Welcome to your CHUD SPECIAL ED – be sure to visit our snack bar. And please – no spitting.

AMELIE

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Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s quintessential Manic Pixie flick – the charming story of an endearingly quirky gal who can fix everyone’s life but her own – is largely remembered now for being responsible for almost as many Bad Scene Girl Hair Days as Karen O and Betty Page combined.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Criterion)

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Voyager brings Jean Cocteau’s version of the misogynist fairy-tale to Blu. It’s a strange, beautiful film. The Blu Ray includes the opera that Phillip Glass composed for the film as an alternate soundtrack.

HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN

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Amy Smart. Amy Smart. That’s all I’ve got. Incidentally, that’s all I want.

LIMITLESS

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I have no idea what this is about, but Robert John Burke is in it. Isn’t that all you need?

PEEP WORLD

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A cool cast (Rainn Wilson, Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Judy Greer, Taraji Henson, and Ron Rifkin) provides the impetus for checking out Barry (Beyond the Mat) Blaustein’s tale of a dysfunctional family cracked open by the success of one sibling’s brutally autobiographical novel.

POTICHE

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Music Box films releases a nifty-sounding comedy. Striking French workers do that “kidnapping the boss” thing they like to do (why can’t we do this here?) – when his wife (Catherine Denove) takes over the company in his absence, she proves herself a better hand at it that he ever was.

TEKKEN

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Gary Daniels, Luke Goss, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa enter the King of Iron Fist tournament under the tutelage of DWIGHT H. “MOTHERFUCKING” LITTLE. I’d imagine this film is not great (certainly it’s no D.O.A. – which is one brilliant piece of trash), but that’s a gang of four deserving of your support. That they’re joined MMA master Cung Le and foxy Ghostfacer Mircea Monroe can’t hurt. Might be worth a look…?

IT MEANS EVERYTHING – THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK:

I know I’m gonna’ get shit for this, but whatever.

BELLY OF THE BEAST

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Yeah…out of all of the stuff that hit this week – I choose a DTV Steven Seagal actioner from 2003. You know the score on these flicks – there was a brace of them awhile ago that was so bad that Sensei got sued for his lack of participation. The production company had to hire a double if they wanted the guy to walk across the street…he wouldn’t participate in any of the ADR sessions (which meant comical dubjobs from all kinds of people that sound nothing like the guy)…Seagal’s partcipation in most of these flicks amounts to squinty, bloated close ups where a viewer might not be able to distiguish him from a latter-day Val Kilmer (Helpful Hint: Kilmer doesn’t employ copious amounts of the tonic Ronald Reagan used to keep his hair oil-slick black for the three centuries he was alive).

I just checked Wikipedia and discovered that Reagan actually used the blood of the working poor.

Anyway – if Seagal’s recent output is so horrid – why am I citing this one as the must-own film this week?

Ching Sui Tung.

Ching Sui Tung has crafted set-pieces for some of the world’s best action films. He’s composed for Tsui Hark, Stephen Chow, Johnny To, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Zhang Yimou, Dr. Uwe Boll (wanted to make sure you were with me) and John Woo. Ching choreographed the action in THE KILLER (Have I managed to work this film into the column every week since I started?) – which means he choregraphed the action in the greatest action movie ever made.

He’s also a gifted director in his own right – he brought Maggie Q to the world stage with Naked Weapon (ohhhh…Naked Weapon - I can’t talk about it) and crafted one of Jet Li’s strongest film with the giddy adventure Dr. Wai and the Scripture with No Words. Ching is a genius.

Bringing his considerable talents to bear on a Steven Seagal vehicle means that, despite the fact that Sensei is extensively – often comically – doubled, Ching manages do something no filmmaker has been able to do in forever – he makes Seagal look incredible onscreen.

The story is a MadLibs version of every one of Takeshigemichi’s tales; he’s an Ex-CIA black ops guy whos daughter is kidnapped whilst vacationing in Thailand, and so he must use his deadly skill set to get her back, all the while butting heads with the local government and his former employers. But there are strange wrinkles along the way – like DEADLY LADYBOYS. Like BLACK MAGIC. Like BYRON MANN.

Ching brings a charming sense of play to the film not often (read: ever) found in Seagal’s oevre. Sensei’s doting daughter begs him to eat heathy, and during a covert ops home invasion at the top of the film, he raids the mark’s fridge. Attacker’s are dispatched in goofy fashion (one slides down a table covered with fresh fish and runs head first into a cleaver, which is the closest we may ever get to describing an occurance in a Seagal film as “Rube Goldbergian.” It’s almost like Seagal has a sense of humor (okay – perhaps he always has, but here – it’s less homophobic high-school jock then ever before).

Unlike most of Steven’s recent output, the film is wall-to-wall action – a frenetic mix of martial arts and gun-fu that ratchets up the ludicrous with every set-piece. If you’re not filled with perverse joy by the end of the film (wherein a room full of monks – led by a wizened old dude who looks for all the world like they propped up the skeleton of the village shaman from Temple of Doom) – chants a chant to protect Sensei from an evil monk with a Seagal doll, while Seagal kills six hundred Thai army guys and splits arrows in half with a sword - you’re just not my kinda’ people.

I’d like to take this moment to congratulate the first guy who, upon reading that last sentence, scrolls down to post his “I guess I’m not your kind of people” comment. Victory is yours, Cap’n!

ALL IN – THIS WEEK’S BLU RAY:

Amelie
Beauty and the Beast
Belly of the Beast
Best of Travel: South Africa
Boston Bruins: 2011 Stanley Cup Champions
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Boyz N the Hood
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Chocolat
Desert Flower
Doctor Who: Series Six, Part One
Gungrave: The Complete Box Set
House of the Rising Sun
Limitless
The Music Room (Criterion)
Nowhere to Run
Peep World
Potiche
The Reef
Shark Week: Restless Fury
Sweeney Todd/Sleepy Hollow
Take Me Home Tonight
Tekken
Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series

AND NOW THE DVD STARTS!

SKIDOO

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Have you ever wondered what would happen if Otto Preminger dropped acid, gathered some comedic legends, and tried to remake Bob Rafelson’s Head? Wonder no more.

Ostensibly a mob movie – but really an attempt to pick up what the kids were putting down in the late ’60s - Skidoo has a cult following, and  been shown a few times on TCM, but is largely remembered as a mess. ‘Cause it is. But – as a mess from Preminger…it’s not without merit.

Which can probably be said of any film featuring Groucho Marx and John Phillip Law…

AND ALL THE REST:

200 Colossal Cartoons
2011 NBA Champions: Dallas Mavericks
All About: The Ultimate Collection
AmelieAmerican Muscle Car: Season 1-3
The Animated Kid’s Bible
Beauty And The Beast (Criterion)
Belly of the Beast
Beneath The Mississippi
The Best of California Dreams
The Best of The Get Along Gang
The Best of The Littles
Best of Travel: South Africa
Boston Bruins: 2011 Stanley Cup Champions
The Boy in Striped Pajamas
Boyz N The Hood
Brave New Voices 2010
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Busy World of Richard Scarry: Fun in Busytown
Busy World of Richard Scarry: Good Times Never End
Chocolat
Clifford: Dog Days of Summer
Cowboys & Bandits
Cracks
Dark Days
Desert Flower
Doctor Who: Series Six, Part One
Dragon Ball Z: DB9X
Dumbstruck
Durakovo: Village of Fools
Encounters from Another Dimension
Ferry to Hong Kong
Firepower: The Complete Series
Freedom Flyers of Tuskegee
Go Diego Go: Fiercest Animal Rescues
Gungrave: The Complete Box Set
Hey Dude: Season 1
Hidamari Sketch: Hohimittsu 1
House of the Rising Sun
How Stuff Works: Food & Beverage
iCarly: The i <3 iCarly CollectionWorld
Justice League Fun Collection
The Kids Grow Up
Leapfrog: Sing & Learn With Us
The Life & Work of Claude Chabrol
Limitless
The Littles: The Complete Series
Lou
Man Woman Wild
Mayor Cupcake
Melrose Place: Sixth Season
Melrose Place: Sixth Season, Volume 2
Monster Wolf
The Music Room (Criterion)
Nick Of Time/What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Nowhere to Run
Outside the Wire: The Complete Series
Peep World
Penny Princess
Philadelphia Memories
Pippi Longstocking: Pippi Goes to The Fair
The Poky Little Puppy & Friends
Potiche
Punky Brewster: Best of Season 2
Punky Brewster: Best of Season 3
Queens Blade 2: Evil Eye Series Part 2
Red Sox Memories: Greatest Moments In Cincinnati Reds History
The Reef
Reggie Perrin: Set 1
Robbery Under Arms
Sci-Fi Invasion
Shark Week: Restless Fury
Simba
Simon & Simon: Best of Season 3
Skidoo
Small Town Murder Songs
The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure
Sniper: The Unseen Warrior
The Sound of Insects
Spirit Bear
The Stockard Channing Show
Sweeney Todd/Sleepy Hollow
Take Me Home Tonight
Tekken
Timeless Animated Favorites
TNA: Immortal Forever
Top Gear USA: The Complete First Season
Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series
Ultraman: Series 1, Volume 2
The Way of the West
When Animals Strike Back Volume 1
When Animals Strike Back Volume 2
WWE: Capitol Punishment 2011
Yankee Stadium: Baseball’s Cathedral 1923-2008
Young Justice: Season 1, Volume 1
Young Leaders
Zonad

NOW THAT’S WHAT CHUD CALLS MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS – JOIN US

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So the question is: after a decade’s detour into the world of kids’ music, and more than four years between “grownup” albums, is there still room for a pair of brainiacs in an alt-rock world far more crowded than it was even a few years ago? Devo didn’t quite manage it, and they never took as deep a plunge into the kiddie world as did Linnell and Flansburgh. And TMBG is working an angle that’s both blessing and curse: the Gen Xers whose kids they’ve entertained are a natural starting point, but the last thing this fecund pair needs or wants is to become an oldies act. Join Us makes it pretty clear that they have no intention of abandoning their old turf: the thinking man’s blend of XTC and Weezer.

“Can’t Keep Johnny Down” opens things with pounding keyboards and a nagging, arpeggiated melody, with the familiar nasal vocal harmonies in place. “You Probably Get That A Lot” slams along like a herky-jerk “London Calling,” and from there, the album is a dizzying assortment of musical styles.  From the Hot-Club-On-Acid squawks of “Cloisonné”  to the power pop of “Let Your Hair Hang Down” and “Canajoharie” to the old-school skank of “When Will You Die,” TMBG are as bracingly unpredictable as they’ve ever been, both musically and in subject matter: “Judy is your Viet Nam” is a sharp observation on the melodramatic nature of teen angst, and “Old Pine Box” and “When Will You Die” pose questions inspired by the straightforward curiosity of the young’uns. The enigmatic lyricism continues, too: Try “Some dude / Hitting golf balls on the moon / Bathroom in his pants / And he thinks he’s better than me” or “You have a friend in law enforcement / Don’t go calling law enforcement / Mind your business.”

As always, TMBG operate at an emotional remove that makes their work feel more reportorial than engaged, which is in obvious contrast to the bleeding ache that drives much of today’s indie rock scene, but which isn’t exactly an asset to major label marketing, either. They’re still the smartest niche band in the room, but years from now, they’ll still be best remembered for “Robot Parade”… which, in the end, is more than most of us will be remembered for.

AMY LaVERE - STRANGER ME

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Breakup albums are a dime a dozen, but fuck… since 2008’s Anchors and Anvils, this woman’s lost her mentor (singer-songwriter Jim Dickinson) to heart disease, her guitar player to The Hold Steady, and broken up with both her drummer (Paul Taylor) and her lover (also Paul Taylor). So, yeah…  “Here’s your damn love song!“.

Stranger Me finds LaVere trying to cushion the blows with retreat into metaphor: “You Can’t Keep Me” is with relationship equated with abduction (or vice versa), with a wild, insistent horn chart: “You can’t keep me here against my will /  I didn’t sign up for this.” There’s also the inversion of historical perspective in “Red Banks,” a scary, bluesy report from the opposite side of traditional death songs like “Brownsville Girl.” “A Great Divide” takes on the pain with a dose of gloomy dance funk (“I was hiding in the dark / Afraid of your love“) while the title song is a swirling, hazy dream, with spare, deeply reverbed guitar, and the concluding “Let Yourself Go” is a slow drip of resignation.

Stranger Me isn’t the most uplifting thing you’ll hear all year, and its refusal to settle on an instrumental palette (theremin, vibraphone, toy piano, and string quartet are among the sounds employed) forces the listener to come to terms with each song on its own terms, as if rediscovering the pain and weary confusion afresh each time. But the album holds out one tiny bit of hope: Taylor returned to play drums on a few tracks here, suggesting that pain doesn’t have to be permanent.

BYE BYE BLACKBIRDS – FIXED HEARTS

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It’s good times for fans of harmony-laden guitar-based pop music these days, with recent long-overdue new releases from Smithereens and the Gin Blossoms. Oakland’s Bye Bye Blackbirds aren’t quite fighting in that weight class yet, but their third full-length album continues to show growth and promise, along with great tunes, and choruses propelled by dragging handclaps and instantly memorable hooks.

Of course, “power pop” gets dismissed for a certain level of wimpiness, but that’s largely due to otherwise excellent bands like Velvet Crush or the Chevelles not having a lot on their minds but love songs. On this album, though, the Bye Bye Blackbirds are less concerned with the vagaries of romance than of the passage of time and memory. There’s a strong sense of places observed: “Elizabeth Park” is a  nostalgic visit to an old neighborhood, but “you can’t be tied to a place,”  with snappy horn arrangements supplementing the expected jangling guitar; while in “New River Sunset,” our narrator has moved on, to “a new ghost town.” “Hawaii” is a gently plucked acoustic dream of the promise of faraway places, its “Silver Sands” holding out the hope of escape from isolation in the album’s seductively drifting final track. And while the Blackbirds can run the Beatles/Byrds Rickenbacker playbook when it suits them, Fixed Hearts is an album rich in texture, from the chunky white-soul guitars that drive “Every Night at Noon” to the loping bassline that slithers through “Jack Frost.”  Tight, tuneful, thoughtful.

TERRY LYNN CARRINGTON – THE MOSAIC PROJECT

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If the recent passing of Gil Scott-Heron brought to mind that time in the 60’s when jazz first encountered both funk and the anger of the black power movement, you won’t want to miss Carrington’s new album. The bassist/percussionist has been an important figure in jazz circles for a quarter-century, but this is her most intriguing album yet, as her all-female lineup brings virtuosity and anger to bear in equal measure.

If you’d bought an all-female jazz album in the 60’s, it would have been called something like “Great Ladies of Song,” and focused on singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. But the group assembled here points up just how much jazz has opened up gender barriers over the past few decades, and a list of guest performers that includes Esperanza Spalding, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sheila E., Nona Hendryx, Cassandra Wilson, and Geri Allen (among others: there are nearly two dozen performers on the album) takes no backseat to any male-dominated jazz supergroup. “There’s one part of me that’s kind of a jazz head who likes complex, thought provoking melodies and harmonies,” Carrington is quoted in the press release. “And then there’s another part of me that really likes funk and pop and things that are accessible.” The genius here is her ability to blend the two, so that a sweet tune like the Beatles’ “Michelle” provides the opportunity to challenge the listener with a fleet, discordant solo from trumpeter Ingrid Jensen at the same time it seduces. Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” melts under Cassandra Wilson’s velvety vocal, but pricks up the ears with an elegant violin solo from Chia-Yin Carol Ma.

The track that will polarize listeners is “Echo,” which begins with a snippet of a recorded speech from Angela Davis; against a funk backing that could have come from a Curtis Mayfield film soundtrack, we hear the voices of “The brother that you lynched years ago /  The sister you raped just the other day / The babies that you starve every day.”  It’s tough, angry stuff, and when you consider that the typical American jazz consumer is a middle-class white male, race and gender-based discomfort would seem to be the point. Music that is simultaneously provocative and listenable, alternately challenging and smoothly funky.

OTHER NOTABLE 7/19 RELEASES:

DJ Khaled – We The Best Forever. “We” including Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, Cee-Lo Green, Chris Brown(!), Mary J Blige, Ludacris, Jeezy…

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Peyton on Patton. Like, say, The Blues Brothers, this album earns a nod of approval for its eager willingness to bring the work of an important black performer to a white audience. On the other hand, Peyton’s no better a singer than Belushi was (and that’s being kind), and for this sort of thing to be useful, it has to reach an audience. Which I wouldn’t count on.

Pokey Lafarge – Middle of Everywhere. If you have resisted contemporary imitations of old-timey music because you couldn’t tolerate banjos and accordions, then this might be worth a listen: pitch-perfect recreations not of the sounds of the Appalachian hills, but of the urban popular music of the early days of radio and talking pictures. I’ll caution, you, though… there are banjos and accordions.

3 Doors Down – Time of My Life. Arnold and company continue to peddle the notion that they’re bravely standing up to a world that hates them (“Time Of My Life,” “Round and Round”), when they should be happy that, for most of us, it never goes past indifference. Women do these boys wrong quite a bit, too, but since that just brings the close harmonies closer, I guess it counts as a good thing. And “Race for the Sun” is just stupid-catchy enough to listen to twice.

Cedar Walton – Bouncer. Walton’s latest piano quintet outing; check out the waterfall of harmonics on “Lament,”  and the dance-like rhythm of the title cut.

Cold – Superfiction. The press release for this one is filled with words like “intricate,” “introspective,” and “inspirational”; it also promises “alluring darkness.” That would describe any of dozens of bands I wind up listening to for review purposes, and this album is just about that distinctive. Of the two women bid farewell to by name, Emily fares somewhat better than June.

311 – Universal Pulse. Fairly snappy, occasionally funky, but while there may still be interesting things to say about topics like “Wild Night” or “Rock On,” it’s not being said by these fellas.

Imelda May – Mayhem. U.S. release of one of 2010’s most enjoyable albums, as May and Hubby Darrel Higham mix the rockabilly with some smoky blues, wild rock and roll, the only cover of “Tainted Love” that actually approaches the original, and the single remix of her U.K. hit “Johnny Got A Boom Boom.”

From Bikes to Trains to VIDEO GAMES – WITH BRIAN CONDRY!

GAME OF THE WEEK:

BASTION (XBLA)

Okay – let’s see if these words hit: Landstalker. Action RPG. Narration. Yes? Good! Because Bastion has them all! It looks super slick, has some cool looking weapons and RPG mechanics and this…thing – this narration thing. Like, a full-time, bucketful of balls narrator talking about your exploits, describing exactly what you’re doing in epic fashion. Looks supergreatyeah.

THE REST OF THE STORY:

CALL OF JUAREZ: THE CARTEL (PS3; 360; PC retail)

Cowboys in the New West! Shootin’ some Mexicans, like God intended. Yee-haw! I guess they saw the righteous smiting Red Dead brought to every other game in the Western genre (what, all three? This and Gun and Red Dead and…Outlaws?) and said, “Fuck it. Let’s make a Call of Duty. With DUSTERS, son.”

LIMBO (PSN)

This is a really beautiful game, and now – a year later – PS3 and PC folks get a chance to play it. The 15 dollar price tag might ring up a bit high, considering it’s three hours and no replay, but regardless of that – Limbo is very cool.

THE DROSS:

Movie tie-in! Captain Cocksucking America and his Shield of Fuckstick! Now…if this were a remake of that old arcade game – we could talk. Movie tie-in!

Just Dance! Just Dance, assholes! Just Dance Summer Party! YOU’RE NOT DANCING!!!

Something called Otomedius Excellent that I’d tell you about, but I had a seizure once I saw the cover. Seizure in my PANTS.

I’m talking about my penis getting an erection.

ROCK BAND DLC:

Soundgarden – Blow Up the Outside World
Soundgarden – Burden in My Hand*
Soundgarden – Fell on Black Days
Soundgarden – Outshined*
Soundgarden – Rusty Cage
Soundgarden – The Day I Tried to Live*

Pro Guitar Additions for Legacy Songs:

Soundgarden – Pretty Noose

* means you can buy Pro Guitar and Pro Bass modes.

So now it ends. In the words of the immortal Steven Seagal – “fuck you and die!”

Not really, though – I love you guys. Thanks so much for reading.