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by Lara Killian

6 Apr 2009

Believe it or not, every year for almost the last decade, a global celebration of eating your words has been taking place right around April Fool’s Day.

The International Edible Book Festival has been happening annually since 2000, the brainchild of Judith A. Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron. The organizers don’t care where you celebrate or how you choose to eat your words, but they do ask that participants take photographic evidence and submit it to the website for the benefit of posterity.

by PopMatters Staff

6 Apr 2009

French band Phoenix releases their latest album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix on May 26th. That’s still a good way off, yet they are already hitting the U.S. promotional rounds, stopping by Saturday Night Live this weekend to play “Lisztomania”, the lead-off song from the upcoming record. You can also download track two, “1901”.

“1901” [MP3]

by Sean Murphy

6 Apr 2009

Most people knew Jethro Tull had been around forever, but more than three centuries??

Oh. You mean the actual British dude, Mr. Tull, whom the progressive band was named after? (Wait, so that isn’t the singer’s name?) Quite an arbitrary choice, though certainly more cerebral than many of its era (Strawberry Alarm Clock, anyone?); and considering one of the early choices was Candy Coloured Rain, I think we can all appreciate that less acid-addled minds prevailed.

So who was this Jethro Tull and why is he important, aside from being on the cover of this album? Well, do the words seed drill mean anything to you?

by Mike Schiller

6 Apr 2009

Yes, it’s been out for a while on other platforms, and yes, it’s a sequel, but I have to admit that the one thing I am most looking forward to this week is Puzzle Quest: Galactrix‘s bow on the Xbox Live Arcade.

The first Puzzle Quest is one of the games I spent the most time admiring over the last year, for the ways in which it bucks traditional RPG and puzzle game design principles, combining them to create an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  What looks interesting about Galactrix is that it’s changed the game that its puzzling is modeled after; where Challenge of the Warlords was all about putting Bejeweled in a big, fancy frame, Galactrix is more like Xbox Live Arcade’s own Hexic.

This is a scary thought.

While Hexic is certainly an excellent game, it’s a very difficult one as well, the sort of puzzle game that will chase away outsiders due to the high learning curve it presents when one pursues mastery of it.  The question is whether having to think so hard about the puzzles during battles will take away from the enjoyment of the overall game.  The question is also whether developer Vicious Cycle has addressed the long load times that have reportedly plagued the DS(!) version of the game.  Regardless, giving it a spin is high on the priority list this week.

Elsewhere, Capcom is doing something different this week with its own downloadable offering, a little something called Flock.  You’re a little spaceship flying around a beautifully-rendered isometric world trying to herd animals into a big spaceship.  It sounds easy, but the obstacles that have shown up in even the short little trailers for the game look absolutely infuriating…which is perfect for this sort of “puzzle-action” (read: it’s sort of like Lemmings) game.

Ninja Blade, for the Xbox 360

Ninja Blade, for the Xbox 360

The big consoles have The Godfather II showing up alongside Riddick, the nintendo consoles have a possible sleeper in the form of Professor Heinz Wolff’s Gravity, and the PC is finally getting its version of Xbox Live Arcade discussion piece Braid.  The oft-delayed Ninja Blade is finally seeing release on the Xbox 360 as well.  For such a slow week, there’s a lot to look at - what will you be playing?

The full release list and a trailer for Puzzle Quest: Galactrix are after the break.

by Bill Gibron

5 Apr 2009

Oh boy - here we go again.

It’s been a little less than three years since UK trickster Sacha Baron Cohen has been out of the cinematic limelight, and the world has actually been better for it. For everyone who thought his ambush comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan would reset the standard for big screen satire, the Apatow based truth is tough to swallow. Indeed, Cohen’s creative bent, which basically mandates that real people interact with his over the top, politically incorrect conceits, dissipated along with the mainstream fortunes of Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, and the rest of the similarly styled Jackass crew. And while the Brit wit has been off manufacturing his next film, the world of humor has stumbled over into frat boy bromance territory masterminded by the Freaks and Geeks guru and his FoA pact.

All of which leaves the fortunes for the upcoming Brüno (also given an unwieldy subtitle - Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt) up in the air. Taking another character from his Ali G Show and sending ‘him’ off into the straits of Bible Belt America may seem like something clever, but let’s not forget the love it/loathe it revisionism that faced the comic’s previous character from Kazakhstan. While funny, it wasn’t the full blown rewriting of the laughfest rulebook that many felt it would be. In fact, some saw this emperor as half-dressed the first time around. They continue to wonder how long it would be before the rest of the faux funny business façade would drop off and disappear.

One look at the ersatz ribald “Red Band” trailer for Brüno indicates that said designer duds are now indeed just a birthday suit. As he did with race in Borat, Cohen attempts to turn gender equity and lifestyle choice into the savage social commentary with unlikely everyday Americans (and occasional oddballs) taking the brunt of his brutalizing. Homophobia is played up, as are any issues involving masculinity, machismo, and manliness. Cohen is shown attending self defense classes, asking how the nonplused instructor would defend himself against dildos. There are also moments of man-on-man action, full frontal nudity, and the always surreal setting of fashion shows and the accompanying Weeks in both New York and abroad. Probably the most controversial moments occurs when Brüno “adopts” an African baby. As a crowd of startled individuals look on, Cohen commences to throw every racial stereotype onto the fire as fuel for the crowd’s increasing rage.

Scandal is nothing new for Cohen, or for Brüno for that matter. There have been reports during production of fights with designers, near arrests, ruined bits (mostly because of the actor’s new higher profile), and an overall inability to fool all the people all the time. Then, a little over two weeks ago, the MPAA slapped the film with the commercial kiss of death known as an NC-17. One assumes it’s for sequences like the one which has a couple of half dressed gay men “making out” in front of a group of flabbergasted rednecks. Naturally, such a judgment is being used to Brüno’s advantage. Director Dan Mazer (a Borat vet, stepping in for an MIA Larry Charles) has stated that, while he will edit the film to meet the MPAA - and studio - mandates, the “Unrated” DVD will be ‘amazingly awesome’.

Still, all of this pre-publicity (the film doesn’t hit theaters until 10 July) begs a certain question regarding content, to wit - are people really interested in seeing this kind of comedy once again? For all its oversized (and since recanted) praise and box office conquering, Borat succeeded primarily because there was nothing like it before. No one had attempted to mesh reality with fiction in such a massively mock documentary design. Sure, there was a Candid Camera type quality to what Cohen and company were doing, but they never made any bones about the individuals in the lens. The people the production interacted with were fooled, but the lack of any ‘hidden’ facet meant they were unknowingly complicit in the ruse. By the end, when the film was raking in the cash, lawsuits came, but not because the plaintiffs had an actual case. As with most participants left outside of success, they simply wanted a piece of the pie.

And yet Cohen hasn’t really tried to broaden his comedic perspective here. This looks like Borat recast in mincing metrosexual satire. Laughs are supposed to come from bigots staring bug-eyed as Queer Nation makes its musky, man-love stand. At least our Kazakhstani reporter had some old school superstitions (the entire “gypsy tears” routine) to expand its scope. One fears that Brüno won’t be able to move beyond its basic one note ideal. No matter the character’s status as a Euro-trash fashionista, there is only so much one can do with sexuality. After a while, the gags become obvious and labored. Indeed, watching the Red Band trailer, one senses that this will feel like a TV length sketch stretched to movie size sameness.

When he appeared in Tim Burton’s brilliant take on Stephen Sondheim’s majestic Sweeney Todd, many argued that Cohen was finally embracing his undeniable talents and moving beyond the ‘gotcha’ groove that brought him to the forefront of fame. Even with Brüno on the horizon, they sense the actor/comedian’s desire to break free from the self-made mold and expand his cinematic status. Here’s hoping that with the final aspect of his Ali G Show finally making it to movie screens, he’ll drop the ‘madman on the street’ shtick and really trade on his seemingly remarkable skills. In some ways, Sacha Baron Cohen is indicative of the British post-modern ideal of wit. Like Russell Brand, or Ricky Gervais, they will take a certain type and basically beat it into the ground until audiences and admen are sick of it. Brüno will truly test whether Cohen can continue on this path. Here’s betting that, come August, he’ll be gratefully going in a different direction. 

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

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