Havin’ hard times in this crazy town. This week is just an unholy blood fart. Am I supposed to recommend Battle: LA? That never looked good to me, and the reviews just piled it on. Hall Pass? The “try to fool the audience into thinking it’s an Apatow flick” jig is up. Red Riding Hood? Are you kidding me? It pains me to say it, but Catherine Hardwicke’s career may have peaked after she served as production designer on Tom Stern and Alex Winter’s Freaked (I’m lying. This woman is seriously talented, and I hope she pulls out of this nosedive). Kill the Irishman is a mediocre film with a great cast…

Am I supposed to tell you that The Boondock Saints is coming to Blu Ray for the second time? Most of you didn’t want it the first time around (I’ll out myself as a casual fan of the flick, but the faithful fannerds for this thing make Juggalos seem dignified by comparison). Heavy Metal makes its Blu debut this week, but to say that film has aged poorly is, well, exactly right - so no internet hyperbole required (said the guy who just described the week as an “unholy blood fart”).

THE CINCINNATI KID

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Norman Jewison goes gritty (after his Rock Hudson/Doris Day romp), piloting a great cast – and Steve McQueen – through a film that feels a bit like The Hustler. Unfortunately, McQueen is no Paul Newman – but he’s a cocky card-sharp trying to make a name for himself against an unbeatable legend.

HEAVY METAL

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A great voice cast, some decent music, and stunningly uneven animation are the hallmarks of Heavy Metal, a sexually-retarded, bluddy-deth-bludd romp aimed squarely at the twelve-year-old inside of all of us. I beat my twelve-year-old to death ages ago. Your mileage may vary.

INSIGNIFICANCE (Criterion)

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An odd (though perhaps less so when considering Nicholas Roeg’s body of work) bit of speculative dramatics about four icons of the ‘50s coming together at a hotel. Theresa Russell (married to Roeg at the time) plays Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey is her out-of-his-depth husband, Joe DiMaggio, Tony Curtis gnaws scenery as Joseph McCarthy, and Michael Emil portrays Albert Einstein. As I recall it, the film isn’t a “weren’t the fifties grand” piece, nor does it offer any real insight into the people involved (though Busey’s DiMaggio is certainly more sympathetic than press painted the real guy during his marriage to Monroe), instead – it seemed to want merely to hang out with the public personas of the persons involved. It’s telling that the film – and the play on which it was based – never refers to these people by name, insinuating that we can never really know them.

Or maybe they just didn’t want to pay the respective estates? Who knows, Highlander…who knows?

LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN

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Donnie Yen once again follows in the footsteps of Bruce and Jet, returning to the role of Chen Zhen for Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau. If the character’s name is at all familiar to you, it might be because it’s Bruce Lee’s name in Fists of Fury. Jet Li played the same character in Fist of Legend. Chen is a disciple of the real-life founder of the Ching Wu (Jingwu) Athletic Association, Huo Yuanjia (who was portrayed by Jet Li in Fearless), a legendary fighter who stood up for China in the face of Imperialist forces. The story goes that Huo was poisoned by those who could not defeat him, and the fictional Chen sets out to avenge the murder. Here, Chen is re-envisioned by screenwriter Gordon Chan (who directed Jet Li in Fist of Legend) as a caped crusader of sorts. The batshit genius Anthony Wong and the so-hot-it-hurts Shu Qi are along for the ride.

Oh – and Donnie Yen’s played Chen before, too. In a TV series this film brings to the big screen. So Yen’s playing a character he, Jet Li, and Bruce Lee played before. The character is a fictional student of a real teacher who was once played by Jet Li. Confused? You won’t be after this episode of Soap!

THE MAKIOTA SISTERS (Criterion)

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This Kon Ichikawa film – the third take on the material, interestingly – is a quiet, painterly examination of Japanese life before wartime for a certain rarefied class of people. It’s very pure cinema, and though that wasn’t quite enough to hold my attention when I was fourteen, I’d imagine things might be different now.

IT MEANS EVERYTHING: THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK!

JOHNNY MNEMONIC

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In 199x, I was in NYC for a nerd-con. On the last day of the festivus, a studio dude spotted me looking at promo items. He walked up and asked, “Whaddya’ think?”

“Well,” I sighed, “I’m a fan of cyberpunk stuff…but Keanu Reeves does not inspire confidence.” I spotted a postcard that had interesting imagery on it, and I took one.

The guy chuckled from behind the piles of  unmoved freebies. “Tell me about it –  studio doesn’t know what to do with this thing. They know they’ve got a fucking bomb on their hands.”

An hour or so later, as I was heading out, the guy convinced me to take a poster.

“Aw come on – you can take more than that! I don’t wanna’ carry all of this back to the van. Take a TUBE of posters!”

What would I do with all this stuff?”

“Put it on eBay or something!”

“Who’d buy it?” I stared at the posters – tube after tube of them – “50 COUNT” stamped on the side of each one. It was a boring design.

“You’d have think they learned…”

“Yeah - Johnny Mnemonic proved no one wants to see Cyber Keanu Saves the World. And I dug that flick. This just looks like someone ripped-off William Gibson…”

I eventually sold the poster from The Matrix for $200.00 on eBay. Really regretted not taking fifty of them (I really regret not taking all five tubes of them). But I don’t regret telling the world that Johnny Mnemonic is better than The Matrix. For me, it’s simple logic.

THE HERO:

JOHNNY MNEMONIC - Keanu Reeves
THE MATRIX - Keanu Reeves

ADVANTAGE: Push

THE LOVE INTEREST:

JOHNNY MNEMONIC – a chainmail-clad Dina Meyer
THE MATRIX – K.D. Lang in pleather pants

ADVANTAGE: JOHNNY MNEMONIC

THE MENTOR:

JOHNNY MNEMONIC: Henry “Fucking” Rollins
THE MATRIX: A doughy Larry Fishburne

ADVANTAGE: JOHNNY MNEMONIC

THE VILLAIN:

JOHNNY MNEMONIC – Beat “Fucking” Takashi AND Dolph “Fucking” Lundgren? Are you kidding me?! MAJESTIC!!
THE MATRIX – Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

ADVANTAGE: JOHNNY MNEMONIC

You add ICE MOTHERFUCKING T, BITCH and a dolphin connected to the internet, and that seals the deal. Johnny Mnemonic is cinematic perfection.

And speaking of Keanu – POINT BREAK returns to shelves this week. So pick that up if you haven’t.

AND ALL THE BLU:

36th Precinct
Battle: Los Angeles
The Cincinnati Kid
Dance in the Vampire Bund: The Complete Series
Demon King Daimao: The Complete Collection
Hall Pass Special Edition
Haven: The Complete First Season
Heavy Metal
The Image
Insignificance Criterion Collection
Johnny Mnemonic
Kill the Irishman
Kingdom of War: Part 1 & 2
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen Collector’s Edition
The Makioka Sisters Criterion
N-Secure
Point Break
Red Riding Hood
Supernatural: The Complete Second Season
When They Were Young

AND NOW THE DVD STARTS!

36th Precinct
Adrift
Alaska State Troopers: Season 2
Ambicion & Poder
American Loggers
Animal Adaptation
Animal Builders
Animal Commuinities
Animal Defense
Animal Feeding
Animal Intelligence
Animal Migration
Animal Senses
Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale
Best of the ’80s: Knight Rider
Best of the ’80s: Magnum P.I.
Best of the ’80s: Miami Vice
Best of the ’80s: The A-Team
Betty White: Date with The Angels Collection
Betty White: Life with Elizabeth Collection
Big Momma Collection
Black in Latin America
Bob Dylan: Gotta Do My Time
Bob the Builder: The Big Dino Dig – The Movie
Brew Masters
Bruce Springsteen: Between The Lull & The Storm
Bunny Play Date
Celebrity Bowling
Chained
Charles Bronson: Man with A Camera Collection
ChatroomClassic Slasher Collection
A Cold Day In Hell
The Con Artist
The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes
Deadly Dolls Triple Feature
Dean Martin: Best of Dean Martin Variety Show
Demon King Daimao: The Complete Collection
Devil Dogs of Nam Collection
Devil’s Harvest Collection
Dinosaurs: Perfect Predators
Dr. Who: Frontios
Dust of Life
Fabulous Betty White Collection
Fall Down Dead
Family Heritage of Hunting
First Person Singular: I M Pei
The Gallants
Gerald McBoing Boing Collection
Ghost Stories Collectors Set
Giant Robot Action Pack: Crack & Burn / Root Wars
The Glades: The Complete First Season
Gordon’s War / Off Limits
Groupie
Have a Laugh: Volume 3
Have a Laugh: Volume 4
Haven: The Complete First Season
Hero 108: Season 1, Volume 1
Hollywood Safari/Secret Of The Andes
Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter
House of Payne: Volume 8
How to Fold a Flag
The Image
Jackass 3.5
Joel Harper’s Self Defense & Power Building
Kids 10 Film Pack
Kingdom of War: Part 1
Kingdom of War: Part 1 & 2
Kingdom of War: Part 2
Kirk Douglas Collection
Korea Collection
Korkoro
La Duda
Latina Novella
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
The Little Rascals: Vol. 2
Living is Winning
LOL Comedy Presents: Edwin San Juan
LOL Comedy Presents: Pride
Lord, All Men Can’t Be Dogs
Man v. Food: Season Three
Marvel Knights: Spider-Woman Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.
Measure Twice, Cut Once: Essential Building Basics
Miente
Monogamy
The Mother of Invention
Nature’s Cycles
Night of The Living Dead/Eat Your Skin
Norm MacDonald: Me Doing Standup
Pastor Jones: Sisters in Spirit 1 & 2
Piper Penguin & His Fantastic Flying Machines
Reefer Madness Collection
Revolucion
Satanic Rites Of Dracula/Werewolf Of Washington
Sergeant Cribb: The Complete Series
Shot in the Dark
Spongebob Squarepants: Heroes of Bikini Bottom
Sweet Karma
The Uschi Digard Collection
Vanishing of the Bees
When They Were Young
When Zachary Beaver Came To Town/Undercover Angel
Yes: Union
Yo Gabba Gabba: Circus

Now That’s What I Call MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!

A Perfect Storm: What happens to be a fairly weak week (see what I did there?) for new music releases coincides with some business travel that has kept me away from the computer for a few days, so on the one hand, putting together this week’s abbreviated music section was even more of a rush job than usual, but on the other hand, I don’t think we’re missing much of note (my apologies to those who wanted to hear my thoughts on the new Barry Manilow album).

It’s been suggested that I try and expand my coverage of album reissues (even when, as is the case here, I haven’t had a chance to hear them before release date), so I figure I should mention that Paul McCartney’s solo catalog is being reissued through Concord Music (owned by Starbucks, which seems to be kind of a theme this week), with two new releases this week, including the usual generous assortment of bonus stuff.

PAUL McCARTNEY – McCARTNEY

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PAUL McCARTNEY – McCARTNEY II

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1970’s McCartney was a bit of a skullfuck at the time, with its roughness and lack of polish in sharp contrast to the glorious production of something like Abbey Road. It also shows the stark holes that the severing of the partnership with Lennon left in his writing (even in the Beatles’ later days, the competitive spirit between the two brought out the best in each man, despite their actual collaboration being minimal): “Maybe I’m Amazed” (and perhaps “Every Night”) are probably the only songs here that would have made the cut on an actual Beatles album (“Teddy Boy,” in fact, is among several McCartney tunes recorded for, and dropped from, Let It Be, that he later re-cut on his own). I enjoy the loose funkiness of stuff like “Junk” and “That Would Be Something”, but in his Fab Four days those would have been side 4 White Album filler, at best. And I think we can all agree that the less said about “The Lovely Linda,” the better. The bonus disk has out-takes and demos, and the fact that two of the seven tracks on it are live versions of “Maybe I’m Amazed” suggests that McCartney knew better than any of us when he actually got it right.

A decade later, after dicking around with Wings and spending some time in a Japanese hoosegow, Paulie decided that a fresh start was called for, and McCartney II was the result: an impossibly compromised release that was somehow supposed to approximate the rough magic of his first solo album by employing every synthesizer he could find, singing through his nose, and writing weirdbeard shit like “Temporary Secretary” and “Frozen Jap.” I won’t deny that the sound and feel of some of it almost seems to anticipate his future collaboration with Elvis Costello, but as far as actual composition goes, if he’d shown up on Elvis’ doorstep with something like “Bogey Music,” Costello would have kicked him down the steps.

It’s an ironic measure of the album’s creative failure that the single version of “Coming Up” that returned him to the top of the charts is not the irritatingly synth-fueled track that leads off this album, but a scrappy live performance that manages to somewhat mitigate the song’s annoyance quotient; it’s included on Disk 2, along with the usual alternate takes/unreleased tracks, and a (mercifully) edited version of “Wonderful Christmastime.”

Both albums are also available in deluxe multi-disk editions, with classy coffeetable books, and on vinyl. What they could really use, though would have been a couple of “Lady Madonna”s or “Eleanor Rigby”s.

OTHER NOTABLE 6/14 RELEASES:

Madeleine Peyroux – Standing on the Rooftop. It’s not her fault that her voice resembles Billie Holiday’s (the huge gulf in interpretive ability prevents me saying that they “sound alike”), and with each album she gets a little better at finding interesting connections between people like Josephine Baker and Tom Waits. Plus, her collaboration with ex-Stone (and child-bride collector) Bill Wyman, on “The Kind You Can’t Afford,” is a wickedly funny stew of bluesy Slim Harpo-style guitar and  Norman Whitfield-inspired wah-wah; in fact, the whole album is definitely looser, rougher and funkier than we’ve heard from her in the past. The bit that kind of throws me is the insinuating gusto with which she lays into “Martha My Dear”… it is a song addressed to a dog, after all.

Erik Friedlander – Bonebridge. Strikingly inventive jazz cello, with a muscular, fluid tone, an amazing range of sound, and enough heart and soul that I need to dig more deeply into it at a later date. Highly recommended, even on short acquaintance.

Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion 2. Back in March, when Joe Bonamassa released his third album in less than nine months, I tossed a bit of snark and went about my business, little suspecting I’d have the opportunity to make the same joke again so soon. Good shit for those who really miss the glory days of Deep Purple or Sabbath, but enough already.

Owl City – All Things Bright and Beautiful. If I cared more about The Postal Service, I could probably work up more outrage about AdamYoung’s pilfering of their sound. As it is, I don’t find Young’s fey pop any more (or less) disposable than Tamborello and Gibbard’s, and I’m certainly impressed with Young’s ability to write songs that are simultaneously catchy and forgettable.

Various Artists – Baby It’s You Original Cast Album. It’s been at least six months since we had a new nostalgia jukebox musical, so here we go with this one, based on the life of pop impresario Flo Greenberg. I won’t argue that the show might have its virtues, but as a musical souvenir, this is just cookie-cutter modern Broadway. Most of the girl-group stuff is reasonably well-handled (with the usual surfeit of synth), but anything dependent upon the character of a single strong voice is gussied-up and glossed over: to hear “Mama Said” in this coffeehouse arrangement is to weep. And it’s pretty fucking hard to make “Louie Louie” sound slick and overdone, but they’ve somehow managed it.

Pat Metheny – What’s It All About. One has to tread carefully; Metheny is a brilliant player, and at least some of today’s important currents in jazz originate in his seminal work from the 70’s. That said, this album of 60’s pop covers is a baffling bit of Starbucks pandering coming from a musician of Metheny’s stature. This isn’t to say it’s unlistenable (the playing is perfection) or occasionally inventive (hearing “Pipeline” as a rush of frantic acoustic strumming is certainly impressive); I just question its need to exist beyond the demands of dinner parties that need easy-listening versions of “The Sounds of Silence,” “Alfie,” or “The Girl From Ipanema.”

John Coltrane – Unissued Seattle Broadcast. Not technically a reissue, and I haven’t heard it, but it’s from the same date that produced the Live in Seattle LP, so it’s likely to be essential. Great album title, too.

Ziggy Marley – Wild and Free. Well, you gotta hand it to him: when the title song, and lead track, of your new album is a paen to the joys of marijuana (with a few cultivation tips thrown in), you’re not overly concerned about those tea party folks. Good man.

Neil Young – A Treasure. Evidently, the download version came out a couple of months ago, but the CD is just being released this week. Anyway, if you’d like something to help you forget last year’s monstrous Le Noise, here’s 12 songs recorded live in the mid-80’s (including 5 previously unreleased by Young) that show what Neil, his guitar, and a few friends can do when they’re not being pestered by the likes of Mr. Lanois.

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – Kings & Queens. A sonic palette somewhere between Band of Heathens and Plant & Krauss,  with guest spots from an all-female lineup (“Queens,” get it?) including Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Exene Cervenka, Lucinda Williams, Sam Philips and Cassandra Wilson (?), among others. The writing is pretty pro forma, but the performances are committed and fun.

Muddy Waters – Natural Born Lover: The Singles As & Bs 1953-60. I found the odd “B” side here and there that I didn’t have, and if you find that you’re missing more than one or two of the “A”‘s, then you need this now.

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

ALICE: MADNESS RETURNS (PS3; 360; PC; retail)

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I never got the chance to play the first one. It was one of a spate of third person shooters that came out in that era. Heavy Metal F.A.A.K. 2, anyone? This one looks somewhat cool…and also like it’s trying too hard. I’d say something about liking the “Gothic Lolita” art style, but that might get me arrested.

CHILDREN OF EDEN (360; retail)

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From the dude what brought you REZ comes this crazy shit. Kinect powered! It’s like a audio visualizer you play! I think at some point, it comes out for the PS3 with Move, but not this week.

DUKE NUKEM FOREVER (PS3; 360; PC retail)

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It seems like only yesterday I was sitting at my parent’s old 486, dialing up my friend’s modem so we could death match in the Duke3D shareware. Man, I’m old. The game that was 65 million years in the making is finally out today and I couldn’t…care…less. I don’t need Duke anymore. I’m not my 14 year old sense of humor anymore. I already played Bulletstorm this year. I’m good. But for those of you with eons old pre-orders, the King has arrived.

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME 3D (3DS; retail)

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This is my second favorite Zelda game. Yes, Link to the Past is my favorite, thank you for asking. This is the also first game that has made me interested in the 3DS – and it’s a marginal level of interest, at best. I already have this game on Gamecube and Wii. Do I need to own it again? Do YOU? Where’s the good, and – most importantly – ORIGINAL games, Nintendo?

OTHER NOTABLE 6/14 RELEASES:

Record of Agarest War Zero is out and mad Japanese. Look at those words! They don’t make sense! It’s like a tactical JRPG or some shit. I used to care about those.

Movie Tie-In of the Week! Transformers: Dark of the Moon is here to violate you. I played that last Transformers game on the HD consoles and what the fuck was that shit about? People praised it because they had obviously never played an actual third person shooter before.

Magic: The Gathering: Dules of the Planeswalkers 2012 for PC only this week. The first one was cool and mega nerdy.  PS3 and 360 versions to hit later.

ROCK BAND DLC:

a-haTake On Me* (Jason here – I’d just like to take this opportunity to say “FUCK YES!”)
Avenged Sevenfold – Unholy Confessions *
Avenged Sevenfold – Welcome to the Family
Chumbawamba – Tubthumping
Live – I Alone*
Live – Lightning Crashes

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

And so ends what will henceforth be known as the Time of the Blood Fart. Mark your calendars…

FIN.