truly bizarre to me.  When I called him on it, he really had no answer beyond perhaps that movies are socially acceptable and comics are not.  I realize he’s just one guy, but he’s not some exception to the rule, tons of people who have never, ever touched a comic are seeing these movies.  I’m not judging or saying that everyone shouldn’t enjoy these films.  I’m asking why people who aren’t fans to begin with give a shit in the first place.

Green Lantern comes out today, and maybe it’ll be a huge hit, or maybe it’ll be the big bomb of the summer, all I really care about is whether or not it’s good.  But this trend is something that exists regardless of the success of Green Lantern, but while branding big movies has been something of a safety blanket for Hollywood, it only seems to be getting worse, and the brands they choose are only getting more bizarre.  I guess I’ll just look on the bright side and say I can’t wait for my two-hundred million dollar movie based on The Tick.  Make it happen, Hollywood!

SPOOOOOON!