So here we go again on our own. Let’s look at the goodness, shall we?
BEVERLY HILLS COP
The first Foley adventure comes to Blu Ray with a crappy cover. The extras are all from the 2002 DVD, but the disc is inexpensive at Amazon. Might be worth a shot.
I just highlighted this release so I could talk about how much I love Kat Dennings until I’m deep below the sea. Filmmakers get extra points for the Sonic Youth reference.
Not the shitty remake. Clouzot’s classic creeper comes from Criterion (again).
Is it wrong that there’s a part of me that wishes this was actually a Criterion Collection Blu Ray release of DIABOLIK…?
FIVE DEADLY VENOMS
The master Chang Cheh’s joyous exercise in kung-fu heroism – and kung-fu treachery – comes to Blu Ray via The Weinstein’s Dragon Dynasty Buffet. Seeing as every Blu they’ve released so far has been canine feces, I’ve no expectation that this one’ll be any different. That said, the DVD version of the transfer licensed from Celestial Pictures (who have been restoring Shaw’s classics for the past few years) looked better than I’ve ever seen it look, so…who knows, Highlander. Who knows…?
HEAVEN AND HELL: RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL LIVE
Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of Ronnie James Dio (and his subsequent hostile takeover of Hades), so as a tribute (or a cash-in, your mileage may vary) we receive a live performance from Black Sabbath Mark II. Fare thee well, Master Padavona – you were the Rainbow in the Dark.
As a kid, I loved The Color of Money. And when someone told me it was a sequel, I freaked out and had to see The Hustler. And when I did, it was like getting kicked in the nards.
Paul Newman, in what is obviously a signature role, goes to war with billiards demon Jackie Gleason – and himself, as he lives always on the verge of losing his soul to the perverted, twisted and crippled world he inhabits.
Scorsese seems to understand this film’s notion that winning can feel an awful lot like losing, but the sequel he made betrays that sense, and is poorer for it. The Hustler is the truth.
Stathany Statham makes every fight better. In this film, a riff on the 634th Charlie Bronson/Michael Winner collaboration, a methodical assassin imparts the arts to a younger man against the backdrop of a larger conspiracy. Neither one of them is gay (though, interestingly, in the original take on the material, author/screenwriter Lewis John Carlino wrote them as such – and was disappointed that the Winner film excised that plot strand).
Random Ass Aside: Since a few of you seemed to like the story I told about Sage Stallone and Danni Harris, I thought I’d share a potentially amusing tale.
A lifetime ago, I was in Pasadena at a Fangoria magazine nerd con, surrounded by all of the great web journalists you guys have come to know and love, and some movie fans who’ve since gone pro. Back then, I dreamed I might be able to pull that off, too (not that I don’t think I can now – it just seemed a whole hell of a lot more plausible then). That weekend, I met someone who has been a profound influence on me in terms of filmmaking. I met John Carpenter.
He was at the con to promote Ghosts of Mars (which had just been released) and he was joined by stuntman/lead creature performer Richard Cetrone, and some utterly unimportant ball-headed Cockney poof.
When I finally worked up the nerve to approach Carpenter, I breathlessly blurted a batch of blather about how he is my absolute favorite filmmaker…how he inspired me to make movies…how he introduced me to Howard Hawks and Sergio Leone and John Ford because he talked about them in interviews I read when I was a kid…how I own almost every film he’s made…and all of that other fannerd shit he’s gotta’ be tired of hearing by now.
Upon exposure to this diarrhea of dialogue, Jason Statham walked up, leaned in on Carp, and snarked, “Lissen to that, John – someone actually does like you.”
I looked at him, arched an eyebrow, and said – “Yeah – and you’re fantaaastic in your little British gangster movies or whatever…”
Statham shot me an incredulous look and barked:
It was a day dreams are made of. I met a hero I’ve had since I was stuck in a small room at a grown-ups Halloween party watching a marathon of Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York (which prompted me to make an eye patch out of construction paper and draw a snake on my tummy in permanent marker – which, in turn, prompted my mother to call me a “stupid little motherfucker“), and Jason Statham called ME a prick.
You know how you know you’re a prick? When Jason Statham calls you a prick.
IT MEANS EVERYTHING: THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK
Dario Argento showed the world that there’s always room for Giallo with this absurd and artful serial killer thriller. The cinematografia is astonishing, and the film’s possessed of an off-kilter pace that only heightens the creep factor. Even when Deep Red does exactly what you think it’s going to do, it doesn’t do it the way you think it will/should. Dario, you’re such a weirdo…
ALL IN – THIS WEEKS BLU:
American Experience: Freedom Riders
Best of Europe Collection
Best of Europe: Beautiful France
Best of Europe: Beautiful Germany
Best of Europe: Beautiful Greec
Beverly Hills Cop
Children of the Corn V / Children of the Corn 666
Daydream NationDeep Red
Five Deadly Venoms
Green Paradise: Africa
Green Paradise: The Americas
Green Paradise: The Pacific
Halloween: Curse of Michael Myers / Halloween: H20
Heaven & Hell: Radio City Music Hall Live
Hellraiser: Bloodline/Hellraiser V: Inferno
I Want Your Money
IMAX: Greatest PlacesIMAX: Search for the Great Sharks
Ju-on: White Ghost, Black GhostThe Karate Kid/The Karate Kid Part II
Les Paul: Live In New York
My Boss’s Daughter / Duplex
The Other Woman
Pokemon Heroes / Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys
Rifftrax Live! House on Haunted Hill
Rifftrax Live! Reefer Madness
Scenic National Park Collection
Scenic National Parks: Alaska & Hawaii
Scenic National Parks: Best of the National Parks
Scenic National Parks: Glacier Banff & Jasper
Scenic National Parks: Grand Canyon
Scenic National Parks: Great Train Rides
Scenic National Parks: Yellowstone
Scenic National Parks: Yosemite
Scenic National Parks: Zion & Bryce
Sects, Dregs & Rock N Roll
Sons of the City: New YorkThor: Tales of Asgard
Twilight Zone: Season 4
Vanishing on 7th Street
AND NOW THE DVD STARTS:
30 For 30 Volumes 1 & 2
30 For 30 Volume 2
All in the Family: The Complete Ninth Season
Allison & Lillia Generation 1
Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy
American Experience: Freedom Riders
American Experience: George Washington
Ancient Astronauts: Gods from Planet X
Turns out this has nothing to do with SLAYER.
Avril Lavigne: The Whole Picture
Barney: I Can Do It
Bettle Queen Conquers Tokyo
Beyonce: Life on Stage
Beyond the Game
The Bionic Woman: Season 2
Black Eyed Peas: United We Stand
Brian Eno: 1971-1977 The Man Who Fell to Earth
British Rail Journeys: East Anglia
British Royal Weddings of the 20th Century
Can Go Through Skin
Chicago Cubs: The Heart & Soul of Chicago
Chocolate Sundaes Presents Live on Sunset Strip 2
Circles of Deceit
Classic U.S. Aircraft of WWII: P-38 Lightning
Corporate Cut Throat Massacre
Covert Affairs: Season One
Dead or Alive
Degrassi the Next Generation: Season 10
Die & Let Live / Raising the Stakes
An Erotic Vampire in Paris Collection
The Feathered Serpent: Complete Series
Flashpoint: 3 Season Pack
Flashpoint: The Third Season
Forget Me Not
Fourth World War
Franklin: Franklin & the Gloomy Day
Freedom Archives: Cointelpro 101
Getting Smart: Dealing with Bullies
Glenn Tilbrook: Live in New York City
Gospel & R&B Drumming
Green Paradise: The Complete Collection
Histories of the Holocaust: Buchenwald 1937-1945
I Heart Doomsday
I Want Your Money
Jay Z: True Story
Ju-on: White Ghost, Black Ghost
Kanye West: Evolution
Keith Richards: Human Riff
Kesha: Her Life, Her Story
I imagine this disc is fifteen minutes long and covered with lube.
Kickstart Your Health with Dr. Neal Barnard
La Belle Personne
Les Paul: Live In New York
Louis Prima: In Person
Memoirs of a Lady Ninja
Midnight is a Place
My Bloody Wedding
Nature’s Power Revealed
Nick Jr. Favorites: Food with Friends!
Nik Kershaw: Live in Germany 1984
Noel Redding: Redding Experience
NOVA: Venom – Nature’s Killer
The Other Woman
Radical Truth: Knowledge & Revolution
Red, White & Blue
Rihanna: The Rise & Rise of Rihanna
Rio Freaks: Volume 6
Rivers of a Lost Coast
Royal Pains: Season Two
Schoolgirls in Chains/Terror Circus
Secrets of the Divine: The Altarpiece of Ciudad
Skin Eating Jungle Vampires
Slim to None
Sons of the City: New York
Sophia Loren: Award Collection
South Riding Anna
Such Good Friends
That’s What I Am
Thomas & Friends: Birthday Express
Thor: Tales of Asgard
Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job: Season 5
Tom Waits: One Star Shining
Twisted Desires: Three Pink Masterpieces
UFOs & Extraterrestrial Threat: Battlefield Earth
Untold Secrets: Civil War Collection
Vampire Knight Guilty Volume 2
Vanishing on 7th Street
The Wild Thornberrys: Season 1
Witchcraft: Magick Rituals of the Coven
WWE: Greatest Superstars of Wrestlemania
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC – with JEB DELIA!
DANGER MOUSE AND DANIEL LUPPI – ROME
Last we heard from Danger Mouse was his sensitive collaboration with the late Sparklehorse on Dark Night of the Soul, and while the original sessions for this album actually precede that project, there’s an emotional link: Dark Night was a quiet eulogy for the too-soon pasting of Mark Linkous, while the music of Ennio Morricone, which inspired Rome, dealt with the inevitability of death as often as any composer of the 20th century.
In collaboration with Italian composer/guitarist Daniele Luppi, Danger Mouse recruited veterans of Morricone recordings from the 60’s and 70’s, including original session musicians from the scores of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, and Alessandro Alessandroni’s I Cantori Moderni choir. As you’d imagine, the team insisted on recording methods as vintage as the sound, coming as closely as possible to the recording equipment, and conditions, that Morricone and his peers would have used.
The result is, in large part, an aural travelogue to a never-quite-real Rome, opening with veteran soprano Edda Dell’Orso (from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) setting the scene with “Theme of Rome.” And while much of the instrumental material has a powerful, cinematic quality to it, particularly the exquisite “Roman Blue” and the sinister, wordless chorus on “The Gambling Priest,” half of the album is devoted to original songs, which Luppi calls “a small window on human life, touching on love, death, happiness, desperation, and the visceral connection of a man and a woman.” Ambitious fellow, give him that.
I will confess to some slight disappointment that their choice of vocalists for most of the album was arguably the two most ubiquitous guest stars in pop music today: Norah Jones and Jack White, and while their contributions certainly don’t sink the project, their over-familiar vocal tics and mannerisms do somewhat hold it back. Given the restrained performance she gives under Charlie Haden’s direction on Sophisticated Ladies, it’s a bit disappointing to hear Jones in full breathy hear-me-vamp form on” Season’s Trees,” “Black” and “Problem Queen.”
White is… well, you don’t hire him to be subtle, and he brings the complete idiosyncratic package on “The Rose With The Broken Neck” and “Two Against One,” which he also wrote; mind, if someone handed you a lyric like “The mirror is a trigger and your mouth is a gun“, well you’d just wait for him to sober up and try again, but White, bless him, sells it for all it’s worth, and turns in a performance that is every bit as committed as it is eccentric. In the end, the musical delights of Rome far outweigh its shortcomings; it’s music you can lose yourself in over and over again.
RORY GALLAGHER – NOTES FROM SAN FRANCISCO
By the late 70’s, Rory Gallagher was in a hard place: peers like Clapton, Fleetwood and Beck had moved on from their most blueswailin’ days, transforming rock music in the process, and it wasn’t entirely clear what place remained for an Irishman who just wanted to rock the blues. He came to San Francisco in late ’77 to record an album, but found himself frustrated at the sound that producer Elliot Mazer (fresh off his success with Janis Joplin and Neil Young) was giving him. By January of ’78, a depressed Gallagher happened to be at the Winterland Auditorium for the Sex Pistols’ legendary immolation… and he was transformed. In short order, he shelved the album, fired his band and producer, and started over again with a new stripped-down three-piece ensemble. In late ’79, invigorated, with his new band cracking like a whip, and his own playing on fire, he made a triumphant live return to San Francisco’s Old Waldorf club. And I was lucky enough to have been there.
Truth to tell, the original recording sessions weren’t the disaster that Gallagher often made them out to be, and he mellowed towards the songs in years to come, cherrypicking some of the material for future albums. The version being issued here, under the supervision of Gallagher’s son, sounds perhaps a bit more plush than fans would have expected (no surprise that he was unhappy with it), but in a modern context, the production is strong and compelling, and at the very least gives an indication of how Gallagher might have found a more mainstream audience if he’d wanted it.
The real gem of the set, though, is disk 2: a previously-unissued live recording with Gallagher and his new trio: bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Ted McKenna. Because I don’t recall whether he played more than one night back in ’79, I can’t swear that this was the very show I attended, but it has all the fury, sweat and energy that he brought to the stage the night I was there: from the inescapable opener, “Follow Me,” through such familiar classics as “Bullfrog Blues” and “Calling Card” (and I definitely remember us shouting the chorus along with the sweaty Rory, hanging off the edge of the small stage) to the odd, energetic finale of “Sea Cruise, the set never lets up, and gives Gallagher ample room to stretch out (I’m sure that a song or two have been dropped to fit onto a single CD, but all the actual takes sound complete).
I’ve always thought that the best thing British blues ever did was to find its own voice and move on, and we’d all be the worse for it if Jimmy Page had been happy just to knock out blues solos instead of starting Led Zeppelin; I’ll always prefer the sytnhesist to the purist. But there’s something to be said for treating the traditional blues form as life and death stuff, and on the live disk here, that’s just what you get.
SARAH JAROSZ – FOLLOW ME DOWN
Tell Alison Krauss to keep an eye on those Grammys… here’s a first-rate bluegrass/country singer, and band, looking to steal a few of them.
Following up her outstanding 2009 debut, Song Up in Her Head, Jarosz is another artist, like Abigail Washburn and the Punch Brothers, who is more interested in stretching the boundaries of what bluegrass music can be than polishing classic tunes and tropes. Though the opening track invites us to “follow me down by the cotton fields,” the hint of swirling electronic percussion, and the Eno-like treatments laid lightly over the guitar and fiddle give the sound an unusual depth for traditional music. And if “Run Away” or “Annabelle Lee” pay their old-time dues, lyrically and melodically, the bulk of the album consists of songs that use traditional forms as a jumping-off point, from the insistent, fractured musical interplay of “Come Around” to the deftly shifting gears of “Old Smitty” to the aching harmonies of “Here Nor There.” And where Jarosz’ clear, strong voice is ideally suited to what we think of as traditional music, she confounds expectations more than once by covering both Bob Dylan (“Ring Them Bells”) and Radiohead, with a performance of “The Tourist” that floats and shimmers. Her regular band of Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith provide outstanding support, and guest appearances by Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Shawn Colvin, fill out the sound.
THE JD ALLEN TRIO – VICTORY
Much has been made about the relative brevity of the tracks on the JD Allen Trio’s new album; with none running over five minutes, and the album barely over 35 minutes altogether, you’d think the man was the Ramones of jazz. But “Wasting notes is a waste of time,” says Allen, and he and his band–bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston–are fecund enough that there’s new musical ideas around every corner, coming fresh every minute.
Allen’s sax playing has never sounded more purposeful, and if nothing is wasted, much is gained, his tone equal parts sharp and lyrical. His choice to structure the album in more or less “sonata form” is interesting enough (three tracks announcing the album’s themes, the bulk of the rest of them developing them, with the last two tying back into the openers; and much of the same structure followed within the individual tracks), but structural gimmickry isn’t what keeps you listening: the decision to work in short, sharp bursts rather than extended improvisation lends an urgency to the proceedings; Allen’s self-imposed discipline produces powerful, energetic playing.
The gospel-toned title song opens the album with a darkness that suggests a somber affair, a notion quickly dispelled by the pulsating, cracked samba of “The Pilot’s Compass”. Particular favorites for me include the sax-and drum interplay of “Motif,” the elegant “Stairway to the Stars” (not the Blue Oyster Cult tune, though that might have been pretty interesting), and “Philippe Petit” (a tribute to the French high wire artist made famous in the film Man On Wire, whose daring Allen seeks to emulate). Challenging composition and top-notch playing: modern jazz the way you need it.
OTHER NOTABLE 5/17 RELEASES:
Levon Helm – Ramble at the Ryman The man survived cancer– throat cancer–and on this live recording, he’s every bit as vital as Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, and the rest of the guest lineup. Band classics, vintage roots selections, good ol’ rock and roll, and singing and playing to bring tears to the eyes and fury to the feet.
Kate Bush – Director’s Cut Personally, I thought the critical judgment on Bush’s Sensual World and Red Shoes albums was pretty fair: decent songs, great vocals, stultifying production. Here, the Bexleyheath thrush re-makes, re-models, and in some cases re-records key songs from both albums, and there’s no question that, cherry-picked and newly minted, they make for a single compelling album. Shame it didn’t occur to her twenty years ago.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – Rocket Science If I had room to give full coverage two outstanding bluegrass releases this week, I would. But I don’t, and Jarosz is cuter.
Moby – Destroyed This somewhat drab set, repetitive and droning even by Moby’s standards, is evidently the answer to the artist”s insomnia. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Warrant – Rockaholic “Sex Ain’t Love” it says here. Evidently, the “Show Must Go On,” too, and love, it would seem, does not come for free. Noted.
Euge Groove – Seven Large Not really all that quiet… and not precisely a storm… but I think you get the picture.
Black ‘N Blue – Hell Yeah So evidently, one of these guys joined KISS, and one joined Warrant (see above). What remains offers us “I killed Santa Claus / There ain’t no fucking Christmas.” Such badasses.
Various Artists – A Nod to Bob 2: An Artists Tribute to Bob Dylan on his 70th Birthday Wait, I hear you say, aren’t Spider Koerner and Danny Schmidt dead? And isn’t the Hot Tuna track just a traditional blues number with a completely different set of lyrics than Dylan used? It’s a deep barrel, folks.
Jack Jezzro – Gershwin on Guitar: The Music The music, eh? Well, I suppose that’s a good start.
Austra – Feel It Break It’s a fascinating mix of classical music and eletronica, but Amy Stelmainsis’ haunting voice is the strongest instrument here. .
Brad Paisley – This Is Country Music Given that “Old Alabama” features vocals from Alabama, and that Clint Eastwood guests on “Eastwood,” you’d think that the other guests would be bugged that there isn’t a song called “Underwood,” “Henley” or “Stuart, Crow, and Jackson” (does anyone write country songs about law firms?). Oh, and Brad? Willie Nelson beat you to that album title last year… and to quite a bit else, too.
Seether – Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray “On this album, I didn’t scream very much, because that’s not what I wanted to do,” Shaun Morgan informs us. More to the point, he wrote a few strong pop songs this time out (“Tonight,” “Here and Now”). There’s even a country song. It’s called “Country Song.” Don’t tell me he’s not a deep thinker.
From Bikes to Trains to VIDEO GAMES – WITH BRIAN CONDRY!
I am really excited about this week. Summer starts with a bang as L.A. NOIRE and THE WITCHER 2 hit and hit hard. Starting now, there’s a pretty solid stream of interesting titles until just about the end of August. Not all will be worth buying (new, anyways) – but more than a few will be worth playing.
L.A. NOIRE (PS3/360; RETAIL) – Unless word starts trickling in that it’s bad, I will be playing the hell out of L.A. NOIRE today. Shit, I already watched L.A. Confidential just to get ready! I hope there’s a button that lets me hold up my badge to let them know I’m a cop. I’m worried, though – is this actually a game? Will it just be Heavy Rain where you can occasionally grab cover and shoot dudes in the 1940’s? Are people going to play it and then just recommend you wait for the movie?
Oh well. Whatever it is, it’ll be damn interesting – that’s for sure.
THE WITCHER 2: ASSASSINS OF KINGS (PC; RETAIL) – For all you suckers who bought Dragon Age 2 (myself included) this is your RPG GOD, at least until Skyrim comes out. Epic storyline with great and hard decisions to make? Witcher. Crazy, cool combat? Boom. T&A&V? Right here, son. FUCKAWESOME graphics?
Shit, just fire up Steam (or GoG.com, which has it pure and DRM free) and start downloading right the eff now.
OTHER NOTABLE 5/17 RELEASES:
Stop right there. That’s all you need to buy. Oh, you could be the dumbest motherfucker in the WORLD and pick up FABLE 3 on PC, but don’t. Unless they fixed the game by making it a different game, it’s not good. Stop. Stop. Get The Witcher 2 instead, it’s so much better. And I haven’t even played it yet.
FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS gets its next bit of DLC today. I hatedhatedhated Dead Money. And I got it for free. I would’ve paid to stop playing it. Maybe HONEST HEARTS will be better, but I sure as shit ain’t gonna’ pay to find out.
ROCK BAND DLC:
Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii on May 19th (This is a Thursday release date for everyone)
Pantera – 5 Minutes Alone*
Pantera – I’m Broken
Pantera – Mouth for War
Pantera – Walk*
Peter Frampton – “Do You Feel Like We Do (Live)”
These tracks will be available for purchase as “Pantera Pack 01” (“Do You Feel Like I Do” not included) and as individual tracks on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Tracks marked with “X” will include Pro Guitar and Pro Bass expansions for $0.99 per song.
So now we’re done. Pack it in, you tossers!