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Film

Summer of Same: The 2009 PopMatters Summer Movie Preview

It will be a Summer of Same: same old franchises seeing multi-million dollar updates; same old actors in rote roles; directors digging deep into their cinematic bags of tricks, hoping they can find meaning out of one more mainstream paycheck. [May | June | July | August]

As the months pass by, as the weeks move us closer to opening day, the anticipation is as thick as the equally omnipresent rumor-mongering. Buzz builds, hype threatens to overwhelm us, and before the first ticket is bought, the die is cast over which film will be Summer sensations, and which will defy/decry expectations. Of course, when said ballyhooed titles finally hit the big screen everything changes…or does it. Frankly, Hollywood has the prancing popcorn circus down to a dirty science. They have micromanaged and marketed these ideas down to the bean counter bottom line, focus grouping them into a kind of celluloid sluice that is frequently flavorless, flaccid, and far too familiar. Like the built in obsolescence that led Detroit to default on its manufacturing might, Tinsel Town knows what drives the demo to their local Cineplex - and it's not experimentation or guessing.

No, it's clear that in 2009, we are approaching a Summer of Same: same old franchises seeing multi-million dollar updates; same old actors in roles so rote they could perform them in their pampered, overpaid sleep; directors digging deep into their cinematic bags of tricks, hoping they can find meaning out of one more mainstream paycheck. This is not meant to sound bitter, just obvious. If you look back over the blockbuster movie methodology since Spielberg, Lucas, and Laughlin literally invented the genre, its motto would read "play it safe and replay it often". It would be nice to think that there are screenwriters out there cranking out fresh content, material ripe to reinvent the crowd-pleaser and turn it into something other than a warm weather ATM. Yet with rare, RARE exceptions, that's exactly what we get -- well-honed bits of dependability sprinkled with a little hope and an additional dusting of potential disaster.

From a less aggressive perspective, there is still some optimism for the film fan. May brings back Sam Raimi to the horror realm, while Atom Egoyan and Stephen Soderbergh are working outside the confines of commerciality this time around. June follows with a Sam Mendes independent comedy, a sly sci-fi exercise from David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, and a surefire scary movie favorite -- Nazi Zombies. By July, things settle in with more unknown than known quantities, and August winds things up with bombast, nuance, and another dose of a certain rock stars tasty horror schlock. In fact, ideas, approach, and execution are not the only things looking overly familiar this Summer movie season. As the billions roll in and the studios greenlight more of the same, it's clear that we moviegoers are stuck in the same rut as the idea men behind the movies -- and as of now, none of us really care.

So without further ado, get out your calendars, load up your favorite advance ticket buying Internet site, and dig into PopMatters preview of May through August, 2009. While it may all seem redundant, there are definitely a few gems to be found among the similitude.

Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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