Sunday, March 17, 2013

"The Boondock Saints"

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm reviewing my favorite Irish-themed movie.

The main characters in this 1999 cult classic are Irish-Catholic fraternal twin brothers living in Boston named Connor and Murphy MacManus. The action begins on Saint Patrick's Day. Connor and Murphy, fresh from morning Mass and a shift at the local meat-packing plant, are drinking in their favorite bar when a couple of hulking thugs come in and tell everyone to leave. The Russian Mafia has moved into the neighborhood, taken control of the pub, and refused to renew the owner's lease.

The Russian street soldiers learn a very valuable lesson: Never mess with an Irish bar, especially not on Saint Patrick's Day. The MacManus brothers, their Italian friend Rocco, and a bunch of other bar patrons mercilessly beat up the Russians. The next morning, the Russians are found dead in an alley. The Boston police arrive on the scene and call in an FBI agent named Smecker, who works in the organized crime division.

Smecker quickly reveals that "eccentric" is not nearly a strong enough word to describe his personality and just as quickly assesses the crime scene. He says this was no mob hit; it looks too personal. He follows a handful of clues to the 5th floor of a warehouse that's been converted into illegal loft housing. It just so happens that the occupants of this loft are Connor and Murphy, which makes them prime suspects.

Back at the station house, Smecker is furious because someone involved in the investigation leaked information to the press. The homicide detectives are beginning to think catching the Russians' killer or killers will be next to impossible. Suddenly, the MacManus twins appear in the squadroom. They're covered in blood, bruised, and wearing nothing but boots, underwear, and shabby bathrobes.

Over coffee and doughnuts in the interrogation room, Connor and Murphy explain about the bar brawl. Somehow, the now-dead Russians figured out where the brothers lived and came looking for revenge. They handcuffed Connor to the toilet and dragged Murphy outside, intending to shoot him in the head and throw his body in the dumpster. But Connor managed to break free and the brothers sent the Russians to their doom. 

Connor tells Smecker he only killed the Russians to save his twin's life. Smecker doesn't push for charges to be filed because the confession, when coupled with the rest of the evidence, points to a textbook case of self-defense. An article on the MacManus v. Russian Mafia case appears in the next day's newspaper; the writer has dubbed the twins "The Saints of South Boston."

More Mafiosos begin to turn up murdered. Smecker knows Connor and Murphy are responsible for these deaths. He believes they're doing the right thing in ridding the city of filth, yet he is duty-bound to uphold the law; he must hunt the brothers down and put an end to the killings.

The movie has a typical shoot-'em-up action plot, but it also deals with complex themes and issues such as the true nature of evil, media sensationalism of crime, the definition of justice itself, and vigilantism. The deeper issues are not forcefully crammed down the audience's throat, but rather conveyed in an almost passive manner. It doesn't tell you whether to think of Connor and Murphy as heroes or villains; that's something you have to decide for yourself.

Symbolism plays a big role in this movie, particularly religious symbolism. If you are Catholic or just know quite a bit about Catholicism, you might enjoy the movie more. There are subtle touches that you might not be able to pick up on or understand if Catholicism is a complete mystery to you.

I really enjoyed the movie. All the actors performed solidly in their roles, especially Sean Patrick Flanery as Connor. Sean was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, but he executes a flawless Irish accent that never wavers. The characters were compelling. The script offered an interesting new take on the archetypes of outlaw folk heroes and "avenging angels." 

However, this isn't a movie for everyone. It's violent and bloody with no shortage of foul language. Catholics may be offended by some of the depictions of Catholicism. Whether or not you like the movie, your reaction to it will be strong. Rare is the action movie that makes you think. The Boondock Saints will and it accomplishes the task with plenty of excitement and style. 

Image source

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bon Jovi "Because We Can" Tour 2013

I went to Louisville last night to see one of my favorite bands live for the first time. After standing in a long line to get into the KFC Yum Center and an equally long one for a souvenir T-shirt, my dad and I settled into our seats in the upper deck. Kentucky is not known for its love of '80s arena rock, so I expected only about half the seats in the arena would be full. I seriously underestimated the lure of Bon Jovi; the place was nearly sold out. Every age bracket was represented, from elementary school kids with their parents to the elderly.

The show ended up starting at 8:00 PM instead of 7:30 as printed on the tickets. Not sure why as neither Jon nor anyone else from the band explained the delay. There was no opening act, so Bon Jovi came right out and opened the show with their perennial favorite "You Give Love a Bad Name." A spectacular light display accompanied them, swirling their trademark heart-and-dagger logo into the crowd.

They played a few tracks from their new album What About Now: "Because We Can," "That's What the Water Made Me," and "What About Now." They also played some songs from what was, in my opinion, an ill-advised foray into expanding their sound to country. But mostly they stuck to their hits. In fact, their setlist included every song I posted this week with the exception of "Let It Rock". There were little surprises, like when they paused "Bad Medicine" to sing the entirety of "Old Time Rock and Roll" (weird since it's not even their song) and jumped back into the end of "Bad Medicine." The concert lasted about 3 hours and there were a total of 7 (!!!) encores.

I've been to my share of classic rock concerts in my life: Elton John, Billy Joel, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, and Poison. Bon Jovi absolutely blew me away. Jon Bon Jovi is far and away the most energetic, upbeat performer I've ever seen. He barely stopped moving the entire show. Even when he was standing at the microphone, he was tapping his heels, clapping, or doing jazz hands. Jon's enthusiasm is contagious. The majority of the audience remained standing through the concert, dancing and shouting out the lyrics. More than once, Jon either stopped singing entirely to conduct the audience or yelled, "Help me out now!" so we would sing louder.

On a side note, few men Jon's age could (or should) attempt to wear black leather pants, but he manages to pull off the look. Women in the audience (myself included) went wild every time he started shaking his leather-clad behind.

Jon has quite the sense of humor and played around with the crowd. The band appeared on last night's American Idol, which Jon referenced by saying, "The real me is right here in Louisville. Stunt Me is in Los Angeles with all the crazy people." When Jon started to play the opening chords of "Wanted Dead Or Alive," the audience went wild, their hit having been given a new life thanks to the movie Rock of Ages. He grinned roguishly and asked, "You guys know this one, right?"

One of the reasons I've always been such a big Bon Jovi fan is because a lot of their songs have deep meanings. This becomes even more clear once you see them performed live. Jon sings every note from the heart, which caused me to tear up during "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" and "Blood On Blood." He also makes the upbeat songs even more fun than they already are.

I left the arena with ringing ears, a sore throat, and a huge smile on my face. Bon Jovi is definitely giving their audience their money's worth. If there is any way it is humanly possible for you to catch this tour, I highly recommend you do it. You won't regret it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SHOWTIME!!!: "Let It Rock"

Could I have found a more appropriate song for tonight? Stay tuned for a concert review. (rock hands)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2 Days 'Til Showtime: "Blood On Blood"

I don't have any biological siblings. But throughout my high school and college careers, I've been lucky enough to meet people who've turned into an assortment of "adopted" brothers and sisters. Mostly brothers, although that's changed a bit since joining my sorority. Some people I know would swear we actually are related.

I see a lot of my "brothers" and "sisters" all the time; some of us have drifted apart for one reason or another. I'm graduating this May and it's gonna hurt leaving them behind. The following lyric speaks volumes about the bond that I have with my "adopted siblings":

"Through the years and miles between us
It's been a long and lonely ride
But if I got a call in the dead of the night
I'd be right by your side"

3 Days 'Til Showtime: "Wanted Dead Or Alive"

When I saw the movie version of Rock of Ages last summer, I knew this song was in it. I was very worried that Tom Cruise would butcher one of my favorite songs of all time. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. He didn't just do justice to the original, he rocked it! Judge for yourself; both versions are below.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

4 Days 'Til Showtime: "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night"

Whenever life gets rough, I put this song on, cry out my feelings, and remind myself that I'm just experiencing a temporary setback. It's gotten me through so much: my grandmother's death, losing pets, struggling to find a job, and times when I've just felt utterly alone. The chorus in particular is what really speaks to me: 

"Tuesday just might go my way
Can't get worse than yesterday
Thursdays, Fridays ain't been kind
But somehow I survive

Hey, man, I'm alive
I'm takin' each day and night at a time
Yeah, I'm down but I know I'll get by
Hey, hey, hey, hey, man, I'm gonna live my life
I ain't got nothing but this roll of the dice
I'm feelin' like a Monday
But someday I'll be Saturday night"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

5 Days 'Til Showtime: "Runaway"

For Christmas, my dad got me tickets to Bon Jovi's upcoming concert in my home state. I've been waiting at least 5 years for one of their concerts to come anywhere close to me, so you can imagine my excitement. I'm gonna be counting down 'til Thursday by posting my favorite songs.

First up is this song from 1983. It was the band's first hit single and won a radio contest for best song by an unsigned band. When most people think of Bon Jovi, they think "Wanted Dead or Alive", "Livin' On a Prayer," or "You Give Love a Bad Name," all absolute classics. But without "Runaway," those songs most likely wouldn't exist.