Friday, August 29, 2008

randy newman: a few words in defense of our country

This isn't top-notch Randy Newman -- it's not quite as cutting as his very best satirical songs -- but it'll do for the long weekend. The Supreme Court stuff is especially wonderful ... best Pluto joke ever?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

death note comes to los angeles

Death Note, a fun Japanese thriller based on a popular manga of the same name, may be for the fan-boys, but, hey, we've all got a little fan-boy in us, right? My review is at L.A. Weekly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

vicky cristina barcelona: my take

I heap all kinds of praise on Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona in my Consumables column. Also, reviews of Transsiberian, The Exiles, Chop Shop, and In Search of a Midnight Kiss.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

obama picks biden

Lots of good analysis this morning of why Barack Obama went with Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, but this from the intrepid Andrew Tanenbaum might be the most dead-on:
Every serious observer of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, readily admits that few, if any, senators know as much about foreign policy as Biden. He shores up a critical weakness in Obama's CV--lack of foreign affairs experience. When McCain attacks Obama for lack of experience, Biden is going to say: "John, Barack and I are a team and I've been in the Senate 14 years longer than you and I'm chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a job you've never held." This alone is worth the price of admission. It makes it hard for the Republicans to attack the Democrats on foreign policy when the Democratic ticket has more experience than the Republican ticket (short of McCain picking Colin Powell as Veep).
For me, the real interesting test will be how the young Obamamaniacs respond to the choice. As much as I love The Colbert Report, the gold standard of hip political comedy, the show's constant jokes about McCain's age have gotten (forgive the pun) old. Biden is only six years younger than McCain, and one of his chief electoral appeals is, put bluntly, he's not hip and he's not cool. He's a grownup in the eyes of people who worry that Obama (and some of his younger, impetuous supporters) aren't.

Friday, August 22, 2008

kanye west: champion

Remember, everyone: Puppets are always funny. And the song's good too... dig that Steely Dan sample.

UPDATE (Sept. 10, 2008): You can no longer embed the video (sorry), but it's available here.

one last comment about obama and mccain at saddleback

In case you assumed all conservatives thought McCain whipped Obama last Saturday at Rick Warren's presidential forum, this blog post should set you straight. Even more impressive: the commenters, who seem to have digested the content of the forum more deeply than a lot of professional pundits.

my religulous review: bill maher goes gunning for god

Religulous, the satirical film from comedian Bill Maher and Borat director Larry Charles, is often very funny in its condemnation of organized religion, but it does fall into certain traps of contemporary documentaries. Religulous doesn't come out until October 3, but my review is up now at Screen International.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

death race is pretty fun

Much to my pleasant surprise, I found Death Race to be a perfectly enjoyable way to round out the summer movie season. Oh sure, it's insanely violent and geared entirely to young men, but it's big-dumb-fun done well.

nixon: the movie

Nixon, Oliver Stone's underrated 1995 biopic of the disgraced president, returns to DVD. My review is up at Vulture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

staind: the illusion of progress

Staind were huge back in 2001 thanks to their monster ballad "It's Been Awhile." Not surprisingly, their latest album, The Illusion of Progress, has a couple "It's Been Awhile" clones on it. My review is at About.

Monday, August 18, 2008

traitor: don cheadle in syriana territory

Traitor is a political thriller that tries to be more sensitive in its depiction of Islamist terrorists than your average Hollywood fare. But despite Don Cheadle's good performance, the film aspires to the cosmopolitan flair of a Syriana or Traffic without possessing their depth. My review is at Screen International.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

woody allen on vicky cristina barcelona

Cities move me. That’s why I don’t think I could make a film in a place that would appear boring to me, or unromantic. If I’m making a film in Venice, or Paris, I can really do a good job and make the atmosphere part of the story — that’s very important to me. Originally, when I was doing this film, I was going to title it Midnight in Barcelona. And then I changed it, because I just felt the film was about Vicky, Cristina and Barcelona — that it required equal billing.
The rest of the interview with L.A. Weekly's Scott Foundas is here.

vicky cristina barcelona is terrific

And David Denby will explain why.

Friday, August 15, 2008

radiohead: house of cards

Right, you've already seen this. But in case you haven't, you really should. And if you've only seen it once, why not see it again?

enough of mccain

A reader of Andrew Sullivan's fantastic blog has had enough with the recent turn in sympathy toward John McCain:
McCain wants to win the election, and he's shown since he lost in 2000 that he's willing to compromise his own values entirely for the sake of cozying up to the neo/theocons. He traded his "maverick" credibility in a long time ago, and we should all stop trying to excuse his boorish behavior.
Nicely said. The rest is here.

one day as a lion

If you haven't heard One Day as a Lion yet, and you're a fan of Zack de La Rocha's vocal stylings from Rage Against the Machine, you might enjoy what you hear. My review is up on About.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

henry poole is here

Luke Wilson stars as the despondent titular atheist of Henry Poole Is Here. It's an affecting performance in a low-key way, but the movie is a little too doe-eyed for my taste. My review appears in L.A. Weekly.

randy newman's so-so new album

I love Randy Newman, but even he can make a mediocre record on occasion. Harps and Angels, his latest, has plenty of nice touches, but it's just not up to his high standards. I review it in Consumables, as well as discuss Keane's new single, the Hold Steady's recent L.A. show, and the documentary Stealing America: Vote by Vote.

Monday, August 11, 2008

star wars: the clone wars

The animated Clone Wars film, which hits theaters August 15, in some ways improves on the debilitating problems of the mediocre prequels. But George Lucas's franchise still seems to be running out of gas.

Friday, August 08, 2008

the shins: pink bullets

This might be the saddest video ever. If it's not, I'd love to hear your alternate picks.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

pete seeger: the power of song

The Power of Song, the great documentary about folk singer Pete Seeger, comes to DVD today. I give it the brief once-over at Vulture.

trapt - only through the pain

Only Through the Pain is the third album from the rock band Trapt. How is it? About the same as their last two.

the airborne toxic event

This L.A. indie rock band made a big noise last year when their first song, "Sometime Around Midnight," started getting a ton of airplay on KROQ and Indie 103 without the band even having a record deal. Well, now the album, The Airborne Toxic Event, is here. I review it for Blender.

Friday, August 01, 2008

the hold steady: the swish

In honor of the great Hold Steady show I attended this week, here's "The Swish" from their first album, Almost Killed Me. The "Beverly Hills" line played well with the L.A. crowd. One note: Craig Finn is much more spastic than this in concert -- it's really a sight to see.