Friday, February 29, 2008

In case you missed the Tina Fey-hosted SNL

This sketch isn't fall-on-the-floor funny, but it is humorously absurd. And Fey's Juno is pretty priceless.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Falling Slowly...into stardom! Am I right?

Fresh off their Best Original Song Oscar win, The Swell Season - aka Once's Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - will spend the next couple months on the road in the US. This, after having just finished their last stateside tour in November (listen to their DC stop here). This time, the Oscar/Grammy winners will not only enjoy playing bigger venues, but also, apparently, text messages from Bono.

Incidentally, Irglova is only nineteen years old. Freaking talented kids who make you feel like you've wasted your life...I mean -- congrats on all the success!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More on that Dr. Cosby/Dr. Dyson beef

While we wait with baited breath for Bill Cosby's pending hip hop record, there's apparently another ill-advised author-turned-MC move on the way.

AllHipHop reports that Michael Eric Dyson - pastor, professor, writer of Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop and Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac, among lots of others - may be working on an album in response to Cosby's State of Emergency. Should be interesting.

Hey, if Jay-Z and Nas can record together (not to mention collaborate on contributions to Dyson's Know What I Mean), surely this'll work out ok...

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

He is Iron Man

Whether or not you care about yet another spandex (or in this case, metal) clad do-gooder heading to the big screen this summer, Iron Man has potential to be that rare superhero movie which truly transcends the confines of the comic book genre as a genuinely good film in its own right - a la Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2, etc - a potential further confirmed by Rotten Tomatoes' interview with director Jon Favreau.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama: The Movie

According to Politico, an Edward Norton-produced, "major documentary with near-exclusive access" to Barack Obama's campaign is in the works, including "staggering amounts of revealing behind-the-scenes footage." Ooh, revealing. War Room fans, ready your Netflix queues...
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Friday, February 22, 2008

The drama continues...

Fans of The King of Kong - last year's hugely entertaining documentary about the surprisingly hard fought battle for the world record Donkey Kong score - will want to check out The A.V. Club's interview with the film's "villain," Billy Mitchell. In it, Mitchell suggests foul play by the filmmakers, who, in turn, suggest some of the same on his part.

King of Kong: The Feature Film, possibly starring Jason Bateman, coming soon (seriously).

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

An intriguing update...

...on the status of Heath Ledger's last film, Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (as if the words "Terry Gilliam" don't already scream "blockbuster," a long title that may remind viewers of another movie they've never seen, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, ought to do the trick)...

While Ledger had wrapped this summer's The Dark Knight, he had a substantial amount of shooting left to do for Imaginarium, Ledger and Gilliam's second collaboration (first being The Brothers Grimm). 

Since magic involves itself heavily in Imaginarium's plot, word that Johnny Depp, Colin Ferrell, and Jude Law will each take turns finishing Ledger's character's scenes doesn't seem entirely weird. In fact, it sounds pretty cool. Add in Tom Waits as Satan, and I'm solidly on board.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

That age-old adage, "Audiences hate uncute monsters"

As Hillary Clinton would say, the blogs were going crazy this weekend with buzz on a possible clip from next year's Spike Jonze-directed, Dave Eggers-scripted, Karen O-composed Where the Wild Things Are...was it fake? Was it leaked? Rotten Tomatoes has the scoop for us: the video is a test scene, shot for the purposes of planning the special effects still to be done.

A first taste of what's to come, the clip is basically awesome as is. For what Jonze calls a "cringy" monster suit, the thing is pretty great looking (how glad am I that Jim Henson's Creature Shop is handling this, and it's not some Dreamworks CGI affair?). Good to know they've made plenty of improvements since then, but that little bit feels like both a hip Spike Jonze movie, and one that should satisfy the book's fans of all ages - which is the ideal scenario.

Sadly, the movie that's just seemed too cool for a major studio to greenlight may have been exactly that: reports have been
rolling in that Warners, originally scheduled to release Wild Things this fall, not only pushed back the date (possibly due to screening reactions of it being too scary or grown-up for kids...sounds perfect to me), it may be entirely reshot (!).

But what were they expecting when they hired the team they did? WB surely was aware of the intended tone. Of course, we don't know the full story, and maybe some serious tweaking really is in order. Here's hoping the picture can go through some "general audience" touch-ups and still live up to its potential as something very special.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review or half-baked treatise? You be the judge.

In my lowly, non-credentialed, blog-my-friends-read opinion, Ratatouille was the best movie of 2007. I am, apparently, nearly entirely alone in this view, despite its general consideration as the best-reviewed movie of 2007. Instead, most critics have heaped such accolades on No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, two extraordinarily well made films I expected to feel similarly about, but ultimately, didn't enjoy.

I wanted to like both of these pictures - I'm their target demographic: I love the Coen Brothers; I love Daniel Day-Lewis; I love off-kilter, indie, period pieces; I love the dialogue in both; I love Blood's score, and I love that No Country doesn't have a score. But both left me feeling hollow and worse than when I entered the theater. Both left me wondering, "What's the point?"

I get that No Country's moral is, essentially, that life sucks, and that Blood's is that greed is bad. I'm also aware that one doesn't necessarily have to enjoy the experience of watching great stories unfold in order to recognize them as such. We only have to look to the tragedies of Shakespeare, the Greeks, the French, to see that depressing fare is usually regarded as being the most important. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find someone with a stronger distaste for happy, tie-up-all-the-loose ends stories than me. My beef is with the idea that because something is upsetting, it is automatically to be touted as "profoundly meaningful" and "adult."

It's a commonly held belief that good comedy is harder to do than drama, and, perhaps similarly, it's my opinion that "humanity is terrible" stories are easier than life-affirming ones. Of course, it's all in the way that the story is told, and Blood and No Country are certainly told uniquely. But while it might be cool to watch Daniel Plainview flip out and Anton Chigurh kill people, it doesn't resonate with me emotionally nearly as much as the journey the characters take in Ratatouille (it's also why - and again, I'm apparently in the extreme minority on this - I'll defend Juno's inclusion in the Best Picture category as every bit as well-deserved as the other contenders).

This all probably comes down to personal preference, and it could be that my taste level is incapable of developing the nuanced palette of a real critic. But when I think about my favorite movies, they're the ones that offer social critiques or observances, yes, but also hope and empathy. It's not that there's an absence of good people in the movies in question, or that a film must have relatable, "good" characters, but when, as is the case with Blood, the focus is so unrelentingly, bleakly one-noted, there's just not a whole lot I can take away from the experience.

There Will Be Blood is the story of Daniel Planview (Day-Lewis), a self-described "oilman" at the turn of the 20th century, and his personal undoing at the cost of aquring as much material wealth as possible. It's a thoroughly American picture, in that the crux of its message is the danger of unchecked capitalism and fundamentalism, though it's universal enough not to be a "message movie," but more deeply about human competition and deceit.

Both Day-Lewis and Paul Dano - as fiery, young preacher, Eli Sunday, every bit the snakeoil salesman Plainview is - give bravura performances in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's fifth film. The vast landscapes and sparse dialogue of the movie's opening scenes are striking because they both effectively convey the solitude and peril of Plainview's work, and in turn, set the tone for Anderson's signature bloatedness.

I'm yet again the odd man out for finding the director's last effort, Punch-Drunk Love, his most effective; although, like all of his work, Love is both flawed and justifiably assured filmmaking, it seemed he'd learned an important lesson about editing with that picture (namely, that it's a good thing). While Blood is Anderson's strongest, thematically, nearly every scene practically screams, "Look how much of a masterpiece this is!" Still, he's certainly right to feel confident about his abilities - every frame of Blood is beautiful.

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is due much credit for his eerily foreboding score; the combination of Anderson's intense imagery and Greenwood's loud, hyper-unsettling compositions is electrifying. But while that filmmaking risk pays off, others don't. Of one thing, I'm sure: at times powerful, There Will Be Blood is an utterly unpleasant movie. Whether or not that does it for you, well -- that's a matter of taste.

Grade: B

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy 100th On Tape post, everyone!

In celebration, here's an interesting CNN story about how, despite the fact that it's widely seen as the best-reviewed movie of the year, Ratatouille was shut out of the Academy Awards' Best Picture categorynot to mention many of the same critics' top ten lists thanks, in part, to the Best Animated Film category, created five years ago.

While it's nice that Oscar is recognizing animated features at all, the field effectively corners cartoons into the kids' table, perhaps preventing them from competing in bigger categories. The only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture was 1991's Beauty and the Beast, which many feel Ratatouille at least matches, if not surpasses, in quality. If the "Best Animated" category had existed in the '90s, goes the argument, Beauty almost certainly wouldn't have been up for Best Picture. (Incidentally, while Ratatouille and Persepolis were rightly nominated as best animated pictures, the other contender is Surf's Up. Seriously, Academy? That's better than The Simpsons Movie?)

It's also probably safe to assume that the fact that Ratatouille is essentially a G-rated family comedy prevents it from being considered as "important" as other, more dramatic 
—but lessermovies. After all, it's just a cartoon, right? More on that tomorrow, though...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Call me a sucker, but...

I had mildly high expectations for Thriller 25 - the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller, released this week - but I'm less than "thrilled" with it (yeah, I went there). I don't normally get very pumped for reissues with "remixes," but c'mon - this was Kanye and mixing some of MJ's hottest songs...there had to be at least some fun tracks to dance to, right? Alas, it's nothing more than the tacky repackaging it threatened to be.

Kanye just throws on the beat from "
Stronger" and mumbles a "Yeah, uh" in his "Billie Jean 2008." He slows down the tempo a bit, and the secluded string part does sound nice, but I kind of thought this would be an opportunity to use what's one of the best pop songs of all time for something a little more exciting.'s "P.Y.T. 2008" fares a little better, but his uninspired "The Girl is Mine 2008" also falls flat.

Meh. That'll teach me to have expecations.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who watches the Watchmen? (I will!)

While Watchmen enthusiasts (including its author, Alan Moore) have historically been skeptical about a potential film adaptation of the seminal '80s graphic novel, the choice of director Zack Snyder (300) to helm the project - due in theaters next year - has eased many minds. So far, it looks and sounds like he'll be doing the Cold War era superhero comic justice.

IESB tipped readers off to Snyder's conversation with fans about the movie, which should further appease doubters.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Say it ain't so, Dr. Cosby

Look, Cliff Huxtable (along with Mr. Rogers) served as a kind of surrogate TV father for me, as he did for many products of the '80s. But sir, I must protest...Paste reports that the beloved comedian - who once helmed one of the most important television shows of all time, and now, mostly gets continually accused of sexual assault and wages class war on the black poor - has a hip hop album, State of Emergency, in the works.

Hey, maybe he'll get Polow da Don to cook up some hot beats, and it'll turn out that the Cos has sick mic skills. Or maybe it'll be a spoken word style event...which actually might not be terrible. But this doesn't bode well. Still, chances are, Emergency's "concious" (i.e. lecturing) rhymes probably won't sound like this.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hooray, expensive arena tours

What's a Washingtonian to do? Radiohead released their first set of North American dates, but not a ton, and more are on the way. Problem? One of those dates is in Bristow, VA, an hour from DC. Given the listed stops so far (two Florida shows, two Texas shows, etc) and the promise of more dates, it's somewhat reasonable to assume they'll come here, right? Or does one just go ahead and get tickets to the existing date? It's a pickle.

The same question could be applied to
Kanye's first set of dates - not many listed, supposedly more on the way...cause for concern? Meanwhile, Jay-Z is coming to DC, but tickets most likely start at around $60, so, sorry, Hov, I'm ok with sitting this one out.

UPDATE: Kanye has released the
full dates, including a stop in Bristow, VA the day before Radiohead's show. Considering that's listed as his Washington stop, I'm going to go ahead and assume Radiohead won't be coming any closer than that, either. No word yet on when tickets go on sale for the second leg of Ye's tour, but the sale for Radiohead's first set is Saturday morning...

Monday, February 11, 2008

You can literally smell Bono's ego

Many reviews tout U23D, the first full-length, live-action 3D Imax film, as being better, or at least as good as, actually seeing U2 live. For this attendee of both the "Vertigo" (the movie's subject) and "Elevation" tours, though, it mostly just made me wish I was actually standing at the edge of the stage, like the sweaty masses on screen. Other concert junkies can probably relate - nothing compares to the thrill of being at the show.

What U23D did make me wonder is why all movies aren't in Imax 3D (some say that's not far off); having a 60-foot Bono reach out to you while staring into your eyes is a pretty cool experience (or a freaky one, depending on your perspective). The gimmick is a thrilling format for a concert film - especially one with the massive grandeur and theatricality of U2.

Swooping crane shots allow the audience both an intimate view of the band members playing and a chance to look from the stage's vantage point out over a stadium of thousands. And the songs - almost entirely big hits - sound great (the volume and clarity of the sound matches that of the screen).

If not quite the same as a real concert, U23D is an event - and a must for fans of the band.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Nothing says "cough medicine" like orchestral indie rock

This weekend, Chicago's Anathallo kick off a tour of the UK, followed by US dates - starting with South By Southwest - in support their forthcoming record...paid for, incidentally, by Vicks VapoRub, who used a particularly pretty refrain from their "Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!" in a commercial. Huh.

Washingtonians can catch Anathallo at the Rock & Roll Hotel (for the second time) on April 6th.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The animation may be black-and-white, but the world is not

Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is the autobiographical story of an Iranian woman's coming of age during the Islamic Revolution, and her subsequent emigration to Europe.

Cleverly transfered from comic to film by co-directors Satrapi and Vincent Parannaud, the movieas with the bookgarners its primary strength from its simple, beautiful cartoon style and the uniqueness of its author's voice. Thoughtful but cynical, hopeful yet uncertain, Marjane's account effectively conveys a complex, painful history through the lens of a young girl finding herself.

The picture's handdrawn animation, kept wisely in the comic's black-and-white, is a breath of fresh air in a field of CG-ridden, animated "family" films. Its story translation fares a little less well, only because the episodic format of the comic doesn't translate altogether smoothly, sometimes resulting in a lack of focus. Also like the book, the story's second half is weaker than its first.

Still, the intent and voice of Persepolis remain strongly intact. Satrapi has said that her goal with the film is to convey to audiences around the world that, even in the land of their "enemy," "People there are just like them, and have friends and familes and hopes and dreams." Rather than a civics lesson, the picture serves as a testament to our universal humanityno small feat for what some might initially perceive as "just a cartoon."

Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Supa Tuesday

In recognition of today's near-national primary, check this video.

Directed by Jesse Dylan, the song, "Yes We Can," featuring Common, John Legend,
Scarlett Johansson, and a bunch of others, samples Sen. Obama's New Hampshire primary speech. The Wyclef-ish track comes on the heels Pearl Jam's "Rock Around Barack."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yet more "AD: The Movie" news...

...but this time, it's the most promising yet.

According to
IMDB, "Jason Bateman has confirmed plans are underway for a movie version of Arrested Development." The cast has apparently received calls from the studio about reuniting post-strike, and Bateman says their "fingers are crossed."

Ok, so it's not much news, but it's enough to give Bluth-heads hope, right? Let's hope Fox actually get this going, and don't find themselves saying, "I've made a huge mistake..."

Friday, February 1, 2008

Iron & Wine rock spring tour, big beard

Calvin College — a small, Christian school in Grand Rapids — has somehow become one of the Midwest's indie hotspots. In addition to regularly hosting folks like Sigur Ros, the Decemberists, and the Books over the years, their bi-annual Festival of Faith & Music has featured Sufjan Stevens, David Bazan, Anathallo, Danielson, Emmylou Harris, and Neko Case, to name just a few.

Looks like this year's Festival of Faith & Writing (which swtiches off with the FFM) will be no exception, starring Iron & Wine, who just announced a set of spring tour dates. Hope those Calvinists know how good they've got it...