Thursday, August 30, 2007


T-Pain feat. Akon, "Bartender"

First, he was in love with a stripper, then he was buying you a drank, and now he likes the bartender. On the bright side, this means that T-Panda is realizing he wants a sympathetic ear more than intense fucking. It also means that he's probably a lonely alcoholic looking for an excuse to stay til last call. Akon's verse underlines this by announcing his sobriety before asking T-Pain for the car keys so he can leave the club and bang someone. T-Panda can describe the car Akon's leaving lovestains in and say "T-Pain + 3" all he wants (like Akon and his wives aren't already on the list), but the pathetic subtext helps makes this his cutest auto-tune yet.

Oooo she made us drinks, to drink
We drunk 'em, Got drunk
And now I know she thinks I'm cool

Movies I watched last week, from favorite to least.

I don't normally put movies I've rented before on this list, but I'll make an exception here, as I COMPLETELY FORGOT that I already had (a first). I was inspired to rent it last week after seeing the wtf artwork, and was smacked by intense deja vu from the PRE-credit opening song (you heard me) on. Stacy Keach plays an intense, slow-speaking therapist in a castle-turned-military-insane-asylum who's crazier than the character actors shrieking gibberish around him. The movie's fucked up enough without trying to remember where and when you saw it before and how the hell you ever forgot.

I get that Will Ferrell doesn't want to do that cross-eyed insanity in every movie, but did he have to go without it here? Still, his less inspired performances are more enjoyable than Jon Heder at his best. The mood is pro forma compared to Talladega Nights, and Jenna Fischer is wasted as saintly proof of Heder's heterosexuality. Only Will Arnett's murderous skate chase of Ferrell across ice and off truly scores, but it'd be hard to make comedians on ice unfunny.

I assumed that the plot - folks trapped in the Alaskan wilderness - would keep John Sayles from indulging in his usual didacticism, but somehow the guy fit a movie's worth of preaching and politics in the first third. Was it really necessary for a laid-off cannery worker to take it out on two lesbians in order to get a laid-off pulp mill worker haunted by the past out on a boat? But if you want a movie where David Strathairn is the lead, this is the shit you have to put up with.

First sequence features David Caruso and Helen Hunt. Second features Caruso, Nicolas Cage and Michael Rappaport. Cage later lifts Hope Davis for 40 reps. Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames and the bartender who said "our man in Amsterdam!" all have smaller, notably less juicy roles than they did in Pulp Fiction, which came out the year before. Perhaps in response to Cage and Caruso's refusal to keep kosher, director Barbet Schroeder seems determined to stay as calm as possible.

Stars none of the actors that made Malibu's Most Wanted enjoyable.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Come on, comics aren't just for kids! It's a viable artistic medium! I'll let you borrow my copy of Watchmen! Just try it!"

If the first season of Heroes accomplishes only one thing, it's that it gives folks who never bothered reading about superheroes the chance to experience the kind of grand dizziness you get from a great comic book story arc without ever wondering what inspired that guy to put his underwear on over his tights. It lifts its mix of earthly emotion and surreal imagery from Joss Whedon and the better Marvel films, but unlike on Buffy, all the padding and one-off stories clearly connect to the season-long narrative. Watching it all over a day and a half was not unlike burning through a classic compendium - a bombastic cliffhanger hitting you every twenty-plus pages - except you couldn't take it into the bathroom with you.

I'm a sucker for "real people discovering great power comes with great responsibility" jazz and Heroes plays it out on such an epic scale (without any costumes!) that, despite some pat TV dramatics (and the rather trashy choice in guest stars - Malcolm McDowell? Eric Roberts??), the show feels like an unprecedented success. There are a lot of traps future seasons could fall into: stock adventures, contradictory details burdening the core mystery and requiring inscrutable exposition, increasingly uninteresting new characters, basically all the shit that happened to X-Files. Thankfully, the first season has enough closure that, if necessary, it could be appreciated on its own.

There may be other examples I'm unaware of, but the decision to have subtitles not only appear at the bottom of the screen but also beside or above the speaker was truly inspired. It allows for more striking compositions, hinting at comic book art without using actual word balloons, which would have been a painful contrivance (Ang Lee didn't even try that one in The Hulk). While it's not really an option for films where the language spoken is the language of the country that made it, American films incorporating foreign language sequences would be wise to rip this off.

P.S. the show is scored by Wendy And Lisa! More shows need to provide me with that kind of heartwarming opening credit.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I came across this godawful video on MTV2 this morning, and couldn't figure out why the hell it was getting played. Mediocre post-Coldplay is one thing, but twats leading mediocre post-Coldplay acts don't usually look like the dude from Stereo MCs or Justin Timberlake trying out for the Scissor Sisters. Why would they foist this assmunch on us when he's not a snap assmunch or an emo assmunch or any other currently fashionable form of assmunch? I assumed they were named Young Modern Station, the only words present in the clip, but I guess that's where they're performing (the album is also named Young Modern, it seems). When the closing credits came, the REAL identity of this band was a total shock. Can you guess who it is? Here are some clues.

1. They've been around for over a decade.
2. They've always sucked.
3. They were really young when they started sucking.
4. If you've read anything about them over the last seven years, you've heard that they're ambitious and always evolving.
5. They've been consistently popular in the country that wrought them.

Figured out who it is? Doubleclick the youtube to find out! Take your shoes off beforehand, lest your socks get blown right through them!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DVDs I watched last week, from favorite to least.

This minor film about a convict who discovers a passion for gardening is so whimsical and formulaic (at least two musical montages) that it would float off the screen if it wasn't anchored by Clive Owen, who's so hot right now. So hot.

Tony Jaa doesn't show much in the way of charisma (his character is a pouty, clueless innocent), so I assume his distinguishing characteristic in martial arts films is either that he's the only Thai one around or that he lands most of his blows to the head, which really seems like more work for his opponents than him. But at one point he kicks someone in the face with flaming feet, so fuck it.

All the shots come from the POV of troubled Colin Hanks' many spy cameras, as he stalks Ana Claudia Talancon, who doesn't seem unworthy of his obsession. It inherently lacks dimension, but its so monomaniacal a formal exercise that it's bound to gain a cult.

"One of the most satisfying Berry films ever made!" - San Francisco Chronicle. "Bruce Willis' most entertaining sex thriller since Color Of Night!" - Anthony Is Right.

A ridiculous Irish mob melodrama (the bloody climax is intercut with a Paddy's day parade) that benefits from the presence of Gary Oldman, Ed Harris and John C. Reilly, each exuding a different kind of magnetism. Sean Penn must have brought Reilly with him from Casualties Of War, which shows an intelligence not evident in his seeming on-screen belief that this is his On The Waterfront. He and future wife Robin Wright also fail to make this their Cleopatra.

Eternal Sunshine has more engaging performances, The Work Of Director Michel Gondry has more fascinating visuals. Which isn't to say this is without engaging performances or fascinating visuals.

There's enough jokes for at least two ten minute episodes here, most of them showing up in the first twenty minutes. And had I been laughing, I probably wouldn't have found the rest of the film's sexual politics so embarassing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I am so not linking to the stream.

What started as a fascinating, ambitious extension of R. Kelly's vocal inspiration, crackpot wit and gift for narrative is now sluggish shuck'n'jive introduced by an IFC nebbish who seems utterly charmed to be sitting next to a real live crazy black person. All energy is lost over three chapters of nonmusical prattle in a diner (with only a shot of a helicopter and one of the narrator enjoying a meal to pass for inspired entertainment), but its the argument between a cartoon pimp and a cartoon priest (both played by Kelly) in Chapter 19 that truly signifies Trapped's jumping the shark. Remember, "jumping the shark" isn't when a show is no longer of high quality, or when an artist becomes a parody of themselves. "Jumping the shark," if it's to mean anything, is a term that should be saved for when the audience is presented with something that has absolutely nothing to do with what originally had us paying attention. I'm sure there was plenty of mediocrity on Happy Days before this legendary moment, but I assume it still involved nostalgiac humor about '50s small town teenage life. This doesn't:

So that it doesn't get confused with worthwhile evolution (like, I dunno, Revolver), it's also key that a "shark jump" moment sucks. Hard. I'd be disappointed if anyone said the new Trapped chapters didn't qualify.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Four songs from I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master, Electric Six's upcoming fourth album, are up on their Myspace page. I'm already a fan of "Randy's Hot Tonight," and I'll have a better grasp on the other tracks once I parse all the falsetto.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

None of the sexy adventures in the sexy video for Maroon 5's "Wake Up Call" match the sexiness of sexy Adam Levine getting a sexy patdown from sexy security guards in a sexy airport (while his sexy shoes go through the sexy metal detector!), but the presence of sexy Jeremy Sisto as The Other Man in sexy Adam Levine's sexy sex life is pretty sexy and Adam's shattering of a sexy mirror with a sexy bat while shirtless (so sexy!) is very sexy. The words "Maroon 5" flying towards the screen as a car explodes is more hot than sexy, and the attempt to include the other Marooned 4 is too little sexy too late, but Adam's sexy interrogation by the sexy cops is more than sexy enough to compensate. I don't like the electrocution, though. The idea of all that sexy coming to an unsexy end is heartbreaking. Adam Levine should be hung.

Monday, August 13, 2007

DVDs I watched last week, from favorite to least.

Until the final reel's slo-mo violence, Robert Altman and his cast create a mood so conversational and unhurried that you don't even think about how much Bonnie & Clyde must have had to do with it getting made. It's sad that a film's worst ten minutes tend to be its last, as it can overshadow the first hour and a half.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels are so effective at detailing the lives of two disabled individuals at different levels of acceptance that it's a disappointment when the plot begins to incorporate generic heist and double-crossing motifs, even if they're done with more nuance than usual.

It's possible that I wouldn't have been bothered that this film didn't subvert its "enigmatic serial killer" plot elements if I hadn't already seen The Host, in which the same director and lead actor reach higher with even more hackneyed material, and Zodiac, which had "true crime" status to keep the details from feeling contrived. Host fans who want to see more of Bong Joon-Ho's work will find it rewarding anyway.

Rather than try to make your "love interest realizes hero is too busy trying to save the world to be a good partner" subplot as subtle as possible and hide your cinematic tragedy cliches behind docu-style shakey-cam, it might be a better idea to just not include them. They aren't what gives the horrific climax so much power.

A cavalcade of horny '60s celebrities put on funny outfits and try to fuck a Swedish model posing as the All-American girl. One of those desperate attempts at hip that are infinitely more fucked up than any actual counter-cultural effort.

Had I known the the extra half-hour on the director's cut was 100% pedo fantasy, I would have stuck with the Hollywood cut for Frenchified gunplay and batty Gary Oldman. Or maybe I would have rewatched The Fifth Element.

A two-hour concept video for a 30 Seconds To Mars cover of Skid Row's "Wasted Time," featuring Marlon Wayans' finest dramatic turn. Ellen Burstyn really doesn't need your help to chew the scenery, Darren.

Anthony Hopkins once again uses his murderous brain and awkward accents to harass a southern orphan working for the public good. The deleted scene featuring doggy-style set to opera is reminiscent of Ridley Scott's hilarious Hannibal but the incessant luridness is usually more Adrian Lyne. Ryan Gosling entertains himself by trying to pass for a southern orphan.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Here's where I admit that I didn't recognize that the riff on Timbaland and the Hives' "Throw It On Me," one of my favorite singles this year, is the same one from the Elastik Band's "Spazz," one of my favorite songs from the Nuggets box. According to allmusic and wikipedia, the song is credited solely to Timbaland, Randy Fitzsimmons (the Hives' songwriting alias) and Timothy Clayton a.k.a. rapper Attitude. Has anyone seen the liners for Shock Value? Is it credited? Despite this lift, it's probably my favorite rap-rock collabo track since Mike Shinoda and the X-ecutioners "brought the seperation of styles to a stop" with "It's Goin' Down" back in '02.

Hell YEAH, Mike! Putting rap and rock together was a "logical progression on the time line" 1985! And yet I'm forever grateful for his enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

From Glen Boyd's review of Marooned*:
"As is, many of the choices here are, at least on the surface, somewhat curious ones. This is a book where both Dionne Warwick and Ronnie James Dio are warranted the critical consideration of John Darnielle and Anthony Miccio respectively. Manassas, the long since forgotten band fronted at one time by Stephen Stills is the unlikely recipient of critical props here by Kandia Crazy Horse, the editor of Charlotte's Creative Loafing."

I doubt this was intended, but it reads as if one should not only already know who I am, but be surprised by the fact that Dio warrants MY critical consideration. I've decided to find this flattering. If you buy a copy and send it to me, I promise to sign it, sprinkle sparkle dust all over it, and send it back to you free of charge.

*You already know this if you've been watching E! lately, but Marooned is a collection of desert island disc essays, including one written by yours truly. It's currently at #7 on Amazon's Discographies & Buyer Guides chart, behind The Billy Joel Keyboard Book.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Movies watched last week, from favorite to least.

Yeah, it's hammy and the supporting cast is cliche, but where recent films about addicts use camera effects to suggest the sensual experience of their drug of choice, Billy Wilder focuses solely on the vicious circle, with Ray Milland's desperate and equally vicious drunk almost always on screen. If Milland wasn't so acidic, it's doubtful Wilder would have any sympathy for him.

Man, even if I hadn't read Michael Moriarty's wikipedia page, his performance would be proof enough that D.A. Ben Stone is long gone. But if there's a reason Fairuza Balk hasn't gotten more work, it's not evident here.

Chris Rock has joked that when he and Spike Lee are at the same restaurant, attractive black women stop by Spike's table and white families stop by his. The ambitiousness (Steve Buscemi as the best friend rather than Jay Mohr) and acknowledgement of marital life here is a healthy reaction to that experience, but when Charles Stone III, director of the underrated Mr. 3000, dropped out, Rock should have thought about letting Spike run the camera.

It's depressing to watch old punks indulge in the same self-satisfied nostalgia they hated hippies for, especially when David Crosby at least knows that sex is preferable to violence.

The Devil And Daniel Johnston remains the only indie-rock doc I've seen that doesn't require the viewer to already know why they should give a shit, let alone enjoy listening to the oddballs in question.

Has some observations about the difference between Christians and Christianity, but the pace is too flaccid for it to become memorable observational humor, let alone the kind of slapstick Peter Sellers thrived in.

Pauline Kael called this "one of the most sheerly pleasurable physical comedies ever made," and, rollycoaster sequences aside, I have to assume that she's such a Gunga Din fan that she didn't mind what a ham-fisted rehash this was. Recommended to Kate Capshaw fans and people who wish they could say "me so solly!" in public.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Top Ten Of 2007

LCD Soundsystem, Sound Of Silver
Post-techno Eno-rock (including a single one co-worker called "the best Cake song ever"), with James Murphy foregoing music-today gripes to focus on what's really bothering him, mortality.

White Stripes, Icky Thump
It's possible that the Raconteurs helped Jack White get out of himself (as much as I think Brendan Benson is never a good idea, it was probably good to get Jack away from self-conscious minimalism), but I'm guessing it's marriage that's turned him into such a happy ham. It's nice to see an artist I assigned to "some better, some worse" consistency release some serious better.

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
The least pompous practitioners of "The Big Music" ever (I even watched some youtubes of The Dream Academy just to check) and possibly the hookiest full-length in the genre (I promise I'll listen to a Waterboys' LP someday). Perfect for folks who get off on ridiculous rock grandeur despite themselves.

Queens Of The Stone Age, Era Vulgaris
At first I thought the pop-metal songcraft was considerably sloppier than on Lullabies To Paralyze, but it turns out they just hid it under the sickest riffola I've heard in ages. Some Hall & Oates meets White Light/White Heat with BOC offstage saying "DAMN" shit.

Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Credit the seafaring theme or the presence of a Smith, but this is the first Modest Mouse album that maintains its flow throughout, never getting stuck in a lurchy rut for a couple tracks. Samey and sweeter for it.

!!!, Myth Takes
We Will, We Will Remain In Light You!

Marnie Stern, In Advance Of The Broken Arm
More energy than Mary Timony, less oppressive than any XY-chromosomed indie-metal, a hoot if you can get used to chirping over hammer-ons.

Low, Drums And Guns
Refining their melodramatic minimalism as if they knew soundtrack compilers were watching or something. They're getting wryer with time, too, which is impressively healthy for melodramatic minimalists.

R. Kelly, Double Up
A re-hash of TP.3 Reloaded with welcome production assistance on the club tracks. Alone, he focuses on what FourFour calls "metaphor killers," something I am so not sick of.

The Stooges, The Weirdness
How the hell could Half Japanese exist today? Kids now are totally too self-conscious - as soon as they hit Youtube, VH1 is gonna hit them. To make some A+ naive-rock, you'd probably have to be a shameless (you said clueless, I didn't) has-been punk backed by unreformed acid rockers and captured by an engineer who fetishizes "warts and all." If I had a car, I'd roll my windows and blast this. I like to think Lester Bangs would too - it's a "rock'n'roll grandpa" Pepsi ad from hell.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

1. Higher joke-per-minute ratio than Wet Hot American Summer.
2. Equal success rate (around 99%, I reckon).

If I see this in the theaters again, which I'm seriously considering, it will be the first time I've gone to a film twice since Battlefield Earth. I couldn't give it a higher compliment.