Welcome to CHUD SPECIAL ED. Today we will be making bread. Please do not throw the bread at your classmates.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
Matt Damon collaborator and Sentinel scribe (As bad as I want to be a filmmaker, I wouldn’t want to be thought of as having anything to do with The Sentinel) George Nolfi adapts Phillip K. Dick – which seemed to be an embarrassing factoid for the studio, as they didn’t sell it as anything like a sci-fi tinged drama. This thing looked like off-brand John Grisham (or John Grisham) in the trailers.
What if Channing Tatum starred in Centurion instead of our Lord and Saviour Michael Fassbender? State of Play director (and Kids in the Hall alum) Kevin McDonald wanted to know so badly, he made this film.
I KNOW IT’S NOT THE SAME KEVIN McDONALD.
ELVIS COSTELLO: SPECTACLE – SEASON TWO
Not as in-fucking-credible as the first season, but still worth your time – hell, it’s probably worth more of your time than mine, as I would love to set Ray LaMontagne’s weird beird on fire, and you probably love the dude.
Looks a little like (I can’t believe I’m typing this word, as the action of typing it somehow legitimizes it) a mess of mumblecore from the star of How I Married Your Mother - which I’ve never seen. I’m so happy my life doesn’t involve sitcoms. Or television.
It seems to be one of those films where privileged young attractive white kids have all sorts of problems, (it’s relationships mostly, but it may also involve one of the characters hating his or her current career, or maybe one of them discovers that they have some sort of illness) and the film cuts to black as they stand at a crossroads (wherein the embattled central couple see each other for the first time in awhile, and wonder if there might be something left to their relationship) – then some neo-folky ukelele-backed tweety-voiced female vocalist’s B-Side (the one that didn’t get picked for the car ad. No – not that one; that one‘s in the cell phone ad) plays over the closing credits. Somebody get Chan Marshall on the phone. Or please don’t.
Finally, it’ll debut at Sundance or Toronto, where it will win an audience prize or something – which will maybe help it get a New York/Chicago/Los Angeles release before getting lost in the shuffle on video.
And people say the superhero formula is tired…
It’s not high art, but this amped remake of The Clonus Horror is Michael Bay’s most intelligent film – meaning it kinda’-sorta’-almost makes actual sense.
THE KILLING MACHINE
My second-favorite Dolph (behind Dolph Sweet) directs and stars in this not-bad-at-all action melodrama. If you get the chance, and you dig the Dolph as I do, you might also want to check out his directorial debut, The Russian Specialist aka The Mekanik.
LOUIE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
This show is slightly similar to, but far better than the comedian’s short-lived HBO series. Which means it’s pretty great.
This is a weird fucking mess of a movie. It seems to have been crafted as an answer to the age-old question; “When will someone make a movie that combines the best elements of The Golden Child, Dead Heat, and Warlock?!” The noblest of goals, to be sure – but it all goes so wrong. Apparently, the film had a tortured/torturous production. Depending on who’s telling the tale, the film was pretty much rewritten on the fly and shot twice over. At times, it seems that The Medallion is heading for the late ‘80s-early ‘90s Hong-Kong supernatural-fantasy-action films that were popular and prevalent (usually featuring the inimitable Lam Ching Ying, and featuring the word “Spooky” in the title), and at times it feels like a shitty American take on the same. Still, there’s some worthwhile stuff going on here. Julian Sands is fantastic as the film’s villain, SNAKEHEAD. Claire Forlani is achingly gorgeous. And Jackie does run through a couple of nicely-paced fights. The film starts badly, and has an awful finale (save for the last shot, which is an incongruous but welcome bit of whimsy), but there’s a bit in the middle where you get a sense of how the thing was supposed to roll.
And even though I sound like I’m apologizing for it, this was one of the films that really made me feel like Jackie needs to stop before his legend and legacy is irrevocably tarnished. Then The Tuxedo happened. Then The Spy Next Door happened. He keeps that kinda’ shit up, The Medallion’s gonna’ look like an unsung masterpiece.
Apparently, it’s in danger…of being crushed…by a dwarf.
Trust us, we know.
IT MEANS EVERYTHING: THE BLU RAY OF THE WEEK:
KISS ME DEADLY (Criterion)
My first exposure to Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer character was the weekly Stacy Keach incarnation – which felt gritty and sinister to me, but with a wry sense of humor. I murdered my Grandpa’s copy of Harlem Nocturne on my Fisher Price turntable. When I started diving headlong into film, I found this old yarn…and I wanted to CRY. Here, Ralph Meeker’s Hammer is a ruthless, remorseless, sadistic bastard, and the film itself was a genuinely scary, ferocious, and ham(mer)-fisted Cold War riff, with a sinister doctor peddling dangerous nuclear material and an eerily apocalyptic ending. Having seen it a few more times since I was ten, I can now say that – while it’s a bit pulpier than I remember – it’s still pretty sinister. And still pretty cool.
HERE’S THE REST OF THAT BLU SHIT:
The Adjustment Bureau
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 5
Bob Dylan: Revealed
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Drop: Live Action Movie
Elvis Costello Spectacle: Season Two
Ghost in the Shell: Individual Eleven
Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society
Ghost in the Shell: The Laughing Man
The Killing Machine
Kiss Me Deadly (Criterion)
Louie: The Complete First Season
Mega Python vs. Gatoroid
Priest of Love
The Romantic Englishwoman
Scenic Routes around the World: Africa
Scenic Routes around the World: Asia
Scenic Routes around the World: Europe
Scenic Routes around the World: Far East
Scenic Routes around the World: South America
Scenic Routes around the World: The Pacific
WWE: Over the Limit 2011
You Got Served: Beat the World
AND NOW THE DVD STARTS:
The Adjustment Bureau
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG)
42nd Street: River to River
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Pale Horse
Armitage: Movie Collection
Bending all the Rules
Big Time Rush: Season One, Volume Two
Bleach Box Set 9
Blue Gender Collection/ Warrior Movie Classic
Bob Ross Joy of Painting Series: Lakes
Bob Ross Joy of Painting Series: Mountains
Charlie Sheen: Born To Be Wild
The Chi-Lites: Live in Norfolk 2005
The Closer: The Complete Sixth Season
Ding Dong Dead
Dizzy Gillespie: In Redondo
Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzos
Elvis Costello Spectacle: Season Two
Four Tops: Live in Las Vegas
Frontline: Football High
Girls Next Door UK: Babes, Bombshells & Hotties
Hip Hop’s Power Couple: Jay Z & Beyonce
Jillian Michaels: Get Fit & Fab
Johnny Thunders: What About Me?
Keith Lowell Jenson: Double Plus Good
Kekkaishi Set 1
Killer Stories: Crime of Torture & Horror
Larry Carlton & Sapphire Blues Band: Paris Concert
Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto: Live 2010
LOL Comedy Presents: American Indian Comedy Slam
Louie: The Complete First Season
Medium: The Complete Series
Medium: The Final Season
Mega Python vs. Gatoroid
Miles Davis: Live at Montreux
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Part 1
Muammar El-Qaddafi: King of Kings
Neil Young: Here We Are in the Years
Nickelodeon Big Box of Play Dates Vol. 2
Nickelodeon Favorites: Summer Vacation
Nona Hendryx: What’s On Your Plate?
One World Tour Europe
Paranormal Planet: Psychics & Supernatural
Phil Tarver: Place of Worship
Prime of Your Life
R&B’s Lost Souls: Aaliyah & Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
Radiohead: Arms & Legs the Story So Far
Rio Conchos/Take A Hard Ride
Rocko’s Modern Life: Season One
Scenic Routes around the World: Complete Series
Squidbillies: Volume 4
Stylistics: Live In Norfolk 2005
Submarine: Hidden Hunter
Sunrise Earth: Greatest Hits East/West
Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy
The Tell-Tale Heart/The Oval Portrait
TNA: Lockdown 2011
Ultimate Death Match III
Under the Hammer
Van Von Hunter: Live Action Movie
Weapons Races: The History of Modern Warfare
William & Kate
WWE: Over the Limit 2011
You Got Served: Beat the World
You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle Collection 3
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!
BON IVER – BON IVER
Time was, you could tell the just-a-bit-too-sensitive singer-songwriter by the simplicity of his lone acoustic guitar and plaintive solo vocal. Justin Vernon’s having none of that: if Robin Pecknold and Colin Meloy can deploy armies of strings, platoons of sidemen, and thick layers of vocals, without obscuring the hearts on their respective sleeves, then there’s no reason that the newest Bon Iver release can’t be… well, a lush, heavily produced collection of exquisitely textured musical moments framing songs whose principal feature is their tendency to drift away on the ether.
This is not a terrible way to construct an album, by any means, but anyone who’s heard Vernon guesting with Kanye West, or belting out Bonnie Raitt covers on late-night TV, has the right to feel mildly put off: he’s quite capable of working in keys other than fey, and there’s almost a pandering quality to some of this, as though he figured there were Frightened Rabbit fans out there needing his special benediction.
It’s hard to single out individual tracks for either praise or blame, as the gentle patina of twee makes for a fairly homogenous listening experience. Most of the songs are named for places (from “Calgary” to “Perth” to “Hinnom, TX,” and beyond), and it’s quite possible that there’s enough geographic specificity in the writing to prove evocative to those familiar with the locales. The final track, “Beth/Rest,” is allegedly Vernon’s tribute to Bruce Hornsby, and it’s a mark of just how sedate most of this album is that a Bruce Hornsby soundalike song actually represents the apex of the album’s energy. A marginal recommendation for sheer prettiness, but Bon Iver isn’t an album that rewards much digging into the writing.
DAVE ALVIN – ELEVEN ELEVEN
I don’t know if his cameo on Justified did anything to increase Alvin’s exposure outside of the “roots” music world, but if nothing else, it inspired yet another of his terrific songs, one that brims with place, character and conviction: “Harlan County Line,” which opens the album in a mist of guitar growl and feedback, has no specific relation to Justified‘s storylines, but it otherwise captures the setting’s tone of hardscrabble defiance. It also serves as a great opening track, signaling that this will be Alvin’s toughest, bluesiest, most guitar-driven album since 2004’s Ashgrove.
While Alvin certainly shows his gentler side here and there (“No Worries Mija,” “Black Rose of Texas”), unalloyed sentiment is in pretty short supply here: from the tough-talking union man of “Gary Indiana 1959,” to the smashed-up ex-boxer in “Run Conejo Run,” to the reluctant bounty hunter of “Murietta’s Dead,” song after song is filled with characters with compelling stories and fully formed personalities. Other highlights include the slashing, guitar-fueled seduction of “Dirty Nightgown” and Alvin’s melting duet with Guilty Woman bandmate Christy McWilson on “Manzanita.” And while artists from Paul Simon to Squirrel Nut Zippers have mined Johnny Ace’s death by Russian roulette for metaphoric power, Alvin here turns it into a darkly comic “Stagolee”-like tale of misadventure.
Of course, in a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, the track that will attract the most attention is the one addressing the decades-long rift between the Alvin brothers that broke up the Blasters (though Dave has put it simply: “I just got tired of writing songs for my brother Phil to sing”): “What’s Up With Your Brother” is a pulsing blues, with the Alvin brothers singing together on record for the first time, trading boasts and regrets, each lamenting the inevitability of being asked “what’s up with your brother?”, finally accepting that blood is thicker than water, and signing off with “See you at Thanksgiving!”. Brother Phil isn’t the only guest star making his presence felt, as members of Los Lobos drop in here and there, and ex-Blaster Gene Taylor provides pounding blues piano.
The final guest is Alvin’s lifelong friend, the late singer-songwriter Christ Gaffney, giving his farewell performance as the two duet on the album’s final track, the gently swinging, lightly ironic, “Two Lucky Bums.” Any new Alvin release is worth your time, but this album might be the most varied and interesting of his solo career.
GARLAND JEFFREYS – THE KING OF IN BETWEEN
The 67-year old Jeffreys went to college with Lou Reed, and when he released his self-titled solo debut in 1973, there was every reason to believe he’d prove to be nearly as important an artist: bring his mixed-race heritage to bear on catchy tunes that drew on acoustic folk, R&B, rock, and an unusually deft hand with reggae, his visionary songwriting had a Springsteen-like sense of time and place. Unlike the fecund Reed, though, Jeffreys found that life on the road didn’t lend itself to broadening either his palette or subject matter, and in forty years, he’s only managed one other classic album (1977’s Ghost Writer) and one pretty good one (1980’s Escape Artist). And while he’s been happy to live the life of the semi-retired family man, every now and again he seems to remember that he “coulda been a contender,” and this album (his first in over a decade) is probably his strongest in thirty years.
Like a lot of his contemporaries, the approaching darkness is a strong thread running through the album (“In God’s Waiting Room,” “‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me”), but the fierce exuberance of memory and pulsing drums that drive the opener, “Coney Island Winter,” make it clear that Jeffreys has no intention of fading into disrepair as quietly as the old amusement park. More than any Jeffreys album since his debut, The King of In Between touches on the range of his musical styles, with the reggae lilt of “The Beautiful Truth” and the more dub-like “Roller Coaster Town,” the Mayfield-like urban scene of “Streetwise,” the snarl of “The Contortionist” (with Reed and Jeffrey’s daughter Svannah on backing vocals), and the gutbucket soul shout of “Love Is Not a Cliché.” And while not even Jefreys can find much new to say about “Rock and Roll Music,” he says it damned energetically. Just when you think you’ve got Jeffreys pegged with the acoustic blues farewell of “Waiting Room,” (“Laughing at death / When God’s finger points at me“) he tosses in a bonus track: a big, booming take on David Essex’ “Rock On,” suggesting that Jeffreys is far from finished.
The only misstep seems to me to be the remake of “I’m Alive,” which is a bit too “Hey-it’s-a-comeback!” on-the-nose. Other than that, this is a consistently strong and musically inventive album that sounds as fresh and astonishing today as it would have in, say, 1980.
(This was actually a 6/14 release that got lost in the shuffle of my traveling last week)
STEFON HARRIS, DAVID SANCHEZ, CHRISTIAN SCOTT – NINETY MILES
While the two albums sound nothing alike, Ninety Miles is highly recommended to those who took a chance on the best jazz album of 2010, Afrocubism: in their very different ways, each celebrates the rich musical heritage and cross-cultural landmarks that Cuban jazz has sent back to the American mainland.
The players represent an impressive and diverse lineup of today’s jazz talent: vibraphonist Stefon Harris is a teacher and bandleader whose territory ranges from San Francisco to New York, percussionist and tenor sax man David Sánchez hails from Puerto Rico, and trumpeter Christian Scott brings the Crescent City strut of his native New Orleans. Having decided to record their first collaboration in Cuba, they naturally recruited producer John Burk (best known in the States for his work with Tito Puente), and headed “ninety miles” across the Gulf of Mexico to Havana, finding additional support there from the bands of Cuban pianists pianists Rember Duarte and Harold Lopez-Nussa. The result is both cultural synthesis and rhythmic intoxication.
The album kick-starts with the urgent “Nengueleru,” the various instruments layering on top of the rhythmic interplay of piano and drums. “City Sunrise” is all brisk urban awakening, with the ensemble emerging from sleep into a day of bustle and promise. “Congo” is a near-pun of a title: it pays tribute to the African roots of Cuban jazz, while suggesting the taste of a conga rhythm. And the swirling insistence of “Black Action Figure” transcends any ambiguity about its subject. There’s appropriate valediction in the moody “And This Too Shall Pass,” while the fluid percussion of “La Fiesta Va” sends the album out dancing. Anyone who’d like to know what the next generation of players inspired by the Buena Vista Social Club is up to these days will find this a real treat.
OTHER NOTABLE 6/21 RELEASES:
Jill Scott – The Light of the Sun. Actress, singer, writer, arranger… and well-adjusted mom, who kicks off her latest by repeating over and over “I’m so blessed.” Sometimes you just have to throw cynicism under the bus and admire the hell out of someone who knows life and how to live it.
Yacht – Shangri-La. Laptop pop that combines its Brian (Wilson? Eno? both?) pedigree with rhythmic notions befitting one of your better Talking Heads albums. I like the fact that the dyptich of “Utopia” and “Dystopia” avoids the obvious “opening/closing” placement, leaving the irresistible title song to wrap things up with the suggestion that “If I can’t go to heaven, let me to go L.A.”, filling out the lyric with the most exquisitely paced “la-la-la’s” since the Kinks’ “Wonderboy.”
Paul Hardcastle – Hardcastle VI. If you think that what Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was missing was some smoove-jazz beats and Quiet-Storm sax… well, here you go.
Weird Al Yankovic – Alpocalypse. The last time Al released an album, my nephew was eight, and thought he was the funniest thing ever. But none of us stay eight forever, Al…
Symphony X – Iconoclast. I don’t know why they’re bothering to try and scare me with titles like “The End of Innocence” or “When All Is Lost” or “Reign in Madness”: their precise, oh-so-tidy proggy metal is pretty scary shit on its own.
Matt Nathanson – Modern Love. “They sing me love songs with store bought words / They make promises like politicians.” So– topical, right?
Night Ranger – Somewhere in California. Night Ranger? Seriously? No, seriously I mean it–this shit isn’t funny any more.
Michael Bolton – Gems: The Duets Collection. Either someone at Sony doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “Gem,” or they’re a shameless liar. I know which one my money’s on.
Pitbull – Planet Pit. Maybe not quite as invigorating as Ninety Miles, reviewed above, but the infusion of Cuban rhythm on this album almost cancel out the drab writing and occasional auto-tuning.
From Bikes to Trains to VIDEO GAMES – WITH BRIAN CONDRY!
THE GAME OF THE WEEK:
Those Double Fine guys have been knocking it out of the park with the downloadable games. Costume Quest and Stacking were both super cool. This one holds slightly less interest for me, only because I’m not a DOTA/Tower Defense fan. I do love to trick out mechs with different bits and baubs, though. Anyway, it still looks pretty cool and is for XBLA ONLY…at least until Microsoft’s money hat runs out. Also, you can buy different salutes. It’s amazing.
THE REST OF THE STORY:
F.E.A.R. 3 (PS3, 360, PC)
The A.I. in the first FEAR (fuck periods) was the coolest shit ever. 2 was fun…but featured the worst controls for a console FPS ever. I’m gonna be honest, I haven’t really payed attention to what’s going on with this one. There might be some mechs. It’ll probably be “scary.” You will shoot dudes in the face. Alma will be. I hope the shotgun obliterates dudes like it did in the first one. That may have been one of the best video game shotguns ever. After Doom‘s, obviously.
DUNGEON SEIGE 3 (PS3, 360, PC)
The demo kinda sucked on the consoles. I wonder if it was better for the PC, but I don’t hold out hope. I know there are plenty of you out there who love the loot fests, but I’ve got Torchlight 2 on the horizon, so I ain’t got time to bleed (for this. The blood is my money. That’s what I’m going for here).
SHADOWS OF THE DAMNED (PS3, 360)
Alex had some kind words about this in his last horror column. Take a gander, see if sounds tasty. A horror shooter brought to you from the guys that made No More Heroes and Resident Evil? So, clunky-ass controls and eye-rollingly childish humor? Wait – am I writing about Duke again? No, of course not. This actually looks kinda funny and interesting.
Movie Tie-In of the Week - Cars 2! Goddammit. I’ve actually heard good things about the first one. But they always sounded like “good” in relative terms – like, “I had to buy Cars instead of Burnout because of the little ones and it is not the worst thing I’ve ever played and I’m certainly not bitter!”
ROCK BAND DLC:
Available on XBOX 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 system June 21:
Maroon 5 – Misery
Maroon 5 – This Love*
Maroon 5 – Won’t Go Home Without You
Puddle of Mudd – Blurry
Puddle of Mudd – Control
Puddle of Mudd – She Hates Me*
Fuck you, Rock Band.
* means you can buy Pro Guitar and Pro Bass modes.
So now it ends. I gotta’ go see about a girl, so…later.