Monday, March 31, 2008

Movies watched last week, from favorite to least.

Sort of the anti-Smithereens, with the clumsy NYC love triangles played for anything but laughs, and a soundtrack that makes the 90s sound like more of a drag than it was. Sort of not, as the characters are just as memorable and the film makes a great time capsule.

To be a success, a comedy only has to make you laugh. Likewise, a thriller only has to put you on edge. Everything else, good or bad, is icing. So despite the clumsy ending, misfired sociological metaphors and stilted speeches from B actors who seem to think this is Oscar material (Marcia Gay Harden must have trained with Ellen Burstyn), The Mist works. The film might have had more edge (and a stronger subtext) if we never saw the beasties lurking beneath that mist, but these are some great beasties. Ones that stay enigmatic and unsettling after their existence is ostensibly explained.

The best thing I can say about Jason Lee is that he isn't Jim Belushi, and the film could use a more inspired Dave Seville. But, like Underdog (which oddly features Jason Lee as well), the conceptual insanity and hammy villains (when David Cross gasps "Madre de Dios!" before letting out a giant "NOOO!!!!" I know that dude is very, very aware of himself) make it a lot more entertaining than most kids flicks. When people say CGI can do things we previously couldn't even imagine, they're talking about movies like this.

The celebrity walk-ons are entertaining, and, Jack Black's miscast-Macca aside (John was the fat one, remember?), I'd even say the Beatles sequence was inspired. But of the actual cast, only Tim Meadows' anti-drug druggie achieved a classic shtick. The one-dimensionality of the characters wouldn't matter if the material and pace weren't tepid compared to The Ten, Blazing Saddles or even Scary Movie 3. This is the second pair of Bad Idea Jeans Jake Kasdan has made for Judd Apatow, and I hope it's the last.

You know you're fucked when not even Steely Dan can get you to realize that you've become a tired caricature of yourself.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dude is turning anonymity into an art.

Songs new to Billboard's top 50 chart, and the top debut.

#9 (from #85): Lil' Wayne feat. Static Major, "Lollipop"
I haven't heard a drop of Da Drought 3. I find DJ breaks so obnoxious that I don't bother with mixtapes until an album leaves me hungry for more (I never heard a We Got It 4 Cheap until hooked by Hell Hath No Fury). Plus, recent pick clicks stunk. "Georgia Bush," Pitchfork's pick for Wayne's '06 highlight, combined Eminem's "Mosh" with the worst of Weird Al. From The Carter II, fans praised "Shooter," which carelessly slapped get-money-fuck-bitches atop an unheralded Robin Thicke classic that was better without it. The girth of his underground output would be daunting anyway, so I figured I should check out his early shizz first. It's a wise move with late-in-game crit hypes, and I only have Cash Money's Platinum Hits. But even after hearing him sing on Playaz Circle's "Duffle Bag Boy," the musicality on this alleged sell-out is striking. I may get The Carter III before The Block Is Hot after all.

#49 (from #57): Colbie Caillat, "Realize"
Not only do I find her Starbuck balladry more memorable and to-the-point than the Starbuck balladry of Cat Power and Feist, I also think she's more attractive. Her face and figure are less bony, and she doesn't abuse eyeliner. Go ahead and hate me; my girlfriend already does.

#61 (debut): Flo Rida feat. Sean Kingston, "Roll"
I'm starting to think Flo Rida is a great rapper, ironically because I have no idea what he thinks about anything. Every gold-plated hook is handed to an expensive guest star. Every sound seems auto-tuned. Many rappers in this context would drag or yell to the point where I had to think about their lyrics, but Flo just rides the cliche. I have no problem with this.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Despite worshipping Big Star's Third since high school, my admittedly diminshed antipathy for their first two albums (described in a review that actually inspired someone to post my address and phone number on Hipinion, promising to kick my ass) kept me from bothering to check out the Box Tops, the genuinely successful band Alex Chilton led in his youth. Despite reading plenty about his change in vocal style, I still wasn't prepared for just how gritty his baritone was at 18. Even you know "Cry Like A Baby" by heart, you need to check out his dancing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hi there! I'm guesting blogging for Idolator. Come see! Come see!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In the hustle and bustle of the last month, it appears I missed the release of a new Electric Six video. It's probably their finest since "Dance Commander," and definitely the finest of those with no apparent budget. Four albums in, I cannot fathom a finer band this decade than Electric Six. No one comes closer to capturing the giggly sense of apocalypse, the sound of hearts learning to live in an ironic hell of their own devising. Someday I hope to debate this lack of fathoming with someone who has actually heard all four albums. Thing is, I'm afraid of other hardcore Electric Six fans. They must be some sick puppies. Everyone I see at an E6 show is dressed pretty square (no Warhol superstars) even though they're inherently disco-metal nihilists taking part in a secret revolution, bathing in an invisible bonfire of crafted uncool. Sadly, it's likely they don't realize they're taking part in this secret revolution, which doesn't say much for their cognitive abilities. I don't know if I ever want to spot an Electric Six shirt on the street - it just couldn't bode well for the world.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Movies watched last week, from favorite to least.

Penniless NYC new-wavers stumble through what barely passes for a love triangle. A funnier, less maudlin Nights Of Cabiria with instrumental tracks from Crazy Rhythms providing the perfect soundtrack.

Sometimes I think the proof of a great film actor is how they fare in more modest entertainments, not just their legendary roles. Laurence Olivier is basically a British Lenny Briscoe here, navigating the banal surface of a lurid drama, and you never get the sense that he's angling for your attention. Not that he'd get it once people start setting dolls on fire and shrieking through midnight games of hide and seek.

Pierce Brosnan's tired assassin is so twisted that the Bond meta is simply a giggle rather than the selling point, though I was pleasantly surprised by the Remington Steele crack. As much as I enjoyed the contrast between his flailing depravity and Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis' hip wholesomeness, some ironic, Bond-worthy action sequences might have given the film some welcome variety.

The story, two small-towners' attempt to restage a climactic high-school football game they blame for their adult failures, has so little edge that it requires some goodwill on the part of the viewer to see past its familiarity. Kurt Russell makes that easy, Robin Williams does not.

Friday, March 21, 2008

You may not know it now, but you're gonna miss this.

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

#19 (from #92): Lil Mama feat. Chris Brown & T-Pain, "Shawty Get Loose (Remix)"
Brown and Pain didn't need another hit this month (or in T-Pain's case, week) and I miss the original's hair advice ("You wash, set, blow and you wash, set, blow"), but fine, whatever, could be worse, just put her damn album out!

#41 (from #60): Rick Ross feat. T-Pain, "The Boss"
A lot of rappers claim no one is as successful as they are, but most would realize that, if the hook is "I'm the biggest boss that you've seen thus far," your video shouldn't climax with the arrival of Fat Joe.

#47 (from #51): 2 Pistols feat. T-Pain & Tay Dizm, "She Got It"
Seeing as how songs like this will wind up on The Best Of Featuring T-Pain anyway, rappers in his presence should choose the most inoffensive cliches, slur rather than yell, and keep it brief. Like this guy.

#48 (from #54): Trace Adkins, "You're Gonna Miss This"
A young woman is told that every period of her life will seem worse than the one before it. Needs T-Pain.

#63 (debut): Danity Kane, "Damaged"
Shut up, Diddy. You just ruined a fine song about needing vaginoplasty.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A 60's singer, an '80s song, a '90s video. Guaranteed ironic fascination for 2008.

A few weeks ago, before moving, I used a decade old copy of Billboard's Top 40 Hits as a guide and downloaded dozens of songs by pop stars underrepresented in my music collection. Now I have more CD-Rs with names like "'80s Cars/Wang Chung/Paula Abdul mix" and "Animals 1964-1969" and life is better for it. While debating whether to keep Cyndi Lauper's "I Drove All Night" (bite me, I'm unemployed), I remembered Roy Orbison's version and checked youtube to see if the video really did feature Jason Priestly and Jennifer Connelly (back when their respective hair and chest inspired awe and disbelief) canoodling in the desert on various modes of transportation. My memory was correct, but what surprised me was the bumpada-bumpada bass sequencer underneath Roy's past-prime warble and "uh-huh, yeaaaah"'s. Thanks to American Recordings, MTV Unplugged and the niche market they spawned, its unlikely we'll ever see a pop fogey brought back in such a garishly "modern" context again; Santana's the only such success of late that wasn't merely crassy class, and that was almost a decade ago.

An example of why this sucks? Aerosmith's Big Ones, which I also recently downloaded. Rocks is the godhead, but I've got a lot of love for the second commercial heyday of these decrepit transvestites. Along with the power ballads and dramatic descriptions of molestations consensual and otherwise, they had a tremendous, nasty, FIERCELY rocking track about fucking in an elevator...and it went top 20! The song even ends with a trumpet and a capella harmonies! Now, if they want to get some attention without calling Diane Warren, they have to make an album of "classic blues" tracks. Zzzzz. I already have classic blues tracks, I want Aerosmith to take me to the other side! Take me to the other side, where Desmond Child, John Kalodner and a synth-horn section wait patiently. Even a band named Velvet Revolver, a band with SLASH in it, can't reach these heights today, thanks to their choice of Weiland as a singer. He got the clothes right (love that Night Porter vibe) but he's so 90s-glummy a vocalist that I keep hoping Ian Astbury will bash him over the head and the lead them into "Fire Woman." But that schmuck's too busy with the 21st Century Doors. Christ.

Ignoring extremely awesome yet too-self-aware-for-prime-time bands like Eagles Of Death Metal and Electric Six, two acts on this planet give me hope for the future of gaudy 80s feel-good rock. One is AC/DC, who've claimed that their next album will be a DOUBLE CD. They can't fill all that with just Brian Johnston's incomprehensible gargling, so why not some RAP CAMEOS?! I'm down! Did somebody play the band that remix of Nelly's "Work It"? Don't get Rick Rubin on this, though, he had his chance.

My other hope against hope is Taylor Hicks. While this detested American Idol winner can't really rawk, his success should have made Clive Davis realize that AMERICA WANTS BAR-ROCK BACK! Down with soul patch, up with soul patrol! Give this man's man some "Simply Irresistible" jam and watch it skyrocket to the toppermost of the poppermost, where hopefully it will inspire other aging men of song to loosen up and give us the kind of Spuds McKenzie trash that can dignify a decade like this. Seth Rogen knows what time it is! Why doesn't anyone else?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fred Durst needs to start directing videos again.

Just cuz you didn't know Puddle Of Mudd had several rock #1s doesn't make them anonymous, Al. Their sound is shrill Nirvana/Local H rather than groany Pearl Jam/Creed, and, Vines aside, that's been an anomaly in rawk since the days of Durst. Thanks in part to that Kurt-like wail, their romantic paranoia has slightly less of a cock-rock undertow than most of their peers. Still, the hits on Come Clean were early examples of the misognyist psychosis that is "active rock," with "Blurry" more disturbingly vulnerable and "She Hates Me" more disturbingly giddy than most of the truly anonymous bile that's followed. Wes Scantlin was (is?) freqently seen in photos and videos wearing a black cap over his blond mane, and for that alone they were more identifiable than Fuel then or Three Days Grace now. Those videos were pretty damn memorable, too (respect the Durst).

Recent singles have been merely more of the same, but the success of "Psycho" and "Famous" imply that Scantlin may be a radio lifer, an emotionally unstable Tom Petty, rather than the eventual prison lifer he comes off as. I'm not saying everyone should like them, but they wouldn't be as "repulsive" as Al finds them if they were as "anonymous" as he claims.

I believe this is the first rebuttal to a negative Puddle Of Mudd review that wasn't at least 50% profanity.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Movies watched over the last week or so, from favorite to least.

If the songs were more than earnest competence, the film wouldn't be an effective valentine to the value of music as an emotional outlet for those who play it, just great music. If the songs were less than earnest competence, the film, however sweet and modest, would be excruciating. But it's not.

It's unfair to suggest a film based on a classic novel has any responsibility to be faithful to an earlier cinematic adapation, but the second half really would have benefited from some hippie vampires.

Danny Huston (resembling a bloodthirsty Neil Tennant) and some visual effects almost as unnerving as Ben Foster's accent make it possible to get through the nonsensical plot, if not scene after scene of Josh Hartnett thinking. This test-tube Treat Williams actually played Iago?

Jean Seberg and Peter Fonda's unnerving asylum patients make it almost possible to get through the nonsensical plot, if not scene after scene of Warren Beatty thinking.

The second best musical released in 2007 to star Timothy Spall as a repulsive henchman. The audience for this one-dimensional chore must be people who admire (or - somehow - enjoy) Stephen Sondheim's wandering, interminable music but don't mind it being sung by unaccomplished voices in a less operatic context. I'm not surprised this crowd includes Golden Globe voters, but it's sad to realize Tim Burton also qualifies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We have internet! Finally! Did you know its been two weeks since I've watched a youtube?

Feels so good! Regular programming returns Monday. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, more than ever.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We don't have net in the new pad yet, so I won't be updating the blog much until that's taken care of. However, I made a crapload of Garfield strips with the Random Garfield Generator last month, and have decided to put them up on another site. I realize what a spent nethumor subject Garfield is, but they're fun to make.

Knock on wood, Oh, Garfield will be updated every weekday. Do not read if you're tired of jokes about a dateless lunatic living with a sleepy cat. Or if you can't willingly suspend disbelief re: Jon's amazing technicolor shirt.