Sunday, June 21

No Good Punk Manager

Is this how people feel about us?

Saturday, June 13

30th Century Man

The newest release from the Beastie Boys' surprisingly diverse studio-cum-distro company Oscilloscope Laboratories is a brilliant little gem for fans of obscure and uncompromising musician Scott Walker.

His is the classic tale of the visionary artist/recluse who fades from the limelight of public adoration, yet continues to deliver their increasingly cryptic missives with glorious indifference to their 'audience'. After skyrocketing to fame in the paisley powered soft rock outfit 'The Walker Brothers' (none of them brothers, none of them actually named Walker) tabloids began speculating on the moody nature of bass guitarist/singer Scott, who was just not cut out for the cult-of-personality record executives use to sell their acts. The 'troubled' star soon lost interest in the hordes of screaming teens who regularly bum-rushed the stage during their sold out auditorium gigs.

What's so refreshing about Scott's story is that it contains none the typical pitfalls associated with similar social deviants- no major drug addictions, grave mental illnesses, suicide attempts or spiritual awakenings. In the absence of any such subterfuge, we are forced to cast a stone-cold sober stare into the stark and uniquely unsettling world Walker creates with his music. A music that is quite unlike anything else you've heard- even when taking on familiar tunes from well known troubadours like Jacques Brel, Burt Bacharach, or Elvis Presley- Walker's eerily deep crooning and lavish orchestrations frequently evoke an air of dark mystery.

Monday, June 1

Sunday, May 17

French & Zombies

Magnet's "Six Shooter" series has been the distributor to watch so far this year! Not sure if this is going to be a recurring series, but their first round has been exciting. 'Special' (see Merrick's review) and the critically deified 'Let the Right One In' have gotten the most recognition, but check out the rest of the titles here. (VX currently has all of these but Big Man Japan, due in July)

'Eden Log' is the latest to hit the shelves and I sat down with little more than expectations . Trying to synopsize 'Eden Log' would be nigh impossible. It's high concept, yet very personal. A man wakes up in a puddle of mud.

That sounds dull, but the first 20 minutes or so are easily the most gripping of the film. Light and sound are rarely as harrowing as seen here.

The expectation is that the audience is as bewildered as our protag, capably grunted by France's answer to... uh... Bruce Willis x Andy Serkis .

The mysterious journey is shared, and while that may seem fresh for moviegoing audiences, I couldn't help but notice the plot development strategy was taken directly from video games. Not to say that that's bad. But my mind kept going to the critically deified Bioshock, which is one of the better games of all time. The gimmick of a clueless antihero staggering through a decrepit and eerie world, finding little clues to his identity and surroundings runs very parallel between these two. Add a dash of Half-Life and... I'm getting away from myself...

At first I was sure 'Eden Log' was shot in black and white, but some very tempered color began to creep into the film over the time. The visuals in the beginning were so crisp, though, that I couldn't help but wonder if B&W would have served it better.

The acting felt a little stilted, but in retrospect I realized I was watching the dubbed version. Originally in French, the dubbing is hard to notice because of the sheer lack of dialogue - maybe 15 minutes of dialogue of 100.

The story becomes pretty muddled at the end, but the focus on 'Eden Log' should be 'pretty.' I may just be drooling over my new blu-ray capabilities, but the look of 'EL' is easily worth the price of admission. For a recognizably low budget and limited set capacity, the filmmakers manage to evoke HR Giger, Gilliam, Jeunet and a wee bit o' Lynch.

See also: Cube, 12 Monkeys

Saturday, May 9

"I ain't LYING"

Coming off the heels of a rather mild, or rather mildly annoying, experience with Kelly Reichard's newest WENDY AND LUCY- which started strong but eventually mired in it's relentlessly futile, though utterly believable, portrayal of the minor tragedies in the slightly pathetic life of a generation-why? gal- it was not without some considerable trepidation that I found myself reaching for yet another *soft* indie flic, LYING.

But with the tag-line, "five women. one weekend. too many lies." you just have to stop asking questions, especially considering that at least two of those women are the frequently charming Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone. What I never expected is that I would spend the greater portion of the films modest 90min running time virtually transfixed- lost in the dreamy, intimate and graceful air created by relative newbie director M Blash (who incidentally appears in WENDY AND LUCY as a voice!!!).

While not much actually goes on in the film, it is centered around an all girl weekend getaway at a posh old farm house somewhere deep in the woods of New England. As the ladies hang out, view the garden, picnic, etc. we slowly discern the nature vague nature of their relation to one another and sense a plot coming. This sense of *something* coming grows and grows, without getting much closer in terms of clarity. This is not one of those kind of elicit mind-game/power-play scenarios. Something much quieter, more curious is at foot here.

In his gushing interview with the not-so-mysterious M, Todd Haynes points to Altman's THREE WOMEN and Peter Weir's PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (yeah, I even watched the Bonus Features) while groping at an apt context for LYING. Films that take place within the seductive, strangely mystifying world of women among women, and enjoy a prolonged sense of anticipation, of profound looming mystery. Perhaps even more so due to the fact that they were all made by men, who must forever be outsiders-looking-in at this feminine world.

To call these films feminist would be incorrect. But for the discerning viewer weary of the over-fueled, adrenalin/testosterone driven punch that's the basis for 90% of the crud getting made these days, they come as a most welcome relief (even WENDY AND LUCY for that matter). There is this brilliant scene in LYING where the girls are about to toast and it is decided that there be 'no clanking' this weekend. As if to say, we've had enough of that, this time is for something els-e a breath of fresh air!!!

Sunday, May 3

Transformers 2: Electric Boogaloo

In Three easy steps...

STEP 1- Turn the volume ALL the way DOWN on the new Transformers Trailer. Hit Play

STEP 2- Wait 3 seconds then and Hit Play on the Breakin' 2 Trailer.

STEP 3- Watch the Transformers Trailer with the Breakin' 2 Audio. Seriously rivals Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Humboldt Themed Movies

A customer was asking about the series "Eureka" yesterday, prompting me to realize there have been more and more Humboldt references in entertainment lately. There have been a fair share of movies filmed up here, but rarely do we get chosen as a setting. I guess we're not so far from L.A.

"Eureka"-- Haven't watched the show, but I think it borrows the name and not much else.

"The L Word"-- Apparently this show has a spin-off (update: Showtime has not picked the spin-off, bummer): a prison soap opera . It sounds to me like Pam Grier's career has come full circle. The new show's setting: Humboldt State Farm and Prison for Women.

"Lost" -- Had a back story where the Locke character goes to the Pacific Northwest working for a farm. Only later does he discover its secret crop...

"Humboldt County"-- I've been avoiding this one. It was shot in Humboldt, which is more than the other shows can say, so it might be worth watching for location spotting.

Saturday, May 2

Coneheads Cameo-palooza

Forgot how many 90s comedians showed up in Coneheads:
Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Eddie Griffin, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, Sinbad, David Spade, Michael McKean, Drew Carey, Parker Posey, Kevin Nealon, Julia Sweeney, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Meadows, Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz, and of course the inimitable, ever-funny, Phil Hartman, RIP.

Saturday, April 25

Six Shooter's 'SPECIAL'

It's always a pleasure to discover a quality piece of independent cinema. There's just something infinitely more palatable about films that rely on content, creativity, and that most elusive intangible, charm. And while 'Special' might not grab you as a masterpiece of cinema, it certainly got these in spades- a well told story that reads on multiple levels.

The by-turns charming and stultifying Mark Rapaport stars as a comic book loving depressive who volunteers for an experimental drug designed to make its users 'feel better.' The side effects include, you guessed it... super powers. Well, not really. But HE thinks they're real, and in his blundering attempts to fight crime inadvertently draws heat from goons at the drug co. I guess a wigged out lunatic running around making the six o'clock news with your new psych-med's logo featured prominently on his 'super hero's outfit' is not good for business?

Relative newbys Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore deserve considerable credit not only for coming up with a slightly better-than-average plot device, but more importantly- for not totally biffing it up. What really makes the film work, in fact, is the constantly shifting perspective between objective reality and the subjective experience of our 'super-hero.' This disjunct becomes the film's central theme, a metaphor that reflects our own desire to be 'special.' Eventually, we want to believe his side of things. To indulge this very human urge, to be somehow be more than human.

Though I can't help but wonder how the film might have played without it's, a-hem.. star-power? M.Rapaport does a fine job, though he doesn't have the depth of acting that allows me to fully seperate him from previous roles. Especial his wonderful lead in 'Naked Man,' the similarly tripped-out comic-book-type tale (penned in part by Coen Bros. golden boy Ethan). A minor concern in a movie that grew on me as I watched it.

Wednesday, April 22

Guilty Pleasure...

Against all better judgment I started watching Cadfael... yes, the UK mystery series that I can best describe as CSI: King Arthur. A murder-solvin' God-fearin' Catholic monk kickin' it in Shrewsbury-- 12th century style.

Most anyone else in the store can point you to less embarrassing UK telly picks, but there's a certain pleasure in Cadfael. The acting is solid, and it doesn't fall into Xena-style action the way the recent Robin Hood series did. It's just a straight forward mystery show with a Benedictine twist.

Recommended for those who like Elder Scrolls, Agatha Christie, and swords.