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by Bill Gibron

27 Apr 2009

In connection with PopMattersfirst installment in a week long look at the hits and misses of Summer 2009, we here at Short Ends & Leader have decided to pimp the 10 titles we are most looking forward to viewing come popcorn movie sign. Some of them are obvious. A few you might not have heard of. And a couple are definitely the equivalent of going out on a limb (or in the case of at least one already reviewed entry, bucking the bad vibe trend). But unlike the rest of mainstream America who is palpating wildly at the thought of another Ice Age film and a second Night at an already lame Museum, we hope our choices are a little more refined. After all, we have to see everything. Why not get excited about those entries that actually stir our imagination - not our gag reflex, beginning with:

Star Trek


We have to be careful here, less the losers in Lucas Nation accuse us of once again ripping on the man who raped our childhood. SE&L consider themselves members of the Trek take on speculative fiction. We prefer to use our brains vs. various other organs when it comes to whiz bang future shock. So when J.J. Abrams announced he was rebooting the Original Series to show how Kirk, Spock, and the rest became the saviors of the universe, we held our breath and hoped for the best. Early reviews state we can start to exhale. In less than a week, we’ll have our own pre-screening response to how successful he was.

Drag Me to Hell


Sam Raimi can be forgiven for a lot of things - keeping Evil Dead 4 away from us for nearly 20 years (rumors say he’s definitely planning another installment…for 2011!!!), turning Spider-man into an Emo dancing douche, even using his Ghost House production company to shove a dozen Westernized J-horror remakes down our already overburdened Asian fear aesthetic. But can he really pull of a return to terror and keep it within a PG-13 dynamic - and the better question is should he? He’s R-rated at the very least. We’ll have to wait until the end of May to find out.

Dead Snow


Okay, okay - we know that hth eorror film nation has already dismissed this effort outright as too much promise undone by too little accomplishment. Apparently, it’s all bark and no ‘bite’. And we get it - it’s not Ils, or Inside, or Let the Right One In, or any number of current post-millennial macabre faves. Still - NAZI ZOMBIES!!! How can you not appreciate the grindhouse glory in such a concept? It’s like every night terror you’ve ever had mixed with a sexless version of Love Camp 7. Come on! We’ll be there - and probably be disappointed as well.

Moon


As stated before, we are definitely suckers for old school serious sci-fi here at SE&L, and this one has the potential for being something really special. David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones (adopting his Dad’s original surname) has crafted a vehicle for as much spectacle as thought, and Sam Rockwell gives what many consider to be one of his best performances. And here’s a suggestion - try and avoid the trailer that’s currently making the rounds. For our money, it gives far too much away, though we also imagine that Jones has more up his sleeve than any preview can completely spoil.

The Hurt Locker


Kathryn Bigelow made some great movies in the ‘80s (Near Dark, Blue Steel) before her partnership both on and off the set with husband James Cameron imploded around the time of Point Break. Since then, her output has been shoddy at best, especially in the last 10 years or so. But the buzz on this Iraq War thriller is huge, and we’d love to see Bigelow make the comeback she so richly deserves. In a man’s world, she remains one of the few female filmmakers with the potential to tap into the pure testosterone tenets of the action/thriller genre.

Funny People


Judd Apatow going serious? What’s the world coming to? Well, here’s betting the more somber material is balanced with the standard bro-frat formula that’s turned the Freaks and Geeks’ guide into a hit making household name. Of course, it’s a big gamble to leave the scatological behind completely. With Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen in tow, there’s a good chance that Apatow scores big here. And remember, James L. Brooks did comedy before an Oscar winning dramatist of sorts. Why shouldn’t the man behind the insightful Knocked Up have the same opportunity to shine?

District 9


Have you seen Alive in Joburg, Neil Blomkamp’s political allegory that puts issues of South Africa and race within a slick, sci-fi exposé? If you haven’t then head over to YouTube and check it out. Now imagine this amazing short expanded to feature film length, with the power of Peter Jackson and WETA working behind the scenes. If you’re geek radar isn’t off the charts by now, there’s something wrong with it - and you! And here’s hoping it’s NOT the proposed Halo adaptation that Universal rejected as “too expensive” a while back. No one needs another lame videogame-based film.

Taking Woodstock


Granted, ‘60s nostalgia has gone the way of the poodle skirt and the disco ball, replaced by a glam slam love of all things ‘80s and new wave, but that doesn’t mean that Ang Lee can’t pull of this tale of the Peace Generation’s communal calling card. In fact, we’re counting on the man behind The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain to deliver big time. And with a story like this, centering on a small town motel owner who manages somehow to get the biggest rock concert in the history of the US situated in his own backyard, Lee’s poised to produce something magical.

Inglorious Basterds


Unlike most online sites, we LOVE Quentin Tarantino. We just do, so sue us. We worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and have nothing but admiration for his homage heavy work in Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Death Proof. So there’s no doubt we’ll be front and center when this blood soaked war flick about Jewish soldiers scalping Nazis in Occupied France hits theaters this August. It sounds like everything that man is known for and needs to make quality exploitation excellence. Even when he underperformers, no one excites cinema the way this post-modern prophet can. Let the flaming begin!

H2: Halloween 2


Gotta love the hospital setting, though one has to admit that it instantly reminds fans of the failures inherent in the Carpenter produced sequel of his original. Rob Zombie may be a macabre purist whipping boy, but we’ll take his remarkable look at the Michael Myers legend over some of the tepid attempts to bring back those old school shivers of late (take that, Last House on the Left). At least Zombie remembers to keep things nice and brutal - much to the chagrin of those who apparently like their fear factors lame and lukewarm.

by Rob Horning

27 Apr 2009

Who says serendipity is dead? While I was jogging around my neighborhood yesterday, my run was interrupted by one of my favorite things to stumble upon—a box of books being thrown out. This happenstance allows me to (1) acquire several more books of marginal relevance to me for the nearly always margin-defeating cost of free and (2) believe there is some sort of destiny in my reading and them and extracting what I can extract from them, all while (3) feeling like I’m performing a noble act of unconsumption, resuscitating something old and avoiding an unnecessary new purchase. If we need to be constantly rearranging our belongings to be continually reaffirming our ever-unstable self-concept, why not do it through acquisitive acts outside the economy?

by Sarah Zupko

27 Apr 2009

The French duo of Miss Kittin and the Hacker first got together in back in 2001 for the album First Album and turned out the lewd, but catchy “Frank Sinatra”. I won’t recount those lyrics here, but you can listen on Lala.com. Our very own Terry Sawyer said of the duo, “they created decadent club music for people too arch and smart for typical white label fare.”

They haven’t worked together since then and Miss Kittin went on to record I Com, while the Hacker went off on his own as a DJ and remixer working with the likes of Air and Laurent Garnier. The two began writing together again back in 2006 and hit the stage in 2007. Now they are releasing their first full-length since 2001 on May 19th with TWO. They’re a bit less outrageous this go-around and a tad more sophisticated to boot. Sample their new approach here with the online premiere of “Electronic City”.

Miss Kittin & The Hacker
“Electronic City” [MP3]
     

Miss Kittin & The HackerTWO—(Nobody’s Bizzness,19 May)

by Mike Deane

27 Apr 2009

What is it about Leonard Cohen that is so timeless? He might be 75 years old, yet he still seems as spry and full of energy as a 30-year-old. He skips and jumps to and from the stage, he’s still quick on his feet, he’s still got the amazing sadness/self deprecating humor and when he smiles it fills a room (or stadium as it were).

by Lara Killian

27 Apr 2009

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The eye-catching cover of Joe Meno’s 2004 novel, Hairstyles of the Damned puts together one of my favorite color combinations: hot pink and jungle green. This read was a serendipitous find, calling my name from the ‘new arrivals’ shelf at the library. Put out by Punk Planet Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, Hairstyles is the kind of indie fiction that could never be published by the mainstream houses.

Between the colorful covers lies the coming-of-age story of Brian Oswald and the assorted punks, skinheads and DnD geeks who cross his path as he veers wildly from one teenage boy activity to the next: chasing tail, trying to get a job, getting high, and making mix-tapes. Brian has trouble getting any of these things quite right, but that’s what being a teenager is all about, right? Meno paints his characters in vivid detail and documents their emotional states through the telling art of mix-tape assembly, mostly heavy metal and punk rock tunes the target reader is likely to be very familiar with.

Brian’s best friend is Gretchen, she of the hot pink hair on the cover, and he has a huge crush on her, even though she has a less than desirable figure, swears like a sailor, and loves to beat people up. Their unlikely friendship is destined for disaster, and as Brian struggles to replace Gretchen’s unique presence in his life, he moves through different strata of the underage party scene in Chicago’s south side, never quite finding his niche. Meno’s authentic language (not intended for the prim and proper) and style changes between what Brian is thinking, remembering, writing, and listening to keeps things very interesting.

Whoever wrote the blurb on the back of the paperback said it best: “Joe Meno’s pitch-perfect prose illuminates the tumultuous realities of American adolescence, the disintegration of the modern family, and the way a mix-tape can change a person’s life.” Not for the faint of heart. Highly recommended.

Meno’s newest novel, The Great Perhaps, is due out in May 2009 and I’ll be looking for it.

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