Archive | November, 2009

I Implore You To Skip “New Moon”

30 Nov

"God, we are just so miserable right now."

I apologize in advance for the rant to come. Over Thanksgiving, I was taken to see “New Moon,” not entirely against my will, but certainly against my better judgment.  I had not read any of the books, nor seen the first film, though I hit the ‘pedia to confirm that what I thought I knew of the plot (Girl meets vampire, lots of pining, vampire sparkles, pining, baseball, sparkle, pine, fin) was indeed the sum of it.

I went in expecting, at the very least, a cheesy good time, some OTT high school romance histrionics, and some hot vampire on werewolf action. What I got was more than two hours (MORE THAN TWO HOURS) of the dullest, most joyless navel-gazing I’ve ever had to sit through.

I know I can get prone to hyperbole here, but in this post, my vitriol is entirely in proportion. Picture twenty minutes of the following conversation, punctuated by a thirty second snippet of action, followed by a shockingly immediate return to… more… stilted… talking. Rinse and repeat about fifteen times.

Edward: “… I need you so much.  I promise I will always protect you.”

Edward and Bella stare at one another

Bella: “I need you too.  So much. I always will”

more staring

Edward: “But I can’t anymore. I have to go. You’re not good for me, Bella.”

Edward and Bella stare (conspicuous lack of eye contact)

Bella: “…. Why? Why do you have to go?”

Continued staring

Edward: “You’re not good for me. I have to go.”

Staring. Cue Grizzly Bear song.

I mean, honestly. This is the great love story of our age? This is the movie that millions of screaming, lovestruck teens gave the biggest film opening in history? As Pajiba’s Dustin Rowles said in his scathing (and a bit girl-hating) review, “There’s never been a chasm so wide between the intensity of devotion to a film and what it actually deserves.” Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek puts it a bit more directly: “It’s a cheap, shoddy piece of work, one that banks on moviegoers’ anticipation without even bothering to craft a satisfying experience for them. Its pandering is an insult.”

There’s so much more that I could complain about. No one makes eye contact for the entire run of the movie. There is no narrative arc. The entire movie is shot in various shades of grey. New beasts are revealed, vendettas are pursued, and characters even die, and yet thanks to the editing, acting, and writing, it feels as though nothing happens. For a runtime, I might remind you, of more than two sodding hours.

If you're incapable of finding some camp value in THIS, maybe you should give up making movies.

Worst of all, the movie simply does not know how to have fun. The leads are ostensibly in love, and yet whenever they are together, they seem absolutely miserable. There is no campy winking, no sense of humor – even when Bella is having a normal conversation with a quartet of super beefcakey dudes who walk around shirtless all the time, it’s nothing but dour, drab, dull, dull, dull.  Not even a hint of the irony or joyfulness of True Blood, despite a suspicious number of similarities in character and story.  Just… nothing.

I’m convinced that the book is nowhere near as lame as the movie. Actually, I bet it’s pretty fun stuff, if you’re into angsty teen romance. The fault here lies elsewhere – The film’s director, Chris Weitz, ought to be ashamed of himself (he directed About a Boy, for crying out loud!). The editing team should’ve never signed off on it.  If I’d written a book that got turned into that movie, I’d be furious. Kristen Stewart (who, if you’ll recall, I thought was so very good in Adventureland), needs to go out herself and track down a decent screenwriter and director for the next film, lest she forever be associated with movies this bad.

As tired as I am reading broad, lazy, more-than-slightly-misogynistic rants about the Twilight fanbase (see the first few paragraphs of the aforelinked-to Mr. Rowles’ review), I’m pretty appalled that this lifeless, joyless dreck is what all the squealing is about. Sometimes it feels like every time I defend popular culture, it thanks me by taking a huge dump in my living room.

And to think, I could’ve seen Fantastic Mr. Fox instead. Good lord.

All Will Be Carved

26 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Five Reasons You Should Watch “Parks and Recreation”

25 Nov

With Mad Men off the air, the only shows I’m watching right now are comedies – but man, there are a lot of them! The Office and 30 Rock have become old standbys, but newcomers Community (absolutely hilarious) and Modern Family (Still funny, though not killing me like it was at first) are both great. And now comes yet another – “Parks and Recreation,” the new(ish) NBC comedy starring Amy Poehler. Thanks to Alan Sepinwall’s insistence that this show had really come into its own this season (actually, he called it “the best comedy airing on TV right now”), I started watching. Dudes, it is hilarious – below are five reasons to watch, in no particular order:

1. Amy Poehler

The main attraction for the show, Poehler plays Leslie Knope, a dithering but highly motivated city hall employee. She has some similarities to Liz Lemon, mostly in her sad personal life, and I don’t doubt that at some point Tina Fey will turn up on the show, but dang, Amy Poehler is just as good as Fey is on 30 Rock. Initially, she seemed like a bit of a Michael Scott clone, but as you get to know her, it becomes clear the character is quite a bit different. Mainly in that, as Sepinwall pointed out, while she may be a blundering dunderhead, she’s actually good. She has a stubborn willpower that gets stuff done, and she’s generally more driven than anyone else around her. Despite the fact that her last name is “Knope.”

2. Back Home Again

This one’s personal – Parks and Recreation is set in fictional Pawnee, a small town in central Indiana, and the show gets a lot of mileage out of that setting. Whether it’s the huge poster of Coach Knight that’s up in Ron Swanson’s office, or the hilarious episode “The Camel,” in which Donna puts together a “Last Supper”-style collage of famous people from Indiana (nailing, of course, the usual three people that everyone from Indiana always lists – Michael Jackson, Larry Bird, and John Mellencamp), it’s awesome to get to see so much Indiana-humor! And that’s not to mention the totally outstanding City of Pawnee Website that NBC has up – the section on Knife Safety is particularly great.

3. Aziz Ansari

Ansari plays Tom Haverford, a fratty, shallow, super cocky (with more than a hint of insecurity) city hall staffer, and the dude is hilarious. The recent episode “The Camel,” which is still on Hulu and is probably the funniest episode of the show so far, features a scene in which he stares at an abstract painting and is terrified to find that it’s having an emotional effect on him. It was a highlight, but Ansari has standout moments every episode. Kind of a rising star, I think.

4. The Murals in Pawnee City Hall

A running gag in Parks and Recreation is that the murals in the Pawnee City Hall all seem to depict incredibly offensive bits of Pawnee history. There was “The Trial of Chief Wamapo,” (a native American chief is tied to a tree and executed by cannon), “A Lively Fisting,” in which a settler man is brawling with a settler woman and punching her in the stomach, and “The Spirit of Pawnee,” which is a smorgasbord of offensiveness, featuring straw-hat-wearing Chinese and drunken Irish rail workers watching as a train runs over a group of Indians. (City official: “The city council has decided to replace “The Spirit of Pawnee” with something a little less… horrifying.”)

“The Trial of Chief Wamapo”

It’s funny cause it’s true – a ton of local Indiana history revolves around settlers and their interactions with the various indigenous tribes that dotted the area, and so the stories usually, you know, end in betrayal and genocide. I can tell that we’re going to see a lot more of these murals over the course of the show, and am really looking forward to what awfulness they come up with next.

 

5. The Theme Song

I think Parks and Recreation has my favorite opening credits music ever. From the first time I heard it, the trumpet came in, the tune modulated to minor, and I was sold. The show itself actually features diegetic music (there is no background music, ever, it only comes from in-show sources like stereos and car radios), so the main theme is really the only musical identity the show has. I’ve talked before about my admiration of Jeff Richmond’s music from 30 Rock, and I do think that the incidental music on that show is brilliant (and more evidently the work of a single artist), but the opening to Parks and Rec, intercut with all that Indiana imagery, tops it. I actually found an MP3 of it online, and though I’ve yet to find the composer (update- NBC’s site says it’s by Gaby Moreno and Vincent Jones. Props, guys!) I thought I’d post it here so that y’all could listen:

See? Way fun!

Regarding Adam Lambert’s New Album

23 Nov

American Idol Runner-Up Adam Lambert’s new album, For Your Entertainment, drops today. Actually, it already dropped, so it is now sitting there looking at us, post-drop. Considering how much I had to say about him during the last season of the show, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Short version: I really liked it. No, seriously! Some of the songs are pretty fun, some are kinda lame, but a handful are fucking outstanding (My recommended tunes are listed at the end of this post). It also has, as you can see, the most hilariously uncool/totally awesome album cover I’ve seen in a while.

I first listened to the record last week (it’s been up for a while streaming on Lambert’s MySpace page), after being steered there by the whole Out Magazine-centric “Adam’s PR people are homophobic jerks” debate, which has been discussed online past the point at which I have anything new to add (though I certainly tried, with limited success, over at Low Resolution – thanks, Joe, for dealing with my long-ass comments). And that was before his AMA performance last night (short reaction: I thought the whole thing was an overcooked clusterfuck, and the singing was all over the place), and along with whatever scandalous (or, “scandalous”) thing he does next…it’s easy to forget that the dude has an actual album out, too.

For Your Entertainment is the first Idol-related album I’ve ever listened to all the way through, and though I’d heard about all of the great writers and producers who contributed, I still wasn’t sure what to expect going in.  I’ve never really been able to listen to an album that came from Idol – whatever magic it was that made the contestant stand out during the show is usually scrubbed clean in the production process, and we wind up with a bunch of generic-sounding pop songs that could have been sung by anyone.

(It’s worth noting that Clay Aiken’s album “Measure of a Man” might be the ultra-creepy, bizarre exception.  I never really listened to it, but this years-old TWoP “recap” of the album is so flipping awesome that I can’t not link to it.  It takes a couple pages to get to the album – seriously, read it, and be very afraid.)

Justin'll probably loan this outfit to Adam at some point.

For about the first twenty seconds of FYE‘s opening track, a Justin Hawkins-penned stomper called “Music Again,” I kinda thought the same thing would be true of Lambert’s record.  And then, suddenly, in true Darkness-style, Adam’s voice jumped an octave and a half and the chorus kicked in, and I was like, hmm, okay, damn. I can get with this.

“You make me want to listen to music again” is a kick-ass sentiment, and the tune also contains hilariously Hawkins-y lyrical turns of phrase like, “I want your body, mind, soul, etc.” and a stretch of “Raison D’etre,” into an entire lyrical event.  Keeping in mind that this is a song by the guy who wrote “Friday Night,” aka “The song where they sing about badminton,” one realizes that “Music Again” sounds like a Darkness B-side, complete with a signature Justin Hawkins guitar solo halfway through.  I loved the Darkness, so that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

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Mitch On Music

18 Nov

“I played in a death metal band. People either loved us or they hated us. Or they thought we were okay.

A lot of death metal bands have intense names, like ‘Rigormortis’ or ‘Mortuary’ or ‘Obituary.’ We weren’t that intense, we just went with… ‘Injured’.”

“I went to see a band in New York. The lead singer got on the microphone, and he said ‘How many of you people feel like human beings tonight?’

Then he said ‘How many of you feel like animals?’ And everyone cheered after the animals part. But the thing is, I cheered after the human being part because I did not know that there was a second part to the question.”

I Have Been To The Phishy Edge

13 Nov

festival8…and I lived to tell the tale.  As I mentioned last week, Dan A and I headed down to Indio over Halloween to partake in the massive Phish Festival 8, a four-day(!), eight-set extravaganza by the recently reunited jammy dudes from Vermont.  Verily, it was a phishstravaganza, a true phishsplosion.  Over the course of the festival, I was able to sample the full range and depth of the Phish fan experience.

A little background – I had never seen the band live until this festival, though I did on some level consider myself a fan of the band (I’m not sure I do anymore, though, more on why later). I’ve really enjoyed the band’s music since I was in high school, mostly just listening to their studio records in high school, and I own and know probably four of their eight or so studio records.

But I’d never seen them live, and without question, Phish is the kind of band where you’re  not a fan if you merely like the music – you must see them live. This band has superfans who follow it around the country, living in tye-dyed RVs and obsessively documenting their setlists.  Phish fans are without question one of the most easily and quickly mocked cliques in modern music, and I was more than a little intrigued by the prospect of walking among them.

For those of you who have never attended (or would never attend) a Phish show, I thought I’d make a list of outsider’s thoughts and observations.

1. As It Turns Out, I Know Nothing Of Phish

IMG_2129

There was totally a ferris wheel.

I didn’t realize just how out of the loop I would be upon getting there, but dang.  I know four albums’ worth of material, plus more than a few live tracks, cold.  I’ve heard them tons of times, know all the solos, the lyrics, to probably forty tunes.  But in the first three sets of music, I knew almost nothing.  A lot was new material, but most of it was stuff that the whole audience seemed to know, classic material that for whatever reason I was just unaware of.  The later sets dug deeper into the music I know (which must be their oldest stuff, from Junta and Rift and Hoist).

2. Speculation is the Phish Fan’s #1 activity

Most of the people at this festival, needless to say, were pretty hardcore.  And the #1 pastime of the hardcore is speculating about upcoming setlists. All anyone ever talked about during the first two days was “What do you think they’ll play?”  Non-stop discussions of past sets, and patterns laid out therein, recounting of the time they did Esther in 2001, or YEM opened a set in ’98 – it’s almost like baseball cards.  The band seems to know this, and they build the entire experience around giving their fans something to talk about.  The second set on Halloween was a cover of another artist’s entire album, but the album was not revealed until the afternoon of the show, leaving everyone guessing among a handful of band-supplied finalists.  It was all anyone talked about, and a good deal of fun.

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“2012,” or, Attack of the 200-Foot Jesus

10 Nov

2012 - Attack of the 200 Foot Jesus

I’ve seen this poster on the MUNI stop by school for the past couple of weeks, and each time I see it, I gotta say… I wouldn’t be surprised if people who haven’t heard of the movie see this poster and come to the conclusion that it’s gonna be be a monster movie about a giant, marauding stone Jesus.

…which would be pretty sweet, actually.

Avatar: Please Explain

9 Nov

avatar-movie-posterHmm. I just don’t know.  I’m usually pretty in touch with pop-culture type stuff, especially when it comes to super-hyped stuff, but I just have no idea about the upcoming movie Avatar.  I mean, I know about it – it’s James Cameron’s huge vanity project, he’s been making it for years and years, it has graphics that are so sweet they’ll blow your mind and do your laundry, it’s going to change the way we watch films… etc… etc…

There also seems to be a massive fanboy contingent that has taken a huge interest in the movie, and every time there’s a new trailer, flame wars break out all over the internet.  But I still… just… don’t get it? I mean, it looks pretty cool I guess, and I think that Cameron does sympathetic aliens well – I love the Abyss – and I’m all for whiz-bang effects in films, but why, exactly, are we all so excited about this film in particular?

From what I’ve seen so far, from the underwhelming debut trailer to the more recent one that Joe R. rightly points out is pretty much… Fern Gully with better graphics, it just doesn’t seem that amazing.

None of the usual boxes on the fanboy checklist are filled in –  sure, it’s sci-fi, but it’s not based on some existing comic franchise, as far as I can tell, and it doesn’t star Nathan Fillion.  Joss Whedon has nothing to do with it, either. In fact, the whole thing seems pretty derivative. The video game tie-in looks pretty standard, even though it’s being touted as some kind of big deal – perhaps this is because the central conceit of the film (paraplegic is inserted into 10-foot alien via brain transfer) is videogamey enough to stir interest? I mean, the Far Cry 2 engine is sweet and everything, but the game just sort of looks like Gears of War.

So, what am I missing? Don’t get me wrong, it looks pretty cool, but why is this movie going to be so. effing. great?  Is it really just that it has rad special effects?  Is that even enough to carry a film anymore?

I dunno. I want more. Please illuminate me as to what I am missing.

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