Film

Talk, Talk, Talk: October 2008

What studio suit thought this was a good idea? With four months to schedule your high priced efforts, you instead unload almost 30 overpriced pictures on an unsuspecting movie audience.

What studio suit thought this was a good idea. With four months to schedule your high priced efforts, you instead unload almost 30 overpriced pictures on an unsuspecting movie audience. Not the kind of argument that wins friends and influences ticket sales. Heck, with the economy the way it is, one wonders if it's possible for Hollywood to recoup its print costs, let alone any errant advertising dollars. Still, the story will be which one of these titles finally breaks out - and which executives will be canned for their regressive release strategies.

Director: Robert Weide Film: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox Website: http://www.how2losefriends.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-10-03 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/h/htlfaapposter.jpg

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3 October

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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Remember how excited everyone was a few years back when Bette Midler was tagged to take on the oversized legend of bestselling smut peddler Jacqueline Susann. And do you also remember how repulsed everyone was when they saw the final pathetic product, the highly fictionalized flop Isn't She Great. There is a similar cloud of contempt hovering over this "loose" adaptation of Toby Young's manic memoirs. Not even the presence of geek God Simon Pegg can elevate the potential problems of this story centering on a small time British journalist trying to make a go at a big city New York rag. It all seems so forced.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Director: Jonathan Demme Film: Rachel Getting Married Studio: Sony Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Tunde Adebimpe MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/r/rachel-getting-married.jpg

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3 October

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Rachel Getting Married

Fresh off a recent screening at the Toronto Film Festival, Jonathan Demme's return to fiction filmmaking (his last few works have been well meaning documentaries) has received some well earned kudos. Comparisons to Casavettes and Altman abound, and the return of Debra Winger to a major studio motion picture is cause enough to celebrate. While the Terms of Endearment luminary is getting her fair shore of awards consideration, it's her co-star, Anne Hathaway, that's wowing the critical community. How this will play to a demo down on family dramas as of late will be interesting to see. If anyone can pull it off, it's the often underrated Demme.

Rachel Getting Married

Director: Barry Levinson Film: What Just Happened Studio: Magnolia Pictures Cast: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, John Turturro, Kristen Stewart, Robin Wright Penn Website: http://www.whatjusthappenedfilm.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-17 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-11-21 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/w/whatjusthappenedposter.jpg

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3 October

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What Just Happened?

Reteaming with Barry Levinson (Sleepers, Wag the Dog), Robert DeNiro also returns to dark comedy in this insider spoof about the filmmaking biz. Based on the book from noted producer, director, and screenwriter Art Linson (Car Wash, American Hot Wax), the plot follows a failed Hollywood hotshot, desperate to get his new film financed and made while going through a literal Hell of a divorce. At one time, Magnolia Pictures was seemingly proud of the end result. They had screenings set up for mid-September. Then, without warning, several of said previews were cancelled, with release information "to be announced later". That doesn't bode well for the comedy's commercial appeal.

What Just Happened

Director: Marc Abraham Film: Flash of Genius Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda, Mick Pileggi Website: http://www.flashofgenius.net/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/f/flashofgeniusposter.jpg

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3 October

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Flash of Genius

Greg Kinnear has carved out quite an interesting career for himself. In between more mainstream efforts (As Good As It Gets, Invincible), he tends to take on quirky, outsider titles that test his mantle as both a box office draw and an actor. As with Auto Focus and The Matador, Flash promises another small, intimate effort, this time focusing on Bob Kearns, the inventor who claimed Detroit stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper. The vibe created by producer turned director Marc Abraham (Children of Men) goes for a retro throwback to a more nostalgic '50s/'60s ideal. Early word however suggests something minor at best.

Flash of Genius

Director: Raja Gosnell Film: Beverly Hills Chihuahua Studio: Walt Disney Pictures Cast: Drew Barrymore, George Lopez, Andy Garcia, Jamie Lee Curtis Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/beverlyhillschihuahua/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/b/beverlyhillschihuahuaposter.jpg

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3 October

The Surrounding Din

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Disney defies the intelligence of its audience to offer CGI enhanced mutts making fun of racial stereotypes and cultural clichés. If Mike Myers got grief for going Guru, this pack of pooches should have every Mexican American action committee taking up arms. Even the presence of pabulum producer Raja Gosnell won't guarantee the House of Mouse a kid friendly hit. Some ideas should definitely stay in development Hell where they belong.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Director: Peter Sollett Film: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Studio: Sony Pictures Cast: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis Dziena, Aaron Yoo, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron, Jay Baruchel Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/nickandnorah/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-30 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/i/infiniteplaylistposter.jpg

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3 October

The Surrounding Din

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

A post post-modern romance combining New York City night life with standard young adult angst, there are only two things that make this movie worth considering -- the casting of Superbad's Michael Sera as Nick and the potential 'queercore' soundtrack. Otherwise, we liked this improbable love story back when it was High Fidelity. Or Some Kind of Wonderful.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Director: Larry Charles Film: Religulous Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Bill Maher, Andrew Newberg, John Westcott, Sen. Mark Pryor, José Luis de Jesús Miranda, Steve Berg, Ken Ham, Jeremiah Cummings, Mohammad Hourani, Rabbi Dovid Weiss, Propa-Gandhi, Ray Suarez, Geert Wilders, Fatima Elatik, Father George Coyne Website: http://www.lionsgate.com/religulous/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-03 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/r/religulousposter.jpg

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3 October

The Surrounding Din

Religulous

Bill Maher has never made any bones about his contempt for organized religion. Here, he teams up with Borat's Larry Charles to create a true 'mock' documentary -- that is, a fact based dissertation on faith in which the comedian ridicules his dogmatic marks. The trailer suggests the ambush tactics of that famed fictional Eastern European reporter meshed with Maher's typical Libertarian laments. It will have to maintain a delicate balance less it become more screed than satire.

Religulous

Director: David Zucker Film: An American Carol Studio: Vivendi Entertainment Cast: Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, Jillian Murray Website: http://americancarol.com/ MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2008 Distributor: Vivendi US Release Date: 2008-10-03 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/a/american_carol_08.jpg

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3 October

The Surrounding Din

An American Carol

Taking the other side of the political debate is recent Republican convert (and one of the ZAZ masterminds behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun films) David Zucker. Hoping to take down the man he sees as the root of all liberal evil -- Michael Moore -- the co-writer/director of Carol adapts Dickens to a Fox News mentality. Featuring Chris Farley's brother Kevin doing his best Jim Belushi, there are some who suggest there is some actual wit in between all the Neo-Con jingoism.

An American Carol

Director: Ridley Scott Film: Body of Lies Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Alon Aboutboul Website: http://bodyoflies.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-10 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-11-21 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/body_of_lies.jpg

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10 October

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Body of Lies

What makes this spy story any different than the dozens of genre examples from the last few years? Well, for one, it features Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and a screenplay from Departed Oscar winner William Monahan. Add to this the presence of one Sir Ridley Scott as producer and director and you've got enough star power to light up the darkest Cineplex night. Of course, there are those who saw the filmmaker's last effort -- the crime drama American Gangster -- as a failed opportunity given its list of luminaries, and Scott does seem to have abandoned the visionary stance of his earlier films for a more forced, staid stylization. Still, with this caliber of talent both behind and in front of the camera, we're keeping our filmic fingers crossed.

Body of Lies

Director: Gil Kenan Film: City of Ember Studio: Fox Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadway, Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Toby Jones, Lucinda Dryzek Website: http://www.cityofember.com/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-10 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-10-10 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/c/city_of_ember.jpg

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10 October

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City of Ember

For his first live action film, animator Gil Kenan has decided to abandon all things Monster House for a trip into the young teen novels of Jeanne DuPrau. Based on the first of The Books of Ember, City tells the story of a dark drenched metropolis that starts losing its only source of light -- electricity. It is up to two adventurous adolescents to save the day. With a cast including Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and Toby Jones, and some positive publicity from this year's Comic-Con, this may be the one film that beats the dreaded Harry Potter curse -- you know, the same box office blight that killed potential franchises like last Fall's The Golden Compass.

City of Ember

Director: Gary Fleder Film: The Express Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Omar Benson Miller, Nelsan Ellis, Charles S. Dutton Website: http://www.theexpressmovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-10 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-05 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/e/expressposter.jpg

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10 October

The Surrounding Din

The Express

It's time for another uplifting sports film, once again based on a true if mostly forgotten famous figure. This basic bio-pic follows the story of Ernie Davis, the first African American ever to win the Heisman Trophy (College Football's highest honor). Of course, there's the ever-present undercurrent of racism, and the Caucasian coach (Dennis Quaid) who bucks the system to support his socially unacceptable star. Here's hoping it's not as hackneyed and hooky as it sounds.

The Express

Director: Mike Leigh Film: Happy-Go-Lucky Studio: Miramax Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Sinead Matthews Website: http://www.happygoluckythemovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 Distributor: Mirimax US Release Date: 2008-10-10 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-04-18 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/happy_go_lucky.jpg

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10 October

The Surrounding Din

Happy-Go-Lucky

Mike Leigh's latest has been out in Britain since April, but we are just now getting a taste of his latest improvised marvel. This time, the UK maverick tells the tale of Poppy, an eternally optimistic Pollyanna type and her cheerful interactions with everyday life. Some have suggested it’s a real return to form for the man responsible for Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. Looking over his recent filmography, such comments are ludicrous at best. Leigh's never really been away.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Director: John Erick Dowdle Film: Quarantine Studio: Sony Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech Website: http://www.containthetruth.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-10 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/q/quarantine.jpg

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10 October

The Surrounding Din

Quarantine

One of this Summer's most effective horror films, Spain's [REC] is getting remade for American audiences -- and so far, the results seem respectful of the found footage fright fest. A TV reporter on a routine night shoot finds herself locked in an apartment building with her cameraman, a group of scared residents, and some authority figures screaming about an "outbreak" of some sort. True terror ensues -- at least in the original. Here's praying the revamp is equally unnerving.

Quarantine

Director: John Moore Film: Max Payne Studio: Fox Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris Website: http://www.maxpaynethemovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-17 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/m/maxpayneposter.jpg

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17 October

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Max Payne

It’s time for another video game adaptation, this time focusing on the popular title from 2001. Featuring Mark Wahlberg as a cop who seeks revenge when his family and friends are murdered, dork nation didn't hold out much hope for this big screen translation. Once the trailer arrived, however, messageboard debate began with a frenzy. On one side are those suggesting that filmmaker John Moore (Flight of the Phoenix, The Omen) managed to rescue what seemed like a doomed project. Others see the visual finesse and voice over narration and suggest Payne is poised to fail. Either way, they've got the potential demo talking which is more than most movies being released this fall can claim.

Max Payne

Director: Oliver Stone Film: W. Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Ioan Gruffudd, Richard Dreyfuss, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Ritter, Toby Jones Website: http://www.wthefilm.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-10-17 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-11-07 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/w_ver3.jpg

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17 October

The Main Speaker

W.

Ever since it was announced, this Oliver Stone look at the life and high/low times of our current Commander in Chief has been rife with ridiculous speculation. Some have suggested the controversial auteur is simply out to destroy the Republican's chance at a repeat visit to the White House this election year. Others (who've actually read the script) see a similarity between this project and Stone's previous look at a much maligned leader, his near masterpiece Nixon. With some highly clever casting and a no punches pulled approach, the director states his intent to humanize an already flawed leader. This promises to be October's most overheated hot button opus.

W.














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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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Long eclipsed by the works of many country contemporaries, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's first album, Full Moon, gets a new look.

Why is it that 1973 albums by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have become classic country staples (see: Jennings' rough-hewed landmark Honky Tonk Heroes and Nelson's before-its-time Shotgun Willie), while Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's duo debut from that same year has been relatively overlooked?

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Music

Mike Stern: Trip

Photo: Sandrine Lee (Concord Music Group)

Mike Stern has fallen. Trip shows that he can get back up just fine.


Mike Stern

Trip

Label: Heads Up
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2017-09-08
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Guitarist Mike Stern suffered from a big owie last year. It seems that, while trying to cross a street in Manhattan, he tripped and fell, breaking both of his shoulders in the process. He underwent surgery and reports that "I still have to use glue so I can hold a guitar pick." While you're busy trying to figure out just how a jazz-fusion guitarist needs glue to hold a pick, keep in mind Stern is an embodiment of a working musician, and his chosen genre of expertise is famous for its pay-to-play, sink-or-swim business model. Such a setback can really eat into one's career. Gigs need to be canceled, which sometimes leads to venues blacklisting you in the future. And in a world where most people listen to their music via streaming services, gigging may be your only reliable source of income. Thankfully, Mike Stern, who was 63 at the time of his injury, has made a full recovery and is back to work with an impressive array of professional help. His new album is ironically named Trip. Apart from the title,

Trip makes it sound like nothing ever happened to Stern. At all. In the same way that John McLaughlin and his current Fourth Dimension band sound like a bunch of barnstormers who haven't hit 40 yet, the powerful performance of Stern and his colleagues coupled with the high quality of the material belie both age and medical condition. Now I'm aware that our very own Steven Spoerl did not care for the writing on Mike Stern's 2012 All Over the Place, but there's no way I can sling the same criticism at Trip. The opening title track alone is enough to nullify that. Stern plays the melody in unison with saxophonist Bob Franceschini, and it's all over the place. The song slinks into a B section where the chords shift from a minor vi to a major IV, and again, Stern and Franceschini drive an even meaner melody down the scale with plenty of sharply punctuated intervals. This guy fell, broke his shoulders, and now needs glue to hold a pick? Are we all sure he wasn't just replaced with Steve Austin?

Another number that, to me, offsets any concerns about the able-bodiness or strength of the material is a spunky one named "Watchacallit". This time, the B section brims with even more tension with Franceschini flying high and bassist Tom Kennedy doing little divebombs at the start of each bar. When it's all put together, it's truly a moment for you to crank your listening device of choice (in the past, we would say "stereo" right about here). But that's just two songs. There's a total of 11, spanning an hour and six minutes. Stern doesn't use every bar of every number to punch us in the gut. He still goes for the smooth bop ("Emelia"), the funky intersection of Miles Davis and Funkadelic ("Screws"), and the soothing ballad ("I Believe in You" and "Gone").

No review of Trip would be complete without mentioning the musical pedigree of Mike Stern's friends. When it comes to drummers, he managed to net Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, and Will Calhoun (yes, that Will Calhoun). Those names alone give you a money-back guarantee that the rhythm section will never, ever falter. But just to be sure, Stern summons Victor Wooten to play bass. Top shelf names like Randy Brecker and Bill Evans, in addition to Franceschini, provide Trip with soulful wind. Pianist Jim Beard pulls double duty as the session pianist. Normally, I'd wrap this up by saying that Mike Stern is under the process of pulling himself up by his bootstraps and dusting himself off after a major boo-boo. But after listening to

Trip over and over again, I'm convinced that he's beyond that. The straps are up, and the dust has cleared. He's back, playing and composing just as well as he ever did. Better than he did before the accident, perhaps? You can be the judge of that meaningless hairsplitting exercise because Trip is worth the journey no matter where your expectations may lie.

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