Thursday, July 31, 2008

Slow news day...

Anybody heard about the "Montauk Monster" - the crazy, monster-looking animal carcass that supposedly washed up on the beaches of the Hamptons?

Did somebody make it out of latex? Are the pictures photoshopped? Is it an authentic, undiscovered breed of creature?

Have we considered viral marketing for the upcoming Dark Crystal 2? That thing is clearly a Skeksi...

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do You Realize??

...that the Flaming Lips' Christmas on Mars will be arriving on DVD soon?? 

The psychedelic Oklahoma quartet's long-awaited "fantastical film freakout" - and accompanying soundtrack - will hit shelves in October. Pitchfork has the movie's appropriately spaced-out trailer

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trailer watch, part II

Yet more new, buzzworthy trailers worth taking a look at...

Moviefone premiered Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tonight, and there should be plenty for fans to rejoice about: it's pitch-perfectly spooky, and it appears director David Yates (who also handled the last entry, the Order of the Phoenix, and will helm the next and final two-parter, the Deathly Hallows) continues to be unafraid to take the series into the books' increasingly dark terrain.

In addition, those curious about Oliver Stone's George Bush biopic, W., can get a look at that film's trailer, also at Moviefone. No surprise that they're employing a not-exactly-as-it-happened framework, but it looks interesting, to say the least. 

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Old man takes a look at his life

Neil Young has directed a new documentary, CSNY: Deja Vu, about the supergroup's tumultuous "Freedom of Speech" tour in 2006.

While the seminal folk band is rooted in protest songs, Young's '06 album Living With War (or, as SNL parodied it, I Do Not Agree with Many of this Administration's Policies) didn't always go down easy with fans and the press. Deja Vu chronicles that time period.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Feist loves counting

Feist on Sesame Street. Who wouldn't want to watch that?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trailer watch

Three new, noteworthy trailers have recently popped up, and we're gonna look at 'em...

First, and most importantly, is Watchmen. Comic fans know it's not really hyperbole when the trailer boldly declares it "the most celebrated graphic novel of all time" (understanding that "graphic novel" generally refers to stand-alone, usually lengthy, comic books), and the trailer, more or less, lives up to the hype. What was thought to be unfilmable looks pretty great here, and the cool, slowed-down Smashing Pumpkins soundtrack (itself a remix of a song from the superhero-movie-that-will-not-be-named) is solid:

Second is The Spirit, and I have to join in general blogosphere consensus and say my socks aren't knocked off. I love the source material, and Frank Miller seems a pretty good match for Will Eisner, but it suffers from the same disappointment I had with Sin City and 300: they're cool looking, to be sure, but I don't know that much else is there. Although maybe there doesn't need to be (are we getting spoiled with comic movies that are too serious?):

Finally, comes Body of Lies, and I have to admit here that, while I'm a Ridley Scott fan, my interest in this one stems mostly from the fact that I'm an extra in the movie (you just might be able to catch me as a flower vendor in a scene set in Amsterdam). Apart from that, though, it looks pretty cool, if a little been-there-done-that:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Scoring for stop-motion

More news on the hip-music-for-family-films front: Pulp's Jarvis Cocker is reportedly contributing to the soundtrack of Wes Anderson's upcoming (and increasingly interesting) Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

They still like beer and the nightlife

"Me and my friends are like the drums on 'Lust for Life,'" sings the Hold Steady's Craig Finn at the onset of the band's new record. "We pound it out on floor toms/ Our psalms are sing-along songs." And with that begins Stay Positive, the Brooklyn band's fourth LP, and latest set of loquacious party anthems.

As with the rest of their discography, Positive is full of both the promise of good times ahead ("We're gonna build something this summer," intones Finn, in signature nasal, on opener "Constructive Summer"), as well as the consequences that can come with them (by the second song, "Sequestered in Memphis," the narrator is already questioning the previous night's decisions).

Still, the overall lyrical and musical terrain on this record is a bit sadder and more introspective than with previous efforts. And while there's plenty of the E Street organ and Zeppelinesque riffs that have come to define the neo-classic rock bar band's sound, that tonal growth allows for some welcomed experimentation (the harpsichord and offbeat time signature of "One for the Cutters;" the haunting mandolin of "Both Crosses;" title track "Stay Positive," which shows off the band's hardcore roots).

Unfortunately, while the group's branching out is commendable, the album lacks the immediacy and energy of their last disc, the much-lauded Boys and Girls in America. On the other hand, both the Hold Steady and their previous incarnation, Lifter Puller, had to grow on me before I became a big fan, and the same could definitely turn out to be true about Stay Positive. For now, suffice it to say that it rocks.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Don't call them Chuck E. Cheese

If you’re like me, and you recently had your mind blown by the circulating video of Showbiz Pizza’s animatronic band, the Rock-afire Explosion, inexplicably performing Usher’s “Love in this Club,” you wanted to know how this wonder came to be. Why is the clip synced so perfectly in time with the song? Could it be that someone, somewhere, actually programmed the singing robots in question to perform hits from today?

Yes, turns out. Not only that – there’s a small, but devoted, Rock-afire fanbase collecting, assembling, and programming the characters in their homes. And now, reports Paste, their journey is the subject of an upcoming documentary, The Rock-afire Explosion:

Epic. To prepare yourself, check out Rock-afire performing the White Stripes, MGMT, and Shakira.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You like like you need some Kanye news

Kanye, N.E.R.D., and Wyclef will perform at the Democratic convention in Colorado this September.

Any guesses as to who'll rock the Republican convention in Minnesota? We know it won't be Low, Tapes 'n Tapes, or P.O.S. Perhaps Young Jeezy?

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Monday, July 14, 2008

"If just one person..."

In case you can't get enough Muppets, Jim Henson's Fantastic World - currently on display at the Smithsonian (and touring through early 2011) - is a fascinating look at the life and work of the man behind Kermit & Co.

Packed with his sketches, storyboards, and designs, the exhibit makes clear Henson was driven by genius, ambition, and limitless imagination, reiterating the tragedy that, though he had many more ideas than could ever be produced, his death cut short what might've been shared with the world.

What he did share, though, changed television, certainly (his background in groundbreaking commercials is highlighted), but also the world's ideas about how to entertain and educate children. Fitting, then, that the exhibition features not only original Muppets behind display case glass, but an interactive puppet show that allows kids to be Muppeteers themselves, complete with TV monitors. 

Smithsonian has a great accompanying podcast, which you can enjoy with or without attending. 

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Friday, July 11, 2008

To do films about hobbits, you must resemble one

This weekend's Hellboy II (not to mention Pan's Labyrinth and upcoming Hobbit) director Guillermo del Toro talks his influences over at Entertainment Weekly. Love that guy...

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Indie duo makes babies, pop songs

From one musical husband-and-wife team to another: NPR's got a piece up on (former This American Life house band) Mates of State, wherein the boppy, organ-happy indie rockers reflect on and perform from their more mellow, piano-happy Re-Arrange Us, released in May.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The tracking shot would do him proud

BBC's Channel 4 has put together a very cool ad for its Stanley Kubrick marathon, recreating the set of The Shining (aka the Best Horror Movie of All Time), down to every last detail - including nice use of the Steadicam, which Kubrick pioneered on the shoot:

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Reminder: The Dark Knight opens in 11 days

In celebration, enjoy this recreation of the film's trailer, done entirely with Legos:

So pumped.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Slow-core" or "Glacial-noir"?

I've got a post up on Sojourners' Beliefnet blog about the new Low documentary, You May Need a Murderer. Check it out...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Meet One Day as a Lion

So, remember back in September when I said I wouldn't get my hopes up about Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha's supposedly completed solo album reaching the public anytime soon? There's good news and mixed news.

The good: a disc of new de la Rocha material has an actual release date of July 22; the mixed: it's only an EP, and comes from sessions de la Rocha had been doing with former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore (in fact, they're now a whole other band, One Day as a Lion), so, it's safe to assume that most of the material dude's been working on since RATM split won't be on here.

Still, sounds promising enough, and the ragey name is also pretty cool (as in, "It's better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb")...

UPDATE: Check out their first single, "Wild International." Yes, it's pretty much what you'd expect, but it's also awesome.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

He, Robot

Watching the mindless, recycled kids movie trailers that played before Wall-E, I was reminded of just how lucky we are to have Pixar in the world. Within the first five minutes of its latest commercial and critical smash, the studio effortlessly reinforces one of its key strengths: being completely unafraid to take risks.

Practically avant-garde in tone, Wall-E is centered around the titular robot who's spent 700 years on an abandoned Earth, compacting trash, listening to old musicals, and longing for connection. Another of Pixar's fortes, creating elaborate worlds, is on full display: the "camera" focus and zoom shots of the photorealistic, desolate surroundings in the opening scenes suggest documentary rather than animation, proving that they continue to reign supreme in technology, as well as storytelling.

There's also the small matter of the film being nearly dialogue-free. That the audience is able to so quickly emotionally resonate with a non-talking, cartoon robot would be amazing, if it weren't so rooted in Pixar's origins of bringing the inanimate to life (namely, with its early, groundbreaking short, Luxo Jr.). As it stands, the device serves simply as a means to tell an original story - another risk that pays off.

Things get complicated for Wall-E when, after mysteriously encountering another robot with whom he can finally share, his path takes unexpected turns. To add much more about the plot may be unnecessary, except to say that it involves (mostly) unforced commentary on corporate control, consumerism, and environmentalism, offering a surprisingly scathing - if hopeful - social critique, for a family film.

Ultimately, though, Wall-E, like most great (and many Disney) stories, is about love and purpose. If Disney's heyday was achieved by using new techniques to tell quality stories that audiences of all ages and types responded to, Pixar, given its track record, has clearly taken up the mantle. Wall-E, among the studio's best, is no exception.

Grade: A-

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