Poseidon (2006)

Cynthia Fuchs

Why cast Andre Braugher and then not use him?"

Director: Wolfgang Petersen
MPAA rating: PG-13
US Release Date: 2006-05-12

Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Richard Dreyfuss, Mía Maestro, Kevin Dillon, Jacinda Barrett, Jimmy Bennett, Andre Braugher, Fergie
(Warner Bros., 2006) Rated: PG-13
Release date: 12 May 2006

by Cynthia Fuchs
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
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Don't Tell Me We're Trapped!

Why cast Andre Braugher and then not use him? In Poseidon, Braugher plays Captain Michael Bradford, all blue uniform and straight back, introducing the New Year's Eve entertainment as the colossal cruise ship shoots through the night toward its awful fate. His first speech, here, before the dancing, is grand and silly, concerning the ocean as a perpetual "cradle of rebirth." At this point, Fergie -- the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie -- steps out in her shiny dress to sing a song, and you know just 10 minutes in that this fancy-tech gargantuan remake is doomed.

The Captain's second appearance is also brief, a speech following the attack of the 150-foot wall of water -- a violence you've just seen in some chaotic, fiery, fast-cut detail, leaving officers in the steering room floating dead, as the ship has been turned over. Bradford stands on stage again, Fergie cowed to the side, and he tries to calm his frightened passengers in their suddenly soiled and bloodied evening wear. He admits they've been hit by an "unpredictable" rogue wave that kind of killed the ship. But now they need only wait for a rescue: "We will be safe," he soothes. Even as he speaks, though, a leak springs in another part of the ship (pointed out by a well-timed cut). You know he's wrong, and also that he's not long for this fakey fake world.

That's too bad, because the survivors are a mighty dull lot and Braugher, well, you want to believe him even as he takes Fergie to his breast to comfort her. Rejecting the captain's advice to wait, the hardy band sets off -- without the Christmas tree-as-ladder, that memorable ingenuity from the 1972 film -- to find a way to the top of the ship, led by ex-firefighter Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), designated guy-in-charge (this by way of a throwaway reference to the fact that he used to be "mayor of New York," never explained, but plainly trading on a presumed post-9/11 desire for Heroes). Robert is occasionally preoccupied by his daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), who is in turn preoccupied by her fiancé Christian (Mike Vogel).

Earlier in the film, before the wave, dad displaces his heroism onto over-protecting Jen. When she tells him off ("I'm over your patronizing tone!"), he appeals to Chris: "Hey, is she like this with you?" Whether "like this" means stubborn, badly scripted, or just way too flouncy and self-righteous, Robert looks only vaguely distressed here, for he is, after all, having his pre-action bonding moment with a strapping, heroic sort of kid, the sort of bonding that pays off in such an adventure.

The wave changes this barely sketched dynamic: Robert will have to admit to Jen that Chris is indeed his type. And Robert's not the only man on the ship who will need to refocus or die. Before the wave, a card-playing playboy named Dylan (Josh Lucas), is overtly self-absorbed, especially as this informs his game ("Goddamn, boy! You've got a pair of big ones!" gasps his opponent). As you've guessed, he's ripe for a makeover (picture Alicia Silverstone squealing), and to that end, he's granted a family unit for whom he might perform this change: single mother Maggie (Jacinda Barrett) and her young, sometimes son Conor (Jimmy Bennett).

She's a mightily bland damsel, and Conor tends to run off and get into trouble when the plot needs goosing, so it might be said that they serve their rudimentary purposes. The fact that none if these individuals is especially memorable is just as well, as the film is not about them. It is, instead, about a state of dread. Disaster films, once vehicles for star-studded casts that guaranteed ticket sales, are now reduced to expensive antics: each scene features a gizmo, an explosion, a clever upside-down set design, bodies in various states of disarray or bloodiness, and, water, lots of water. As the group makes its way to the surface and encounters one obstacle after another -- blocked passageways, rooms filling with water, fires, impassable heights -- its lack of individuality becomes less pressing, especially with the members thinning out.

Disconcertingly, two working class, non-tuxed Latino characters -- busboy Marco (Freddy Rodríguez) and his just-met stowaway friend Elena (Mía Maestro) -- are charged with the film's most emotive, most effective on-screen suffering. One faces the film's most overt representation (and, depending on how you look at it, condemnation) of white-guy cruelty and self-preserving fear: dangling over a frightening abyss, a recently suicidal gay architect Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) rediscovers his will to live (with grim egging on by a suddenly maniacal Dylan) and inflicts it on an abject Other.

While this striking scene indicts race-based border anxieties, it also uses a rather brutal demise to bring on some semblance of self-reflection for both Nelson and Dylan. And it raises a broader question about the function of disaster films after 9/11. How is such entertainment -- termed an "adventure" back in 1972 -- a function of shifting fear and dread? In the olden days, the forces unleashed were agentless, thousands of humans, however anonymous, killed by what might be termed "nature." Now, however, such forces -- however you read their beginnings -- produce political, distressing, guilt-inducing consequences. While the world was never so simple as previous movies suggested, today's complications are profoundly visible. Like casting Andre Braugher only to kill him off.


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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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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