Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Movies I watched this week, from favorite to least.

When this movie came out in 2000, Laura Linney might have qualified as my least favorite actress of all time: humorless, shrill, miserable, no fun at all. But after seeing this, The Squid And The Whale and Breach, it's pretty clear that the problem with Congo, Absolute Power and Primal Fear wasn't her so much as Congo, Absolute Power and Primal Fear. Turns out Mark Ruffalo deserves my respect as well. I already knew Matthew Broderick does great passive-aggressive.

Humor-wise, time has shown you can relent even less than they do here. But I can't imagine anyone pulling off the surreal structure and matter-of-fact religious irreverence today with the same craft or inspiration (seeing The Ten on Wednesday, though!).

Teen outcast chic is sadly traded for junkie chic, and wolfsbane-as-methadone is a less gripping metaphor than lycanthropy-as-adulthood. Everything else is as awesome as it was the first time.

It's possible that if I lived in England I might have enough hostility towards countryside demagogues to appreciate the tonal shift that occurs in the last third, but my current stance on mass murderers got in the way of the ha-ha a lot more than my stance on zombies did in Shaun Of The Dead.

As great as Dean Stockwell's Leopold is, Orson Welles' Clarence Darrow is such a platitudinous bore that I might prefer Murder By Numbers for Ryan Gosling's Loeb (Sandra Bullock gives fewer speeches, too).

For a cheap, poorly directed, chemistry-free film shelved for a year and dumped on DVD, this sure has a lot of celebrity cameos.

Proof that Lukas Haas is not ready to play a dad, convey a mental breakdown or carry a movie.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shaun Brady's Transformers review for the Philadelphia City Paper noted "if you had 'just under six years' in the office pool regarding when an airplane slamming into the side of a heavily populated high-rise office building would go from chilling reminder to nifty action scene, collect your winnings." You can also cash in if you gave the same answer for when a poster featuring a destroyed NYC monument, burning skyscrapers and a date would go from disturbing memorial to appetite-whetting teaser for an eagerly anticipated future blockbuster.

Seriously, what the fuck? Was the problem with War Of The Worlds that Spielberg didn't incorporate the horrors of 9/11 into a monster movie effectively enough? Now we have to make a Godzilla movie with POV digicams, so we can really capture what it's like to watch large groups of people run from unthinkable destruction? How is this less tacky and disgusting than if they just used terrorists? If you're going for real-life chaos and agony, use a real-life threat! It's really hard to make Uwe Boll look mature, but at least the manic nihilism promised by the trailers for Postal is an adolescent response to the tragedies of the last decade. I guess I just prefer my exploitive trash honest.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Unconditionally Guaranteed [Mercury, 1974]
I've always suspected that underneath the naive surrealism the Captain might be a dumbbell, and now that he's really (really really) trying to go commercial he's providing proof. This time he really (really) does it--writes dumb little songs with dumb little lyrics and dumb little hooks. Maybe all the dumb dumb parts can be blamed on svengali and cocomposer Andy DiMartino. And I admit that a lot of these are passable ("Magic Be") to wonderful ("Sugar Bowl") dumb little songs. But they're still dumb. Really. B- Robert Christgau

Essential reading: Rescue Dawn - The Truth

Monday, July 23, 2007

Movies I watched last week (plus a few I forgot from the week before that), from favorite to least.

While watching the film, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of "holy shit" moments equal to the monster's first appearance on land, and the mix of uncompromising wit and sentimentality made me slightly uneasy (I cared about everyone and nothing could be predicted). In hindsight, knowing the film never devolves into arbitrary cruelty, I'm impressed by how John-Hoo Bong pulled off the co-existence. The family, maudlin when they're not cranky and almost pathetically bound together, makes the stream of metaphors and social commentary emotionally resonant whether or not you know anything about Korean history. And as Joshua Clover notes, the movie makes you want to know more. It's a rare film I like more after watching it, and a rare film I want to see more than once.

Peter Segal and Elliott Gould are compulsive gamblers on a bender, Robert Altman directs. A must-see for fans of the above, though if you're already a fan the pleasures are almost too predictable.

Outcast teenage girls deal with burgeoning womanhood and lycanthropy. In high school, I would have been crushing big time.

Roger Corman obviously felt that Bonnie & Clyde lacked titty, and while I prefer the original, I'm sympathetic to his corrective endeavor.

The references to incest and scatology lose their effectiveness fast, and I'm not sure why Gilbert Gottfried's performance was so outstanding to anyone other than Rob Schneider, but you get a lot of funny from a lot of funny people here, including some comedians who haven't had an act worth a damn in years.

While I enjoyed the comic asides and constant ironies enough to ignore Jeanne Moreau's allegedly passionate wandering, the last scene really annoyed me: how the hell did the scheming lovers take such magazine-worthy photos of themselves traipsing through the woods with a tiny spy-camera? Was there a third person taking the shots and telling them when to pose? Louis Malle wouldn't have made this kind of mistake later in his career.

David Fincher keeps his fetishistic indulgences in relative check (I guess you have to forgive him one slo-mo murder set to "Hurdy Gurdy Man"), but he doesn't replace them with anything other than accomplished digital. His infamous endless takes and re-shoots effectively make the cast look tired, and no one acts below their well-established game (Chloe Sevigny even tries to make the frustrated wife of the obsessive hero less shrill than usual). Still, the emotional toll on the characters is neither as engaging nor as effectively expressed as the true-crime details. 70 takes isn't just a sign of a perfectionist, but of a director who doesn't know how to get what he wants.

It has a genuinely intriguing concept and images that still marvel ten years deeper into CGIety, so its status as a cult sci-fi classic is more than deserved. It also stars Keifer Sutherland as a genius scientist, so the word "cult" isn't going anywhere.

Pretty dry even for a '70s Walter Matthau comedy, but it picks up steam once it focuses on the former company man's sneaky getaways. Both this and The Host feature a character putting a paper clip on the end of a plug to cause a blackout and evade capture, and I swear I've never seen that in a film before this week.

The story's problems are pretty standard Stephen King: corny childhood camraderie continued through adulthood, promising scares that devolve into a cosmically boring battle between good and evil. What makes the film exceptionally batty is that the screenwriter preserved all of King's most ridiculous details, while the director filmed them in the most matter-of-fact manner possible. Oddly, they're both Lawrence Kasdan. Donnie Wahlberg plays a sickly, retarded alien made of pure love, Morgan Freeman has magical eyebrows and Jason Lee tries to reach for a toothpick while keeping a murderous alien worm trapped under his toilet seat.

This trailer features kicking and Paul Rudd's bottle blond mane. They're the two reasons I rented this, and the two things worth seeing it for.

Freddy Rodriguez will someday have a very popular TV detective show and Christian Bale needs to stop trying out American accents, or at least stick to one per movie.

I love Jim Carrey for deciding to make a Joel Schumacher sex thriller at this point in his career (most of his breed just stick to comedies and Oscar bait), especially one in which he plays both a sociopathic dogcatcher and a tatooed saxophonist detective named Fingerling who fucks to She Wants Revenge. Sadly, the twist requires so much exposition that both sex and thrills get lost in the shuffle.

The only theatrical movie Peter Bogdanovich has done over the last decade, and if it wasn't for the celebrities in the wasted cast, you'd never guess it wasn't made for TV.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The Killers, "For Reasons Unknown"

I blame the Velvets for my weakness for pounding drone-strum and by way of Lester Bangs I blame them for the joy I get from the line "It was an open chair we sat down in." There's even a droll bass vocal under the opening verse and Cale-wise piano-bang in the chorus! With Brandon serving huge chunks of ham on top, it's almost too tasty. I swear I like songs that don't go duhduhduhduhduhduhduhduh. Those that do just have an easy in.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Interpol, "The Heinrich Maneuver"

I've passively listened to Our Love To Admire at least six times, and all I know about it is that I don't hate it. I dig generic new wave drone-strum as long as it's got kick, and complaining about the quality of their lyrical come-ons is a fool's game, so if these songs offend in new ways, they've eluded me so far. But aside from some pimply hootchie-koo and a hook or eight, the single is all that's stuck with me. It's generic Interpol, but that in itself is validation for everyone who argued these guys had a unique sound. Ian Curtis more sullen, Michael Stipe more ambiguous, Ian McCulloch more of a yodeller and Anthony Kiedis more of a minstrel. The drums slam hard and metronomic, the guitars reverb and rise, and Paul Banks' flat holler is right there with them, showing no doubt in lines like "you wear your shoes like a dove" and "I've got a plan with forward in my eyes!" None of his idols above would mutter "my...god..." right before the chorus either, that's ALL Paul. Their obvious and monomaniacal quest for poon may keep them from achieving a zeitgeist as grand as REM's, but the taxidermy pics in the album artwork could imply the band's getting into the environment - album no. 4 may still be their Life's Rich Pageant!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I went on vacation recently, and came back to find myself without internet again. It should all be better now, though, and this blog is going to kick back into gear. I haven't been watching much in the way of movies, but here are the few I've seen since I last posted one of these things, from favorite to least.

Not quite as fascinating as Crispin Glover's video for "Ben," but close enough. Plus, the DVD features a commentary track for said video. More words-per-minute than any other in history, I'd reckon.

A '70s heist flick highlighted by Christopher Walken's massive blond mane and Martin Balsam's mincing queen*. Sidney Lumet at his crudest.

Richard Widmark can do sweaty and desperate without becoming Klaus Kinski, and Jules Dassin's noirs may be the most beautiful in film history, but this script was cheesy.

Burt Lancaster's stodgy professor is equally annoyed and enlivened by bisexual firebrand Helmut Berger and the family of rich assholes that support him. But the charm is almost destroyed when Lancaster and the jerkoffs sit around, openly discussing how the professor was equally annoyed and enlivened by their presence in his life. Once you've shown, PLEASE do not tell!

A crazed loner with maternal abandonment issues kills and scalps a variety of women. Rare exceptions to the monotony: the loner shoots Tom Savini's head clean off and dons his finest polyester to discuss photography with Caroline Munro.


*You may remember Martin Balsam as the P.I. Norman stabs in the face in Psycho, Shelley Winters' suffering husband in The Delta Force, Joe Don Baker's suffering stakeout recipient in Mitchell, juror #1 in 12 Angry Men, Mr. Green in The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three or from one of his countless other character roles. Watching him play a "fruit" will blow your tiny little mind.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Artists whose entire discography rates below three out of five stars in the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide: Paula Abdul, A-ha, America, Paul Anka, Apollonia, Asia, Bad English, Beautiful South, Pat Benatar*, Berlin, Big Black, Biz Markie, Blues Brothers, Bodeans, Michael Bolton, Pat Boone, Boy George, Brand Nubian, Breathe, Bulletboys, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Carpenters*, Joe "King" Carrasco and the Clowns, Exene Cervenka, Chad And Jeremy, Harry Chapin, Cher, Andrew Dice Clay, David Allan Coe, David Crosby, Cutting Crew, Morris Day, Taylor Dayne, Dead Boys, El DeBarge, John Denver, Dino, Dio, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Dream Academy, England Dan and John Ford Coley, Melissa Etheridge, Fear, Jose Feliciano, Firm, Fixx, Force M.D.'s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Glenn Frey, Kinky Friedman, Friends Of Distinction, Galaxie 500, Bob Geldof, General Public, Debbie Gibson, David Gilmour, Dobie Gray, Great White, Sammy Hagar, Happy Mondays, Richard Harris, Jerry Harrison, Highwaymen, Holy Modal Rounders, Englebert Humperdinck, Icehouse, Iron Butterfly, Jets, Journey*, Kansas*, Kenny G, Kingdom Come, Knack, Trini Lopez, Mama Cass, Barry Manilow, Milli Vanilli, Kylie Minogue, Mr. Mister, Molly Hatchet*, Eddie Murphy, Nazareth, Robbie Nevil, Juice Newton, Night Ranger*, Nylons, Poison*, Pussy Galore, Quiet Riot, Eddie Rabbitt, Rhinoceros, Kenny Rogers, Runaways, Scandal, Charlie Sexton, Michelle Shocked, Nancy Sinatra, Slayer, Soup Dragons, Sparks, Rick Springfield, Ray Stevens*, Al Stewart*, Stranglers, Joe Strummer, Stryper*, Styx, Talk Talk, 10cc, Tiffany, Tanita Tikaram, Toto, Tranvision Vamp, Triumph, Twisted Sister, Uriah Heep, Vanilla Fudge, Vanilla Ice, Vanity, Gino Vanelli, W.A.S.P., Jan Wiedlin, Wilson Phillips, Winans, Winger, Jesse Colin Young*, Zebra.

*A compilation or live album by the artist was given three out of five stars.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Electric Six video! One that appears to have something resembling a budget!

Monday, July 02, 2007

"[Hagar] was precisely what the band needed...5150 was a leap forward musically, proving Van Halen to be as adept at ballads as balls-out rockers."

Rock albums from 1980-1992 that received 4.5 or 5 (out of 5) stars from J.D. Considine in the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide:

Anthrax, Attack Of The Killer B's
Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
Captain Beefheart, Doc At The Radar Station
Cocteau Twins, Heaven Or Las Vegas
Def Leppard, Pyromania and Hysteria
Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms
Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age Of Wireless
English Beat, I Just Can't Stop It
Fall, This Nation's Saving Grace and Bend Sinister
Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw & The Cooked
Peter Gabriel, Security and So
Go-Betweens, Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express
Golden Palominos, Visions Of Excess
Guns'n'Roses, Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion II
Robyn Hitchcock, Gotta Let This Hen Out!, Element Of Light and Perspex Island
Hunters and Collectors, Hunters And Collectors and Ghost Nation
Husker Du, Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories
King Crimson, Discipline
Kix, Blow My Fuse
Living Colour, Vivid and Time's Up
Los Lobos, The Neighborhood and Kiko
Madonna, Like A Prayer
G.W. McLennan, Watershed
Metallica, ...And Justice For All and Metallica
Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mining
Police, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost In The Machine and Synchronicity
Pretenders, Pretenders and Learning To Crawl
Prince, Dirty Mind, 1999 and Purple Rain
R.E.M., Murmur, Life's Rich Pageant, Document and Out Of Time
Replacements, Let It Be and Pleased To Meet Me
Paul Simon, Graceland and The Rhythm Of The Saints
Sonic Youth, Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo and Dirty
Sting, ...Nothing Like The Sun
10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe
Richard Thompson, Daring Adventures and Rumor and Sigh
Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out The Lights
Time, What Time Is It?
UB40, Labour Of Love
U2, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby
Van Halen, 5150
Wire, The Ideal Copy
Woodentops, Giant
Steve Wynn, Dazzling Display