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It wasn’t Halloween night, but in New York a minimum of three days before and after October 31st is all that’s necessary for costume-induced revelry. And enough fans dressed ambiguously enough that the line between costume and outfit was thin. When MGMT, the duo consisting of keyboardist Ben Goldwasser and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden, and their supporting band took the stage in matching Three Amigos attire, the crowd roared in delight.
And that was the general trend all night. The crowd clamored in delight every time Goldwasser approached his mic (he didn’t get more animated than that), lead guitarist James Richardson ripped into another fret-shredding solo, and whenever the group’s meandering jams coalesced into danceable beats.
The group seemed at ease on stage despite the surrounding underage regalement and general hysteria. They cruised through the majority of Oracular Spectacular, including their certifiable hits “Electric Feel” and “Time to Pretend”. But they lingered on “The Handshake” and a couple of other tracks, jamming extensively under Richardson’s commanding solos.
Singing has never been VanWyngarden’s strong suit—the album clearly works some auto-tune magic—but it was rough-hewn enough that it suited their ‘60s inspired indie sound well. “Weekend Wars”, however, simply sounds constipated and it did so equally live.
Winding down their set with “Kids”, they set down their instruments singing along to Goldwasser’s mostly solo electronic engineering. But they weren’t quite done and VanWyngarden pressed Richardson to follow his lead with playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” What followed was a train-wreck of a cover, with VanWyngarden screeching out the vocals in an even loftier falsetto than usual and the bass player struggling to follow Richardson’s chords.
Though MGMT’s innovative psychedelic indie pop sound and songs of fated delusions made for a solid debut album, their only live embellishment was an exhilarating third-party guitarist. (And also their costumes.)
In a holiday week where it appears that most publishers are treading water and waiting for the final holiday push to year’s end, two titles stand out as the ones that are going to be fighting for gamers’ shelf space by the time the week ends. In an interesting twist of scheduling, however, the fight won’t be fought based on quality, necessarily, but on the basis of which players have which consoles.
First only by virtue of its release date is Resistance 2 the sequel to the game that all but single-handedly saved the PS3’s launch lineup. When the PS3 was released, the one inescapable criticism that it couldn’t shake off was the mere fact that there were almost no games worth playing in the launch catalog; in that lineup, Resistance was a beacon of exclusively-licensed hope. It has since stood the test of time as one of the PS3’s most celebrated shooters, and Resistance 2 stands an awfully good shot of continuing that legacy as it introduces the prospect of a simultaneous 60-person competitive multiplayer mode. 60 people. I’m a programmer by day, and that just sounds like a nightmare of network programming to me, but more power to Insomniac for deciding to tackle such a beast.
Of course, later this week comes Gears of War 2, and having spent a little bit of time with this one myself, let me tell you (in case you hadn’t already heard), it’s really an incredible gaming experience. The first Gears of War was a success almost entirely on its technical merits; its unse of Unreal Engine 3 was unparalleled, its cover ‘n shoot gameplay was revolutionary for its time, and its enemy design was properly scary and awe-inspiring (and need I even mention the fantastic marketing push?). The second game, while no great departure, lives up to Epic Games’ president Mike Capps’ proclamation that Gears 2 would be “bigger, better, and more badass”. The technical marvels are at least doubled, while a renewed focus on the story is made plainly obvious by the second part of the very first act. Epic obviously took notes on the few gripes that players had with the first game, taking steps to correct them for the second.
Elsewhere, it seems that licensed product is commanding most of the attention. James Bond: Quantum of Solace is being released for a whole pile of consoles this week, and despite the fact that no Bond game since Goldeneye has lived up to the way that game captivated us back in the days of the Nintendo 64, we still continue to expect just a little more of Bond than of other licensed properties; hopefully Quantum of Solace can give us some of the fun escapism that so many other more serious games are lacking of late. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is also coming out for pretty much everything this week, and you probably already know if you’re buying it, but Lord knows there’s an audience for it.
As for lesser-known titles? I’m not sure how you can turn down a game with a title like Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, but maybe that’s just me.
What are you picking up this week? Is it back to work against the Locusts? Up for another go-‘round with The Undertaker? Or maybe that Tom Clancy game that’s sneaking quietly into the picture is more your speed? Let us know, and remember—slow down. Enjoy your time with your games. There’ll be a good nine months starting in January to catch up.
ISL press release from Mickey Leigh, brother of the late Joey Ramone, made in reaction to the Johnny Ramone’s wife Linda Cummings, campaigning for John McCain:
“It has been brought to my attention that Linda Cummings, using the name “Ramone,” has recently been in the media joining with the Palin family and the McCains to attempt to aid their campaign for the Presidency. As a President of Ramones Productions, and brother of Joey Ramone, I just want it to be clear that Linda Cummings does not represent the political views of the Ramones. Surely, as for Joey Ramone, the only Ramones song he would sing at a Republican campaign event would be ‘Glad To See You Go!’
“I should add that when Johnny stated ‘God Bless George Bush’ at the 2002 Rock&Roll Hall of Fame awards, I realize now that he was on to something. Because if it were not for George Bush and his handling of our country the past 8 years, I doubt so many Americans, including so many highly regarded Republicans, would now be getting behind Barack Obama. So, yes, God bless George Bush for paving the way to Obama.”
In Troma’s world, it takes all types. Where once the mighty Manhattan madhouse of independent art used to simply shuttle out its own perplexing pictures for a VCR hungry fanbase, the last two decades has seen more outside the offices distribution than direct creative contributions. Of course, there’s no real reason to complain about such a business model. As a result, we were treated to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s classic Cannibal: The Musical, Giuseppe Andrews’ Trailer Town, and Jenna Fischer’s Lollilove. After a while in the commercial morass, concentrating on the luminous epic Poultrygeist, Troma is back bringing the unsung and uncelebrated to the masses. In the case of the two DVDs discussed, both fall firmly into the company’s corporate ideology while reestablishing Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Hertz as the most important names in indie filmmaking today.
In the case of our first film, it’s sometimes safe to say that most moviemakers are just plain nuts. They look around at the rest of the breed, making cinema about important subjects or personal obsessions, and they just go ape crap. It’s not enough to make a plain old comedy or a standard horror flick. No, for them, it’s a process of tapping into the darkest, most disturbed resources of the cerebral cortex and pulling out a plumb peculiar motion picture pie. This is clearly what happened when writers/directors Adam Deyoe and Eric Gosselin decided to express themselves, cinematically. Responsible for such odd sounding fare as The Mental Dead and Street Team Massacre, the art-oriented schlock meisters at Troma are treating us to their gay Bigfoot epic Yeti: A Love Story.
That’s right - Sasquatch is a homosexual and worshiped by a cult run by ex-monk Raymond. Sending out his pretty young members to lure fresh man meat to his compound, he offers up sexual sacrifices to the beast in exchange for…well, that’s never really clear. Anyway, when a group of local college kids head out into the woods for a combination camping trip/sarcasm-fest, they run smack dab into Raymond’s ridiculous sect. Adam becomes the Yeti’s longtime companion, while Dick is seduced by a horny faction member. Soon, a local priest lets Emily know that she is the chosen one, able to bring down Raymond and his gang with a crossbow. Oh yeah, and a bumpkin named Sex Piss is hounding these ‘city slickers’ from one side of the boondocks to the other.
With dialogue that sounds like it was made up by morons making fun of other idiots, and an alternative lifestyles theme that is simultaneously both provocative and retarded, Yeti: A Love Story is an undeniably unsane treat. It lilts along on ambitions so outsized it can never succeed, and yet finds a fresh and often funny way of trying to make it happen. The script by co-directors Adam Deyoe and Eric Gooselin (with some help from Jim Martin and Moses Roth) offers up such tasty bon mots as “Yetis are a myth, like leprechauns…or tomatoes” and “A fraternity is not a ‘frat’. After all, you don’t call a country a…”, but befuddled quips aren’t the movie’s only madness. Along the way toward the eventual interspecies erotica, we visit Tentacle Boy, a side show attraction, watch as one lost camper runs head on into every escape cliché in the book, and scratch our skulls over the massive paperwork required by local law enforcement.
Certainly we are in the presence of regressive genius, or intellectualized inbreeding. Deyoe and Gosselin may not have a solid cinematic sense (this is point-and-shoot camcorder creativity at its best), but what they lack in lame mise-en-scene, they make up for in bad-ass weirdness. Yeti: A Love Story is the kind of unassuming entertainment experience that catches you off guard time and time again. Just when you think you’ve figured everything out, a couple of characters will battle to the pseudo-death in a police station bathroom, organs and blood flowing as the notion of false finales plays over and over. Similarly, the gay undercurrent is given a riotous RomCom sheen, our man/monster dynamic sounding suspiciously like Hollywood’s typical treacle processed between a guy and some goon in a gorilla costume. Funny, freakish, and often foaming at the frame, Yeti: A Love Story is like a case of motion picture rabies. Only several shots to the solar plexus will cure you.
Speaking of Tinsel Town tripe, the insider satire has always been one of the artform’s greatest gravy train derailers. Nothing sets studio suits ablaze quicker than talent that tries to bite the hand that mishandles it. Making fun of the movie business itself is like shooting fish on a firing range, or mocking Britney Spears’ lack of panties. It seems simple enough, until you look the concept squarely in the short hairs. Cyxork 7, a bizarre-o gob in the face of all that film production stands for, looks initially like a sharp stick in the lens by longtime industry insider John Huff. But after looking over our co-writer/directors IMDb credits, he appears awfully worked up over a few episodes of The Night Stalker, and an extended stay on CHiPs. Still, whatever crawled up his keister and cranked him over, the results are a hilarious and often insightful directorial dressing down.
The latest installment of the sci-fi franchise Cyxork 7 has decided on some cinematic gimmickry to make the series profitable again. First time feature filmmaker Angela LaSalle is in way over her head, and with a looming earthquake predicted, she hopes to wrap her efforts to take advantage of the natural ‘production value’. Of course, she is having an impossible time with her cast and crew including an angry German cinematographer, a boyfriend/assistant who keeps rewriting the script, a pair of fanatical web-heads who are responsible for the original screenplay, various ancillary a-holes, and the ever-loaming presence of b-movie maverick Clever Bill Emory. But it’s Kommander 88 himself, Rex Anderson, who is causing the most concern. Thanks to his harpy of a wife, he refuses to follow LaSalle’s artistic vision. It’s enough to destroy the project before Mother Nature has a chance to do it herself.
With a wonderful cast perfectly in tune with his tirade, and a subtext that suggests the chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out aspects of celebrity, Cyxork 7 is something quite unexpected. While Troma can treat us to movies that are entertaining and unusual, ‘thoughtful’ isn’t a word often used in connection with Lloyd Kaufman and company. This is not to say that all of their output is single digit IQ oriented, by Huff’s Hollywood hatful of hate is smart, daring, and as acerbic as a retired film critic. Jaded isn’t a strong enough term for this film’s view of the business, and the media as depicted has become so cynical, it aims lower than the lowest common denominator. From the moment we see the raised middle finger of a CNN style corporate logo, we know exactly where Huff is coming from.
This is a dense, determined indictment of an artform that’s lost its way. Nothing is sacred: the Internet geek goon squads are portrayed as whiny slackers that think they know better but actually end up more misguided than the moviemakers; Infotainment TV is portrayed as a series of shock value soundbites mixed in with “why aren’t I famous” snatches of self loathing; movie stars are made out to be self-centered and insecure while everyone around their periphery - from the DP and F/X crew to a pregnant spouse - thinks they can direct. Perhaps the best moment arrives when young gun executive Clever Bill Emory arrives to blow up the production. His dialogue, a combination of schlock horror successes and nonsequitor admonitions, is so inspired you wish he was onscreen more than a single scene.
A lot of Cyxork 7 plays this way. When overwhelmed documentarian Angela LaSalle sits down to dinner with her leading man Anderson and his shrewish wife, the emotions registered on her defeated face are simply stunning. Similarly, when star Ray Wise goes into full smarm mode, he makes Bruce Campbell’s clueless chutzpah look like chinbone child’s play. As with any look at a corrupt business from the inside out, Huff (with script help from Andreas Kossak) tends to forget that we, the audience, aren’t as familiar with his farcical targets as he is. And when the last act disaster actually happens, the film can’t help but turn over into something standard and formulaic. But that’s only five minutes out of an otherwise blistering 90 minute beat down. While you may not always laugh out loud at what Cyxork is saying, the skewered sentiments are always crystal clear.
As with all Troma DVDs, these two films are fleshed out with some wonderful added content. Both offer up insightful full length audio commentaries (Cyxork, naturally enough, being far more serious than Yeti‘s), and massive Making-of featurettes. With the Bigfoot gang, we are treated to nearly a dozen short films and trailers, while on the sci-fi side of things, there’s a wonder selection of interviews and festival appearances. Naturally, our corporate sponsor has to get into the act and offer up a collection of their own merchandising come-ons. Yet by supplementing each entry the way they do, Troma teaches us about the fine (and seemingly dwindling) art of true independent filmmaking. It takes all kinds, and all temperaments, to turn out even the oddest piece of celluloid.
In the next few months, we will be treated to a literal treasure trove of new digital distractions. Old favorites like Combat Shock will get a much needed technological make-over, while advertised treats like Coons: Night of the Bandits of the Night threaten yet another trip into the tried and true toilet and trash motifs that made Troma a three decade old icon. And the best bit? Who knows what new classic the company will unleash on an unsuspecting fanbase. Where once it seemed dark and desolate, the future looks bright for Uncle Lloyd and his lunatic fringe. It’s safe to say that Troma is back - not that it really went anywhere in the first place.