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Friday, June 4, 2010

MUSIC REVIEW - How To Destroy Angels EP

I’m a little puzzled at the existence of this How to Destroy Angels. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that Trent Reznor is still making music. The fact he’s decided to do so with his new wife is wonderful… I think. How to Destroy Angels seems like a good idea from afar, but once you get up close you have to wonder what it’s trying to be. A new band? Or Nine Inch Nails with a feminine flare?

Regardless of what this band is suppose to be, the new EP is a huge let down. “A Drowning” and “The Spaces in Between” represent the two best tracks on the project, but they were released prior to the EP. When the rest is poor electronica that sound like scrapped NIN demos why bother?

While “Fur Lined” is probably the next best thing on the album, it won’t keep you from wondering where Trent’s vocals are. At this point the similarities between How to Destroy Angels and NIN are so close that it feels like even lead singer Mariqueen Maandig is putting on her best Reznor impression.

Even “A Drowning,” the best piece on the album, is too NIN inspired to stand alone, but it certainly gives listeners a taste of the real talent behind the project. Meanwhile, “Parasite” would have been better off as an instrumental and “BBB’s” ridiculous lyrics want us to, “listen to the sound of my big black boots.” Why? Is it a comparison of lame reverberation?

Again, “The Spaces in Between” has a lot of fire behind it, and “The Drowning” is an atmospheric masterpiece, but beyond that the EP is an unfocused jumble of half-hearted songs. If Team-Reznor can get stray from the NIN sound with this one it would probably be for the best. The potential for something new and great is there, so I still look forward to a full-length album. But lets stay away from the inspiration of “big black boots” next time. Shall we?

*½ out of ****


I can’t lie. As I watched Iron Man 2 I was having a great time. I was laughing at the jokes, smiling at the action sequences—Overall I was having fun. So why? Why did I feel like something was off? The answer is somewhat annoying, but rather simple. Iron Man 2 is a trick. It tricks you in to having such a good time that it’s hard to find the flaws. After all, this is a film showcasing Robert Downey Jr.’s smooth, but self-serving swagger, various forms of the universally loved Iron Man, and a strong cast of players in a superhero film. What’s not to love?

As Tony Stark returns to the screen, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) decides its time to put him in his place. In an attempt to avenge the legacy of his father, Vanko agrees to an uneasy partnership with Tony’s less talented corporate rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) resulting in slam-bang-boom showdown. Meanwhile, Tony struggles with some issues of his own concerning the arc reactor in his chest, his relationship with Pepper and the inevitable references to the upcoming Avengers film.

There’s a lot going on in this movie. Director Favreau did a pretty good job keeping the story elements as easy to follow as possible, but I wonder how much better it would have been had he taken an axe to the script. The Avengers build up was way too much. You might notice I don’t mention Scarlett Johansson in my synopsis. That’s because she does nothing. Oh sure, we can all pretend she was a monkey wrench in Tony and Pepper’s relationship, but that’s part of the trick. Her involvement in making Pepper jealous was dropped to reveal her as a SHEILD agent and reintroduce Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Dear Marvel, we don’t need commercial breaks in the middle of your films to advertise The Avengers. Love, GMAN.

Despite the clunky Avenger stops, Robert Downey Jr. throws on his A-Game with Mickey Rourke, who once again proves why he should have won the Academy Award. (Go to hell Mr. Penn.) Sam Rockwell also throws down an great performance as the dislikable, and embarrassing, Justin Hammer. It’s hard to decide who made the better villain, Rourke or Rockwell. They were both very different characters, but fun to watch despite the bumpy writing surrounding their partnership. If anything held this movie together it was the actors.

Downey Jr. specifically seems to have a way with making the most out of his characters. Here Tony Stark is faced with a slow, but certain death. The film explores this in pieces, showing him drunk and belligerent to the point of battling his own friend. But the script never hits home how badly this is affecting Stark. Instead, Downey Jr. does all the heavy lifting to evoke, at the very least, the idea that he is dieing and has accepted that fate. I wish this were explored further, but with the government trying to get the Iron Man suit, Vanko teaming with Hammer, the Avenger previews and Pepper’s love life… who has time for that?

The climax was fun, but oddly unsatisfying. While War Machine and Iron Man were around to root for, I wondered why Vanko was behind a desk most of the time. That about sums up the movie: Pleasing to sit through, but strange to look back on. How can a movie that was so enjoyable leave such a bitter aftertaste? Being tricked is no fun sometimes, but it's up to the audience to happily embrace the deception. The actors and director masked the weak script the best they could. I admit it! It worked! For the most part...

**½ out of ****