Once again, Jeb and Tony bring up the rear when there’s really not a lot for me to report. Here’s the basics:
These awful “two films on one Blu Ray” packages used to be Best Buy Exclusives. I think it’s disgusting that Spies Like Us and The Last Boy Scout (and yes, I have a soft spot for Kelly’s Heroes) were dumped in this way, but at least they’ll be cheaper than when Best Buy controlled them.
Funny Farm/Spies Like Us
Kelly’s Heroes/Where Eagles Dare
The Last Boy Scout/Last Man Standing
Pratical Magic/Witches of Eastwick
The BLU RAY OF THE WEEK would have to be a stunning three-way-tie between BLUE VELVET and the Criterion release of FANNY AND ALEXANDER – two of their respective filmmakers’ best films, and in the case of Blue Velvet, the director’s one truly classic film.
Velvet contains all the “Lynchian” quirk we’ve come to know and love – and some of his finest instincts are at work (or play) here. But the film also features a propulsive narrative that makes actual sense – a rarity in a lot of Lynch’s work.
Let’s be honest – no matter how much you might respect Lynch’s work, as the storylines get more muddled/experimental, sometimes Naomi Watts is the only thing that can pull you through, you know?
The third film in that aforementioned three-way-dance? Glad you asked.
People love the Basket Case, but this is probably Frank Henenlotter’s finest hour. Goofy and gory in an almost “Sam Raimi” way – and a beneficiary of the effects industry boom of the day – this is a must-see/must own. The only thing missing from this package is a button to press on the so the box will chirp “WANNA’ DATE?!”
ALL IN – THIS WEEK’S BLU:
2006 ESPN Rose Bowl Game: National Championship
2010 Citi BCS National Championship
Absence of Malice
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D
Atlas Shrugged: Part One – Kirk Cameron movies make more money than this flick did. [murderface]Think about it[/murderface].
Band of Brothers/The Pacific
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Bears of the World
A Better Tomorrow – I’m told this Woo-produced remake of the film that put the filmmaker on the map is very mediocre. Ah well, Ah John – at least you’re not remaking The Killer. Oh…wait.
The Cannonball Run – Norm McDonald’s finest hour.
Christmas Lights 2: Bigger Dazzling Displays
Clannad: The Complete Collection
Darker Than Black: Complete Season 2
Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2011
Destroy All Monsters – sure it’s fun…but a Criterion GODZILLA is on the way.
Doctor Who: Series Six, Part Two
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Dragon Ball Z: Level 1.1
Fanny and Alexander
The Final Destination – yeah…well – the next film gets it right. Promise.
The Fisher King
Funny Farm/Spies Like Us
Gia – back when I worked in a video store, a customer said to me – in complete seriousness – you know who I wish would get naked in movies? Angelina Jolie. I went and grabbed him a whole pile of flicks – with this one on top. “Are you kidding, man?!” I asked. “Angelina Jolie can’t keep her clothes ON in movies. She wanted Tigress to get nake in Kung-Fu Panda!”
In A Glass Cage
Kelly’s Heroes/Where Eagles Dare – I heard a sample of the Mike Curb Congregation’s theme to Kelly’s Heroes used in some ad the other day. I could name that tune in three notes. How? I watched Kelly’s Heroes DAILY as a child, totally glomming on to Donald Sutherland’s anachronistic WWII hippie. It’s a fun, if irredeemably silly, flick.
Last Boy Scout/Last Man Standing – Friday Night’s a Great Night for Football. Just ask Shelly Marcone and Furry Tom. I love this movie so much. How much:
Life in a Day
Masterpiece Contemporary: Page Eight
Meet the Robinsons
Mortal Kombat: Legacy – a potentially interesting Koncept suffers from Krappy execution.
Mutiny on the Bounty
Peanuts: Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown – and the Peanuts are a wet one.
Picture Perfect HD Caribbean – It’s not picture perfect if it doesn’t have Johnny Depp in it, right ladiesssss?!!!
Picture Perfect HD Hawaii
Polar Wilderness: Life at the End of the Earth – It’s not Polar Wilderness if it doesn’t have Johnny Depp in it, right ladiesssss?!!
Pratical Magic/Witches of Eastwick
Primates of the World
The River Why
Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase
To Die For
UFC: Ultimate Knockouts 9
Weird Al Yankovic: Alpocalypse HD
Wild Planet: Animal Adaptation
NOW THAT’S WHAT CHUD CALLS MUSIC – WITH JEB DELIA!
The L.A. Times called this “Lynch’s most unexpected venture to date,” but I dunno…given the importance he places on musical scoring in his films and TV work, it’s not particularly surprising that David Lynch would release a CD. The surprise, to me anyway, is that it’s ONLY a CD, and not some kind of grand multi-media extravaganza. Personally, I’m happy: I still feel as though I can’t fully appreciate the recent Bjork release without owning an iPad, and I’d have hated to feel I was missing out on something here because I couldn’t visit some exhibit of Lynch’s photography, or similar enterprise, in conjunction with this.
If your immediate musical association with Lynch is dark, reverbed guitar, eerie ambient effects, and moody, ethereal vocals… well, the opener, “Pinky’s Dream,” with vocals by Karen O, has you covered. There’s T-Bone Burnett style junkbox percussion with overlays of echoing slide, and Karen’s querulous demand, “Are you laughing / Or are you crying?” “Good Day Today” was the advance single released a while back, with treated Lynch vocals over a peppy synth rhythm track, and its repetition of “So tired of fire / So tired of smoke” is just the first of several optional connections back to previous Lynch efforts; in this case, Twin Peaks, with the fire motif in its “Shelley-bound-and-gagged-in-the-burning-mill” first season cliffhanger, and the film sequel, Fire Walk With Me (“optional,” of course, because Lynch is, if anything, a master of the oblique). Actually, Grace’s line to Shelley from that Twin Peaks scene (“You have a thing in your mouth!”) gets a bizarrely literal callback in the twisted Neil Young-ish “Football Game,” where the press release informs us that Lynch cut the vocals with underpants stuffed in his mouth. “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” is probably the most Lynchian thing here: against an insistent acoustic-blues throb, Lynch’s heavily treated voice rants on for eight minutes, an epistemology that eventually locates the world’s secrets in a discourse on dental health.
Really, the only drawback to Crazy Clown Time is that its musical and lyrical weirdness is so specifically of a piece with what you’d expect from a David Lynch album; it’s mildly disappointing that he didn’t pull some kind of bizarre changeup on us (say, a collection of Cowsills covers). But for an aural experience that replicates the dissociation and perverse humor of a David Lynch film project, it gets the job done.
Back in my music biz days, my association with Rush was sort of schizoid. I was never particularly a fan of their music (though, of course, impressed by their virtuosity), but I met them once, and they seemed such nice blokes that every new Rush release was an exercise in frustration: no matter how much advance work we did, a new Rush album would skyrocket on day of release, move truckloads of product for a week… then drop like a stone. No matter how we pushed for airplay (never mind the fantasy of a hit single), they seemed fated to always be the world’s biggest-selling cult band (a “cult” band being defined by the clear demarcation between the complete fantacism of their fanbase, and the utter indifference of everyone else). And given that double-live-albums are often designed to double as “greatest hits”-type introductions for the benighted, I’ll be interested to see if Live in Cleveland can expand the band’s reach.
Certainly, for fans, it’s self-recommending. Though this is far from their first live album (press release says it’s their ninth— can that be true?), it is evidently the first complete-concert album they’ve recorded in the States. In Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, to be exact, as a tip of the hat to one of the few American media markets left that has room for music made with loud electric guitars. I know a couple of people who have seen shows there, and from their lukewarm evaluation of the acoustics, I was a bit surprised that Rush chose it as a venue for the recording. It certainly doesn’t sound bad, but it takes a while for the engineers to really capture the blend that the three combine to create at their best; on early tracks like “Spirit of the Radio” and “Stick It Out,” it feels a bit clinical and dry. But by the time they launch into the complete performance of Moving Pictures that is the centerpiece of the recording, the power-trio ensemble is overpowering, highlighting moments like Lee’s bass solo on “Leave That Thing Alone” ( and I understand that the DVD version includes some great visuals for tracks like “The Camera Eye”). I’ll never warm to Lee’s voice, but that’s more my problem than his.
I doubt any Rush fan will feel that there’s anything significant omitted here (well, “Distant Early Warning,” maybe), and performances of a couple of songs from their upcoming studio album are a nice bonus.
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
This one went instantly to #1 in England, but this side of the Atlantic has always been a different story for the Gallaghers. Like his idol, Paul Weller, Noel and his brother are mostly regarded here as typical British pop oddballs, better known in the States for being those drunken wankers always slagging each other off on the cover of some glossy import music mag; and American music fans who have an opinion about them at all generally insist that “Blur was better – Oasis sucked.” And while I won’t dispute the contention, it seems to miss the point: the Gallaghers made big, dumb, noisy guitar pop designed to fill stadiums and get lighters waving, something that Blur was never accused of. Oasis had two saving graces: Liam’s voice, a cracked marvel mashup of Lennon’s earnestness leavened with Jagger’s insouciant sneer; and Noel’s “guess-what -Beatles-album-I-was-just-listening-to” ear for a tune. Liam’s had his solo innings with the mostly fun but forgettable Beady Eye, now it’s big bro’s turn.
And, well… it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The sound of the album is old-slipper familiar to Oasis fans; Gallagher’s no longer simply lifting melodies from his 60’s heroes, he’s recycling himself: “Wonderwall” gets knocked about as both “If I Had a Gun” and “AKA… Broken Arrow,” while “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” is second-time around for “The Importance of Being Idle,” and “The Good Rebel” is built on the rhythm track of “A Bell Will Ring.” And to go with the familiar tunes, we have the standard generic anthems: “Hang in there love / You gotta hold on / Cause everybody’s on the run”; “Keep on chasin’ down that rainbow / You never know what you might find”; “Help me find a light that’s shinin’ on me.” And you really need a strong sense of self-importance to appropriate the phrase “kaleidoscope eyes” with a straight face.
Noel did enough of Oasis’ singing that his reedy vocals here don’t offer much of a sense of discovery. For those keeping score, there’s more keyboards and strings than guitar soloing this time; other than that, it’s pretty easy to imagine Wembley swaying to this stuff just as it did back in the 90’s.
KEITH JARRETT – RIO
On last year’s Jasmine, Jarrett collaborated with bassist Charlie Haden for an introspective collection of standards and originals that, in its subtlety and restraint, was an interesting change of pace for the normally exuberant (some would say overbearing) pianist. This week, he celebrates his 40th anniversary on the ECM label with more the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from him: a live recording of two hours of stunning jazz piano improvisation. Rio is a recording of the complete concert he gave last April in Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theater, and the story goes that Jarrett called ECM boss Manfred Eicher from the airport on his way home to tell him that they had just recorded something pretty special that needed to be released ASAP. And, self-congratulation aside, turns out he was right.
Don’t be misled by the album title: like Koln and Bremen/ Lausanne, Rio takes its name from the concert’s locale, not its musical tone, and the pianist hasn’t gone Bossa Nova on us. That isn’t to say that he’s not influenced by the venue: he describes his music here as “jazzy, serious, sweet, playful, warm, economical, energetic, passionate, and connected with the Brazilian culture in a unique way.” And while some of that may be Jarrett projecting, you can’t argue with the results of that inspiration.
There’s fifteen tracks on the album, all designated with Roman numerals rather than names; Jarrett’s preciousness continues to be one of the obstacles to appreciation of his amazing technique, but this is one of those cases where he simply smashes right past those reservations. The compositions range in length from two minutes to over seven, and the musical and emotional distance they cover is even greater: there are touches of the classical concert-hall that echo with Chopin or Satie, and deeply funky left-hand work out of the Monk pocket. The tracks on Disk One feel tighter and more structured; the concert’s flow is strong and logical, and onto Disk Two we find the music gradually opening up to admit the looseness of blues, the lyricism of folk, and the kinetic propulsion of dance music.
OTHER NOTABLE 11/8 RELEASES:
Soundtrack – Whatever That New Twilight Film Is Called. I’ve never seen one of these movies, but the soundtrack albums usually have their moments. This time out, they’re provided by The Belle Brigade, Iron & Wine, and Theophilus London.
Animals as Leaders – Weightless. Not the biggest prog-rock release of the week, but in its own way, every bit as muscular as Rush, and actually more vividly recorded. Still, you need to be a bigger fan of the busybusybusy than I am to find this more than technically impressive… though, god knows, it’s that in spades.
Savoy Brown – Voodoo Moon. This band was originally formed in 1965. Ponder that one for a moment: Kim Simmonds has been fronting some version of these boogie dudes since the heady days of Beatlemania. And this one sounds pretty much like all the ones from the previous century.
Etta James – The Dreamer. What’s with all the “farewell” albums lately? Didn’t all these geezers used to die with their boots on, falling off a stage or electrocuted by a mike or something? Anyway, James still has the pipes, but more than that, she’s still got vision: the title song owes as much to Stevie Nicks as it does to Big Mama Thornton, and her cover of “Welcome to the Jungle” almost makes a case for it as a composition. “Misty Blue” is late-night heartbreak, “Cigarettes and Coffee” is late-night lust, and if James really is “Too Tired” to go on, I blame my country’s shitty musical taste.
Dave Davies – The Album That Time Forgot. Maybe not as “important” a discovery as The Smile Sessions, but it does flow like an actual album, so there’s that. All of Davies’ solo singles, outtakes, and everything that was supposed to be his 1969 solo album debut. “Death of a Clown” would be recommendation enough to bend an ear, but you’ll love such treats as the alternate version of “Mr. Reporter.”
Mike Patton – Solitude of Prime Numbers. Soundtrack music? Sure. But really cool soundtrack music that belies its mathematical conceit with a sinuous wink back to Patton’s lush Mondo Cane from last year.
Randy Newman – Live in London. Stepping back from the Pixar well to revisit a time when he was capable of bile and full-on nasty: “Louisiana 1927″ and “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” remain untouchable, “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” is only half as ponderous as it sounds, and even “Short People” may not send you screaming from the room like it used to. It’s over-orchestrated, but he’s done the solo-piano bit often enough that I’ll give him leeway on that.
Meshell Ndegeocello – Weather. Joe Henry’s production, and the contributions of folks like Chris Connelly and Benji Hughes, ensures that this thing pops and grooves when necessary, and captures the late-night vibe when it slows down. As a songwriter, Ndegeocello can do introspective, but so does everyone else these days, so the compositions aren’t particularly distinguished, and her version of “Chelsea Hotel” goes on your list of Cohen covers to avoid at all costs. “Rapid Fire” and “Dirty World” bristle with energy, though.
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – In Case The World Changes Its Mind. Prog? Maybe. Rock? Eh, not really. Jazz? Close, but not quite. Anyway, more insane improvisational live virtuosity; recommended to anyone who loves Jarrett’s improvising but wants to hear more than one damn piano.
Secret Garden – Winter Poem. “Their songs have been successfully covered by Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban and II Divo.” Say no more.
Kind of a break this week from the flood of reissues and repackages, but I’ll mention that the massive recent Floyd set starts getting broken down into its component parts this week, with the individual issue of the uber-package of Dark Side of the Moon, along with a “Greatest Hits” set, A Foot In The Door, excerpted from the remastered complete set.
TONY’S PLAYIN’ GAMES!
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3 (PS3, 360, PC)
Here this thing is. You shoot people. It’s huge. It’ll make all the money. Personally though, I’m all FPSed out for the time being, and the Call of Duty franchise has never been able to crawl out of the “game for obsessive tools with murder fantasies” hole for me. I was with a friend at the midnight launch earlier and counted nine Monster Energy Drink hats. Nine! Out of maybe 25 people. That’s not the reason I don’t play Call of Duty, but it doesn’t help.
THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM (PS3, 360, PC)
I’m hoarding food right now. I’ve got stacks of notebooks ready. Plenty of fluids in the fridge. I’m ready. Three days away. Three days until nerds hibernate for winter. CoD will sell millions of copies, but Skyrim will destroy millions of social lives. #howtokilladragon will be the top trending hashtag on Twitter for weeks. Your local Best Buy will have one employee working this weekend. If you’re lucky. Don’t plan on ordering pizza. This is the Nerd Apocalypse.
THE METAL GEAR SOLID HD COLLECTION (PS3, 360)
I don’t really have much to say about this week’s two major releases. Lots and lots of people will buy at least one of them, know exactly what they are getting, and enjoy the fuck out of it. I do have something to say about the real gem this week. It isn’t some brand new, highly anticipated sequel. It’s three of them. One of which happens to be one of the best games ever made. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker are both amazing games, but neither of them compare to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. If you’ve never played the Metal Gear games you are missing some of the most batshit insane meta-wankery in any media. It’s got dead guys that live in other people’s arms, crazy AI that yells at the player to turn their system off, naked cartwheels, and lots of torture minigames. It’s a lot of fun and might actually make sense one day if I can find enough drugs.
But Snake Eater is a different beast. It embraces the insane and makes it plausible. And (in a precursor to the Guns of the Patriots themes) makes it beautiful. The game is a prequel, and although some basic knowledge of the series is assumed, it can be easily played on its own. Snake Eater is an emotional game. It has a lot more to say about player actions and their consequences than it lets on. The mechanics feed off of player response. If you spend the game shooting everyone in the balls, you’re going to have to suffer through twenty minutes of them cursing you for their unborn children. One of the best boss fights in the game (and possibly still the best boss fight in all of gaming) can be won by having the elderly antagonist die of old age on you. The narrative is still pure Metal Gear posturing, full of posing and monologues, but here it’s perfected. It’s almost more affecting of a game because of the quirkiness. There is a twist at the end that flips the whole series on its head. It’s also the perfect marriage of gameplay and narrative philosophies ever. Snake Eater, along with the Team Ico games, is one of the best examples of design integrated into story. It’s truly one of the greatest achievements of modern gaming.
And that is just one of three games in this package. Sons of Liberty is a G.I. Joe comic written by a thirteen year old Japanese kid on a sugar high. It’s a mind fuck that tries a little too hard to be a mind fuck, but it’s also honestly insane at parts. Peace Walker is still my favorite co-op PSP game. It’s a fun mix of cooperative stealth puzzles and boss fights. If you’re a fan you’ve already bought this, if you’ve never played the series; start right the fuck now. You’re missing something. I’m not quite sure I know exactly what that something is. I’m not sure anyone really does. And that might be what makes the series so great.
Actually, no. I’m looking at the list and the most exciting thing I could mention is Lego Harry Potter. And since I’ve been trying to avoid just listing the current weeks Wii and Kinect shovelware and only mention things I actually have something to say about, there is really nothing new for this section. But since I like keeping things consistent, I’ll use this space to point out an important release I missed a few weeks ago. Blackwater for 360. It’s a Kinect game that uses the license from a private military contractor that has committed so many crimes against humanity that it was forced to change its name to Xe. Only this game uses their original name. Brand recognition for guys with Tool tattoos.
Thanks, you guys – and I’m gonna’ go ahead and say that Tony’s so right about Snake Eater. The game is utterly fantastic, completely unique, and eerily haunting. I will confess that, by the end of the tale…as Harry Gregson-Williams aped Hans Zimmer’s Lone Tin Horn for the last time…and the game’s revelation gives way to denoument…I got misty. I bought it. I bought the drama. It wasn’t all AERITH DIED…but it got me.
Sure-sure, have fun with your Cash on Delivery: Modern Welfare – but one day you may feed on a tree frog. I’m still in a dream…FIN.