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by Robin Cook

13 Apr 2009

This close knit band does everything their way, whether releasing EPs in place of albums and bringing their kids on the road. Timshel Matheny and her brother, Keegan DeWitt, talk about how they do it.


by Evan Sawdey

13 Apr 2009

In case you didn’t know, Billy Bob Thornton’s music career hasn’t exactly taken off. Though often marginalized in the same way that Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, Kevin Spacey, and Keanu Reeves’ musical ventures have been, Thornton at least made a stab at something a bit more legitimate when he decided to form the Boxmasters: a swinging country-pop group that relies heavy on nostalgic “golden age” country production without giving too much consideration for the present. The result? Our own Charles A. Hohman gave the Boxmasters’ debut album the much-dreaded 1/10 score.

Some Hohman’s score this stems from the fact that Thornton—the band’s principal songwriter—often relies on base, juvenile humor to get his point across, unrelenting with the sheer number of vulgarities at his disposal, all in the name of supposed humor.  Naturally, a “celebrity band” is going to take quite a drubbing from the press, and, as such, it’s up to the celebrity in question to do whatever he can to raise the profile of the group in order to get exposure.  Now a few days after the QTV interview, many people know of the Boxmasters—but for all the wrong reasons.

Appearing on The Q Show on CBC, host Jian Ghomeshi happily introduces the Boxmasters, noting how the group has put out three albums of the past 12 months—two of which were double-disc affairs—and soon finds out that the band has at least three more discs already in the can. Things start off like a normal interview, but then, of course, Thornton has to open his mouth. Some of his stories are completely unrelated to the music-oriented discussion that Ghomeshi is leading the band towards, and Thornton, at times, becomes livid over the fact that Ghomeshi mentions his acting career. Best of all, however, is when Ghomeshi makes passing mention about how Thornton is passionate about his music, to which Thorton fires back, asking if he’d ask the same question to Tom Petty.

Confused yet? The world is right there with you. Ghomeshi, it should be noted, does his best to handle things, but also makes sure that the questions he’s asking—the ones that deal with the music, specifically—get answered. Thornton had absolutely no reason to become as introverted and cryptic as he did, which has lead to much widespread speculation that this strange interview (which achieves an Office-level of listener discomfort) is on par with Joaquin Phoenix’s infamous encounter with David Letterman a few months earlier.

The real question, though, is why Thornton chose to act the way that he did. Being irritated over something like mentioning his cinematic achievements is slightly forgivable (we’ve all had bad days, haven’t we?), but going on about building models for a magazine contest without once answering a question about the music he listened to when growing up—it’s curious, to say the least.

Yet was Thornton conscious of his actions? Does he know that behavior like this tends to generate more negative publicity than good word-of-mouth? (Or, to put it another way: does this appearance make you want to actually go out and see the Boxmasters live?) Strangest of all, however, is that the Phoenix and Thornton interviews are both based on the same thing: a noted Hollywood actor turning to a music career and doing a media appearance to promote it. It would be more of an epidemic were it not for the fact that Zooey Deschanel, Jason Schwartzman, and
Scarlett Johansson have all pulled off the transition without this wave of media-crazy—those albums have all achieved respectable amounts of acclaim, even.

So what is Thornton accomplishing with his antics?  More importantly: why do we care?  Until we get some answers, we can at least take solace in the fact that this train wreck is admittedly pretty fun to watch ...

by Mike Schiller

13 Apr 2009

It seems every major game release of late comes in at least two forms: the plain, vanilla version of the game that looks like every other game on the shelf, and the big, fancy, pack-in laced, appropriately expensive “Collector’s Edition”.  Resident Evil 5 had one, Gears of War 2 had one, Halo 3 had one, Metal Gear Solid 4 had one, and so on.  If there’s a major game release to be exploited, you’d better believe it will be, sometimes in three or four unique editions for the sake of capitalizing on the various levels of anticipation that the given game’s fanbase will be experiencing in the days leading up to release.

As such, it’s possible that I shouldn’t be surprised at the presence of a “Collector’s Edition” game being released this week, but I kind of am.  Here’s why: I’ve never heard of this game.  It’s called Demigod.  It’s a PC exclusive.  And right up until about five minutes ago, that’s all I knew of it.  Since then, I’ve called up a bunch of web pages on the thing, one of which called it a “strategy fighting game”, which seems pretty accurate as far as I can tell.  It’s a strategy game that pits a demigod against a titan in a number of battles, and in some cases there will be minions to call to do the demigod/titan’s bidding.  It sounds fun, especially for those looking to get into strategy who aren’t convinced that they actually have the time for it.

But yeah, there’s a collector’s edition for this.  Really?  A new, PC-only IP?  Apparently so - the collector’s edition comes with a soundtrack, a poster, and a pewter figurine that you’ll be able to eBay for beaucoup bucks if this thing takes off.  Besides, can you really have too many pewter figurines in your house?

Dokapon Journey

Dokapon Journey

The Wii is seeing the release of Samurai Shodown Anthology, which looks good for the nostalgia of revisiting one of the best fighting games in the post-Street Fighter II landscape.  Atlus’ DS dominance continues with Dokapon Journey, which they’re hilariously advertising as the best way to make enemies since spitting on somebody’s food—it’s a competitive RPG, which means you go on an adventure but you can also take on your buds in the process.  And…oh yes, PS2 owners finally get their chance at Guitar Hero: Metallica, which is confirmed awesome for pretty much every other system at this point.  No, the game didn’t change, but the challenge is there, and the tracklist is absolutely worth playing.  PS2 owners, get to it.

Enjoy the holiday week, whether you’re off or not.  Play some games, sure, but then go out and enjoy the sun.  It’s out there.  It’d be a shame to waste it.

by Bill Gibron

11 Apr 2009

To paraphrase a famous quote by one Homer J. Simpson, family is the cause of, and the solution for, all of life’s problems. Issues between parent and child, sibling and sibling, adults and children more or less rule and ruin our sense of self. One day, we’re happy go lucky. The next, we’re dealing with psychological trauma so deep seeded and scaring that it feels like it came directly from the darkest recesses of the womb. As a result, the problems between relatives and crazed kinfolk have sparked dozens of artistic sentiments, from sad songs and symphonies to comic/tragic motion pictures. As part of their seventh outing as humor independents, the gang at Cinematic Titanic have tapped into the bizarre Asian awkwardness of Blood of the Vampires. And as a subtext to their spoofing, the always plentiful wit centers around issues that run thicker than one’s own vein vermouth.

During a luxuriant party for neighbors and friends Don Enrique Escodero is taken ill. On his almost-death bed, he warns his two children, son Eduardo and daughter Leonore, that his will mandates the burning of the family home to the ground. Why? Well, you see, dad has a little secret that he intends to take to his grave. Apparently, the kid’s mother didn’t die as previously stated. No, she fell victim to a crazy curse which only affects the females of the clan. In fact, Don Enrique has the matriarch hidden in a secret basement crypt, living in a coffin. That’s right - Mom’s a vampire and Leonore is apparently destined to become one as well. As the two children try to appease the demands of their specific boy/girl friends, their mother gets loose and starts sucking on the citizenry. Before long, Eduardo and his honey are “infected”, and they intend to turn Lenore as well. Luckily, her main man Daniel is there to help, even from beyond the grave.

Like most movies made in a foreign land while relying on elements wholly Western and unnatural to their culture, Blood of the Vampires (a Philippine production meant to mimic early 20th century Mexico - no, really) is one mixed-up mess. From its hate crime like depiction of subservient slaves (nothing more than actors greased up with very bad - and very obvious - black face) to the weird folklore fashion vampirism is introduced (there’s no main ghoul, just a traditional ‘curse’ that seems to function whenever and however it wants to), director Gerardo de Leon and his capable cast think they’re making a standard cinematic melodrama. There’s so much hand wringing over who will and can get married, so much personal palpitation over the notion of Mom living like an animal in the basement that we hardly get any horror. Instead, there’s confrontation and conflict, but no creeps.

Perhaps the oddest aspect of the film is not the various side characters running around with fake fangs in their mouth. Nor is it the incredibly icky sequence where son Eduardo actually lets his Mammy sink her psycho teeth into his neck (incest never seemed so disgusting and unsavory). No, the real brain burner here is the prevalent, one could say overwhelming use of black face and racially insensitive make-up on various extras. Somehow, this movie got it into its thick little skull that turning all the servants into Al Jolson (sans Southern fried accent) was a brilliant bit of period piece recreation. Of course, how dressing actors up like chocolate covered versions of their Asian selves recalls Mexico 100 years ago is anyone’s guess. Still, Blood of the Vampires indulges in such ethnic slander openly and willfully. All needle incisors aside, it’s the film’s most unconscionable calculation.

Family and faux Africans therefore become the main focus for the always hilarious CT tribe. As with past installments in the DVD only series, we continue to get introductory material that explains away some of the concept’s premise. Clearly, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mary Jo Pehl are part of some giant experiment to give children of the future riffed versions of every film ever made. Of course, while digital copies of the Godfather trilogy metaphysically merge and spoil in storage chambers (a classic opening gag), our heroes have to tolerate incredibly crappy films like Vampires. Elsewhere, the single “stop-gap” sketch features Weinstein brings out a bottle of booze - and Conniff breaking his 22 year old AA vows. In between is the classic comedy stylings that made Mystery Science and its various offshoots so gosh darn popular.

Indeed, the best thing about Cinematic Titanic, outside the abundant laughs, is the feeling of familiarity and the accomplishment that comes with skill. All of these performers are so expert in their craft, so freewheeling with their wit, that they can turn anything into a joke. And since much of this humor here centers on familial dysfunction, parent/child peculiarities, pre-marital strife and old world ritual, along with abundant hate crimes, there’s no lack of material for these masters. Indeed, one of the downsides to the Cinematic Titanic collection is that, outside of major studio support or distribution, self-financing and releasing equates with limited additional content. Here, a new feature (“Extras”) is actually nothing more than a collection of trailers that one can already access online. In addition, smaller budgets mean less room for sketches. Perhaps one day we will actually get to see the actual inside of the gang’s underground think tank.

Until then, as long as Hodgson and his pals have access to material and an outlet for it, Cinematic Titanic should do more than survive - it should thrive. Purists who pounce whenever one of their prized schlock sensations is giving the in-theater shaft should really just shut up. Sure, this may be the one and only time film fans see your fabled foreign neckbiters film starring overly tanned Philippinos playing superstitious Hispanics, but when the results are as reprehensible as Blood of the Vampires, your passion is definitely misplaced (this is, after all, a movie that lets the famous monsters walk around in the daylight and see themselves in the mirror). It’s very similar to the kind of uproar one experiences when family goes fetid for the sake of individual angst or anxiety. Such biological links indeed create both benefits and detriments. In the case of Cinematic Titanic, however, they’re nothing but fodder for genius. 

by Rob Horning

10 Apr 2009

This post (via 3QD) from Josh Tucker reminds that my reaction to new media like Twitter is often pretty parochial. I tend to imagine only Americans using it, and then only the sort of urban Americans who are invested in being part of the tech cognoscenti, the sort of people who need to crowdsource their afterparty plans. Tucker points out that Twitter works effectively as a low-cost walkie-talkie server for oppressed people/guerrilla groups organizing social protests.

The events unfolding in Moldova, however, suggest that internet-based social networking tools that were not even present during the original colored revolutions, such as Facebook and especially Twitter, may also be able to play a very valuable role in allowing even loosely organized opposition networks to coordinate protest activity. To the extent that a constant stream of Twitter posts increases any individual’s confidence that there will be more protestors in the street at a particular place at a particular point in time, it should also serve to lower the perceived costs of participation to potential protestors.

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2015: 'Dark Echo'

// Moving Pixels

"Dark Echo drops you into a pitch back maze and then renders your core tools of navigation into something quite life threatening.

READ the article