Monday, July 28, 2008

My only complaint is that, judging from every photo I've seen, Aileen Wuornos did have eyebrows. I'm pretty sure Charlize Theron would have been convincing as a psychotic, traumatized street hooker in love without this extra bit of uglification.

The Misfits
Marilyn Monroe moves to the desert and fries the brains of three alcoholic cowboys (Eli Wallach is the criminally underpromoted third), forcing them to acknowledge their nihilistic lifestyle if they have any hopes of getting her in bed. I can't imagine any other actress making this work.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
Lunatics piss off The Man by driving fast! The Man is played by Vic Morrow.

Vanishing Point
An existentialist pisses off The Man by driving fast! The Man lacks physical embodiment.

Step Up 2 The Streets
Any dance movie that avoids either lifeless wide-shots or rhythmless hyper-editing gets points from me, however mindnumbing the plot.

The Good Girl
Not sure whether to blame the star or the script, but if there's an inner logic (or an intentional absence) to how this married thirtysomething cashier deals with getting knocked up by her mentally unstable teenage lover, I missed it. Good performances from the cast members who've made good movies since.

The Sweet Hereafter
The only Atom Egoyan film I've seen aside from Felicia's Journey. While Egoyan certainly doesn't do wrong by the subject and location, I'm pretty sure The Death Of Children and The Great White North would be plenty effective without his artful pauses, blaring flutes and recitations from The Pied Piper.

The first two thirds do well enough by 2001 and Solaris that it's laughable when third fails at Alien and Jason X.

Home Of The Brave
A modern day The Best Years Of Our Lives, directed by septuagenarian Irwin Winkler like some Lifetime Original Movie. Chad Michael Murray seems more comfortable in this context than Samuel L. Jackson, who really needs a better script (this one's crafted by Harvey Weinstein's assistant on Shakespeare In Love), and 50 Cent, who really needs to never make another movie. Jessica Biel might be too gifted for this shit, or merely too hot.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My pitch for the next Batman movie: Batman runs into a female cat burglar with a vicious sense of humor, who mocks his choice of wardrobe with her "Catwoman" outfit and calls him out on the corny, put-on rasp he's been pushing on those who cross his costumed path (Commissioner Gordon, when asked, tells the hero he was afraid to bring it up). Upon discovering that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person during a snoop through Morgan Freeman's office, Catwoman decides to fuck with him "in real life" as socialite Selena Kyle. Kyle has no desire to exploit her knowledge for personal gain (she's got money and knows how to get more), she's just amused by this rich, agile stud that's obviously got issues if he's leading a double life and both personas are an act.

With Catwoman/Kyle making him more than a little insecure (while some cartoonish nutball, like the Mad Hatter or somebody, provides the necessary explosions), Batman finally stops talking like Cookie Monster and admits to himself that Wayne is the costume and that, deep down, he's the goddamn Batman, promptly kicking everybody's ass.

The details are open to negotiation, but what's key is presenting the caped crusader's vocal constipation, which pulled me out of The Dark Knight's rush in a way no plothole or clumsy attempt at profundity could, as the character's Bad Idea Jeans instead of Bale's.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And hold onto your words, 'cause talk is cheap. And remember me tonight when you're asleep.

Songs new to last week's Billboard Top 50 singles chart, and the top debut.

#47 (from #62): Secondhand Serenade, "Fall For You"
Emosogynist whiner aims for adult contemporary, or as Allmusic's Stewart Mason put it, "much like Five for Fighting or Dashboard Confessional both musically and in theory." The single was originally released over six months ago (I recall catching its mix of lingerie and faux-hawked douche between episodes of Degrassi on The N quite a while back), but none of the usual sources are crowing about whatever cross-promotion helped finally push it into the Top 50. Yet.

#72 (debut): Toby Keith, "She Never Cried In Front Of Me"
As his wife re-marries, Toby Keith complains that he had no idea that she was unhappy living with him. Seriously, why didn't she ever cry or something? What is he, a fucking mind reader? Thanks for nothing, lady. Toby would have been a great husband if you'd just, like, cried and yelled or bonked him on the head or something. But no, according to him, you just kinda wandered off while he wasn't looking. I guess.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I normally love infomercials where some has-been teams up with a TV Guide Network reject to interview Time-Life Box Set fans and Remember When. Glen Campbell's Classic Country and Mark McGrath's Buzz Box are personal favorites. I somehow missed this one while it was on TV, and Christ, does it break my heart. Peter Fonda was in three hit movies in 2007! Does he owe money or something? After Ulee's Gold and The Limey, he's earned Ghost Rider and Wild Hogs. But this? Was this necessary?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

B & D, Kix and Dunn. Honky tonk heaven, double shotgun.

Songs new to last week's Billboard Top 50 singles chart.

#38 (debut): DJ Khaled Featuring Akon, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Lil' Boosie, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood & Plies, "Out Here Grindin'"
From wikipedia: This song originally featured Lil Wayne in place of Young Jeezy. The version with Young Jeezy in place of Lil Wayne will be the official single version. Plies' verse has been moved to Lil Wayne's part. The version with Jeezy's verse was recently released on Jeezy's mixtape "The Prime Minister". The reason for Lil Wayne's verse being removed is allegedly because of him not being able to attend the music video shoot, however, Plies did not attend the shoot either, yet his verse was maintained. I swear to God, this is more interesting than the track.

#41 (from #53): Blake Shelton, "Home"
The arrangement is more easy listening (forget adult contemporary) than conscionable, but his voice is warm and convincing enough that I'm very tempted to check out more of his stuff, especially since he willingly named an album Pure BS.

#45 (from #53): Alan Jackson, "Good Time"
Wow, Alan is country's Ice-T and its Soulja Boy! Shouldn't a dance number that pushes past five minutes swing just a little?

#46 (from #55): Taylor Swift, "Should've Said No"
Second single in a row telling off a loser soon-to-be ex, with "Picture To Burn" more fun and this more affecting than anything delivered by former standoff queen Avril Lavigne. Josh Clover's pious clucking over ill-informed critics praising Miranda Lambert (ignoring the presumably informed critics that put her at the top of country mag polls) kept me from having much interest in his blonde of choice (the hardcore shitkicker/author of Madonna anno domini voiced a fear of clueless country dilettantes trying to play catch-up), but I'm glad she's kept crossing over long enough for me to catch wind. Maybe I'll like Lambert even more!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Oscar
Buy a novel about a pimp-turned-actor who will stop at nothing to get an Oscar (imagine Get Shorty as a cautionary epic). Pay Harlan Ellison to adapt, adding money lines like "Will you stop beating on my ears! I've had it up to here with all this bring-down!" Cast dramatic legends like Jill St. John, Tony Bennett and Milton Berle. Sprinkle heavily with cameos. Overbake. Serve.

Club Dread
A relaxed horror spoof that's not as good as comedies that make you laugh every five seconds, but a lot more likable than the ones that try and fail. Major points for scoring the movie with Jimmy Buffett parodies sung by Bill Paxton.

The Contender
Great actors, windy speeches, major issues, absurdly contrived subplots, liberal fantasies both self-adoring and masochist. All that keeps the film from just being a watchable throwback to the glory days of Henry Fonda is Joan Allen's palpable frustration with institutional sexism. This would be guaranteed $100 million and a best actress Oscar if it was coming out this Christmas.

After The Thin Man
Aside from a young Jimmy Stewart's climactic freakout, there's nothing of interest aside from the boozy, hilarious leads, which makes the movie excruciating when they're away too long. Oddly, this is exactly how I feel about Strange Brew.

The Love-Ins
Tim Leary, as played by Not Richard Burton, gets the Wild In The Streets treatment. LSD freakouts (complete with psychedelic, Alice In Wonderland-themed ballet sequences), riots and miscarriages are milked for maximum drama, so it's disappointing when the public assassination of a hippie demagogue occurs with a minimum of fuss in the final minutes.

The Fog
I don't remember anyone saying Halloween should have had fewer teenage girls and more fog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've never really understood reviews of dance albums by dance critics, and based on claims like "this is the most original American dance album in a long while," they won't be making more sense any time soon. I'm not exactly a DFA nut, but Hercules & Love Affair seems no more surprising or original than that Nike mix. Crafting songs out of an inclusive but not overly eclectic dance-floor mindset seems pretty status quo for the crew, and the fact that I zone out when the beat goes away makes me question how much more there is to it. But that doesn't mean the peaks aren't a lot of fun. I've never cared for Antony's blubbering in a ballad context, but over horns and Tim Goldsworthy Eno-disco his quivers don't have to hold the weight of the world. Unlike a lot of forum folk, I prefer the album version of "Blind" to the "Frankie Knuckles" and "Club" mixes, but then I'm a dilettante, a Remain In Light fan, and see above.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm slipping into the lava and I'm trying to keep from going under, baby.

Songs new to the Billboard Top 50 singles chart, and some Camp Rock shit.

#5 (debut): Jonas Brothers, "Burnin' Up"
Sophomore-album Maroon 5 meets sophomore-album Hanson, only less dynamic. David Carradine, Robert Davi and Danny Trejo guest star thanks to Joe Jonas' self-confessed love of "classic '80s pulp fiction shit."

#9 (from #11): Demi Lovato & Joe Jonas, "This Is Me"
Happy for you.

#19 (from #91): Sugarland, "All I Want To Do"
Is Fergie country now? Is Rob Thomas a woman now? I don't get it.

#31 (from #20): Jonas Brothers, "Play My Music"
I can't decide if hearing a Jonas scream for freedom rock over digitally neutered pop-punk is fascinating, unpleasant or both.

#36 (from #30): Joe Jonas, "Gotta Find You"
"I was watching Taxi Driver, and thinking about people likes Travis Bickle and John Hinckley, and I realized that stalkers are really just lonely, troubled people who don't know how to find happiness and tend to fixate on fantasy. This song is an attempt to empathize with that mentality. I realize the irony that by doing this, I run this risk of courting a similar fixation from members of my own fanbase. But I wouldn't want that kind of selfish concern get in the way of a greater good. And the only thing that gets me through the day is believing that the art I create is worth personal sacrifice." - Joe Jonas

#43 (debut): Sugarland feat. Little Big Town & Jake Owen, "Life In A Northern Town"
Was this done for, like, charity?

#49 (from #62): Jason Mraz, "I'm Yours"
Precocious hackeysack reggae: better or worse than Sugarland and the Jonas Brothers? If the hackeysack reggae artist in question interrupts his come-ons for a scat break? Worse.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

This vagina dentata fantasy is more comedy than thriller, but part of what makes it so good is how the film never totally surrenders to camp. Even as the heroine's would-be assailants have their extremities dispatched in comically appropriate ways, her confusion, horror and disappointment are treated sympathetically. And even if the film had gone cold on her, watching a jackass cry "...moooomm?" into an intercom after losing his dick mid-coitus would still be priceless.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
A happily married couple's daughter is kidnapped by Peter Lorre when they accidentally stumble across his plan to kill the Archduke Ferdinand of 1934. A fun early Hitchcock, and unsurprisingly superior to Hitch's own 1956 remake starring Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart. Better than Ransom, too!

The Ruins
Even in quality horror films, there's frequently a moment late in the film where the main characters take stupid pills so that the film can come to a violent close (think "we have to go back" or "oh no, the dog got out!"). The Ruins wisely begins with boneheaded choices (starting with "hey, let's ask some guy to drive us into the middle of the Mexican jungle and leave us there!"), so that the majority of the movie can be devoted to the misery of the stuck & fucked. Thankfully, more attention is paid to their increasing panic than the evil CGI vines.

A white male math genius is seduced by a hot blonde (and Kevin Spacey) to join another brilliant white guy and two goofy Asian sidekicks in counting cards in Vegas and only Vegas, despite repeated threats of execution from the town's sole security chief. This tale is "inspired by" a large group of mostly Asian students that counted cards in casinos across America for over thirty years, before dropping out because of non-violent bans and more profitable real estate opportunities. This idiotic whitewashing (which I swear I wasn't aware of beforehand, though I did think the film would be better if the supporting actors were the leads) wouldn't be so grating if the leads, Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth, had at least as much charisma as a cast member from One Tree Hill. No movie from 2008 should have you actively regretting when Kevin Spacey (who - fun fact! - has made three incredibly shitty movies with Bosworth) leaves the screen.

While this tip won't be of assistance when Sturgess, who keeps hundreds of thousands of dollars in the ceiling tiles above his dorm bed, fucks up his nerdy friends' science project (what price success?), it does help to get through the movie by adding " bed." to anything Spacey says to his young male apprentices. I.e., "The only thing worse than a loser is someone who won't admit he played bed." Yes, I was that bored.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Maura's dour review of CSS's Donkey inspired me to finally check out the album's first single, "Rat Is Dead," and - surprise! - I love it. The song simulates that early '90s DGC moment where femme-friendly, post-Pixies alt-rock got to be radio filler. And as it's more Silversun Pickups than DFA, I'm not shocked this could feed a backlash. It's tempting to agree the song pales to "Let's Make Love" or "Alala," but judging by how often I've played it over the last two days, it's affecting me in an equal if totally different way. Lovefoxxx's vocals are still giddy, but the "rock" production ironically makes "Rat Is Dead" less transgressive than their earlier singles, which pushed demented fun in your face. "Rat" would have sounded common fifteen years ago, but the warm drive of the riffs are as welcome and beautiful now as they were on Last Splash or Star or whatever your nineties nugget of choice is. Maybe it's nostalgia caused by the machismo of modern rock, but what A&R wanted from Sonic Youth in 1994 I'll be happy to take from CSS now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Your mind is in disturbia: it's like the darkness is the light.

Songs new to the Billboard Top 50 singles chart that aren't from Camp Rock (we'll see what's still around from that cultural landmark next week).

#10 (from #70): Miley Cyrus, "7 Things"
The "but I love you anyway!" twist initially made me miss the mercilessness of Avril Lavigne, but Cyrus' lyrics are more colorful and schizy than the old pro's (if not up to "my best friend Leslie said 'Oh, she's just being Miley'"), and musically she gets more out of a similar mix of country vocals and studio punk-pop. Seeing as how this shot above anything from Camp Rock, she may actually be breaking out of the Disney ghetto. Eep.

#18 (debut): Rihanna, "Disturbia"
Had Chris Brown written this paranoid club jam for the second biggest Shia LeBouf film of 2007, I might have gotten into the song as some 21st century Ray Parker Jr. As re-release filler for Rihanna in 2008, this lacks that cheese appeal. Unless her Jacko dance-dread proves deeper upon each listen, I'm guessing this will sound best in an ultimate party megamix.

#38 (debut): Flo-Rida feat. Will.I.Am, "In The Ayer"
Maybe Flo-Rida could join the Black Eyed Peas. They'd be like a pop-rap Legion Of Doom.