Monday, December 24, 2007

You know what's crazy? The Killers. Three singles in the last three months:

A "whoo-hoo-hoo"-festooned Joy Division cover...

a children's choir-festooned duet with Lou Reed...

and their second Christmas charity download in as many years, this one titled "Don't Shoot Me, Santa."

God bless them, everyone. And happy holidays to you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A young hottie vacationing in Miami with her father is rescued from the threat of shuffleboard when an obese teenage boy arrives by boat and takes her on a drive through the slums, "where killers get hung." THIS is the true legacy of the Notorious B.I.G., and further evidence of a pop culture double standard my gut refuses to let me complain about. I like this number - which climaxes with a Nelly Furtado impersonation! - a little more than the one where girls make him feel suicidal (now THAT'S the obese teenager I know and recognize), but not as much as the one where he sings "D'Yer Maker" over "Red Red Wine."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

DVDs and videos watched over god knows how long wow it's been awhile since I did one of these, from favorite to least.

Southern proto-mumblecore that gratefully loses its penchant for overly arch camera shots the longer it dwells on beam of sunshine Amy Adams.

Jack doing Shoot The Piano Player as a passive-agressive jerk, gradually arousing some sympathy by the end.

The first half details the workaday malaise of the border patrol engagingly enough that it's grating when Jack is forced to reaffirm his morals and fight Big-Time Corruption.

Southern proto-mumblecore that ironically gains a fondness for overly arch camera shots as the story progresses, before finally devolving into abstract visual poetry.

A flagrant example of Burton/Lynch late '80s/early '90s indulgent indie quirk made unique by the presence of Catherine Keener, who refuses to fit her pragmatic persona into Tom DiCillo's surreal fable. DiCillo's next film, Living In Oblivion, made after the rise of Tarantino, keeps only Keener and a profound sense of embarassment about attempts at dream logic in cheap indie films. Still, this is proof Brad Pitt is not a twinkie motherfucker.

John Malkovich as a pathetic, mentally unstable homosexual con artist. That's about it.

A tolerable potboiler smothered in Sick Soul of Europe sauce. More like Le Samourain't!

The Exorcist Vs. The Shining. At several points Rod Steiger appears to soil himself.

Do you want to know what a twenty-something Spike Lee's take on The Wanton Ways Of Woman was? Do you want his characters to tell the camera? I know this was Lee's debut film, but I still can't believe what sloppy juvenalia it is. School Daze, even with the Worst Ending Ever, was a big step forward. How many writer/directors filmed themself caressing the lead actress's tit in at least two of their first three films (can't remember if we actually saw him get down with Tisha Campbell in Daze)? Classy.

Luke Wilson gets the shit kicked out of him, which is always a good thing, but Frank Whaley's tweaker-Ned-Flanders homicidal maniac fails to disturb so much as annoy.

Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah should be in a Michel Gondry film of a Charlie Kauffman script. Rob Schneider, Katie Holmes, Richard Dreyfuss, Joanna Lumley and Mo'Nique should have been in this.

Monday, December 17, 2007

New DVD O' The Week

It feels weird to say that I underrated Balls Of Fury when I first saw it, as I immediately included it in my top ten of 2007 while most critics felt it was beneath any acknowledgement whatsoever. But where originally I felt Thomas Lennon's performance was broad and Christopher Walken's shtick was tired, both were entirely entertaining the second time around (ok, Lennon's East German Olympian is basically just an Ivan Drago haircut, mad eyes and a leotard, but "tell your dead parents I said 'what's up'" may be my favorite line in the whole movie).

The film's mediocre user rating on IMDb suprises me. I understand why a trailer "from the makers of Reno 911!" that focuses on an obnoxious fat guy getting hit in the balls wouldn't make a lot of people enthusiastic, but I don't get why anyone who'd bother to see it would leave unsatisfied. While it's not as brazen or hip in its irreverence as David Wain's State-related films, it's less self-adoring than the Stiller/Sandler variety of goofball and lacks the logey wocka-wocka of most Zucker-type parodies. Dan Fogler may not have the name recognition of even Horatio Sanz, but I doubt that will be the case for long - dude has a Tony award! He's playing Alfred Hitchcock in an upcoming movie starring Ewan McGregor! This was not the path of Chris Farley. The totally-on-their-game supporting cast includes Maggie Q (who I knew I enjoyed watching) and George Lopez (who I most certainly didn't). I didn't even realize that the angry long-haired guy in the underground ping-pong club was Jason Scott Lee until I saw him understandably beaming on the making-of doc. You know, Jason Scott Lee! From Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story! Rapa Nui! RAPA NUI! Patton Oswalt shows up too, along with some other Reno 911 arrestees (Patton Oswalt! That's kinda hip, right?).

I hope Fogler's career continues to rise, as it might give the film a cult audience quicker than if it depends on some young group of comedy nuts watching movies on Comedy Central rather than playing on a middle school athletic team. So here's a plea to similar minds of my own generation: do you have fond memories of Wayne's World 2? Akidraisedonsnlmoviessayswhat? Because Walken and James "The Old Asian Guy In Everything Ever" Hong are having twice as much fun in this. If I was God, this would be Hong's Best Supporting Actor nomination clip:

Lennon and director/co-screenwriter Robert Ben Garant are making so much money for studio-butchered scripts like Night At The Museum and Herbie: Fully Loaded that I can't bemoan the lack of attention or respect this film got. It made $32 million, which I would assume covered its budget, and for once people who give a shit got proof that, when they get to oversee its creation, these two can produce a seriously funny movie, one of the few of recent memory that's PG-13. It's good to see a movie worthy of the chubby, precocious fifteen-year-olds its marketed towards.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Vincent D'Onofrio pissing on a young Michael Cera while Janeane Garofalo watches approvingly.

I haven't seen Steal This Movie, but it appears to be tragically ahead of its time by about five years.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New DVD O' The Week is obviously Superbad. It's funny, so see it if you haven't. The one humorless argument sequence should have been cut and, as much as I enjoyed Emma Stone, they should have cast someone who plausibly could have been attracted to an obese, angry high school senior with a jewfro, but those are my only real criticisms. At least sexiest manchild alive Michael Cera is included to make up for any qualms over the gender disparity. For the many women I know who would love to molest the former George Michael, here's a clip of him in the 2001 TV movie My Louisiana Sky - prepubescent, bare chested and rocking a southern accent.

That lucky Tiger. Adulthood will probably be as rewarding for him as it was for Bud Cort and Anthony Michael Hall, so enjoy his gawky, innocent glory while you can.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two other examples of directors who need an intervention from

In It's A Coen, Coen, Coen, Coen Bros. World, The Dude, now married to Ed McDunnough, discovers A Satchel Of Money People Are Dying Over, and winds up running from Leonard Smalls while Marge Gunderson follows a few paces behind. Everyone seems a bit frustrated to be stuck in this familiar tale of goober store clerks, goober motel clerks and macabre violence, openly wondering why each other bothers, but the performances, set pieces and extreme close-ups of evidence are engaging enough to make the film entertaining in a logey, predictable Ocean's Thirteen way. Following The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, this self-serious retreat-to-form is currently #21 on the imdb top 200 and may well get them some Oscar love.

Casualties Of War II: The Redactening is equally disappointing auteur theory fodder, with Brian DePalma attempting to combine the biting media commentary of Hi, Mom! with the wartime rape plot of the original film. While Coen confections can be tossed willy-nilly without harm, DePalma's more substantive ideas clash. Casualties was about a soldier's moral dilemma, not an attack on the Vietnam war itself. The micro details distract from his macro goal here, offering the thesis "war allows RAPE to happen," which is doubly offensive as A) war would be horrible even if it didn't, and B) people get away with rape all the time. Where the Coens show they can still make a gunfight awkward and memorable, DePalma reveals he's still incapable of making a remotely watchable static-shot scene of two people in conversation. The "found footage" concept tragically forces him to abandon his gifts and use security cameras to capture rants that would be melodramatic in any context.

Before the film goes haywire, DePalma does succeed in forcing you to acknowledge embarassing facts about the Iraq War that are being made easy to forget. The sequences credited to a French documentary show off his visual wit and, until the overripe speeches get under way, the actors have an affecting, fratty anonymity. Had DePalma not been distracted by his tortured obsession with misogynist violence, the film might have been praised for inspiring the frustrated anger it desires rather than criticized for its interminable obviousness. Instead, critics and arthouse audiences alike get to cheer those guys who can really do that thing they liked for finally doing that thing again in a relatively classy way. DePalma's upcoming Untouchables: Capone Rising may be a little too obvious in its intent to receive the same appreciation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New DVD O' The Week

I'm a little embarassed that I'd pick this kind of Oscar-bait in a week that included I Know Who Killed Me, Skin Walkers, Drunken Angel, Hot Rod and Who's Your Caddy? (never got around to watching Paprika or Guy X), but sometimes you have to admit that there are things better than trashy crap. For instance, the story of an Indian couple raising a family in New York. A boy becoming a man! Earnest, generation-spanning shit like that.

Kal Penn is ostensibly the star of the film, but Irfan Khan and Tabu's portrayal of his immigrant parents are what make the film rewarding. Their exchanges are probably some of the most memorably romantic I've seen in a recent film, not due to sexual intensity or saccharine effect, but rather the kindness and kinship they reveal. The growth of their connection is laid out so delicately that its annoying when Kal Penn, as their son Gogol, first appears as an unsympathetic, rebellious teen. Allegedly Penn got the role because Mira Nair's children are die-hard Kumar fans, and while he's not charmless (he's right behind Michael Cera in a lot of friends' comedy stud top 10s), he fails to show any of Irfan Khan's attractive gravity, coming off collegiate even when Gogol's allegedly five years into a marriage.

Aside from location and knocking the storyline up a decade, Leila says the movie is pretty faithful to the book, and I wish they'd been willing to diminish Gogol's importance in order to acknowledge Penn's comparative lack of range. A performer needs to be transfixing if we're to connect with their character in a film that jumps rapidly through periods of time. When Penn becomes the film's focus, the film ironically seems to lose a dimension. It doesn't help that Penn's romantic partners are basically archetypes that flirt with being caricatures (WASP representive Jacinda Barrett shows up at a memorial service in an outfit that anyone would find inappropriate, Zuleikha Robinson's international jetsetter seems to have a different accent in every scene). I haven't seen Nair's other films, but I was surprised at how cursory and simplistic most of the female roles were; Gogol's relationships seem so superficial compared to his parents' that they only serve to alienate us from him. But part of the reason Gogol's appreciation of his parents' experience seems so protracted is that we experienced it for ourselves, and it's hard to regret that.


I promise I'll do capsule reviews of the other films I've watched the last two weeks or so soon, at least the ones I finished. Doesn't seem fair to Kurosawa's Drunken Angel or Big Boi's Who's Your Caddy? to pretend I know that the film didn't become more rewarding further in.

Friday, November 23, 2007

TJ, Anthony, Will...Harlem Heat.

Are you one of those incorrigible dumbasses who tell critics "if you know so much about music, why don't you make some?" Well, here's your chance to discover how much I know about making sweet music and MY chance to make you eat three minutes of stfu. Check out "Sky Car" by Harlem Heat, a little trio I was part of four years ago. It's track #6 on the ILX Comp II, now available for download thanks to Mark Grout.


Ride the a Sky Car!

My Chrysler don't work no more
so I went to the new car store
said I wanted to go far
so he gave me the keys to a new Sky Car
it's a sweet ride, there's no question and
y'all better recognize, and I'm guessing that
none of you is a real rock star and
none of you got your own very own Sky Car

I'm gonna check my shit out (woo hoo)
so check my shit out (woo hoo)
better check my shit out (woo hoo)
please come and check my shit out (woo hoo)

All the haters come and kiss my ass
the girls press their chests up against the glass
kick the boosters and blast on by
cuz you can't touch this car when it's in the sky
children smile cuz I'll be droppin' coins
and a real sweet lady's sittin' on my loins
rush hour is a thing of the past
Sky Car driving with a magnum blast, uh!

You better check my shit out (woo hoo)
come check my shit out (woo hoo)
you know you better check my shit out (woo hoo)
so please come and check my shit out (woo hoo)

It's a beautiful dream
it's a sweet machine
you can drive to a star
so get yourself a Sky Car!

All the guys in the world want a Sky Car
all the ladies in the world want a Sky Car
every government's bonin' for my Sky Car
but only I've got myself a Sky Car

So check my shit out (woo hoo)
you know you gotta check my shit out (woo hoo)
please come and check my shit out (woo hoo)
know you gotta check my shit out, check my shit out!

I play guitar and keys, TJ Fogelsanger drums and Will Barton plays bass. I sang lead on this one, but that's TJ on the bridge and we alternate vocals throughout All The Elements/Forever, our 30 minute, two EP comp I'll happily copy for anyone who sends me a 60 minute cassette or two bucks or a SASE or a very nice e-mail..

All The Elements EP
1. Hot Shit Inc.
2. Sky Car
3. Swimming Away
4. Dirty Dog
Forever EP
5. Forever
6. Hot Tripe
7. Cherry-Flavored Freedom
8. Ghostbusters (Feat. Kael and Dave)

BUY curious? I bet you are!

Monday, November 19, 2007

New DVD O' The Week.

Based on this early entry in the upcoming wave of "one last jump from the fireball" sequels, I think we can assume that Rambo 4 (Indiana Jones 4 too, if Spielberg can't muster autumnal sweetness) will reveal that life has not been kind for our hero since we last saw him a decade or two ago. The few thrills gained from being dragged one more time into yet another shitstorm will be sadistic and vengeful in nature. Even when the supporting cast honor steadfast determination in the face of true evil, little pride will be confessed, as he's simply resigned to the "job," one only he seems able to do right. I'm guessing this is a very moving concept if you're an aging, popular actor with little chance of getting Oscar love anytime soon. But as far as popcorn Searchers go, this one's pretty enjoyable, shrewdly playing both sides of the fence: mocking the government while defending the country, letting the droll hacker drop conspiracy theories while he learns sometimes it's necessary to kill, getting away with the lead's fondness for the phrase "Asian bitch" by casting Maori Cliff Curtis as no-bullshit FBI Assistant Director Bowman, a character I assumed was Arab-American until imdb revealed his first name was Miguel.

As in Armageddon, Bruce Willis initially irritates his daughter by psychotically defending her virginity, but a climactic act of selflessness earns her love and respect. Justin Long finds the right tone for his character, wry but not distractingly deconstructive, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the strong kind of smoking hot. Maggie Q, even hotter, executes security guard after security guard with such gorgeous serenity that you resent Willis's glee in punishing her. Still, my only genuine disappointment with the film is that Timothy Olyphant's annoyed, glaring villain wasn't given an awful dyejob a la John Lithgow in Cliffhanger or Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill. Olyphant and Q looked so damn good bringing America to its knees that you wanted to see their sex tape more than their downfall (they'd do a great Thomas Crown Affair). Here's my pathetic attempt to fix this mistake:

"You have no idea what my band-aid is capable of, Officer McClane..."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Generation Y's Brando? Or Montgomery Clift? By default?

Dear Richard Kelly,

For someone who has made two films, your casting skills are amazing, and I feel your '80s reference points (Zelda Rubinstein AND Booger? I kiss you). But letting your movies revolve around the moral dilemma of a time-travelling messiah will nullify everything you have to say about adolescence, Iraq, or anything else that actually exists. It doesn't help that you have little of note to say in the first place. I'd suggest that you try your hand at surrealism without explanatory sci-fi, but I doubt Hollywood will give you the chance anytime soon. Hopefully someone else will, cuz I'll be heartbroken if Southland Tales is the trippiest film about 00's America we get.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A clip from Evgeni Plushenko's Art Of Ice special, obviously a warm-up for...

The internationally acclaimed, three-time Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter, Seal, announced today that he will perform live in a one-time only music and skating production, “The Music of Seal on Ice,” with a cast that features Olympic Gold Medalists Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano. The show is set for December 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and will be televised nationwide on NBC from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST on New Year’s Day.

The London-born Seal, has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide and will have a new studio album entitled System in stores November 13. Among his most popular songs are “Kiss From a Rose,’’ which won him a Grammy and was featured on the Batman Forever soundtrack, “Crazy,’’ and “Prayer for the Dying.’’ The son of Nigerian and Brazilian parents, Seal began his musical career playing pop funk and eventually became a hot property on Britain’s house music/rave scene and has since become one of England’s best-selling artists. He is married to German model Heidi Klum, and together, they have two sons.

Seal will perform several of his hits live, including music from his new album, while a cast of Olympic and world-class skaters interpret his music on the ice. Skaters confirmed for the one-time collaboration include Olympic Gold Medalists Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, six-time U.S. champion and World champion Todd Eldredge, and three-time U.S. champion and two-time World bronze medalist Michael Weiss. Many more Olympic and world-level skaters will be added to the cast soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thell Reed ... The Armourer

Charlene Rose ... Dolly Parton lookalike / Opera Singer

Christian Slater ... Ray

Jeffrey Tambor ... Geek / Jeffrey / Dr. Geekman


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Movies I've watched since the last time I wrote one of these things, from favorite to least.

Most biopics stray from reality to either streamline the story or make the characters more palatable. The French Connection alters the outcome of its story in a crass attempt to let both political sides get what they want from the film. Here, Robert Bolt imports issues about egotism and violence into a story that didn't really have them, subverting the heroism with anti-war angst while maintaining the grand spectacle. Not really fair to its subjects, but possibly more fascinating than if it had been.

What Rich said. I bet Brian DePalma was real impressed, too.

Not only is Jason Statham shorter than the villian, he's shorter than the villain's girlfriend. Nothing else in the movie is particularly atypical for an english-language movie about fast cars and kicking people, other than its consistent enjoyability.

Slow, gorgeous, punctuated with just enough violent interludes to keep you awake - perfect for a massive hangover. Charles Bronson isn't the most engaging "man with no name," but the peculiarites of the climax can be chalked up to macho dream logic.

So England's going to turn all of its major controversies into cinema verite biopics now? Good thing they've got all those actors!

One of those Michael Bay movies I only found offensively incoherent and retarded after it was over (probably helps that I was drunk). While it was on, I laughed at the Transformers-out-of-water jokes, was impressed by the CGI and admired the decision to dress the teenage love interest like Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. John Turturro, obviously excited to be in a blockbuster, gives the film his all and I think he deserves an Oscar nomination. Letting a Transformer piss on you has to count as "a brave choice."

Kevin Costner takes on his most daring role since Robin Hood, playing a family-oriented businessman addicted to serial killing. William Hurt, Demi Moore and Dane Cook do their best to make his performance look intriguing by default.

Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton's picnic is interrupted when he and a group of bystanders attempt to rescue a small child from a wild hot air balloon. They fail, and one of the good samaritans dies. Craig suffers intense guilt and gains a homosexual stalker as a result. None of this succeeds at making you think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two things that music nerds who don't read ILX would actually regret not knowing about.

Bone Thugs'n'Harmony feat. Phil Collins - "Home" (from 2002!)

Shred videos by StSanders

(much more where that came from, folks)

The next post will be a bunch of blurbs about DVDs, I swear!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Darren Hayes, "On The Verge Of Something Wonderful"

Only this and the outstanding Camille tribute "Bombs Up In My Face" stuck out when I heard the former Savage Gardener's new DOUBLE CD on aolmusic, and what I remember of the rest was too dense with ballad for me to revisit unless a free copy wandered into my housemate's promo pile. His suit and hand gestures in the video go for timely Timberlake (the clip for the chirpy follow-up "Me, Myself & I" drowns in it), but I doubt anyone in America will be fooled. This is pre-9/11 AC technopop of the highest order, and it's a shame he and Enrique Iglesias can't seem to make this shit cross over anymore - it's strictly for Popjustice enthusiasts and the Logo network now.

The lyrics are the kind of portentous prattle Tiga would kill for, opening with "a serpent, a rabbit, a walk in the forest" and climaxing with "but life is for leading, not people pleasing," somehow wedging a trip to the dentist and "there's a decent living to be made in the selling out of ideals" in between. My favorite is the line about the guy who "said he never meant it BUT HOW HE STILL DROPPED THE BOMB," which I took for righteous indignation over celebrity hate speech. His site claims its "but HARRY still dropped the bomb," so maybe it's about Hiroshima. I prefer my version, seeing as how this is Hayes' first track since admitting that "I Knew I Loved You" wasn't about Kirsten Dunst or anyone else with a vagina. Song ends exactly like "Where Do I Begin" by Chemical Brothers and Beth Orton, which happened to be released the same year as Savage Garden, where he began.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Movies I watched this afternoon, from favorite to least.

Frequently praised as a "fairytale for adults," but its not the fairytale that got the R rating. It's a shame how much of the film revolves around a chock-full-of-stock fascists-vs-resistance storyline that the young lead doesn't personally witness, as critics and poster designers alike clearly get more juice out of her fantasies, which are rendered mundane once you recognize the "fascism is bad" analogy Guillermo Del Toro was going for (something you might let pass if it was for kids). A stuttering freedom fighter gets more screen time than the eyeballs-in-his-hands dude, so I have no problem claiming false advertising. I originally planned on quipping "Spielberg's Labyrinth," but that isn't fair to Del Toro - who's nowhere as brazenly pathological - or The Muppets.

The future belongs to the analog loyalists. Fuck digital.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Muse, "Supermassive Black Hole"

Muse has more Queen in them than any other post-Radiohead combo I've heard, a juicier brand of grandiosity I doubt any of the competition has the impetus (or energy) to attempt. This does one better by replacing the Radiohead with Crystal Method, giving us the Hot Space 2000 Freddie never got the chance to make. Singer Matthew Bellamy (who really needs a more Maxwell Dragon-esque handle) seems to be losing some of the Yorke in his throat and word is their next album will be more dance AND more symphonic so hey hey, somebody's got the right idea.

Last week I didn't get around to watching any movies I hadn't already seen before, so there won't be any image swiping from my employers until next.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Top Ten Of 2007 That Weren't In My Last Top Ten Of 2007

Against Me!, New Wave

People bummed by the new Springsteen (any self-respecting fan should be, but I doubt he has any self-respecting fans left) should check out this A+ real rock cheese. Now this is colon blow!

Chromeo, Fancy Footwork

It's possible that I'd be nonplussed by this if I'd heard everything they were ripping off, but I'll still take the best Stereolab over Neu. Plus, I think I have heard a healthy amount of '80s electro, thank you very much.

Clinic, Visitations

Fresher after four albums than Linkin Park after three!

Electric Six, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master

When there's a youtube for this album, I will share the youtube for this album. Don't ever think I wouldn't. Don't you ever think it.

Roky Erickson, You're Gonna Miss Me Soundtrack

The 12 tracks here may look skimpy compared to the 21 on You're Gonna Miss Me: The Best Of Roky Erickson, or the 43 on the I Have Always Been Here Before box. But better to leave the listener hungry for more than certain they've heard more than they need to. Plus, unlike on the best-of, the title track on this ain't a live recording.

Lloyd, Street Love

I was genuinely surprised to see how Omarion he comes off in videos; the album's lush ease promised something more assured and adult. This bodes well for the future, as the guy's just old enough to drink.

Rakes, Ten New Messages

No post-punk dance band has matter-of-factly bopped through its sophomore slump this consistently since REM's Reckoning, and in both cases I actually prefer it to the debut. And if Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out counts as "post-punk dance," that fits too.

Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad

This year's Itunes queen, casual and comfortable in a world of cheap stimulus.

Tegan & Sara, The Con

Having realized their sound with So Jealous, they start to play with its parameters here - not aggressively fucking with it, but definitely getting a feel for what it can take.

Timbaland, Timbaland Presents: Shock Value

Lots of dance-pop, some pop-rap, some teary ballads, some mall-punk, She Wants Revenge - Timbaland seems to think my "2007 hits" playlist would sound better if he produced all of it. His beats, so lively if hardly futuristic, make a great case.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This week, I downloaded almost every song this band recorded, and discovered I enjoyed about 95% of them. I also turned 28. Only a few years ago, I couldn't get past those sub-Bowie vocals. How my tastes have refined since then.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Movies watched last week, from favorite to least.

The sound editing deserves all the acclaim it gets - Peter Greene's psychotic would fascinate either way, but the collage of sounds closes the distance between us, showing us his horror as much as that of what he does.

I didn't think it'd be so easy to listen to Spalding Gray talk for an hour and a half. His affectations should be unlikable (that flat, shrill scream!), but instead they're hypnotic. If his observations were offensive or smug it would fall apart, but his ability to be wide-eyed about every detail of his life keeps the film afloat.

The last movie I saw about the frustrations of a chubby, pre-growth spurt adolescent was Happiness. This movie does much better by the archetype.

No director with visual imagination equal to Bob Fosse matches his appreciation for simple kinetic movement, which is part of what makes this the most enjoyable ponderous valentine a director ever made for himself. His cast is the other. I never imagined Roy Scheider could be so playful.

The hawk attached by a rope to Paul Giamatti's arm as he deals with severe guilt and insecurity may be an extremely obvious metaphor, but its also a very visceral one.

The idea of Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis (as Elvis and JFK!) fighting a mummy in a nursing home is so brilliant for a b-movie that its heartbreaking when the climax turns out as lifeless as it does. The actors truly deserved better.

A bloated John Cusack, haunted by the past, goes through some wicked DTs. Starts more promising than your average Stephen King adaptation, but the ending is as contrived and unengagingly grand as all the rest of them. Samuel L. Jackson role is so small that it would have worked better as an uncredited cameo rather than top billing.

At first I was impressed that director Robert DeNiro wasn't going for an obvious Scorcese vibe until he crosscut between Matt Damon hugging his son and the kid's fiancee being thrown out of a plane by Damon's goons: "Oh, right...he worked with Coppola too." The two hours and forty five minutes of murmuring, secret handshakes and homoerotic subtext add up to nothing, but Damon's closed-in performance is uniquely transfixing, always promising that the film might eventually deliver.

Gooey body organs, a nerdish but charismatic male lead, stiff attempts at perverse sexuality, wan inscrutability - something from every era of Cronenberg's career.

You'd think a movie where Sting molests an invalid and jumps through a window would be entertaining, but you have to watch Joan Plowright and Denholm Elliott go through some bad, bad English family drama to get to those last few minutes of insanity.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

With a quarter to go, my top 20 movies of 2007. Some December '06 stuff is included - I don't care about when it first showed up at a festival so much as when your average film buff could have had a chance to catch it.

1. The Ten
You know how if you beat Super Mario Bros. you can play the whole game again in "hard mode"? This feels like comedy's "hard mode."

2. The Host
I reserve further comment until it comes off my store's "new release" section and I can rent it again for free.

3. Knocked Up
If there's a better plot-based comedy this decade I will be very, very surprised. The bonus disc is better than 90% of them. Try to complain about gender disparity or the fact that it didn't stop being funny in order to earnestly recreate your stance on abortion and I will take you to the mat. You will be forced to snivel about how you just didn't like it that much and how "everyone's allowed to have their own opinion" without a goddamn leg to stand on. I will own you with science. I know kung fu.

4. Planet Terror
The closest Hollywood has come to bringing an Electric Six album to life.

5. Superbad
It could have used a touching anecdote about their past to explain why Jonah Hill got so emo about his eventual split with Michael Cera (they could have swiped the one from Wedding Crashers); bromance doesn't get that co-dependent without some shared trauma. Aside from a desire to see women get a movie like this about their adolescence, that's my only complaint.

6. Spider-Man 3
Me, I think more movies should have so much emotion, razzle-dazzle and energy that they threaten to morph into a Bob Fosse production. In comparison, Batman & Robin threatened to morph into Andrew Lloyd Webber, and that's a truer sign of improvement in superhero films than any deadly serious adaptation.

7. Notes On A Scandal
Argues for the value of oscar bait by making a more entertaining Mary Kate LeTourneau film than Lifetime ever would. Even if TV had the gall to add an aging repressed lesbian to the story, I doubt they'd find anyone who could chew it up and spit it out like Judi Dench.

8. Breach
Director Billy Ray once again tells us the real-life story of an amazing liar and the guy who happened to be there when he fucked up.

9. Balls Of Fury
Highly recommended to fans of State humor, Christopher Walken and Kickboxer. The incorporation of ping-pong into action sequences is the reason CGI was invented.

10. Venus
The last chapter of a ladies' man, equally pathetic and graceful.

11. Reno 911: Miami!
"Any last words?" "Ummm... Uhhhh... Ummm, 'He liked it'? NO! Wait!"

12. Shoot 'Em Up
Clive Owen gives another ridiculous violent fantasy some heart by protecting a baby, only this one takes pride in its ridiculousness. Knocked up a spot or two for setting a shoot-out to the entirety of "Ace Of Spades" and making it work.

13. Away From Her
Another swinging sixties icon confronts the ravages of age. Expect more of this as boomers get autumnal.

14. Black Book
Paul Verhoeven's "serious" film is his second most exciting* since Total Recall. Another case for Oscar bait!

15. Bourne Ultimatum
I've run while holding a DV camera, and there's no reason for the screen to shake THIS much. But Paul Greengrass makes sure you still see what you need to. I'm hoping if they make a fourth that they'll finally create a climax that's as gripping as the end of the first act. I don't have to worry about Bourne not kicking butt and taking names.

16. Children Of Men
I might be drastically underrating this movie in hindsight, but as much as I enjoyed Clive Owen and the long takes, I'm still hung up on how much Hollywood they're hiding behind the cinema verite. Possibly the best dystopian sci-fi movie of all time, but it's still dystopian sci-fi.

17. Lookout
A great short film about post-accident disability followed by a tolerable heist flick.

18. Shooter
Mark Wahlberg still hasn't turned a movie into gold without joshing on the other actors, but his attempts are getting better.

19. Hot Fuzz
I can get over the fact that I'm supposed to find mass-murdering pronvicials hilarious as long as I focus on what was, namely Timothy Dalton and Nick Frost.

20. 3:10 To Yuma
If you're making a classy action movie and need someone to pull off a character whose motivation is unclear, Russell Crowe can make sure we don't really care while he's on the screen, even if we notice.

The other 20 I've seen so far this year, in order of diminishing preference: The Hawk Is Dying, I Think I Love My Wife, Zodiac, Alone With Her, Blades Of Glory, Alpha Dog, Letters From Iwo Jima, Black Snake Moan, 28 Weeks Later, Perfect Stranger, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, Death Proof, Rescue Dawn, Ghost Rider, Smokin' Aces, The Number 23, The TV Set, Dead Silence, Hannibal Rising and...*drum roll*...Fracture.

*I can't ignore Starship Troopers, as much as it gets in the way of my point. But I can make it an asterisk.