Saturday, December 29, 2007

The albums of 2007

Notice I didn't write the word BEST in the title. Of course, I think they're the best, but I certainly don't want to push that on you, the reader. In any case, please read on about the albums that affected me most in this past year of 2000+7. No pictures, let's not tempt copyright lawyers, but you can easily find all of these albums either on line (I recommend for the domestic ones and for the Japanese ones) or at your favorite brick-n-mortar store.

10 - Planet Earth - Prince

Prince is simply one of the greatest musical artists of all time. His music is as indelible as it is impenetrable' enigmatic and is is accessible.

A lot of critics were quick to dismiss "Planet Earth" as a dud either because he released it for FREE to purchasers of a London newspaper or because it didn't live up to their lofty standards. OK, it isn't "Sign 'O' The Times" or "Purple Rain" but I don't believe it's even striving to be. This is Prince being Prince. Take it or leave it.

If there were any doubt as to the importance of this album, I give you two names: Wendy and Lisa. On the raver, "The 1 U Want 2 C", they join Prince on the most buoyant song he's done sine the late 1980's. On other tracks, Prince shows his most unabashed romantic side he's ever recorded. Man, "Lovesexy" wasn't this romantic. He leaves himself emotionally naked and seduces the listener with some ultra smooth jams. "Planet Earth" may not be earth shaking and it won't change the world. It is well worth you time and I defy anyone to find an album released this year that matches the pure romantic intensity (No, not sexuality) that this one does. It's simply incendiary.

9 - Heavy Starry Heavenly - Tommy Heavenly6

Damn it. Every song here is great. It's got a wonderful production and everything is spot on... so why is it so damn low on my list????

Simple. Save for 4 songs, every song on this album has been previously released as a single or a B-side. It's a new album of 75% recycled material. Lucky for Tommy, it's fabulous material. It's just that Tommy's fans had all bought the singles and they simply weren't aware that they were going to buy them all over again. Even the seasonal Christmas and Halloween songs were included! To the credit of the producers, these songs appear to have been remixed for the album but there just aren't enough new songs here!

Well, as for the brand new songs, "Bloody Knee High Socks" is about as good as Tommy gets (and that's great!) as is "Stay Away From Me". "Door Mat" head bangs it's way through the brain and "Lucky Me" is a rousing album closer.

Tommy has turned back into Tomoko and The Brilliant Green has reformed, so we may never get to see February6 or Heavenly6 again. Not the best send off to one of my favorite J-rock characters, but under the circumstances, a great album nonetheless... singles be damned.

8 - Mike Viola - Lurch

This is the CD that I was waiting for before compiling my list. I certainly didn't want to risk making a best of and leave Mike off of it. Well, Mike didn't disappoint. "Lurch" is a fine album and better than most things I had heard this year.

After the introspection of "Hang On Mike" and the exorcism of his darker side with "Just Before Dark", "Lurch" is about getting on with life and happiness. Indeed, many of the songs sound as if we're eavesdropping on him talking to himself. It's such a playful and inventive album and yet it plays by all of the power pop rules. ""The Strawberry Blonde" sounds like a late 60's Beach Boys classic and "279 East 10th Street" actually sounds like something Brian Wilson would write (remember "Busy Doin' Nothing"?). "So Much Better" chimes in a way to make Matthew Sweet want to smash his guitar in jealousy. "Girly Worm" and "All Bent Out Of Shape" recall the Blue Thumb days more than anything he's released since the Blue Thumb days. "It Comes In Waves" reveals Mike's love for The Beatles' "Revolver" album. Every song here is an absolute gem and it was almost entirely done by Mike himself in his home studio.

I'm glad I waited. It more than deserves to be on this list.

7 - Icky Thump (Vinyl edition) - The White Stripes

Led Zeppelin reunited this past year for a live concert. I heard a bootleg of it. Very underwhelming. My immediate thought was they should've taken the stage and played "Icky Thump". No one would've known the difference. Can you imagine if The White Stripes had OPENED for them? The mind boggles.

Let's put it down to brass tacks, whether I like Jack White or not (I don't), he channels early 1970's Robert Plant like nobody else. The title track and the following track, "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)" simply stink of Zeppelin; Reeks of it, even. In fact, it hurts me that I adore this album so much since I don't hold much reverence for either the White Stripes or Led Zeppelin. Strangely, if I have my MP3 player on random and a song from this album come on, I'll flip past it immediately. However, if I listen to it as a complete album, I can't get enough of it. Sure there're some duds along the way. The cute and campy cover of "Conquest" should've been nixed and the CD version of "Rag -n- Bone" is too self conscious for it's own good, but the album at large is quite good.

Which is why I chose the Vinyl edition of "Icky Thump" over the other editions (the common CD edition and the Digital Download edition). The Vinyl edition is mixed differently and each song has things going on that're unique to that particular version. "Conquest" really can't be salvaged, but the Vinyl edition of "Rag -n- Bone" is concentrated mostly on the music and guitar work and most of the cute dialogue between Jack and Meg is, thankfully, gone. The Vinyl sounds better, too, since the CD and digital versions sound a bit sterile and hollow. This edition is fuller and in-the-room more than the other versions. Get this one if you can, it cooks.

6 - Scratch - Kimura Kaela

This is Kaela's 3rd album and it's a departure from the previous two. Upon initial listen, I really didn't think much of it. I was expecting to hear some fun pop and a couple of hard driving rock songs, but that just isn't where this album's heart is. From the opening track, "L. Drunk" with it's xylophone under the hollow electric guitars, I wasn't initially prepared for what I was hearing. After a few more listens, I got it. It's always great to hear albums that defy expectations, even if it leaves me cold at the outset.

The album is quirky and non conformist. "Magic Music", written by Linus Of Hollywood is a head bobbing pop treat, while "Snowdome" (music by Beat Crusaders) is a beautiful ballad. There are some good middle of the road pop numbers next, but then the album goes through the roof beginning with "Kirin Tan" which brings to mind classic Echo and the Bunnymen. The following tracks, the instrumental title track, "Swinging London", "Never Land", the brilliant "Tree Climbers" and the synthy "Joey Boy" escalate the album higher and higher until the final track "Ground Control" hits the listener right in the face. "Ground Control" could be one of the best pop songs of the decade. It's pure pop bliss; all hook, no filler.

All in all Ms. Kimura seems to be growing with every album. "Scratch" is a keeper.

5 - Raising Sand - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

This one knocked me for a loop. Take an aging Rock God and pair him with a silken voiced Bluegrass legend and you get something not completely expected. "Raising Sand" is a disc that I went in not knowing what to expect at all. Would Plant bring out the primal animal in the petite Krauss? Would Alison tame the savage Robert? The answer seems to fall to the latter, though, of course, Robert Plant was always more of a balladeer that the howling demon he seems to be remembered for.

When the two sing together, there is a magic intertwined in their voices. My initial thought was, they sound like The Raveonettes without the fuzz... and a helluva lot better. "Rich Woman", the opening track has a soft, bluesy strut that made me think of the Raveonettes. It was the second track that hit me over the head. "Killing The Blues" is so soft and sweet and their vocal interplay is nothing short of devastating. I could literally listen to that particular track all day without tiring.

The bulk of the album from there has the two taking turns on the lead vocals from song to song. Plant's songs are more of the romantic sort while Krauss' songs are curiously sung from a male point of view (or a lesbian point of view, I could say, but that would be reading waaaaaaaaaay too much into it) and that gives her tracks some serious edge.

It's such a curious collaboration, but such a satisfying one. I'd have never believed it were I simply told about it and yet I'm writing about it being one of the best albums I've heard all year.

...and it is just that.

4 - Golden Grapefruit - Love Psychedelico

Ah. The good 'ol 'Delico. It's been 4 years since their last studio album. That's an eternity in the Music Biz. Fans of this super-duo have been chomping at the bit since their last release "III", back in 2003. Since then, they've released a best of, a concert DVD and a handful of teaser singles that did nothing more then whet the appetite.

Well, the new disc finally came out and it was a bit of a shock. "Golden Grapefruits" (named as a tribute to Yoko Ono's "Grapefruit" book) didn't exactly sound like the 'Delico we came to expect. The first track, "Freedom" was extremely busy and electronic; a far cry from the tight guitar grooves heard previous. The album did come around, though, with tracks that sounded like the Rolling Stones ("AHA! All We Want"), REM (the Bouzouki driven "Carnation") and Led Zeppelin ("Rain"). Other tracks like "Humanimation" and "Good Day Celebration" explored the free associative experimental side of the band.

Unfortunately, they put a good but ultimately useless B-side cover of The Beatles' "Help!" and the 3 year old track "Everyone, Everyone" on there as well. They're both good songs in their own right, but really had no business on this album. Still, in spite of that, "Golden Grapefruit" is a fine album and miles ahead of albums from like minded bands across the world.

3 - Nicole Atkins - Neptune City

This girl. I tell ya. I only have known of her for a few months, but "Neptune City" by Nicole Atkins makes me feel like I've known her forever. This isn't just a great, mellow pop album. It's an album of marvelous pop standards. It's the type of album that, were Peggy Lee around today, she might have recorded. "Neptune City" is chock full of Pop Standards. The songs smoulder with the incredibly expressive vocals from Ms. Atkins and the production smacks of the techniques of yesteryear.

The title track croons and swoons a story about how the past never lasts. "Brooklyn's On Fire" with it's fist pumping, shout along chorus carries itself along in it's swirling circus melody. The track to play, though, is "The Way It Is". This track is so sexual and sultry, it threatens to melt the speakers. There may not be a better female vocal this year than hers on that particular song.

This album is her debut on a major label and it's an incredible start to what promises to be a great collection of albums. I would not be surprised to see her on future best lists.

2 - EPopMaking ~Close Encounters With Pop~ - Beat Crusaders

With their first major label release, "P.O.A. Pop On Arrival", the Beat Crusaders laid down the blueprint for a new type of Punk Rock. It was a Rock that echoed the old while embracing the new. While other bands were emulating The Ramones filtered through the heavy handed guitar of Billie "Green Day" Joe, BeCr was foraging new places for their guitars and keyboard to go. That album was wonderful, but it really left no one prepared for what loomed on the horizon. "EPopMaking" is one of the biggest, most pleasant surprises of the year. It takes the full on assault of "P.O.A." and expands on it magnificently.

What has been done here is an incredible travelogue of trailblazing Punk Rock for the 21st century. Encased within the 19 track CD is an array of what exactly can be done with variations on themes and how grafting different musical genres to Punk can create breathtaking music on it's own. I would not be in exaggeration were I to call "EPopMaking" the Beat Crusaders' "London Calling"... but without all that political stuff.

One thing that is remarkable and stands out above all else is the addition of collaborations with other groups. In the past couple of years, BeCr has made good on a promise to expose non-major label bands to a wider audience by releasing split albums with certain bands. "EPopMaking" features 4 tracks of these collaborations with Your Song Is Good ("Fool Groove", "~Your Melody~"), Tropical Gorilla ("Droog In A Slum")- a band featuring BeCr cult star CIM on guitar, and Asparagus ("Fairy Tale"). The album feels so vast and alive but never becomes crushed under it's own weight. It's actually BETTER than "P.O.A." and that's about the greatest compliment I can give it. A great Rock album.

...and the best album I've heard all year...

1 - Young Modern - Silverchair
It's rare that an album of completely fresh and invigorating music comes along. Most artists try it and they just can't grasp that brass ring.

When Silverchair joined forces with Van Dyke Parks for the "Diorama" album, there was a sense of promise; that, sometime in the future, something truly special was going to come from their alliance. "Young Modern" fulfills that promise tenfold.

The opening (semi) title track screeches out of the station and begins immediately breaking free of past expectations. Indeed, "Young Modern Station" sounds like a train leaving behind an ugly and stifling city while heading towards a beautiful and stately countryside. The train slows into a stride with "Straight Lines" and then the mood changes with the quirky "If You Keep Losing Sleep", a song filled with breathtaking time signature changes and insistent Military snare. The gorgeous "Reflections of a Sound" surprises once again with an irresistible sunny power pop anthem. From there, Silverchair settles in with their centerpiece for "Young Modern", the sweeping epic of "Those Thieving Birds". This is their "Surf's Up". It's actually a three piece song cycle who's The first part, "Those Thieving Birds Part 1" lulls the listener into a beautiful aural slumber while the second part, "Strange Behaviour", wakes up the listener with a driving, string laced tour de force of pure pop expressionism. The final segment, "Those Thieving Birds Part 2" brings things full circle and lingers there as would a Raven lifted on the wind.

From that point on, the album switches gears and becomes a killer, straight ahead rock and roll album. There's "The Man That Knew Too Much" with it's keyboard driven melody followed by the best track on the album, "Waiting All Day". This particular is possibly the most perfect pop song of the year. It's so light and breathy that it floats on air. It's eerie and ethereal in it's pure pop majesty. The final four tracks of this album absolutely rip. "Mind Reader" growls and tears it's way through a 3 minute primal workout while the George Harrison-istic slide guitar on "Low" further surprises the listener at Silverchair's growth as a band. "Insomnia" is a synthy pleasure with a chorus designed to stick in the crinkles of the brain. The album's closer, "All Across The World" takes things down to a nice easy level with a singalong ballad. The album begins perfect, maintains it's perfection during it's running time and ends perfectly. It's perfect.

The true revelation here if you haven't been following the band since "Frogstomp" is Daniel Johns' development as a songwriter and singer. I'm not much on lyrics, but there is so much playfulness and invention on hand that it becomes absolutely giddy, and make no mistake, a lot of credit has to go to his vocal inflection. I've rarely heard a vocalist these days that can sell a song the way Johns does.

I've gone on way too long here, but it's easy to gush. Silverchair's "Young Modern" is hands down the best album to have been released in 2007. I will go on record to say it's a Pop Music Masterpiece that can and does stand strong along side works like "SMILE" and "SGT. Pepper". It's that good and you should own it. Period.

Yeah. So that's it. My picks for the most worthwhile music this past yeah. I hope you agree. I understand if you don't, but there is no excuse for not going and listening for yourself. Here's to more and even better music in 2008!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I didn't intentionally set out to do it that way, but it just kinda happened. This holiday season, I was pretty much bombarded by Dario Argento movies.

I had heard about the new Italian PAL DVD releases of "Suspiria" and "Inferno" and how "Suspiria" was basically trounced visually by the Technicolor restoration people. I had no desire to see that edition of "Suspiria", however, I was pretty excited by the new "Inferno", which was released by Fox International and was a completely different transfer from the Anchor Bay edition a few years back. This new transfer is absolutely perfect, in my estimation. While the AB edition was a bit zoom cropped and the colors pumped up to near distortion, this transfer is more than welcome. The aspect ratio is properly matted and framed and the colors are now in line with what I saw theatrically. The reds and, especially, blues are deep and engulfing but realistic, unlike the ones in "Suspiria". The film also has an incredible three dimensional look due to the use of hard lenses during filming and this transfer does an admirable job reproducing that look. In fact, if you look at "Suspiria", "Inferno" and "Tenebrae", you can see Argento's visual style evolving. Indeed, "Inferno" looks like a bridge between the visual styles of the films that came before and after.

The sound mixes are wonderful, too, with the original English Stereo mix included on this disc (The Anchor Bay version had a 5.1 remix that, while pleasing, just didn't get the feel of the original mix). Keith Emerson's lovely piano driven score never sounded better that it does here. The Italian Mono mix is also present and serviceable. The English subs seem to be direct translations of the Italian language track, which makes the experience of watching the film in Italian a very good one.

No sooner did I track down the "Inferno" disc, when word had come down that a German company calling themselves Retrofilm had released a sort of official DVD of Argento's nearly lost "Four Flies On Grey Velvet". I had seen "Four Flies..." over the years as spotty bootleg versions that came chopped to bits or in the wrong aspect ratio... or both. This disc, while not official in the least, does a great service to Argento's fans by presenting the film in it's correct 2.35:1 AR with an English soundtrack.

This is not to say the film is perfect. The print itself is seriously worn with film scrapes and few splicy bits, but it's 99.9% intact thank to Retrofilm's use of composite to make the film complete. There are a few spots where the film turns soft and gauze-like. This is because a bootleg VHS was use to flesh out the missing parts.

New found fans of film imperfections and "The Grindhouse Look" will have a field day here, but those of us old enough to have suffered through actual films like this for years will wish for a nicer looking copy. This is not to say the transfer itself is bad. On the contrary, whomever did the film to digital transfer should be commended. The color timing and clarity of what is here is nothing short of astounding. In fact, the stretches of the film that are in the best shape look so damn good that it makes the wait for an official release all the more painful.

The Disc is rounded out with German Trailers for "Cat 'O Nine Tails" and "The Bird With The Crystal Plumage"; the other two films the the so called "Animal Trilogy".

Lastly, on Xmas Night (last night), I finally got around to watching the third film the in the Trilogy that began with "Suspiria" and continued with "Inferno". I had "The Third Mother" ("La Terza Madre") on my hard drive for a little while, but I was waiting for English Subtitles. With none apparently forthcoming, I bit the bullet and put my limited Italian to good use.

I have to say that, while it's stylistically nothing like the previous two films, I dug the living hell out of it. I admit I wasn't expecting to, the previews threw me off a bit and advance word wasn't always kind, though Argento's fans never are until a few years after one of his films have been out. The film is really unassailable, though. It's a film that Dario Argento, it seems, has made for his true fans. It contains some of his strangest plot elements, some truly disgusting murders and some of his most disturbing imagery. It only seems a bit curious that a couple of scenes reminded me of scenes found in Lucio Fulci films. You'll know them when you see them, Fulci Fans. I can only imagine the maestro was paying tribute.

The cast is first rate with Asia Argento taking the lead as Sarah Mundy, Udo Kier playing a doomed Priest and Daria Nicolodi (Asia's real life mother) playing the ghost of Sarah Mundy's mother. For those keeping score, that's two actors that showed up in two of the "Three Mothers" films. Two others I can think of are "Alida Valli" and the cab driver (who's name escapes me) that appeared in the first two films. All the actors appeared as different characters in each film.

Some people might be put off by what might be called a lack of atmosphere, but this film is of today. If Argento had attempted to emulate the style of 30 years ago it would have been disastrous. I'm also a fan of the stranger things in "The Third Mother". The Simian who acts as the witches' watchdog, the pack of punk-goth witches that walk around laughing loudly and pushing people around and even Mater Lachrymarum herself, a frequently nude and unconventional looking mother are all endearing to me and it shows that, like George A. Romero, Argento is a director that continues to confound and exceed the expectations of the people who are constantly trying to figure him out. In the eyes of someone like Dario Argento, filmmakers like Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and whoever the people who made "Saw" were are just little kids playing dressup. They may try to emulate what they have seen, but they'll never touch it. That's because they've never understood it to begin with.

So, now I'm waiting for subtitles so I work out some of those language barriers I have. That the film was shot mostly in English makes the whole thing that much more maddening. But yeah, that was my Christmas. Watching Argento movies. My 18 year old self would've been jealous as hell.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rush Hour 3: Don't believe the anti-hype

I watched "Rush Hour 3" just a few moments ago and felt compelled to write about it.

The Biggest reason I felt like writing about it is, well, I really miss Jackie Chan. You see, my first memories of Jackie Chan was watching "The Big Brawl" on HBO in the early 1980's. I then saw "The Cannonball Run" a bit later. Although I only knew him through those two movies and "The Protector" until around 1989, I was a fan.

It was in 1990 that TDC began playing "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" and I watched it religiously. I had just begun my descent into Hong Kong Cinema and there were two shows that helped me focus on it: A half segment on Tsui Hark and a full show on Jackie Chan. I must have watched the Jackie Chan segment 30 or 40 times. The show was quite informative and, more importantly, full of clips that gave me incentive to go out and find the full movies. By 1994, I had seen around 70 of Jackie's movies. From his best ("Project A Part 2", "Armour Of God", "Police Story") to his worst ("Killer Meteors", "Fantasy Mission Force", "New Fist of Fury") and just about every one in between. I was a card carrying member of the Jackie Chan Fan Club, of which I am still a honorary member and I played one of his best movies, "Drunken Master 2" as a midnight film the same year it was released.

I was a bit horrified that New Line Cinema chose "Rumble In The Bronx" to be the film to introduce Jackie to American Audiences. I had seen the film and wasn't very happy with it. I was thrilled, however, when US audiences seemed to take to it enthusiastically.

Through the years, I have been following Jackie's post US breakthrough with it's ups and downs, but I've always longed for him to get back on track and give US true fans some more homegrown HK action. There had been some films that did try; "Who Am I?", "Thunderbolt", "Gorgeous", "Mr. Nice Guy" and "The Myth" were all HK productions, but none of them had that FEEL that the older, pre US breakthrough films had.

He did fare a bit better in some of his US endeavours with the Owen Wilson "Shanghai" films and the Chris Tucker "Rush Hour" films being definite highlights. I liked the former series better than the latter, but the "Rush Hour" films seemed to improve from the first to second film.

So, tonight, I decided to give "Rush Hour 3" a try. The verdict? I absolutely loved it. I really did. I'll be damned if it didn't feel like one of those old Jackie Chan films. The plot didn't make too much sense but the film flew by at 80 minutes (that is, minus the end credits). The humor was low but laugh out loud funny and the action sequences were top notch, although, as with a lot of post "Rumble In The Bronx" movies, some of the sequences felt like "Greatest Hits" editions of sequences from earlier, mid to late 80's Jackie Chan films. Best of all, Brett Ratner finally figured out how to make a Jackie Chan film. It took him 3 tries, but he did it. Look, I'm not saying "Rush Hour 3" is a masterpiece by any stretch, but it is a fine return to form for Jackie and a great way to kill 90 minutes (credits included).

But then.... I went and did something stupid. I went to Rotten Tomatoes and the critics on there almost made me feel bad for liking it. Most of the reviews were pans and actually pretty shitty towards the film. A lot of critics took umbrage at Max Von Sidow and Roman Polanski for showing up in it for small roles. Well, to address these complaints, consider that Max Von Sidow is a consummate actor and has appeared in many films; low budget to high / considered good to bad. He was in Dario Argento's "NonHoSonno" ("Sleepless") and saved the entire movie by his presence. I believe most critics are just bursting with sour grapes for one reason or another. It always fascinated me that a film critic would write something along the lines of "I can't believe {insert name here} would have stooped so low as to be in such a film. {person} must have needed the money."

Why anyone would write something like that is beyond me. Is any actor or actress above working? Is there an actor in the world who would say, "This project interests me, but I can't do it because the critics wouldn't like me to do something like that?" I would like to believe there aren't, but I'm sure somewhere there are. The bottom line is, Max Von Sidow was fine in "Rush Hour 3", he didn't embarrass himself, he lent a sense of class to the film and he looked like he was having a great time. What's the problem? In a world where most "actors" these days are actually celebrities, Max Von Sydow is most definitely an Actor. Shut up and let him act.

As for Roman Polanski, why shouldn't he do a small role in a comedy? He had a tiny role in "Blood For Dracula" in the early 70's, but I'm sure today's "well read" film critic wouldn't know anything about that (for you up and coming critics, that movie was AKA "Andy Warhol's Dracula", FYI). Furthermore, unless someone read the end credits or had press notes prior to viewing "Rush Hour 3", I doubt ANYONE would have recognised Polanski in the film. Really, do you think there's anyone in Western film criticism that was watching "Rush Hour 3" and thought to themselves, "Oh my God! That's Roman Polanski! What's he doing in this movie???" Yeah, me neither. It did amuse me during the end credits to see that it was him, I admit.

There were other issues the critics seemed to take the film to task for that I really can't make too much sense of. There seemed to be much hemming and hawing about Jackie Chan's age. Most critics probably can't get their 23 year old super sized asses out of a theater seat after a movie and there they are saying Jackie's showing his age. Jackie's doing fine at 53. I'd much rather watch him at his age in an action movie that watch Matt Damon (or his stunt double) in yet another ridiculous Bourne movie. There were also complaints about the movie being formulaic and preposterous. This movie isn't "Hotel Rwanda", people. It's a summer buddy cop movie. Deal.

The funniest complaint is about the rampant racism in the film. God help me. The "Rush Hour" franchise is built on racism, though some would argue it's simply culture clashes. Bull, it's racism. Chris Tucker spent the first two movies completely making light of the entire Chinese culture. This third film shows him respectful and more enlightened than ever (no more Blacenese jokes, thankfully) and suddenly NOW the film is racist. Of course, this is nothing compared to the one critic that called "Rush Hour 3" Anti-American. I wish this person could show me where the Anti-American sentiment was. Was it because a Cab Driver didn't want to give Chris Tucker's character a ride because he was American... or was it because the same Cab Driver later wanted to be an American so he could kill senselessly? Yeah. For some reason, I don't believe those comments were too far off the mark. I would imagine there is a world view of the US exactly like that a lot of people abroad would believe.

So, in short I do recommend "Rush Hour 3". You could do much worse on a cold winter's night. It should be out on DVD soon. Me, I'm gonna go watch "Project A Part 2" now. Jackie! Make more movies, please.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Walk Hard: The First Ten Minutes

So, IGN and Sony Pictures has released the first ten minutes of "WALK HARD: The Dewey Cox Story" for streaming viewing. It's streaming right now, actually, and you can see it here.

Now, I watched the first ten minutes today and it doesn't look good. It starts out, basically, as a condensed wink-wink, nudge-nudge version of the opening of "Walk The Line". There aren't really any jokes to tell here, except knowing dialogue and scenes for people who saw "Walk the Line". Now, I may be just a silly curmudgeon, but I found the opening scenes pretty tasteless, and not in a fun way. As the whole thing was unfolding, I couldn't help but to think that the filmmakers aren't parodying some overwrought, sentimental piece of Lifetime Channel movie making here. The filmmakers are making light of something that actually happened to Johnny Cash. There was no reverence. There was no good natured ribbing. There was just some sub-sub Mad Magazine parody that didn't have any respect for the material they were making fun of. Now, why should they have respect? Well, for starters, anyone going to the film is going because they undoubtedly enjoy these types of films and want to see something light done to them.

Anyway, after the unfunny prologue, things pick up just a lil bit. Dewey is 14 years old and is being played by John C. Reilly. That's worth a chuckle in itself. Cox (and, believe me, the Cox joke is going to get old LOOOOOONG before the credits roll) and his band is playing a talent show and causes a commotion with his new fangled Rock -n- Roll style of music. The Scene is a cross between the talent show in "That Thing You Do!" and Nick Rivers' concert in "Top Secret!". It works to a point, but, once again, the filmmakers don't seem to understand why the scene is funny. Jokes are missed out on for very obvious physical humor.

The clip ends with the town, torches and all, descending on the Cox household to get Dewey. Dewey and girlfriend (because he pointed to her onstage; she's played by Kristen Wiig.... that's another strike against the movie) leave to further musical adventures.

To be brutally honest, the ten minute clip seemed like 30 minutes. I was looking forward to this movie, but I don't have nearly the high hopes I did before watching this. Ah, well. It still has those songs....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Sassy Remake Pic & other random things...

Yet another pic from the upcoming "My Sassy Girl" remake to confound and exasperate me:

OK, I mean, WTF? She's pushing him around in a shopping cart with a, what, BEAVER PELT on the front? I know, in the beloved original, Gyun-woo carries The Girl around on his back while she's passed out drunk, but I don't get this at all. Methinks this does not bode well....

UPDATE!!!! 12/08/07: I've been thinking about this photo. In the Original Korean MSG, Gyun-Woo carries The Girl around on his back. Maybe in the US version, he carries her around in a shopping cart he takes from a vagrant. If this is true, it's a sloppy update of events since Gyun-Woo's carrying of The Girl on his back takes on a major double significance. She's a burden to him, but she's using him to lean on. It's a perfect metaphor for their relationship. Shopping carts? No. Not at all.

Anyway, I'm thinking if the above is true, then this photo is from the guy's abortive attempt at revenge. In the Original MSG, Gyun-Woo attempts to make The Girl pay for the way she's treated him by getting drunk and making her carry him on her back as punishment. Of course, it doesn't work out like that at all. This photo could be illustrative of his plan. At least that's what I make of it. Or she just might like pushing her boyfriend around in a shopping cart. We'll see...

In other notes, "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" featuring the Spice Girls finally aired this evening on CBS. They performed "STOP" from the Spice World album. I thought this was quite a strange song to make their official comeback on US television with (ooh! A dangling preposition!). The song wasn't a hit in the US at the time of the Movie and Album's release. Still, it was an excellent performance. The girls looked lovely in their USO uniforms and sounded great. They even did their Hand Jive movements during the chorus! Made me feel good.

Well, turns out the Writer's Strike put the Kibosh on The Dewey Cox Band's performance on Jay Leno this evening. That's right. No Mike Viola on TV tonight. It's a shame. Still, go and see the movie if just for the music. If you hate anything Judd Apatow related, this one might make you queasy (as it undoubtedly will me) but I'm willing to sit through it for Mike Viola, Marshall Crenshaw and Van Dyke Parks penned goodness.

...and speaking of Judd Apatow....

I heard somewhere he was voted by Entertainment Weekly as the "Smartest Person In Hollywood". Now, because a certain lead singer of The Candy Butchers' wife is a photo editor for EW, I'll go light on them.... but not Apatow.

Just look at this Terrorist-cum-Yakov-Smirnov lookin' bastard. Seriously. "Smartest Man In Hollywood"? Maybe he is. I don't personally know the man. I can go only from his work that I've sampled. On that alone, I would say his only "Smarts" are f**king the celluloid corpses of:

a) The Porky's Movies

b) The American Pie Movies

c) the Farrelly Brothers Movies

...and making audiences think his crap movies (produced or directed, I don't care which) are light years better than they actually are.

Seriously? Making irredeemable gross out movies with limp pathos tacked onto them is criteria for being intelligent? Sure, he's obviously smarter than American audiences and critics since they seem to fall for the same damn plot device EVERY TIME (i.e. A reprehensible person is ultimately endearing if it's revealed he/she has a heart by the last reel), but come on. His films aren't even all that funny and any humor that is to be found has nothing to do with the plot. It's all incidental comedy that never comes out of the situation at hand.

Think about it. Take out the "You know how I know you're Gay" lines in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and the "Hairy Man" cracks out of "Knocked Up" and the movies just aren't funny. Take the McLovin subplot out of "Superbad" and the movie falls flat on it's face. The subplot of the movie so completely eclipses the main plot that the ads had to completely focus on it instead of what the film was really about (which was the impending separation of two childhood friends once they go to College... and getting laid). That's how wretched "Superbad" is. Menstruation jokes? Yeah, a real knee slapper. Hear me once. "Superbad" sucks "Dazed and Confused"'s dick, "She's Having A Baby" owns "Knocked Up" and "Hardbodies" wrestles "The 40 Year Old Virgin" to the ground and farts on it's face. I have a weird feeling Apatow wants to be the current Generation's John Hughes, but it just ain't gonna happen. I don't care how much his PR machine tries to drill it into my brain.

The person with the REAL smarts in Hollywood is the one that does the promotion for his movies. THAT guy is a genius. Anyone who can convince the public at large that this unfunny hack's films are worth seeing is brilliant beyond compare.

Whew. I feel better now. Write y'all soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Night Flight Time Machine!

Do you remember the television experience known as Night Flight? I say "Experience" and not "Show" because Night Flight was so, so, so much more than a show. It ran on USA network in the 1980's from 11:00pm until 7:00am on Friday and Saturday Nights (two 4 hour shows aired back to back) and experienced a very short revival in syndication in the early 1990's. It was like no other program on television and it did a lot for me, personally. The show shaped my pop consciousness and opened me up to so many, many things. In fact, Night Flight has proven to be a Fountain of Youth for the teenagers who watched it back then, if only mentally.

Well, thanks to the people on YouTube who like to upload their old videotapes, I've created a reconstruction of a Night Flight show. It's not perfect, mind you. It's not a proper full show (the segments promised in the opening aren't here) and the segments originally aired from 1981 to 1988 (instead of all in one evening), but this is basically what it was all about.

Please enjoy. Fasten your seat belts. The Night Flight has begun.