Blog Archive

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Summer Review Mega post

Movies:

The Descent
* * *
R for language, gore
Sorry, but I have to say it, the Descent is a “decent” horror film. It has some great hype, but it’s too formulaic and predictable for my tastes. On the other hand Marshall makes the most of this film, which could have easily been a disaster, and makes it an unnerving, and scary near classic. The film’s first third is incredible, while it starts off a little slow, the film’s claustrophobia and red herrings are masterful. In fact the film is scary up until we see the monsters, and that really hurts the film especially how killable they seem, but that’s for another article on how to make great movie monsters. The sound design is great, as is the editing, but the film seems to oblige by the genre conventions to finish it’s story, which I found disappointing. I’ve seen both endings, I like the US one better, as the US one is a theme of rebirth, while the UK ending is more about accepting death. The other problem was that it didn’t effect me afterward.

Scoop
* *
PG-13 for…I’m not sure.
I’m not sure if Woody Allen is playing senile or if he really is that old in his latest film. I do know that Scarlett Johannson is playing Woody Allen and it is really annoying. Hugh Jackman is great in it, and it’s a highly enjoyable, watchable film, in a similar vein to Manhattan Murder Mystery. But not nearly as funny, or really that funny at all…it has all of Allen’s nervous energy but not enough of his one liners, and I kept waiting for sticky situations to arise, that never did, that could have been funny. It’s sort of a sweet film for it’s material which is refreshing. Come to think of it if you want to see this, rent Manhattan Murder Mystery, Alan Alda is really great in that.

Lady in the Water
* * 1/2
PG-13 for some jump scenes
From the critics I read I expected this to be an incoherent Uwe Boll worthy horror film. Instead it is probably Shaymalan’s most personal film, which is refreshing, after it felt like he didn’t care much about The Village. At it’s best the film is up there with Close Encounters, it’s a pretty inspirational fantasy film…but then there are scenes where you wonder if everyone around M. Night was afraid to tell him the ideas, well made no sense…something I call “George Lucas Syndrome”. The film somehow manages to be sickeningly self-indulgent (M. Night plays a sort of messianic character) but also very fun. It would be a great film for pre-teens/teen audiences, and I think in that respect, of making a dark kids fantasy film that deals with becoming who you are, it works. It’s not as imaginative as something like Labyrinth, but it still manages to entertain, and make you think just a tad.

Miami Vice
* *
R for violence, sex
The first about half hour is pretty nice and intense with a great performance from the guy from Me You and Everyone I Know. Then the movie gets slow, I mean really slow for about an hour and a half. Then the last half hour is pretty cool. The middle is just so much slower and muddled that it really breaks the film. Mann tries to comment on similar themes, or a reverse theme, to Heat, but really can’t be taken seriously in the material, or with Collin Farrell’s hair. The actors aren’t really utilized, as it seems like it’s weaker actors have more screen time. It’s pretty visceral, since it uses HD Cam, but unlike Collateral, which used a similar technique, there are a few scenes where you really can’t get over the fact it was shot on HD.

Music:
Art Brut
Bang Bang, Rock and Roll
* * 1/2
Art Brut reminds me somewhat of the Dead Milkmen, their songs pretty self-reflexive and satirical, though often just vulgar. Though in sound it’s basically the Libertines. Art Brut is a fitting name, for a band that sounds like a band that is improvising as it goes, which is refreshing in their first few songs. Then the album quickly gets old, and you realize the fresh sound isn’t fresh at all, and in a strange way rather patronizing. Emily Kane is a great rock song though.

Charalambides
A Vintage Burden
* * * *
Charlambrides must have been listening to Low, because they play very long, slow songs about spirituality, as opposed to their typical psychedelic folk freak-outs. But they add a sort of natural feeling to their songs, which make it a rather mystical feeling experience. A very pretty album, that is prettier depending on your level of patience.

Aloha
Some Echoes
* * * 1/2
Aloha has been called a jazz-rock band, or a math-rock band, I really don’t care for either genre description, it’s just that they have a different rhythm scheme. The overall feel is sort of Sufjan Stevens meets Radiohead, but it sounds much more boring than that sounds. There’s really nothing wrong with the songs, they are technically great, it’s just I didn’t feel much about the music, there wasn’t much emotion or ugency.

Gnarls Barkley
St. Elsewhere
* * 1/2
I was surprised how personal this album gets, musing quite a bit about mental stability and external anxieties. The album starts out with two amazing songs, but then it feels like you go from 60 mph to about 30, and there’s a few filler songs, including a strangely chosen cover of The Violent Femmes’ Gone Daddy Gone. I really like the sound, it’s a fun album, but just isn’t a complete album.


Matthew Sweet and Sussana Hoffs
Under the Covers Vol. 1
* *
Two pretty unique voices, but the covers are pretty uninspired, they don’t make them their own…in fact it’s more like Matthew Sweet and Sussana Hoff’s sing the ‘60’s, rather than reinterpret. Most of the time I was thinking, wow that is a great song, and then turned this CD off to listen to the original, which made this a frustrating CD, but if you don’t know the originals, or can not think about them, it’s a fun one.

Matthew Herbert
Scale
* * * * 1/2
Finding this CD was difficult, as it really could be placed in any genre: Jazz, classical, R and B, Techno.
Herbert lists several hundred “instruments” used in the record, everything from conventional instruments, to everyday objects (732 of them) like a GI Joe, a Coffin, or a wet suit. So what has Herbert created from these everyday objects? This is more than novelty, it is a unique, layered, heartfelt musical experience. A soulful, politically active album, with killer grooves, and amazing orchestrations. Dani Siciliano gives a great vocal performance, a sort of hearkening back to classic jazz. An album that sounds familiar, but at the same time is like nothing I’d ever heard before. The only problem is that the album really slows down towards the end, but then is quickly picked back up.

EW has the must list, and so here’s the Mused List, my list of musts.
-Walls (circus) I just rediscovered this song after, wow- 10 years, and it really is one of Tom Petty’s best, from the She’s the One Soundtrack. It’s worth a listen.
-Soul Mosaic, DJ Greyboy: If you like Gnarls Barkley you’ll like this release from last year, which was the best soul album of last year.
-Homecoming. Joe Dante’s (Gremlins) politically scathing episode from Showtime’s Master’s of Horror series is now on DVD. The premise? Soldiers killed in Iraq return from the dead to vote, but when the fictional equivalent of Karl Rove pulls a fast one they quickly start acting like the Zombies we know and love from horror films to get their revenge. The best epi from that series and a must see.

Friday Five-Star Flashback
Pinkerton (1996)
Weezer
10 years ago, Weezer was riding high off of a multi-platinum debut. Then released Pinkerton. It was named one of Rolling Stones 10 worst of the year, and was a commercial disappointment. In fact, initially even the band disliked the album and didn’t play it live, Rivers Cuomo saying: “It's like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly great and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself.” Lacking any real radio friendly singles it caused Weezer to disappear for about 5 years. But this is their best album. It’s easy to see why it’s taken it so long to be well received (Rolling Stone has since given it 5 stars as well), as it is a concept album based on Madame Butterfly as told by the character of Pinkerton, used as a springboard for Rivers Cuomo’s frustration with sex. The album is sometimes graphic in it’s nihilistic, self-hating funk, from it’s opening track Tired of Sex, to the wild El Scorcho, but it’s also evident that Cuomo is looking for something more, which adds quite a lot of personal depth to the album. As a rock album it is an aggressive set of catchy pop tunes dragged through Pavement-esque lyrics, beaten up by driving Iggy Pop-like rhythms, wild guitar solos, and heavy distortion, but that still retains it’s catchyness. While I am not a fan of the residual effects of the influence of this album, namely the emo-pop-punk that junks up the little rock slots that MTV or the radio plays, this album is so much more visceral, and entertaining than anything influenced by it, and takes itself far less seriously.

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