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Monday, Jun 11, 2007


June is typically touted – both in song and maxim - as busting out all over, but when it comes to digital product headed to your local brick and mortar, this month is shaping up to be simply a bust. The release pattern appears to consist of one or two name titles per week, followed by dozens of unknown efforts and unnecessary double dips. Take this upcoming Tuesday. We get an intriguing thriller, a wannabe popcorn blockbuster, and a bunch of lesser offerings. That’s it. In fact, if it weren’t for the independent distributors and outsider creations, we’d have a real dearth of DVDs on the market. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. The next 20 days will see some intriguing titles from Criterion, and another few mainstream hits, but that’s about it. So mark your calendars well – every release date will be very similar to 12 June. Here’s hoping July turns the tide:


Breach


Flying in under the radar this past February (just in time for 300 to steal all the box office fire) this intriguing real life story of international intrigue and Cold War espionage deserved better. Featuring fine performances from Ryan Phillippe and Laura Linney, as well as an award worthy turn by Chris Cooper as the rogue FBI agent selling secrets to the Russians, what should have been a sleeper hit was unceremoniously dumped into cinema’s supposed dead zone – a.k.a. the spring. There, it languished, receiving excellent reviews and good word of mouth. Yet for some reason, it failed to become a substantive hit. Now, thanks to a rapid turnaround on DVD, fans of tense, taut thrillers can enjoy this intriguing effort from screenwriter (Flightplan, Suspect Zero) and director (Shattered Glass) Billy Ray. His is a career behind the camera worth following.

Other Titles of Interest


Charly’s Aunt


Successful radio (and then TV) talent Jack Benny never seemed to get a handle on big screen stardom. In this, the sixth adaptation of Brandon Thomas’s celebrated cross dressing stage play, the comedian plays the title character, a student in drag helping out his buddies in the chaperon department. Naturally, hilarious hi-jinx ensure in what ends up being one of Benny’s most well known and triumphant cinematic jaunts.

52 Pick Up


It’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel. It was directed by the always intriguing John Frankenheimer. It stars Roy Scheider and Ann-Margaret in some of their best work ever. So why isn’t this film heralded as a mid ‘80s classic? Well, for one thing, the era was too high concept for such an old fashioned noir. Second, the lack of a legitimate DVD release limited its appreciation – until now.

Ghost Rider: Extended Edition


While not the worst comic book hero movie ever made, this take on the Devil’s diabolical bounty hunter is highly reminiscent of the recent string of studio-hindering hackwork that the genre has become known for. Star Nicholas Cage and writer/director Mark Steven Johnson obviously wanted to impart some quirk into the character, but the suits needed to satisfy the bean counters. Thus we have this amazing looking movie that’s lacking a serious superhero soul.

Primeval


It was promoted as a serial killer flick. Turned out, the title terror was a rogue crocodile eating people in South Africa. What a gyp! Anyway, critics weren’t confused by what they saw unfold onscreen. Many called it a below average ‘when animals attack’ effort with too little story and too much blood. That seems to sum it up quite well. For lovers of the creature feature end of the genre only.

Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl


Continuing his commercial cottage industry sans his amazing Medea character, raconteur Tyler Perry delivers this interesting take on single parenthood and cultural class standing. Without the whacked out mother figure at the center of the story, the humor is more subtle and based around the interaction with children. Some will find its heart in the right place. Others will lament the lack of a delirious drag dimension.



And Now for Something Completely Different
Sex Hex


While horror is constantly harangued for offering nothing but the same old thing, it’s actually the softcore sex romp that deserves said detrimental delineation. While the fright flick tries to use the genre basics to deliver differing fear factors, it’s nothing but nudity and naughtiness in these fake fornication fests. Sex Hex hopes to shake things up by adding Airplane! style spoofing to the mix, as well as keeping all the gratuity strictly girl/girl. When an erotic succubus strikes a California company, Carl the Cable Guy turns into a fearless vampire hunter to catch her. The result is a very silly, very Sapphic slice of pseudo-porn. While the actresses are a little on the plastic fantastic side of attractiveness, they sure do enjoy their lesbian loving. The result is a DVD bound to tickle much more than just your funny bone.

 


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Monday, Jun 11, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Socalled
(These Are The) Good Old Days [MP3] from Ghettoblaster on Jdub
     


You Are Never Alone [MP3]
     


Hip-hop/klezmer/pop, a real genre mash-up from this Canadian beatmaker.  Eclectic like we love it here at PopMatters.
[MySpace]


Okkervil River
Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe [MP3] from Stage Names (Jagjaguwar)
     


[MySpace]


Our Life is not a Movie or Maybe [Live KEXP broadcast from Austin City Limits - 3/16/07]


John Mayall
Palace of the King [MP3] from In the Palace of the King (Eagle Rock)
     


John P. Strohm
Sha La [MP3]
     



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Monday, Jun 11, 2007

I share the skepticism the Economist correspondent expresses in this post about the alleged inevitability of subscription services dominating the market for popular music. The correspondent focuses on the pleasures of ownership and our “right” to property:


Is there a reason why we prefer to own our music? Do we trust providers to not raise their rates once we’ve abandoned our own catalogues? To be fair, we didn’t always own music; a hundred years ago, before Edison, we made it ourselves. We raised broods of children to complete our own string orchestras. But at some point after the introduction of the Victrola we began to believe, since we could capture music, that we could own it. We built libraries. They came to define us.
Given that, culturally, we’re not giving up the idea of capturing music, is it likely that we’re going to abandon the idea of owning it? If we rent our music are we ceding a property right?


The implication is that there is a pleasure in merely exercising that property right for its own sake, regardless the nature of the property, in part because owning things helps define us; property constitutes our identity, and until we own things, we have no material basis for supporting our claims to who we are. That seems fairly accurate: A pretty depressing ramification of consumerism is how it makes us dependent on owning things to organize our personalities—though I suppose defenders of consumerism would say it was ever thus and we simply have more options now, thanks to the expansion of markets and the explosion of innovation they have prompted.


But I think the other problem with subscriptions is that people see it as paying for something that is already free, the radio. Pricing of subscription services rely not on the value of music but the value of evading ads, as the music is for most people, more or less interchangeable when it comes right down to it.


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Monday, Jun 11, 2007

Before reading this WSJ article, I had never heard of conquesting, and would have assumed it had something people did in World of Warcraft, not a proxy war waged by companies through the means of ad placement.


In an increasingly popular form of online advertising, marketers are taking out ads right next to editorial content about their rivals. The aim is to convert consumers from one brand to another—and also to issue a public challenge.


While it may seem as though the existence of competing and contested claims would make the marketplace that much more opaque and confusing, it strikes me as a clear victory for consumers. If companies are directing their ads at one another, that means they are failing to target their natural enemies, shoppers, who are instead being alerted to the disingenuous of the medium of advertisements themselves. Rather than getting people to change allegiances, seeing companies refute each other’s claims and poses likely leads people to consider all ads with more skepticism. It could theoretically work like negative campaigning, which is routinely alleged to turn off voters from the political process altogether. Perhaps conquesting has the same effect on shoppers.


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Monday, Jun 11, 2007

Like millions of other pop culture fans, I watched the final episode of TV icon The Sopranos, breathlessly waiting for a big finale.  And we all got it but not the one we were expecting.


All the lead-up talk to the final episode led to two expectations.  First of all, there was the idea of redemption.  Would our great anti-hero Tony Soprano finally mend his wicked ways somehow and become a mensch.  To me though, that seemed like a false projection of reality.  The real reason many of us were captivated by a character like Tony was that he was such a bad-ass mother, even with the doubt he expressed in therapy.  To have his somehow redeem himself at the last minute would have been the worst kind of vapid ending for the series.  After all, one of the models for the show was Public Enemy where James Cagney plays another great gangster cad who never redeems himself.


Tagged as: hbo, sopranos
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