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Friday, Jul 20, 2007

Well, maybe not… but I remembered this age-old complaint after seeing this Guidelive article where critics are forced to answer the most common reader complaints.  One of the most common is the idea “those who can’t X, do Y” (you know, like how gym teachers are really frustrated athletes).  The answer that Mike Daniel is not only a little too highbrow to really address what readers are saying, he’s also condescending there (about the readers, he says ‘most of whom aren’t pros and have never been “there” either’).  The best way to address the idea of writers as frustrated musicians is just to look at the experiences of scribes.


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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007


Can you see it? That little speck way off in the distance? That’s the light, baby. That’s the end of the 2007 Summer Movie Season slyly making its first true appearance on the horizon. With only six weeks left, Tinsel Town is still trying for a great big finish. Indeed, over the next few Fridays, we’ll see the big screen debut of America’s favorite cartoon family, a trequel from our man Bourne, a bland biopic about salsa ‘legend’ Hector Lavoe, and Rob Zombie’s reinvention of the Halloween franchise. Toss in a fractured fairytale, a bad idea family film, and a useless remake of an overdone sci-fi thriller and there’s plenty to keep you occupied. So where do the premium movie channels stand during this last big motion picture push? Very well, actually. Two of the four features presented on 21 July are definitely deserving of a Saturday night at home, and the outsider/alternative choices aren’t bad either. Just avoid the fishtailing cars and the well-meaning urban farce and you’ll be just fine. Of course, there’s always something playing down at the Cineplex, should you not enjoy what SE&L selected:


Premiere Pick
The Illusionist


Last year (2006), there were two highly touted movies centering on magic. One was a box office flop that didn’t generate much concerned critical buzz. The other was a clever period piece that gave away its twist ending about halfway through. The so-called ‘bomb’ went on to score many kudos come end of the year best-of voting. The moneymaker with the insufficient denouement was more or less ignored. So in the conflict over prestidigitation as big screen entertainment, it’s clear that this amiable effort featuring fine performances by Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti won the battle, but lost the war. And the reasons why are obvious. While Christopher Nolan turned The Prestige into a sensational psychological thriller, Neil Burger stayed solidly in Harlequin romance territory. The results are sumptuous yet simple, and a tad too obvious to sustain their storyline. Still, this is a fine feature, one worthy of your time and viewing leisure. It’s commercially unviable competitor on the other hand remains the timeless work of motion picture art. (21 July, Starz, 9PM EST)

Additional Choices
Little Miss Sunshine


It was the small independent movie that almost pulled off the upset come Oscar time – almost. Few outside the truly obsessed thought this marginal movie about a dysfunctional family dragging their precocious child to a beauty pageant was Best Picture bait. Still, the hype machine went into overdrive, convincing many that this screwball satire had a chance. Oddly enough, the small screen both enhances and erases some of the films fault, making the praise all the more perplexing. (21 July, HBO, 8PM EST)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift


Same premise, same storyline, different locale. For this third go around in the FF franchise, our pissed off pre-adult heroes head to Japan, where drifting is all the rage. Apparently, this means kids destroy their brakes and alignment by purposefully fishtailing their back tires. Peachy! As an aside, beware of those earworm masters The Teriyaki Boys. Their hideous theme song plays throughout this derivative action pic. (21 July, Cinemax, 10PM EST)


Madea’s Family Reunion


Tyler Perry tweaks another of his many urban stage plays, removing all the music but keeping the calm Christian message. As a result, he walks away with another demographically precise hit. Far less melodramatic than his Diary of a Mad Black Woman, this tale of an upcoming wedding, and the various trials and tribulations surrounding it, makes for another generic yet warm family comedy. He may have flaws as a filmmaker, but his drag creation remains potent. (21 July, ShowTOO, 8PM EST)

Indie Pick
Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll


It started out as a normal idea for a documentary – follow around Chuck Berry and modern day fan Keith Richards as the two prepare for a 60th birthday tribute concert to the early rock guitar hero. Little did filmmaker Taylor Hackford know, what started out simple would grow exponentially as egos and agendas clashed over and over. In essence, Berry didn’t appreciate the pip squeak upstart from those know nothing newbies The Rolling Stones telling him, a walking talking living myth, what to do. For his part, the gnarled Glimmer Twin was disillusioned by his idol’s lax attitude toward rehearsal and performance. He only wanted to see his mentor shine, not settle for subpar effort. The end result was a fiery behind the scenes scandal merged with a tremendous onstage spectacle, a character study studded with old school riffs. Many feel this is the ultimate combination of man and material. Berry may have been an unbearable bore and a mentally unstable cheapskate, but he also forged many of the moves that turned simple cultural heritage into the music we know today. (23 July, Sundance Channel, 4:15PM EST)

Additional Choices
Naked


To describe the ‘plot’ of this Mike Leigh movie – an antisocial Manchester man escapes to London to avoid the consequences of his actions – is to remove most of its magic. Granted, it remains a film in which the central character (played brilliantly by David Thewlis) meanders around, philosophizing out loud. Yet what he has to say, and the secrets revealed, turn a regular road movie into one of the ‘90s most meaningful films. (22 July, IFC, 9PM EST)

Dangerous Game


After the dopey disaster known as Body of Evidence, this independent hokum helmed by Abel Ferrara was meant to be Madonna’s cinematic redemption. After all, she was paired alongside actor anchor Harvey Keitel, and both he and the maverick director had a recent critical smash with their Bad Lieutenant. But just like anything celluloid the Material Girl touched, this art imitates life lameness was another first class flop.  (23 July, IFC, 10:40PM EST)

Assisted Living


Similar to a Christopher Guest mockumentary, filmmaker Elliot Greenebaum created a fictional story about a nursing home janitor, and then decided to stage and shoot the movie in an actual assisted living facility. It gives this otherwise conventional slacker comedy a real air of authenticity and realism. Of course, the history inherent in the residents is far more compelling than anything Greenebaum and his actors can generate. (26 July, Sundance Channel, 8:30PM EST)

Outsider Option
A Family Thing


Co-written by a then struggling Billy Bob Thorton and featuring the intriguing onscreen pairing of James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall, this engrossing drama deals with, of all things, an usual sibling situation. When his mother dies, Duvall’s backwoods hick Earl learns that his real mother was a black woman, and that he has a half brother living in Chicago. Deciding to get his life in order, he heads to the Windy City and winds up on the doorstep of Aunt T. A refined woman of color, she helps the confused visitor understand his circumstances. She also aids in bridging the cultural barrier between the white Southerner and his distrustful urban kin. Both Jones and Duvall are magnificent here, selling a similar sentiment of hurt and suspicion. But the real revelation is Irma P. Hall as the blind substitute matriarch. She is the life at the center of his confused situation, and uses her undeniable wisdom to explain that blood remains the same color, no matter the skin it’s in. A forgotten classic from the mid ‘90s, this movie deserved to be rediscovered. (26 July, Indieplex, 12:45PM EST)

Additional Choices
I Bury the Living


Richard Boone works in a graveyard. Whenever he inserts a pin into the cemetery map, the owner of said plot dies. Imagine what happens then when all the pins fall out. This early zombie stomp has already been featured as part of this ongoing TCM series, but it’s worth a second look. The atmosphere of dread is delightful, and the finale fulfills its premise’s promise – approximately. (20 July, TCM Underground, 2AM EST)

Reeker


When you read the synopsis for this film – a group of travelers, stuck in a desert oasis, are preyed upon by an unknown evil force – you think you’re in for a standard fright flick. Then you learn that the main creature is a decaying fiend with a noxious odor that’s capable of killing. Oh, and there’s a twist ending, Sixth Sense style. Still, any movie about a monster with a murderous ming has SE&L’s full support. (24 July, Showtime 2, 8PM EST)

Ride in the Whirlwind


Prior to his days as a certified Hollywood superstar, Jack Nicholson was a struggling actor. He also made a living penning genre efforts for Roger Corman (horror) and Monte Hellman (thriller). Here, he creates an existential western about three lawless men on the run from a posse. Thanks to Hellman’s crackerjack directing and its overall counterculture approach, this is one horse opera that stands on its own. (25 July, Drive In Classics Canada, 10:45PM EST)

 


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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Spoon —"The Underdog"
From Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga on Merge
With a history of stellar, no-filler records, Spoon has somehow topped themselves with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, a consistently thrilling album recorded throughout 2006 in Austin by the band and Mike McCarthy (except “The Underdog,” recorded in Los Angeles with Jon Brion). Spoon have been together over a decade, with one of the most unusual trajectories of any band in recent memory-and one of the best and most unique songwriters in the world.


The Blow —"Hock It"
From Poor Aim: Love Songs on K
Khaela Maricich is a pop musician, visual artist, and performer. She works in the cracks between pop music and performance art, bouncing between the genres to suck out the juicier parts of either world. She creates operatic performance pieces using the conversational style of popular music. Jona Bechtolt is a technological multi talent. His sound and video production can be found generously scattered throughout the internet, and in numerous popular live incarnations. With his project, YACHT, he makes textural dance-based compositions and performances, described by some as a “positive energy rainbow dome music from a next-generation west coast healer.”


The Chemical Brothers —"All Rights Reserved"
From We Are The Night on Astralwerks
After five albums, we know what to expect from a Chemical Brothers record. And Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons know how best to make them. “We’ve very much found our way of working,” says Tom. “And that’s having our own studio and experimenting for months and months, then collaborating with people when we have something that excites us. We still get a lot of enjoyment out of going into the studio. We still see it as a wondrous place where something magical can happen.”


Tied + Tickled Trio —"Aelita"
From Aelita on Morr Music
On Aelita the Tied & Tickled Trio are Caspar Brandner, Andreas Gerth, Markus and Micha Acher and Carl Oesterhelt. A band that listens very carefully to what their sounds do. A band that permits them to be surprised by themselves. This might be the very last space-metaphor of this album: the Tied & Tickled Trio and the orbit of its possibilities.


Bad Brains —"Give Thanks And Praises"
From Build a Nation on Megaforce
Mention the name Bad Brains to anyone today and you will likely get an eye-opening and overwhelmingly positive response. Considered by some to be the “holy grail” of punk rock, Bad Brains have a pure and quintessential attitude that most artists only aspire to achieve—they are simply one of the most important and influential American bands still working today. Like all great bands, light bulbs go off and charisma enters a room just by the band merely standing in it. For the Bad Brains, they go one step further and supply the electricity to charisma. Sometimes reactionary, but always volatile, Bad Brains are one of the definitive punk groups who garner the same respect as the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Clash and The Ramones.


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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007
by Cari Tuna

MINNEAPOLIS—Saturday’s debut of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series may be a magical time financially for its author and publisher, but it’s less so for bookstores—especially independent ones.


Faced with steep discounts from chains and big-box stores, a swath of midnight extravaganzas and a long list of rules tied to the occasion, some local shops are opting for a more subdued release.


“It’s definitely not a big moneymaker,” said Mary Magers, part owner of Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis. “(But) you can’t not carry the book.”


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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007
Interview

Interview
July 2007, 104 pages, $3.50 USD


By Rachel Smucker


At first, I wasn’t sure why Interview doesn’t get more media spotlight. It’s made up of some brilliant elements: celebrity-on-celebrity interviews, stunning candid photographs, thick, turnable pages. Even the advertisements are tasteful. So what’s preventing Interview from becoming the next Rolling Stone?


Think of it from a chemist’s point of view—you need a catalyst. An enzyme, if you will. After reading the too-comfy interview between Daniel Craig and longtime friend and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood, I realized that what Interview lacked was enzymes, so to speak. I almost missed the awkward, patience-trying interviewing techniques of amateur journalists, desperate to get a reaction and a good story (though I am sure Daniel Craig did not). I can’t help but think of a brief interview with Colin Farrell I once read in an issue of the women’s magazine Jane: a couple of jokes were made, and bam! Less than a page long, the interview was over, and I came out with the priceless knowledge never to joke about relationship status with Colin Farrell. Yikes.


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