Film

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

The absolutely scariest scene in Around the World in 80 Days features Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Around the World in 80 Days

Director: Frank Coraci
Cast: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Karen Joy Morris, Sammo Hung, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Macy Gray, Ewen Bremner, Kathy Bates, Jim Broadbent, John Cleese, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Richard Branson, Rob Schneider
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: Disney
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2004-06-16

The absolutely scariest scene in Around the World in 80 Days features Arnold Schwarzenegger. As voluble Prince Hapi, he's plopped down in a palace surrounded by beauties and servants, apparently bronzed so as to look Turkish, with veins a-bulging and black frizzy-fright wig sticking out on all sides of his crown. Among his most precious possessions are a hot tub and a statue by one A. Rodin -- Arnold's own body posed naked, with chin in hand, as if he's... what do you call it?... thinking.

Stumbling onto this tableau are the film's three primary travelers, eccentric London-based inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), his Chinese "valet" Passepartout (Jackie Chan), and a tagalong aspiring Impressionist artiste named Monique (Cécile De France), whom they have recently sort of rescued from a career as a hat check girl in Paris. Her eye batting encourages Hapi to deem her wife number seven. And her awesomely bad painting of a man flying through blue sky and white clouds so moved Phileas that he is developing a bit of a crush on Mademoiselle, though he'd never let on, because he's focused on his mission -- to get around the world, and thus win a bet with Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), who has promised him the position of head of the Royal Academy of Science if he makes it to the top of the Academy steps in the appointed time.

All this backstory, of course, is drawn from Jules Verne's famous novel, also the source for Michael Anderson's star-studded, Best Picture Oscar-winner of 1956. That the $110 million Disney version is embarrassing in every way, from Schwarzenegger's alarming turn to Coogan's painful debasement (this the man who played club owner Tony Wilson to perfection in 24 Hour Party People), to Jackie Chan's continued downward spiral as he pursues period-road-movie stardom (or whatever it is he's after). Even if his Old West buddy franchise with Owen Wilson (who pops up for a minute with brother Luke, as the Wright Brothers, whom the travelers meet in the States) provides Chan with steady income, they hardly seem a worthy endpoint for anyone's career or movie plot.

Just so, the travelers' episodic exploits, much as they have seemed fantastic decades back, now look formulaic, including the cutesy approximate-time celebrity appearances (Toulouse Lautrec, the under-construction Statue of Liberty). They're chased by an incompetent British agent (Ewen Bremner), they meet a homeless man (Rob Schneider), they're locked up, they fight amongst themselves. They hop a hot air balloon, the Orient Express, a car and a ship, before they give up and just build a damn flying machine to cross the last of the Atlantic.

Worse, much worse, they encounter a series of lazy and offensive stereotypes: if Arnold's groping after Monique isn't bad enough, they run into stuffy Brits, lascivious French (and one mother, played by Macy Gray, who is so bleary-eyed and out of it, she doesn't wake when her apartment is on fire, such that Passepartout must swoop in the window to save her and her adorable baby), nefarious martial arts assassins, simple Indian villagers, and a Chinese Dragon Lady named General Fang (Karen Joy Morris) has tediously daunting fingernails.

She's part of the Jackie Chan plot that vaguely intersects with the Around the World plot (that is, the plot lifted from Shanghai Noon), in which Passepartout, whose real name is Lau Xing, must return a jade Buddha to his Chinese village. Stolen by Fang and her minions, said Buddha was housed in the London, where Lau Xing stole it back; he lies outright to Phileas in order to get the ticket home. Once they do arrive in the village, they face down a phalanx of well-trained, deadly assailants, though Lau Xing has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve, including a brief appearance by Sammo Hung, welcome surely, but not nearly smart or well-choreographed enough to save this protracted, dreary day.

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 Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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