Saturday, August 29, 2009

justin timberlake and the open road

Hey, Justin Timberlake fans, do you know JT's in a movie that's out this weekend? Probably not -- Anchor Bay is very quietly dumping The Open Road into theaters. It's a father-and-son drama starring Timberlake and Jeff Bridges. It's not terrible, but it's exactly the sort of film Timberlake shouldn't be doing. I explain why in my review at L.A. Weekly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

the national - mistaken for strangers

I'll be seeing the National tomorrow night at the Wiltern. This will be the second time I've caught them live -- the last was as an opening band for R.E.M.'s Accelerate tour. I'm curious to see how their well-toned mope-rock works in an intimate setting. (They were good at the Hollywood Bowl, but the sun was still out, and most of the crowd couldn't have cared less about them.) They'll definitely play "Mistaken for Strangers" -- I think it's the best of their "for once, let's try to rock" songs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

afi's davey havok speaks

AFI will be releasing their new album, Crash Love, on September 29. I spoke with frontman Davey Havok for Revolver about the making of the record, which is a return to focused guitar rock for the Northern California group. We discussed the cult of celebrity, sleazy riffs and why they decided to change producers during the recording. The article isn't available on the magazine's website, but here's a shot of the issue cover.

Monday, August 24, 2009

inglourious basterds review

Inglourious Basterds continues my streak of recent Quentin Tarantino films that do very little for me. I review it in the latest Consumables column, and I also say a few words about Funny People, Amreeka, Lorna's Silence, Humpday and Steely Dan's recent live show.

Friday, August 21, 2009

moby - pale horses

I'm going to be writing a piece about Moby's recent Wait for Me in the next couple weeks. To get me in the mood, I pulled up this video. This is beautiful stuff.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'extract' movie review

I thought Mike Judge's Office Space was funny but sloppy. I thought Idiocracy was a brilliant idea that was terribly executed. So what do I make of his new film, Extract? My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

x games 3d: the movie

If ever a film demanded an exclamation mark in its name, it's X Games 3D: The Movie. The filmmakers left it out, sadly, but don't worry: There's an abundance of "awesomeness" in this extreme-sports documentary. In fact, it's so unrelentingly "awesome" that I got pretty sleepy during it. My review is up at The Village Voice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

quentin tarantino's favorite films since 1992

It's funny: An hour ago, I was sitting here thinking about why I'm having a hard time caring about Ingloriuous Basterds, the forthcoming film from Quentin Tarantino. I've missed a few screenings, and competing screenings this week will keep me from seeing it before Friday's release. But I didn't find myself being all that upset about that fact.

You see, I'm clearly in the "scolding third-grade teachers" camp that Glenn Kenny talks about when he describes some of QT's critics as folks who insist that Tarantino would be a great filmmaker if he didn't make, y'know, the films that he makes. There's no point in responding to that until I see Inglorious Basterds, but I will say that I was sitting here feeling quite surly about all things QT -- and then I stumbled upon the below clip, which reminded me of what I do love about the man.

Beyond the individual selections Tarantino makes for his Top 20 Movies Since 1992, what I appreciate is that his tastes reveal a real enthusiasm and insight. I understand that these are largely pithy comments he dispenses, but it's worth pointing out that he does something that we film critics don't always remember to do: He relates to a viewer's passion for film without talking down to the viewer.

When it comes to the actual list, well, it's entirely across the board, as you'd expect. I think he's absolutely right in what he says about Unbreakable and Dogville. I wish he had explained why Anything Else isn't just underrated but great. (And now I'm wondering if he's checked out Woody Allen's really underrated gem, Cassandra's Dream.) I think Battle Royale is terrible, but I can completely understand why he loves it. Most people who are gaga about Dazed and Confused are smitten with it for precisely the reasons Tarantino lays out. He articulated my conflicted feelings about The Matrix, and he actually made me reconsider Speed. That's a lot of intelligent, thought-provoking criticism in a short amount of time.

Now, the question has to be asked: If he wasn't Tarantino, would I care this much about his list? Probably not. But this six-minute clip made me very happy. And, I have to admit, it got me into a better mindset about seeing Inglorious Basterds.

Bonus: If you're interested in Tarantino's ballot for the Sight & Sound film poll from 2002, it can be found here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

coldplay - life in technicolor ii

This is not the most novel of novel concepts -- puppets in videos have been with us since Genesis's "Land of Confusion" and the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey." But I do find this Coldplay clip deeply amusing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

roger ebert on 'district 9'

Roger Ebert sums up my feelings precisely about District 9:
“District 9” does a lot of things right, including giving us aliens to remind us not everyone who comes in a spaceship need be angelic, octopod or stainless steel. They are certainly alien, all right. It is also a seamless merger of the mockumentary and special effects (the aliens are CGI). And there’s a harsh parable here about the alienation and treatment of refugees.

But the third act is disappointing, involving standard shoot-out action. [...] Despite its creativity, the movie remains space opera and avoids the higher realms of science-fiction.

Most critics love the movie. As I said in my review, this is a genuinely thoughtful and upsetting film that eventually becomes a shoot-'em-up. That means it's not at the level of 28 Days Later or even (and I know I'm getting myself in trouble here) Cloverfield, which at least stayed tonally consistent throughout.

If you haven't seen the short film that inspired District 9, called Alive in Joburg, you should -- a lot of what makes the feature film great can be found there. And I have to say that the moments that don't work as well in District 9 are nowhere in sight.

Friday, August 07, 2009

pet shop boys - rent

John Hughes died yesterday, so consequently the radio has been full of '80s songs from his movies. They're all perfectly fine (albeit dated) tunes, but as a whole they represent the shallow, dopey, melodramatic excesses of the era -- which I know will be heresy to those who came of age during that time. But, listen, I did come of age during that time, and hearing those songs makes me cringe. For me, they're iconic songs, but they're not, y'know, good songs. So as a remedy, how about some smart '80s music that flaunted its shallow surfaces while slowly revealing its emotion and wit underneath? Yes, it's time for some Pet Shop Boys.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

a perfect getaway

If you want a solid B-movie thriller, may I suggest David Twohy's A Perfect Getaway? My hunch is that I liked it more than most critics, but it's a sturdy little contraption that worked for me. My review is at The Village Voice.

rob tannenbaum on steely dan

Rob Tannenbaum, my editor at Blender, "gets" Steely Dan in a way that I hope is accessible to people who are sure that they hate Steely Dan. (Lord knows I've tried and failed to convert people to this duo's genius.) In his Vulture review of their recent New York show:
Fagen and Becker’s songs are populated by putzes and shlubs, unreliable narrators who only think they’re having the times of their lives; these are filthy stories, lushly told. In a Jimmy Buffet or Kenny Chesney song, alcohol consumption symbolizes fun and community. For Steely Dan, it’s an augury of disaster, coming shortly after the last guitar solo has faded out.
Yes, that's exactly right. Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Fountains of Wayne are the holy trinity of ironic pop songwriters who dissect the dark underside of "let the good times roll" with deceptively happy music.

By the way, I'm counting down the days until I get to see Steely Dan's Gaucho show here in Los Angeles near the end of the month. I hope Fagen gets over his cold by then.

Monday, August 03, 2009

who will save nbc? the behind the music guy

Somehow, I had never known this about Jeff Gaspin, the new No. 2 at NBC:
In March 1997, Gaspin wondered, "Whatever happened to Milli Vanilli?" The 1980s pop music duo had been disgraced after it was revealed that they had been lip-syncing songs from their Grammy-winning album. Over lunch one day with producer Gay Rosenthal, Gaspin pitched his idea for a series about the rise and fall of pop idols. Rosenthal had with her a copy of People magazine that featured a story about rapper MC Hammer and how he had squandered $33 million. That also would make a great episode, they thought.

The idea evolved into VH1's breakout hit show "Behind the Music," which launched with episodes on Vanilli and Hammer and ran for nine years.
He also was a big advocate of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy over at Bravo. I don't watch enough TV to have a right to be smug about its limitations, but none of these revelations about him surprise me. In an era when reality television is becoming more and more important for the major networks, this is the sort of guy who acquires the perception of having the Midas touch.