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by PopMatters Staff

5 Aug 2009

The Resistance
(Warner Bros.)
Releasing: 15 September

01 Uprising   
02 Resistance  
03 Undisclosed Desires  
04 United States of Eurasia (+ Collateral Damage)   
05 Guiding Light  
06 Unnatural Selection  
07 MK Ultra  
08 I Belong to You (+ Mon Coeur S’Ouvre A Ta Voix)   
09 Exogenesis: Symphony Part I (Overture)   
10 Exogenesis: Symphony Part II (Cross Pollination)   
11 Exogenesis Part III (Redemption)

“Uprising” [Stream]

by Rachel Balik

5 Aug 2009

Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Entertainment and the director of the original New Music Seminar, arranged a redux of the legendary event on July 21st, 2009 to usher in, acknowledge, and anticipate the new forms that the music industry is taking. Silverman’s opening remarks set an implicit tone for the day: The drastic changes that the New Music Seminar would address didn’t just apply to the music business. He did offer many startling statistics about record sales, but he focused not just on comparing 2009 to the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s and ‘90s, but also on the year 2012. Why 2012? Partially, because according to a Mayan prophecy, that’s when the world is ending. Throughout the talk, Silvermen called upon legends, wisdom, and philosophies that seemed to be of much greater global significance than just record sales. Perhaps the heaviness comes from the fact that although things have gotten bad, Silverman’s charts suggested that there’s still room for the business to get worse. That being said, there’s plenty of room for the individual artist to make things better.

Silverman’s goal seemed to be both to instruct and inspire. Just as it wasn’t entirely clear whether citing the Mayan prophecy was mostly in jest, he also added a layer of seriousness by constantly intermittently quoting President Barack Obama. He repeated, “we are the ones we have been waiting for” a few times, with the intent of empowering the artist and encouraging musicians to stop looking to labels for help. Additionally, it was made clear throughout the day that the way the artist gets empowered is by listening to the fans. Of course, that concept is the staple of social media, and it’s a trend that is pervading society as a whole. In fact, it’s the reason why Barack Obama was so successful: He made every person in the country feel like they mattered, and as a result, they rallied behind him in unprecedented numbers.

Musicians need to follow this same trend, because it is the fans who make or break them, and it is the job of music professionals to interpret the data correctly, explained keynote speaker Courtney Holt, president of MySpace. For example, counting the number of times a song gets put on a playlist that a user shares with friends is far more important. The exhibits in the foyer served to affirm this attitude. It’s sharing that matters. It is networks that matters. Fans ultimately decide what other potential fans should hear.

Exhibits at the booths outside the auditorium exemplified this angle. One table was manned by Owngig.com, a site where fans can actually submit requests for artists to do shows. If enough interest generates, the site works with the artist to plan a show. Naturally, it is not a one-sided endeavor: Artists are expected and encouraged to promote themselves through owngig.com as well, and rally the support they need from fans.

One of the sponsors of the event was ourstage.com, a seemingly more involved version of MySpace, where artists upload music and videos and fans get to rank them. Channels are created based on popularity and when artists get popular, they enter the finals, aiming to win prizes that include money, slots at concerts, and even good publicity from hot media outlets. It is created to be an entirely egalitarian, almost socialist, method of helping bands and artists gain exposure and possibly even fame. In the cases of both sites, fans are competing for popularity and success as much as the artists are. The playing field has truly been leveled in an unprecedented way: Both fans and artists are mutually using each other for different types of credibility and recognition.

And of course, that leads us back to the truth which is that no matter how the industry works, talent gets recognized, and there are more people who wish they had talent than people who actually have it. The audience at this event was largely dominated by hopeful musicians and producers looking to network, or just be recognized. Question and answer sessions after each panel were dominated by those determined to shout their own name, plug their next show, or grasp for exposure of their company. Unfortunately, these questions seemed to deviate from the integrity of the panel, and gently remind everyone, as one speaker pointed out, that you can’t “make” something go viral and there are more musicians trying to make it than ever will. The difference now is that all the music is available and everyone can produce an album. That means that in an already suffering industry, there are more alarming statistics than one can shake a drum stick at. Namely, 80 percent of artists are selling less than 100 albums, but that seems to be because over 400,000 records are being made each year.

There is a silver lining to this dark cloud, and it is that artists who sell less than 10,000 albums have seen much less of a plummet in sales than bigger artists. That means that if the small scale independent artists truly makes use of Web 3.0 tools, there is a still a chance of success. As explained in the “Fourth Movement,” your live show and tour, “you’re not descending from the clouds, you’re on Twitter.” Twitter won’t make you good, but if you’re good and you don’t need to be the next Justin Timberlake, it will give you a chance of growing. Hard work and humility dominate. Or as panelist Martin Atkins explained, “If you know that you’re fucked, you’re not. And if you think that you’re not fucked, you are.” Not only wise, but probably Tweet-worthy as well.

by PopMatters Staff

5 Aug 2009

John Vanderslice hooked up with the Magik Magik Orchestra at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to record a live take of “Promising Actress” from 2004’s Cellar Door. (via yourstru.ly)

by Steve Horowitz

4 Aug 2009

The Wanderlust music festival began right on time as the musical/performance-art circus troupe The Muytator hit the stage promptly at 9:00 pm. The Muytator include three drummers with full drum kits, a three horn rhythm section, keyboards, guitar, ex-Oingo Boingo bass player John Avila on bass, and assortment of dancers. The act’s loud funk/ska music and showy acrobatics energized the crowd, many of whom had attended the concurrent peaceful yoga festival at the site earlier in the day.

The two most notable aspects of The Muytator’s show were the use of fire and the sexiness of the dancers. These elements frequently combined in exotic and erotic combinations as the performers would twirl lit swords and balls of fire on chains while enacting ritualized love scenes that included plenty of bumps and grinds. Despite the volume of the music, the attention was almost always focused on the sultry, if a bit purposely sleazy, performers.

While the physical use of incendiary objects got things hot, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings showed how the power of soul can get things even hotter. The Dap-Kings began the performance with some tight instrumental numbers while teasing the audience about what was coming up ahead, before finally introducing Jones and turning the flames up a notch.

Jones went through her repertoire of songs from her first two albums, with crowd pleasers like “I’m Not Gonna Cry”, “How Do I Let a Good Man Down”, “My Man is a Mean Man“, and more, all the time strutting and dancing. She and the Dap-Kings were in perfect sync, starting and stopping on a dime, as Jones would go into a tirade about the kind of respect she expected after coming home from work or the behavior she expected from someone to whom she gave her love.

Jones encouraged crowd participation and at times the audience was so loud they drowned out the amplified Jones and her band. She also called up various members of the crowd onstage, as well as the dancers from The Muytator, and had them sing and dance along with her on the steamy love songs. Even with the improvisational nature of performing with others she had not practiced with, Jones never missed a beat or a note. The 53-year-old Brooklyn by way of Georgia singer said she was worried about not being able to keep up because the show was held in the mountains, but Jones’ energy never flagged. Jones and company played until after midnight to a satisfied audience.


by Chris Conaton

4 Aug 2009

Part 2:  My Thursday at Comic-Con ended with a movie screening, while Friday began with an epic, two-and-a-half hour Warner Bros. panel. The final movie presentation I saw during the convention was Saturday’s Iron Man 2 panel, which was a great way to finish the film section of the Con. In between there was animation legend Hayao Miyazaki and director Peter Jackson’s first-ever Comic-Con appearance.

Trick r Treat

I remember seeing trailers for this movie several times at Comic-Con 2007, but since then, nothing. Warner Bros. apparently had no idea what to do with this film, so instead of releasing it, they have opted to screen it at film festivals for a couple of months before shoveling it off to DVD in October. Comic-Con was treated to a full screening, though, and I’m happy to report that Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology film is quite a lot of fun. Taking place on Halloween night in a small Ohio town, the movie presents four separate-but-intertwining stories, each quite different. Familiar character actors abound, including Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, Tahmoh Penikett, and an excellent Brian Cox. Dougherty doesn’t skimp on the gore, but the film focuses equally on scares, making Trick r Treat a nice throwback to the anthology films of the 80’s (Creepshow, Cat’s Eye). It’s tough to figure out why Warner Bros. couldn’t market this- it’s a Halloween-themed horror movie with an iconic character, the sack-headed evil kid named Sam, that shows up throughout the film. Despite being an anthology, the movie should pretty much sells itself even though it isn’t a remake of a classic franchise.

Where the Wild Things Are

I haven’t read Where the Wild Things Are in decades and barely remember it, yet the extended scenes shown from Spike Jonze’s film inspired waves of nostalgia in me. The movie looks spectacular, and the decision to go with actual monster costumes instead of using CG appears to be a brilliant one. The interaction between the wild things and Max feels very real and visceral. Hopefully the full movie will turn out as beautiful as the footage shown at this panel.

The Book of Eli

Denzel Washington stars as a loner wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape, kicking much ass and trying like hell to hold onto the titular book. Gary Oldman is the bad guy who wants to acquire the book. But here in the world of Comic-Con, the trailer brought bigger cheers for Oldman than for Denzel. Directors Albert and Allen Hughes haven’t directed a movie since From Hell in 2001, so they have something to prove with this one. The most interesting tidbit to come out of this panel, though, was Gary Oldman’s admission that he expects Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film to begin production in 2010 for a 2011 release.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

This panel was sort of a mess. The clips shown from the upcoming reboot were heavy on a scene featuring a living Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley) being chased and ultimately incinerated by the group of angry parents from the franchise’s origin story. Yet during the panel, the filmmakers stated that their movie was not meant to be an origin story at all. To top it off, they claimed that they have Robert Englund’s full blessing to reboot the franchise, despite Englund being on the record as very, very unhappy that he has been replaced as Freddy.

The Box

Director Richard Kelly has long been one of the worst guests I’ve ever seen at Comic-Con. Stammering and desperately shy in two previous appearances (for Donnie Darko and Southland Tales) Kelly was barely been able to put a complete sentence together in front of a crowd. Surprisingly, he was much more comfortable this time around, discussing his upcoming thriller The Box. Based on a Richard Matheson short story, the premise involves a mysterious man (Frank Langella), showing up seemingly at random at the house of Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) in 1976. He offers her one million dollars if she will just push a big red button on top of a mysterious box, thereby killing a total stranger somewhere in the world that she has never met. The trailer showed that there is a lot more going on in the movie beyond the box itself, with mysterious sci-fi elements popping up. But during the panel discussion, Diaz blurted out what seems to be a gigantic spoiler about the box’s origins, pretty much ruining the mystery for everyone in attendance. Nice going, Ms. Diaz.

Jonah Hex

This adaptation of one of DC comics’ lesser-known characters looks like it’s going to be a slightly off-kilter action-fest for the summer of 2010. Jonah Hex is a cowboy anti-hero, and the footage cut together for Comic-Con was heavy on gunplay and dynamite-based train explosions. Josh Brolin certainly has the look down as Hex and Megan Fox seems to be her usual eye-candy self, except that she gets to handle guns this time out. The footage did feature something I’ve never before seen in an action movie, though: an explosive sequence involving Civil War-era ironclad ships. The real highlight of this panel, though, may have been the film-school jerk who asked Megan Fox to make a celebrity sex tape with him and was subsequently escorted out of the room by security.

Sherlock Holmes

We were treated to an extended trailer of Guy Ritchie’s action film, as well as a scene that featured Holmes in a bare-knuckle fight, analyzing what his opponent is about to do in his head and planning in advance how to counter it. But the real highlight was Robert Downey, Jr., appearing in person to soak up the adulation from the Comic-Con crowd and being very funny and personable, to boot. When asked about learning martial arts for the movie, Downey replied that he was so good, “I could windmill through all of you here right now.”

The Pixar Panel

Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios head John Lasseter held court over a 90-minute Disney Animation panel that showed remarkably little of Pixar proper’s upcoming releases. They showed the opening sequence of Toy Story 2 in 3-D and talked about the upcoming double-feature 3-D re-release of the first two movies on October 2. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the 3-D effects, in fact, the only really impressive 3-D of the weekend was in James Cameron’s Avatar. They had nothing to show for Toy Story 3 yet, except to say the plot involved Andy getting ready to leave home for college and that the premise is about what happens to the toys when their owner truly grows up.

The Princess and the Frog

The footage shown from Disney’s upcoming return to hand-drawn animation was very nice. Lasseter discussed how he managed to talk many of the animators and staff from the ‘90s Disney hits back to the studio for this movie, which was pretty obvious from the look and tone of the film. It’s nice to see a lushly hand-drawn Disney movie again, but the result of all these returning animators, directors, and writers is that it doesn’t feel particularly fresh or new. So far The Princess and the Frog seems to be selling nostalgia for the early ‘90s and, just as importantly, the addition of an African-American character to the company’s mega-lucrative Disney Princess line of products. Speaking of Disney in the ‘90s, Lasseter also revealed that they are re-releasing Beauty and the Beast around Valentine’s Day, 2010, in 3-D. They showed the opening scene of the film in 3-D, and it was sort of like looking at a filmed pop-up book, with the animation dividing into several layers. Surreal and kind of cool, but not really convincing as three-dimensional.


Of all the geek-out moments I experienced during Comic-Con 2009, this was the biggest. Disney managed to get legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki to leave Japan and attend Comic-Con to promote the North American release of his latest movie, Ponyo, on August 14. For an animation nut like myself, seeing Miyazaki in person was a big, big deal. He was soft-spoken and funny during the Q&A. My favorite moment went like this: Audience questioner- “Where do you get your amazing ideas from?” Miyazaki- “I wish I could remember.” Lasseter revealed that Disney is actually getting behind Miyazaki’s film this time around, putting Ponyo into 800 theaters. Really, that still isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than the 200 theaters Howl’s Moving Castle got or the few dozen Spirited Away had in its initial release.


Shane Acker’s post-apocalyptic CG adventure movie looks like it’s going to be unique and exciting. They showed a couple of extended action sequences and the animation is fluid and excellent. Producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov were on hand to help introduce Acker to the crowd. Burton explained that he wanted to produce the film so that he could deal with all the studio interference while just letting Acker focus on making his movie. Bekmambetov mostly sat silently, except for when he was asked about continuing his trilogy that began with Night Watch and Day Watch. His response, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” I guess having a big American hit (Wanted) means you don’t have to slink back to Russia and return to the franchise that put you on the map in the first place.

District 9

My God, Peter Jackson is so skinny now that he almost looks like a completely different person from when he directed The Lord of the Rings. He gave the Hall H crowd an update on where they were on The Hobbit: about three or four weeks from completing their first draft, after which they’ll turn it in to Warner Bros. for official approval. They expect to start thinking about casting by October or so. Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp talked about how they met, a little bit about their Halo movie adaptation falling through (but without any inside details), and their decision to expand Blomkamp’s short Alive in Joburg into a full-length movie. They showed a seven-minute series of scenes from District 9, which revealed some of the plot instead of just the basic premise that the trailers set up. Blomkamp also talked about a plot point that doesn’t really make it into the movie, that the aliens mostly operate on a hive system and that their queen has been killed. Without her they are sort of directionless and lack the initiative to get their ship fixed and leave Earth.

Solomon Kane

James Purefoy stars as the titular character, the Puritan swordsman from Conan author Robert E. Howard. Knowing that most of the audience was probably not aware of the character, the filmmakers cannily brought lots and lots of clips to introduce their film. It looks like a pretty hard-R action fest, with brutal violence and excellently choreographed fight scenes. Whether it will hang together as a full movie remains to be seen, but hopefully the positive reaction at Comic-Con will at least help them secure North American distribution.


Mike Judge returns to the workplace, albeit a factory setting, for the first time in a decade with this, a movie he called the “spiritual sibling to Office Space.” The clips shown were mildly amusing, but you get the sense that you have to see the full movie in context for Judge’s low-key humor to work. Also, Miramax apparently actively cut out some punchlines in the scenes they showed, which seems like a bizarre thing to do when you are promoting a comedy.


Director Ruben Fleischer admitted straight-up that he loves Shaun of the Dead and that he hopes Zombieland can live up to a movie that good and still bring something different to the table. The scenes they brought to the show, however, were a mixed bag. A funny fight sequence between Jesse Eisenberg and the (zombie) girl next door and a tense situation where Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson are double-crossed by a pair of young sisters were both positives. On the downside, however, is that the movie appears to have a pervasive voiceover from Eisenberg’s character which is supposed to be sardonic and funny but turned out to be pretty annoying, even in the brief scenes they showed.


Moderator: “Roland (Emmerich), why do you hate the Earth?” Emmerich: “I don’t hate the Earth, I love the Earth, that’s why I always want to blow it up!” Maybe his answer was funnier in the original German that was running through the director’s head. And yet, I still want to see Emmerich’s latest disaster movie. An extended trailer showed the Sistine Chapel cracking, complete with crack running right between the fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo’s painting, then falling and crushing hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square. They also showed us John Cusack’s desperate attempt to save his family and outrun the earthquake that is sinking California into the Pacific Ocean. In a limousine. Which he does successfully by getting them all to a small plane that’s already waiting for them on a runway. It’s all completely ridiculous and yet also awesome and way more fun-looking than the year’s other over-the-top actionfest, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Iron Man 2

Spectacular. Unlike the first movie, Iron Man 2 isn’t coming out of nowhere, but it still looks amazing. Director Jon Favreau and his special effects people worked very hard in the week between wrapping principal photography on the movie and doing their Comic-Con panel. The five or six minutes they showed us actually had some good-looking flying effects and Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) using his energy whips. The real kick, though, was watching Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark doing his thing again. The footage opened with Stark testifying before a Senate subcommittee, being grilled by a Senator played by Garry Shandling. Other scenes included another encounter between Stark and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and a sequence with James Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) and rival arms manufacturer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), debating about what sort of Hammer hardware to put inside the War Machine suit. And the clip ends with a shot of War Machine in action, shooting everything in sight. Favreau and Downey, Jr. were great in front of the crowd, too. An audience member asked them about working with Mickey Rourke, and Downey replied, “I thought I was eccentric!” Favreau chimed in, “We told Mickey his character had spent time in a Russian prison, and the next thing we knew, Mickey was in Russia in a prison, talking to inmates and doing research.”


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