Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More mood, less samples

Pay attention, 90s acts looking for a comeback: Portishead's Third is how it's done. Reemerging with their first studio album in 11 years, the Bristol, England, trio of trip hop pioneers manages to smoothly transition from its first two records into new territory, while still retaining their essence.

Third is a natural progression for the group - hauntingly noir-ish as ever, but the most menacing of anything they've done. Synths and funky, harsh percussion abound, in place of hip hop loops and scratches; equal parts pretty and creepy, Beth Gibbons's jarringly strong voice navigates bleak lyrical terrain; where vast, orchestral arrangements were once employed, the songs here are much more sparse. The world feels more apocalyptic today than it did a decade ago, and Portishead clearly excel in the environment.

Album bookends "Silence" and "Threads" set the tone for the record by establishing familiar Portishead elements - jazzy guitar, tinny vocals, background strings - then building them into full-on distortion. Danceable anxiety is the name of the game on this record, as conveyed in the disorienting rhythms of "Nylon Smile" and "Plastic." But the band's current sound is best exemplified by standouts "The Rip," "We Carry On," and "Machine Gun," each of which combines heavy, synthy beats with ethereal vocals to great effect.

Third is scary; lovely; strange; rockin'. In a word, it's Portishead.

Grade: A-

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm a Michael Bolton fan

Perhaps the whole Idiocracy debacle was enough to turn writer/director (slash Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill creator) Mike Judge away from such high-concept fare, and back to comfortable territory: the office.

Judge's Office Space having attained pop culture ubiquity - if you yourself can't recite several lines of dialogue from the movie, someone within feet of you can - it's probably not particularly surprising that his next feature, Extract, will "deal with workplace issues." No complaints here - and it sure doesn't hurt that Jason Bateman will star.

Also, apparently, National Cubicle Day was last Friday. In honor, Entertainment Weekly offers some choice Office Space quotes.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Get pumped

With less than 3 months until its premiere, The Dark Knight unveils 6 new posters. Badass.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Do ya know? Do ya know?

Washingtonian fans of Spike Lee should be psyched to hear that the director will be honored at this year's AFI Silverdocs Festival. An excellent fest, held at the best theater in the DC area, Silverdocs will feature 8 days of international film programming.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pha-real

On the verge of the Glow in the Dark tour and a new album (due in June), AllHipHop has an interview with full-time Neptune, part-time N.E.R.D, and occasional solo artist, Pharrell, in which that CRS supergroup, synesthesia, and hipster hip hop are discussed. Have I mentioned I'm excited to go to this show next month?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let it Be

Garage-punk legends The Replacements' entire body of work is being reissued, complete with new bonus tracks. What's more, frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson are, apparently, in talks to reunite, which'd be pretty cool...

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Noir-tastic


The teaser for Frank Miller's The Spirit is out. What do you think?

I've been pretty excited for this...Spirit creator Will Eisner was a genius, and comic-book-author-turned-director Miller, with his innate understanding of comics, seemed like a perfect fit. I have to say, though, that while it still looks really cool, the "pow" factor of its visuals - in the "comic book come to life" style of Miller's Sin City - has worn off a bit since that film's premiere.

No doubt, new and exciting technological advancements have been made in the last few years, and maybe The Spirit will blow everyone's minds (after all, the trailer doesn't show us too much). Still, while Miller creations 300 and Sin City marveled aesthetically, both seemed, to me, fairly hollow in other respects. Which is fine. But we know Miller can tell an excellent story - if you have any doubts, read The Dark Knight Returns - and Eisner's books should give him plenty of good stuff to work with. So, I remain hopeful...

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Yay, record stores

Paste has the scoop on the new documentary I Need That Record!, about the future of the independent record store. Director Brendan Toller employs "found footage, animation, and talking head interviews with artists, musicians, and retail owners" to ask big questions about commerce and creativity.

Interviews include Ian Mackaye (let's hope he plugs DC's great Crooked Beat Records), Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Noam Chomsky, and more. No distribution deal yet for the doc, but keep your eyes peeled for screenings...

Don't forget to celebrate Record Store Day tomorrow!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Allegedly wanted Hulk to find redemption while in prison

The dirty laundry of "creative differences" between Incredible Hulk lead/co-writer/co-producer Edward Norton and Marvel Studios is being aired all over.

As previously mentioned, the inclusion of Norton in the franchise revamp was an encouraging, if odd, choice for a "sequel" openly striving more for brawn than brains. But, apparently, the Fight Club star (notorious, as Entertainment Weekly notes, for involving himself heavily in his films' production) and the studio are no longer on speaking terms, due to a disagreement over how brainless the movie's action should be. Ultimately, Marvel won the fight - case in point, Hulk's thoroughly mediocre trailer.

Maybe it'll all get sorted out, and the movie will turn out just great; maybe it'll be a wasted opportunity to tell the story anew...either way, I'm still gonna go see Hulk smash.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The truth is...right up in here:

Series creator Chris Carter revealed today that the forthcoming (July 25) X Files movie sequel will be titled, The X Files: I Want to Believe.

The phrase is familiar to fans, having been prominently featured on a poster in Agent Mulder's office throughout the show's run. Carter claims the title "really does suggest Mulder's struggle with his faith." Still, the sequel will not focus on the ongoing UFO theme of the first film, but will be a stand-alone mystery.

The title took so long to release, says Carter, because Fox was testing its marketability - sure, it's a little awkward, but I think, pretty cool. The hush-hush on-set atmosphere Carter describes (only some crew could read the script...in a room where they were videotaped) only corroborates suspicions that the "leaked" studio photo of a wolf monster was a fake. Thank God for that; Mulder & Scully Vs. The Wolfman was not the stand-alone I had in mind...


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Praying mantis on the court and I can't be beat

Adam Yauch - aka MCA...aka Nathaniel Hornblower - is leaving the confines of Beastie Boys-exclusive filmmaking (the 2006 concert doc Awesome!, a ton of Beasties videos) for his wide release debut: the high school basketball doc Gunnin' for That #1 Spot, which bows in June.

Gunnin', premiering this month at the Tribeca Film Fest, focuses on New York streetballers who've since become rising NCAA stars.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

2 Weezer posts in 2 weeks: why not?

Last week I expressed hope about Weezer's forthcoming Red Album (out in June), as the band's last record, Make Believe, was more in the style of "classic Weezer" than "comeback Weezer," and it seemed they may continue on that trajectory.

Judging - at least as much as one can judge from 30 seconds - by the clip floating around of rumored first single "Pork and Beans," they are solidly in Blue Album territory.

It's that tricky artist terrain - do stuff too different from your original work, and everyone wants you to go back to the old way. Do stuff too similar, and everyone will be bored. But this little bit sounds pretty great to me...

UPDATE: The whole song is now available to stream. Some of the oft-sited "problems" of the last few albums remain (sort of overproduced, lacking in lyrical emotion), but the guitar sound, melody, and chorus are pure Blue Album. Certainly the best first album single they've had since "El Scorcho," and in fairness to the much-maligned Make Believe, that record's singles were arguably its weakest songs. This is just the tip of the Red iceberg, and I think it's great.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

They still wear dresses

The Kids in the Hall launched a North American tour last week for the first time in six years. As revealed to the AV Club, the shows will include lots of new material, and the dudes are still planning a second movie, a follow-up to 1996's brilliant Brain Candy.

I love Kids in the Hall.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

I like the way he moves

OutKast's Big Boi is performing in a ballet in Atlanta this week. It sounds pretty dope.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Yes, he looks like Johnny Five

Given their stellar record - especially Brad Bird's Ratatouille and The Incredibles - Pixar has long held the mantle once solely possessed by Disney: huge anticipation and guaranteed success for each opening of their animated films.

The movies are (increasingly) amazing to look at, sure, but what's set the studio apart from cheap CG imitators and dwindling 2D endeavors is a commitment to storytelling; emotional connection, lack of audience pandering, and willingness to push boundaries toward the experimental.

Case in point: this summer's Wall-E
, which, among other things, features no spoken dialogue in its first act. Rotten Tomatoes got a look at the first 30 minutes, and conducted a great interview with writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo). So far, sure seems like another winner...

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And that's the double truth, Ruth

A brief but interesting interview with Spike Lee in New York, about Do the Right Thing's 20th (!) anniversary.

Given the political media focus on race in the last month or so, the movie could be released this week with no problem (and Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" remains as urgent and powerful as it was 20 years ago)...


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Monday, April 7, 2008

Creepy mustache+sixth grade haircut = Godfather of Emo?

The word is out: the sixth Weezer album - their first in three years, due out this June - will be titled...wait for it...Weezer. Yes, just like their 1994 debut (aka "Blue") and 2001 comeback (aka "Green"), except this one is, reportedly, Red. So, there's that.

Frontman Rivers Cuomo's recent collection of home recordings from 1992-2007 served as a reminder of the catchy, hard-edged pop power the crew was capable of in the Matt Sharp days. Perhaps the unearthing of those tracks prompted Cuomo to revisit old melodies? It could happen. Parts of =W='s last record, the surprisingly solid Make Believe, sounded more like the Blue Album than anything they've done since, well, the Blue Album.

And then there's the whole writing-a-song-with-fans-over-YouTube thing:

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Friday, April 4, 2008

"Bizarre" doesn't do it justice

Let's continue this streak of political posts by observing fringe-Democratic-turned-Libertarian presidential candidate Mike Gravel's campaign video cover of "Helter Skelter." He doesn't start "singing" until the 30 second mark...


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Freakish Easter Bunny rumored to be attached

ABC News has a lengthy report on Oliver Stone's upcoming W, about the life of George W. Bush. Never one to shy away from sensationalism in lieu of facts (see JFK, Nixon) Stone's film apparently focuses largely on the President's frat boy past, issues with his father, and motivations for entering into the Iraq war. Should be interesting, to say the least...

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Breaking campaign trail news

An important development for the presidential election: rapper 50 Cent, formerly a supporter of Sen. Clinton, has switched allegiances to Sen. Obama. Voters owe it to themselves to become informed on this issue.

Nah, psyche - April fool! 50 sucks.

It's true news, though. Sadly, so is XXL's interview with fellow MC DMX, in which he reveals not only to have never heard of Obama, but also his disbelief that Barack is the senator's real name. And here, I thought X called himself a Ruff Ryder as an homage to his political hero, Teddy Roosevelt. No?

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