Laws Of Attraction

Is Pierce Brosnan resistible to any woman?  Is there anything about him that ever screams "turn-off"?  Everyone’s personal preferences aside, is it at all believable that his physical presence and personality could provoke feelings of anger rather than lust?
 
In Laws Of Attraction, Brosnan plays a TV-friendly divorce lawyer who absolutely flusters colleague Julianne Moore.  Early on in the film, she’s representing the sex-addicted trophy wife of an infomercial tycoon and looks to be on the road to victory.  But Brosnan, a surprise substitute for the tycoon’s previous attorney, despite being asleep in the courtroom the first time they meet, totally deflates her confidence by offering evidence her client neglected to share with her.
 
Furious in her humbled state, the undefeated, junk food binging, Weather Channel addicted, defiantly single Moore is not only determined not to lose the case but to also remain permanently indifferent to her opponent’s charms.  It’s a foolhardy plan of stubborn oneupmanship that leads to one dumb mistake after another. 
 
From the moment they lay eyes on each other, you know how this dreadful romantic comedy will end.  Long before that predictable moment happens, however, Moore has to pretend for an hour that Brosnan is more worthy of being on the receiving end of her childish diatribes and antics than a possible romantic partner.  Her state of denial is so obvious even her hip, many-times-divorced mother (the lovely Frances Farmer) can see what she really feels.
 
Brosnan doesn’t buy her act, either, and goes out of his way time and time again to win her over.  But Moore is so impossible to deal with, always uptight and argumentative, one wonders why he even bothers.  As they find themselves battling it out in case after case, her formulaic stubbornness never fails to be unfunny.
 
Brosnan has a sly, soft-spoken charm about him that makes Moore’s wall of resistance completely preposterous.  He oozes confidence and decency but those qualities only fire up her competitive spirit and her deep insecurities.  Despite a remarkably unsexy and drunken one-night-stand early on, her well of sexuality is always empty. When the movie shifts to the heavenly vistas of Ireland, there’s a nighttime scene where Moore reveals she grew up feeling second best to her mother’s beauty.  It is a brief moment of vulnerability that the character could’ve uttered much sooner.  By this point, we’re so tired of her immaturity (she finished at the top of her Yale law class?) that not too long after it passes, we’re back to wondering why Brosnan is so tolerant of her.
 
Without question, this is Julianne Moore’s worst screen performance but, in truth, the real blame belongs to the film’s writers.  Despite a couple of laughs, the screenplay doesn’t possess the kind of sharp writing that would jolt this cinematic corpse to life.  The jokes they do offer are extremely weak.  It’s hard to imagine that Brosnan, one of the film’s ten executive producers, would not demand better material to work with here.  Furthermore, the lack of onscreen chemistry is so apparent immediately that by the time Moore has her unsurprising change of heart in the film’s third act, it’s sadly anticlimactic.
 
The film’s lameness can’t even be saved by the appearances of Nora Dunn (who plays a tough-talking divorced judge), Michael Sheen (as a dimwitted, uninspired rock star) and Parker Posey (the rock star’s pissed off missus who wants to divorce him).  Everybody deserved better than to be stuck in this forgettable mess.
 
The idea of a woman needing to be drunk in order to enjoy sex with Pierce Brosnan is pretty insulting.  Just ask my mom.  She’ll do him sober in five seconds.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
2:28 a.m.
Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 2:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Resident Evil: Extinction

It begins right where the last one left off.  A naked woman in a running shower awakens in a crouched position to find she is all alone.  And naked.
 
That lovely, naked woman is Milla Jovovich, once again playing Alice, the Tomb Raider wannabe in Resident Evil: Extinction, the third, but sadly, not-quite-last installment in this increasingly needless franchise.  (A fourth one is in the works.)  In the original Resident Evil (based on the video game which has also spawned sequels), a nasty virus is accidentally released in a science lab.  Because this science lab is within the confines of a building owned by The Umbrella Corporation (get it?), the place is locked down and no one can escape.  (What brutes!)  Alice, along with some military types, are assigned the delightful task of finding possible survivors.  All they discover are zombies.
 
In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the threat spreads.  And now, we have Extinction which, you think, based on its title alone, would indicate the final chapter in this unoriginal, unscary saga.  The ending completely takes away your hope.
 
Through the always helpful narration provided by Alice, we learn that the world is now riddled with those pesky, ravenous undead despite the best efforts of The Umbrella Corporation in the second movie to contain them in Raccoon City, the site of the original infection.  There are very few healthy survivors left in the world, supplies are exceedingly limited and it’s only a matter of time before the entire human race is wiped out.  Zombies gotta eat, you know?
 
When we catch up with Alice, she’s in biker chick mode enlightening the audience on how a badass like her carefully navigates the dead zones of America.  When she hears a distress call from an abandoned radio station, however, she walks into a huge trap.  Thankfully, her captors/rapists are incredibly stupid.  Their ultimate plan to have their bloody, skinless dogs finish her off in a room below them while they watch in a large hole from above has failure written all over it.
 
Meanwhile, evil scientist Dr. Issacs (Iain Glen) is under strict orders by an Umbrella bigwig to drop everything in order to quickly find a cure for the virus responsible for all this worldwide carnage.  (A little late for that, isn’t it?)  The best he can do is attempt to "domesticate" a test subject, a zombie plucked from the multitudes pushing against a steel fence that surrounds a shack that has a secret elevator to the company’s underground facility below the desert wastelands of Nevada.  (And no, zombies can’t climb, for some reason.)  After demonstrating his versatility with a cell phone and a camera, the zombie goes apeshit over a children’s toy (don’t they always?) and Dr. Issacs is down a couple more scientists.  Thanks to the blood sample he acquired from the elusive Alice (who he’s desperately trying to relocate via satellite) in Apocalypse, he’s been cloning her sweet ass dozens of times but something always goes wrong.  Hard to top the original, eh?
 
Speaking of Alice, she isn’t the only survivor left in America.  Claire (Ali Larter) leads a group of adults and kids, some of them carryovers from the last movie, through the desert in a small parade of vehicles in search of fuel, food and permanent isolation, all elusive items.  They rest at a seemingly abandoned hotel where L.J. (Mike Epps) gets bitten by a hidden zombie he’s woefully unprepared to fight (he’s rescued by Carlos (Oded Fehr) almost in time) but he neglects to tell his friends, especially his unconvincing love interest, Betty (Ashanti).  Subsisting on canned goods, which they’re running low on, they set up a surveillance perimeter around the area to keep an eye out.  When hundreds of black crowes (no, not the band, unfortunately), infected by the dead zombies they’ve been munching on, swoop down on them one fateful afternoon, a nearby Alice, now reduced to travelling by foot (awfully ridiculous how her bike gets busted), channels her inner Drew Barrymore and restores a temporary peace.
 
In an earlier scene, she discovers a diary directly under a hanged, fly-covered corpse in another abandoned business.  (And you thought our economy was bad.)  It offers the faint hope of safety somewhere in Alaska.
 
Like the Underworld movies, the Resident Evil franchise has stretched a very thin premise (hot action babe and company fighting zombies) to the point of snapping.  Extinction never allows us to know anything interesting about the heroes nor does it welcome any emotional investment.  Late in the film, when one character decides to become a suicide bomber, there are plenty of teary eyeducts amongst the good guys.  I felt nothing.
 
Despite making the most of its beautifully barren locations, the plot is more boring than exhilarating.  The violence is repetitively gruesome and routine, never scary.  (Too many zombies jumping in the frame.  Lazy.)  Honestly, how interesting can it possibly be to observe the neverending cycle of slash, punch, kick, stab and shoot?  For that matter, how interesting can it possibly be to watch one tediously long room sweep after another?
 
The villains aren’t much better.  Iain Glen does what he can with a standard mad scientist role but like all the actors in this mess, he gets swallowed up in a cinematic sea of mediocrity.  We don’t hate him as much as we should.  As for the zombies themselves, beyond the "domestication" scene, they’re up to their usual tricks.  The make-up is fine, especially when we see that emaciated fella on the highway, but when you’ve seen one movie zombie, you’ve seen them all.  (Speaking of skinny zombies, how come they haven’t thought of cannibalism?  It would cut down on starvation time.)
 
Watching charismatic actors like Jovovich and Larter waste their talents in a been there, done that action flick is especially depressing.  They are more than capable of playing smarter characters than this (check out He Got Game and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back for the proof) and both are well suited for the genre.  They can convincingly kick ass without losing an ounce of their femininity.  Hollywood needs to take them more seriously.
 
By the time we reach the comic book third act, the movie and the series have more than worn out their welcome.  Too bad the filmmakers still haven’t gotten the hint.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 27, 2009
2:44 a.m.
Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Coren Dead Wrong About Women In The Military

Should women serve in the military?  Michael Coren doesn’t think so.  The Sun Media columnist made the argument last week in his column about Karine Blais, the second Canadian female soldier to die serving her country in Afghanistan.  (A third, Major Michelle Mendes, was discovered deceased the day before the funeral.)
 
It’s a belief he’s been foolishly espousing in print for years.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times he dusts it off for unwanted public consumption, it remains archaic, unpersuasive, unproven and most importantly, deeply sexist and not just against women, either.
 
Blais was a 21-year-old Trooper who joined the military in 2006 and was only two weeks into her first tour of duty when she was killed by an unexpected roadside bomb while driving on a routine patrolAccording to The Toronto Star, it was her dream to drive big army tanks but ultimately become a mechanic in the civilian world.  (Her godfather told The National Post she only planned on serving one mission there.) 
 
Coren doesn’t understand why this young woman decided to serve.  (“…what on earth was she doing in such a place and in such a job?”)  As The Star reported, it was her desire to do so.  Have you ever had a desire to put your life on the line because of a deep commitment to the military and to your country, Michael?
 
Throughout the misguided piece, he pretends “to articulate the views of the silent majority” (without providing any polling data that backs up his assertion, which explains the silence) and yet, by his own admission in this week’s inevitably whiny follow-up column, reaction to his horribly disrespectful piece was decidedly mixed.  (More on that later.)
 
Despite “mean[ing] no disrespect to Karine Blais or to her family” while also claiming to “grieve for her and them”, he betrays his own words by focusing almost entirely on her size (“[she] probably weighed a little over 100 pounds”) and looks (“Look at the photograph of this beautiful girl. Look at the innocence, the gentleness, the grace.”), but never her contributions to the military.  In fact, very early on, he calls her “a young girl dressed up as a soldier”.  (Yeah, that’s not condescending.)  Incredibly, he later claims, “I mean it as a compliment.”.  Really?  If we were talking about a man here would you refer to him as “a young boy dressed up as a soldier” after he died on the job?  Talk about pissing on one’s grave.
 
Immediately afterwards, he opines, “I’ve known soldiers all of my life and I have an invincible respect for them. I’ve seen their courage, integrity and sheer decency.”   If he really believes that, where’s the respect for the courageous Trooper Blais and all the women who put their lives on the line for Canada?   Or do their sacrifices not count in any meaningful way since Coren clearly considers them the weaker sex?
 
If that weren’t bad enough, Coren offers this simply bizarre section:
 
“Can we really imagine for a moment that if a group of Taliban tribesmen rushed a trench or an encampment this poor young woman could fight them off, could deal with the thrusts of their long knives and heavy clubs? Do we seriously think that the men in the unit would not risk their own lives to protect a pretty young girl who was inevitably being beaten to the ground by salivating killers?
 
The very reason we have various weight categories for all forms of organized fighting is that whatever the training, a pugilist’s weight and muscle bulk give an advantage to the heavier combatant.”
 
Firstly, Canada isn’t boxing The Taliban with their fists like Rocky Balboa.  They are fighting them with tanks, automatic rifles and grenades, which makes his weight argument irrelevant.  Secondly, The Taliban uses “long knives and heavy clubs”?  I thought they used IEDs, mines and automatic weaponry.  And what’s with the damsel-in-distress imagery?  Trooper Blais was a professionally trained volunteer of the Canadian army.  Why would she have been deployed if her superiors didn’t believe she would serve her country with honour?   Besides, she was a tank driver, not some helpless princess forever dependent on big, strong men in her “trench” or “encampment”.
 
But remember, he “mean[s] no disrespect.”
 
As for the very real threat of female soldiers being captured and abused, how come there’s no concern for their male counterparts who face the very same threats?  Furthermore, as one astute reader noted in The Toronto Sun (second letter), “So sending our daughters into war is not appropriate, but sending our sons is? It is not OK to send anyone to war. We are supposed to be a civilized society, we should be using every effort to avoid war.”
 
Thankfully, reaction to this literary garbage has been mostly and reassuringly negative.  A Calgary Sun reader (the first letter) remarked:
 
“I have a feeling that Karine Blais, rest her soul, would be able to knock Michael Coren on his back and have him on the wrong end of a deathly situation very quickly…I find it disrespectful to this fallen soldier to question her ability. She endured the same trials as the men she served with and deserves no less respect.”
 
A male soldier (the fourth letter) noted in his stingingly succinct rebuttal to Coren in The Toronto Sun:
 
“Michael Coren’s piece about Karine Blais is offensive. If Trooper Blais was unable to do her job to the same standard as her male counterparts, she would never, ever have been deployed. The suggestion that few women have the capacity to serve in combat roles is horsefeathers. I’ve met and worked with plenty of female soldiers who have excelled in their job. I have also met plenty of male soldiers who were not half as good. When, exactly, was the last time the Taliban “rushed a trench or an encampment”? And what would she have done? Probably raised her rifle and shot them, because being deployed she would have met the standard of the Canadian Force’s reasonably demanding marksmanship program. Of course the men in her unit would risk their lives to save her. But not because she was a “pretty young girl,” because she was a soldier, and soldiers will risk their lives for their brothers and sisters without hesitation. Gender is irrelevant in that situation. Trooper Blais decided to join the Canadian Forces for any of a number of reasons. She knew the risks and she went anyway. She was no different than any other of our 116 fatalities and to suggest otherwise smears the sacrifice of them all.”
 
Blais’ commander in Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. Jocelyn Paul, told The National Post, “Yes, when we think of Karine she was a woman, but first and above all, she was a member of the troop, no matter what her gender, her origin or what language she spoke…It is obvious that when you lose a soldier everyone is under shock. Some people can make the comment that yes, she was a female. What I would like to say is that the Canadian army has come a long way over the last 15 years. Right now, you can see women serving in every type of environment.
 
These women show a lot of courage. They are here standing shoulder to shoulder with all the men in the battle group. Very often, especially with the younger ones, we don’t make much difference now in terms of sex.”
 
Only the cowardly Michael Coren does.  (For more criticism, click here, here, here, here, here and here.  Type “Michael Coren” “Karine Blais” into Google for more.)
 
That brings us to his follow-up column.  As expected, he considers the reaction to his poorly argued opinion proof of it being “a success”.  (You gotta love how he still considers himself a “journalist”.)  And, as always, those who are critical of him get no respect.  They’re bad spellers, “the vast majority” offer “the usual nonsense” like “‘You’re a dinosaur'” (amusingly, this was also the headline) and “‘I hate you.'”  (As Frank Barone would say, “Suck it up, Nancy.”.)  Most absurdly, he claims, “Most of the critical ones seemed obsessed with the fact that the poor girl indeed should have been able to die. A rather perverse way to support her and her family.”  (Unlike your previous column?)
 
Really?  That’s what people said?  I’m willing to guess they felt her sacrifice shouldn’t have been considered so insignificant by a heartless, immature writer too clueless and classless to understand how paper-thin and utterly sexist his argument against her deployment truly was, but that’s just a guess.  No one wanted this woman or any of our soldiers to die.  (To claim otherwise is evil and dishonest.)  But everybody knows the risks involved and accepts them, no matter how unfair and heartbreaking they are.  Coren should be more of a man and admit this instead of misrepresenting the opinions of his critics who have once again nailed him on his chronic stupidity.
 
The sad thing about all of this is that Coren is absolutely right about one thing.  The ongoing Afghanistan invasion is “pointless”.  However, where was his opposition to this needless colonial war eight years ago?  Hell, where was he five years ago?  The only Sun columnist to be consistently right on this matter is the incomparable Eric Margolis who condemned Bush’s bellicosity from 2001 onward.  And that goes for Iraq in 2002 and 2003, as well.  Coren claims he was against invading Iraq but he once wrote a column comparing the situation to the American Civil War and he hasn’t come close to writing the amount of words decrying the outrage like Margolis has done this decade.  Coren now opposes bombing Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities although he once argued vehemently the other way.  When the latter opinion was roundly criticized, he whined in the former and claimed with a straight face that he changed his mind despite their criticism. 
 
Right.  And my name’s Clay Aiken.
 
At any rate, for Coren to continually react defensively whenever he’s called out on his routine bullshit by saying that his critics offer “insults” rather than “cogent arguments”, well, boo hoo, little girl.  When you demean Trooper Blais’ sacrifice in not one but two columns (he called her “intensely inexperienced” in the most recent one), don’t expect people to be respectful and polite when you inflame their passions for our military.  You’re no better than Greg Gutfeld, the unfunny douchebag from Fox News’ Red Eye, who went so far as to bash the entire Canadian military.  Neither of you dicktrees have any respect, any class, any talent, any brains, any heart, any wit and any business working for the media.  The sooner you quit, the better.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 25, 2009
8:41 p.m.
Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm  Comments (1)  

The Toronto Sun’s Pitch For Reader Input

“We’re listening”, it says in bold white lettering.  Then, directly underneath that welcoming phrase, in a smaller font:  “Join our Your News Views online advisory committee today!”
 
Two years ago, on a tip from a fellow blogger, this website wrote about The Star Advisers.  TorStar, the parent company of The Toronto Star, put the word out both online and in print that they were looking for reader input in order to better improve their business.  Nothing wrong with that.  But as I concluded at the time, “TorStar doesn’t need to pay a company to survey readers who sign up for their advisory groups.  They’re unnecessary since those same readers already offer their opinions freely through phone calls, emails, letters and faxes.  When the people speak, shouldn’t newspapers listen?”
 
Now it’s The Toronto Sun’s turn.  If you go to their official website, you’ll sometimes see a banner ad right beside the tabloid’s logo urging readers to join something called Your News Views.  (Other times, a square version appears to the left of the Top 10 stories near the middle of the screen.)  Hoping to “strengthen the connection to our readers and community”, clicking the ad takes you here where you’re urged to sign up, “participate in interactive online surveys and give us your opinion on Content, Writers, Paper Design, Advertising, Satisfaction and many other issues that are important to you.”
 
The lure of a whopping $250 prize (one of ten available to win through ten random draws) is supposed to seal the deal.  (The contest ends on June 30, according to the rules.)  Clicking another link near the bottom of the page takes you to your first survey.  Right in the bottom right hand corner is a familiar name:  VisionCritical.  Yep, the same company that TorStar pays to organize its Star Advisers committee is now running The Toronto Sun’s Your News Views.  How wonderful.
 
As this website noted in 2007, VisionCritical “is associated with organizations like The National Retail Federation and The American Marketing Association”, non-journalistic entities.  It’s all about increasing the bottom line, not improving the quality of a newspaper.
 
The very idea of this coming from a still profitable company that has nonetheless been continually rocked by layoffs, perk removals, increased workloads for fewer employees and reduced credibility is extremely laughable.  All one has to do is read through numerous entries on The Toronto Sun Family Blog to immerse oneself in all the gory details.  There are a lot of angry Sun workers continually longing for the days when the late, lamented Doug Creighton ran things.  The fact that so many of them refuse to attach their names to their bitter comments and emails to the site is very troubling.  The fear of unwanted dismissal remains very high.  It’s quite understandable considering the overall state of North American media and the global economy today but it’s still disappointing.  Aren’t journalists supposed to be the bravest people on the planet willing to place themselves in great danger for the sake of an important story?  Is Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Peladeau really as scary as guerilla groups in war zones?  Do his employees fear his wrath more than death in combat?
 
Since December 2006, this website has pointed out repeatedly the problems with The Toronto Sun.  (Check out the Sun Media/Sun TV section for those past pieces.)  Discarding respected columnists without explanation, continuing to publish long discredited neoconservative bullshit in the opinion section, dropping the complimentary TV Times pullout from the Sunday Sun for readers outside the GTA, refusing to routinely and promptly correct all significant errors when pointed out by readers, and producing thinner editions that cost more to read are just a handful of complaints I’ve had over the years.  If it weren’t for Jim Slotek and Eric Margolis, I’d abandon their website altogether.  (I’ve long given up on reading the print version.)  There have even been times where I don’t peruse torontosun.com at all.  What’s the point when people like my friend Bill Brioux can be read elsewhere?  The whole thing is just plain sad.
 
But sadder still is how The Sun, and The Star, too, throw their money away for these pointless focus groups when all that’s wrong with their newspapers is staring them straight in the face.  The people who take the time to write a letter to the editor, leave a voicemail, send a fax or an email are the ones whose input should be most desired.  Unfortunately, judging from what I’ve seen, it rarely is anymore.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 11, 2009
5:04 p.m.
Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Metallica’s Death Magnetic

Dark imagery.  Snarling vocals.  Jackhammer guitar riffs.  Pounding drumlines.
 
All these expected ingredients for a Metallica studio album remain intact on Death Magnetic, their ninth such release.  The foursome blaze through ten entertaining songs in just under 75 minutes, continuing a near 20-year tradition (established with 1991’s Metallica) of pushing the time constraints of a single compact disc (at least 70 minutes) to its absolute limit.  Curiously, it doesn’t feel overstuffed or stretched out despite the fact that the shortest song clocks in at 5 minutes.  Like The Ramones at their finest, Metallica never allows you a chance to even consider being bored.  These epic, frequently frenetic anthems repeatedly hold your attention.
 
Singer/lyricist James Hetfield’s recovery from alcoholism, as documented in the revealing 2004 documentary, Some Kind Of Monster (worth checking out on DVD, if you haven’t seen it), appears to have inspired a good deal of the words to these songs.  In the opener, That Was Just Your Life, with a rapid-fire growl he sings, "Like a siren in my head that always threatens to repeat/Like a blind man that is strapped into the speeding driver’s seat/Like a face that learns to speak when all it knew was how to bite/Like a misery that keeps me focused though I’ve gone astray/Like an endless nightmare that I must awaken from each day".  In the second verse, he specifies the endless pain he felt from his addiction:  "Like a wound that keeps on bleeding to remind me not to think/Like a raging river drowning when I only need a drink/Like a poison that I swallow but I want the world to die/Like a prison that I didn’t know I was in". 
 
A very personal song loaded with vulnerability and wisdom (it sounds like a warning to fellow addicts about the fatal consequences of staying the course of their disease, something Hetfield thankfully avoided), and it’s not the only one on this very fine album.
 
Cyanide, which begins the second set of tracks, continues the theme of unbearable pain exacerbated by seemingly unbreakable patterns of self-destruction and negative thought patterns.  In this one, death is a welcome visitor:  "Suicide/I’ve already died/You’re just the funeral I’ve been waiting for/Cyanide/Living dead inside/Break this empty shell forever more" goes the chorus.  The End Of The Line, which follows That Was Just Your Life, notes the simple, insatiable nature of addiction ("Need…More and More") and delves deeper into the feelings and self-perception of a full-blown addict who happens to be famous ("Tainted misery", "Chemical affinity", "Catatonic overload", "Snuff reality", "Incinerate celebrity", "Karma amputee").  In The Unforgiven III (its chorus sounding a bit too much like the verse music for Stone Temple Pilots’ Creep, which I didn’t mind), Hetfield alternates the perspective of his narrative from third person to first as he goes from fearing his feelings to mourning lost relationships ("They’ve all gone away") to posing pointed, unanswered questions to himself regarding his inability to find closure for his mistakes ("…how can I blame you, when it’s me I can’t forgive?").  Dr. Drew Pinsky’s patients on Celebrity Rehab will find much of this lyrical terrain uncomfortably and emotionally accurate if they have the courage to dive in.  (If they haven’t already heard this record, that is.)  It can only help them further cope with their illnesses.  It appears to have helped Hetfield immensely.
 
Despite the presence of mortality all through the album, Death Magnetic also offers moments of hope and determination through the eyes of indomitable spirits.  The Day That Never Comes, the moving first single and first Top 40 hit for the band in over a decade, tells a sad story of the emotional fallout from a son being routinely abused by his father.  As the situation refuses to improve, conveyed nicely in the chorus, the son’s anger ("God I’ll make them pay") gives way to quick, mature refusal ("Take it back one day", "I’ll splatter colour on this gray").  By the end, he vows to free himself from his domestic "prison" and "suffer this no longer".  "The son will shine/This, I swear", Hetfield bellows before the band bulldoze their way through the last three minutes of the song in a gripping instrumental finale.
 
The second single, Broken, Beat & Scarred, with simple, powerful lyrics, epitomizes the proud stubbornness of the downtrodden ("Show your scars").  Making full, effective use of a repeated cliche ("What don’t kill ya make ya more strong"), it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if military personnel play it to boost morale before going into battle.  It has an infectious never-give-up quality about it.
 
Also terrific is All Nightmare Long, yet another song warning others of the dangerous fruitlessness of hiding through addiction.  (I can easily imagine Hetfield singing "Luck…runs…out" with a devilish grin on his face.)  In this case, the metaphor of the crazed murderer ("Hunt you down without mercy/Hunt you down all nightmare long") reflects the unstoppable cravings of the tormented addict.  The Judas Kiss, which sounds, lyrically, like a metal sequel of sorts to Sympathy For The Devil ("Followed you from dawn of time/Whispered thoughts into your mind/Watched your towers hit the ground/Lured your children never found/Helped their kings abuse their crown"), is one big, depraved temptation to give in to all of one’s bad habits.  ("Bow down/Surrender unto me/Submit infectiously/Sanctify your demons/Into abyss")  The message is clear:  you can recover from addiction and live a normal life but the urges and irrational thoughts never leave you.  Chilling.
 
The album ends with a near 10-minute instrumental (Suicide & Redemption) and a final fit of intensity (My Apocalypse).  The former is one of the only times, albeit briefly, you can clearly hear how solid a bassist Robert Trujillo is.  Because of how ridiculously loud the album sounds throughout, most of his contributions are sadly buried in the mix.  Here’s hoping on the next album that he not only gets a solo showcase, like the late Cliff Burton received on a couple of the band’s 80s LPs, but also a louder presence overall.  That said, Suicide & Redemption is a nice reprieve from the heavy lyrical themes of mortality (title aside), although it falls far short of the standard set by the inspired S&M version of The Call Of Ktulu.  My Apocalypse is a punky throwback to the band’s early sound when Hetfield wasn’t interested in being sensitive and drummer Lars Ulrich preferred to hammer his drum kit into submission.  It’s a strong finish to a strong album.
 
At this point, Metallica really have nothing left to achieve (except maybe a number one hit).  They’ve moved tens of millions of albums internationally, they’ve won Grammys, they’re Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers, they’re a fantastic live act, they’ve accumulated a ton of radio and video hits, and they were right about Napster.  But this is still a hungry band and a fearless one, too.  Opening a song like The Unforgiven III with a repeated piano line and a soft orchestral arrangement instead of a bludgeoning guitar lick is clearly not a typical metal intro.  Offering remarkably vulnerable lyrics beneath a blistering sheen of distortion on a number of tracks is not an easy, creative decision, either.  It is, however, to be commended.  This is a foursome unafraid to walk through the tunnels of despair, horror and unspeakable pain in order to reach the lightness of hope and the freedom of reconciliation on the other side.
 
Its overloud mastering aside, Death Magnetic is one of Metallica’s best albums.  This 2008 release is highly recommended.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 3, 2009
10:23 p.m.
Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment