It’s the dawn of a new era at your Special Ed. But not really. Just time for fun new logos.
I should probably mention that the font forced me to put my name over the column’s title. We all know Special Ed isn’t mine alone. Jeb and Tony are here as always, making me embarrassed with how awesome they are. Seriously, I look at my contribution to this thing sometimes and think, “Yep, they straight runnin’ this piece, son.”
I don’t really think it like that, actually – I think in Russian.
Anyway, not a whole lot this week. Catherine Deneuve sells dat ass (and spanks some) in Belle De Jour, Robin Williams attacks us twice over, and there’s some weird catalog shit. Dutch? Bad Girls? Who was asking for those?
The Taylor Lautner vehicle Abduction sees release today. To my mind, this was a pretty solid idea; try to sell this Twilight kid outside his cat-lady/cat lady-in-waiting demo by putting him in an action flick, surrounding him with talent (Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, and Alfred Fucking Molina are in this, as well as the master of cinematic suicide, Michael Nyqvist), and making the concept the star (and it’s not a bad one, really – “Baby Bourne” is certainly a better idea than The Bourne Legacy – at least there’s no baggage). Hell, the last time Hollywood worked the “son of spies” angle, we got NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE.
It would seem the problem here was Taylor Lautner himself.
Apparently, the poor guy decided he was doing too much of that whole “acting” thing in the Twilight films, so he needed to tone that shit down – which meant that, at any given moment, Lautner was in danger of being out-acted by trees (who were, admittedly, quite menacing in The Happening).
I don’t mind him, honestly. As I’ve said before – I like that Hollywood wants to position a kid who doesn’t look like a twelve-year-old white girl as a viable lead. But…little buddy…you gotta’ learn to act.
Still, a move like this is all about economics. $35 mil to get you $85 worldwide doesn’t seem so bad – especially for a film the studio seemed to have abandoned. As much as I appreciate a lot of Summit’s output – they sure do ditch a lot of films *coughDriveAngrycough*…
I mean, you guys chose to release a TAYLOR LAUTNER film against an action flick with double the budget and the combined might of Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro – smart move, people! What did you think was gonna’ happen to Teen Wolf?
I’m sure they didn’t expect him to do what he did – which was outgross Killer Elite by about $30 million worldwide. And yeah – box office is about meaningless when weighed against public perception – but we all know that, in this business called show (is it really called “show” though? Who calls it that?), box office helps shape public perception, and when you’ve got a shit movie on your hands…money is pretty much the only comfort there is.
Still – I kinda’ wish Sexdrive or The Brothers Bloom made this kind of cake.
THE IDES OF MARCH
The Ides of March are upon us, as well. This flick is totally in my wheelhouse. I expect to catch up with it soon.
LICENSE TO DRIVE
License to Drive is on Blu Ray? License to Drive is on Blu Ray. Obviously, Anchor Bay is hoping to cash in in the Gosling flick…
Traffic comes to Criterion Blu. Can’t say I’m fan of the film. Chock full of sketchy racism and pat resolutions befitting an episode of Full House, it’s the rare Soderbergh effort that just never worked for me. And yet I own it. Weirdo.
Age of Heroes
America in Primetime
Belle De Jour
The Boys in Company C
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
Cage the Elephant: Live from the Old Vic Chicago
The Coast Guard
The Color Purple
Dead Poets Society
Division III: Football’s Finest
Drive Me Crazy
Gantz II: The Perfect Answer
George Gently: Series 1
Good Morning, Vietnam
The Ides of March
The Josephine Baker Story
Journey to the Center of the Earth
License to Drive
Mysteries of Lisbon
Star Driver: Part 2
Sunrise Earth: Alaska
Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless
The Ten Commandments Collection
The Tuskegee Airmen
GUIDED BY VOICES – LET’S GO EAT THE FACTORY
My disappointment at missing Guided By Voices’ tour last year was somewhat tempered by the fact that I’m generally not that big on “reunion and/or farewell” type tours. While it’s always fun to hear some old favorites, bands tend to be at their best when they’re excited about putting over fresh, new material. Which means that I’m now especially depressed at having missed them, as GbV has just released an album that’s fresher and more enticing than I’d have dared to hope for after all these years.
Let’s Go Eat The Factory is the first album from Pollard and company since 2004’s Half Smiles of the Decomposed, and features maybe the “core” band lineup: Pollard and brother Jim, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, and Kevin Fennell. Opener “Laundry and Lasers” sets things up pretty well: the lo-fi aesthetic’s in place, and most of the material will edge toward GbV’s more accessible side. Which might not be what truly hardcore fans want to hear, but anyone who’s not simply bent on keeping these guys for themselves should be pleased that this album will be a slyly effective way to hook the previously unconverted. “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” chosen as the first single, could easily grab the ears of recent Black Keys converts with its thick production, hammering percussion, and sneaky harmonies. “Hang Mr. Kite” is possibly the funniest Oasis parody you’ve ever heard (save for Beady Eye), while Sprout offers some of his finest pop outings on “God Loves Us” and “Waves.” “Imperial Racehorsing” suggests that these guys could have easily followed R.E.M. onto the charts if that had been Pollard’s intention, and the concluding, doom-laden “We Won’t Apologize for the Human Race” brings the oft-hidden smarts to the surface (Pollard describes it as “Peter Gabriel singing ‘I Am The Walrus'”, and I couldn’t possibly top that).
Like most GbV albums, though, it’s less about individual tracks than about the cumulative effect of the dizzying succession of musical and lyrical ideas, and fragments of ideas, that make up the whole. And maybe the best news? There’s supposedly at least one more 2012 release already in the can.
HOWLER – AMERICA GIVE UP
I guess it’s confirmation that it really is a different century when a young “garage band” (average age 19) dedicates themselves to sloppy, high-energy attempts to emulate The Strokes or The Vines rather than, say, the Velvet Underground. And it’s probably a sign of the degree to which the “simplicity” of the notion is played-out that Howler hits a lot closer to the mark than, say, the Shadows of Knight or Mouse and the Traps ever did.
America Give Up re-records and re-purposes some of the material from the band’s debut EP, and the results are generally stronger. The opener, “Beach Sluts,” strikes the expected notes of brash sound and snotty attitude, all summer handclaps and chiming guitars, while shoving the non-PC sentiments in your face. “Back to the Grave” follows with near-perfect Casablanca guitar drone and “oooo-oooo” vocal harmonies, while “Back of Your Neck” bounces along on choppy, quavering hooks. “America” may be a little light as commentary (though no more so than, say, “Havana Affair”), but if feels like a snarky shot across the bow of everyone who’s ever ripped off Springsteen, and features a delightfully unexpected Dick Dale-style guitar break, which they smartly don’t overwork.
At times, though, these genuine teenagers feel more like the kind of manufactured teens you find on TV sitcoms, with the calculation of songs like “Wailing (Making Out).” And the fact that “I wish that there was something I could do / Because I hate myself more than I hate you” is a legitimate 19-year-old sentiment doesn’t change the suspicion that it’s as much a slogan as anything approaching a genuine expression of feeling. America Give Up is a catchy, well-crafted piece of punk-pop… if perhaps a bit too “crafted” for its own good at times.
KATHLEEN EDWARDS – VOYAGEUR
I’m tempted to call this the Bon Iver album that didn’t put me to sleep, but that’s not fair to either party: co-producer Justin Vernon doesn’t attempt to dominate the proceedings, while Edwards’ always-impressive songwriting feels liberated, not stifled, by the collaboration.
And speaking of collaborations, I’m not familiar with The Long Winters, but their songwriter John Roderick teams up with Edwards here for a couple of the album’s strongest moments, including the aching “A Soft Place to Land.” The lush production leaves room for darkness to emerge on “House Full of Empty Rooms” and “Change the Sheets,” but Vernon also brings out some sly fun that I haven’t noticed on previous Edwards releases, in the deadpan guitar freakout in”Going to Hell” or the smoothly-rocking opener “Empty Threat” (“I’m moving to America / moving to America / moving to America / Oh, it’s just an empty threat“). Up to this point, I don’t know that there’s been a comfortable marketing niche for Edwards: too folk for country, too pensive for pop. The hookup with Vernon may be just what she needs for a breakout.
CHICK COREA, EDDIE GOMEZ, AND PAUL MOTIAN – FURTHER EXPLORATIONS
While neo-traditionalists like Wynton Marsalis are scrupulous in their careful genuflection to the jazz giants who inspired them, Corea’s generally preferred to subsume his debts to the past into forward-looking new music. Which is why this new album comes as a delightfully surprising change of pace. In 2010, Corea recruited two of Bill Evans’ longtime sidemen for a live tribute to one of jazz’ piano giants, marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Evans’ original Explorations LP (which featured the now-departed Motian and bassist Scott LaFaro), and the result is just as fresh and exciting in its own way as Corea’s wildly passionate improvisational performances on last year’s Orvieto.
Rather than simply reproducing one of Evans’ most important releases, the trio crafted what almost amounts to a jazz concerto outlining the breadth of Evans’ career. “Peri’s Scope” (originally a cornerstone of Evans’ landmark Portrait in Jazz LP) is the loose, brisk opener, nothing “laid-back” in its interpretation of “West Coast Jazz,” with all three players taking a quick warmup spin. And while an album dedicated to Evans is naturally going to emphasize the piano, virtually every track could serve as a showpiece for bass and traps interplay (like Hank Jones, Motian was an octogenarian who seemed to have lost not a step even near the end of his life).
The quick succession of “Gloria’s Spin” and “They Say That Falling In Love is Wonderful” (from Annie Get Your Gun) builds from wistful opening bars to passionate crescendo, making it clear that, as Corea has put it, this concert was not simply a tribute, but an examination of the template for piano jazz that Evans bequeathed to his disciples, maybe best demonstrated on Thelonius Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie,” as the musical muscle of Monk, Evans, and Corea coalesce in a fleeting bit of traintime. Given the richness of invention here, it’s hard to think of anything constituting a “bonus,” but Corea and company do present “Song No.1,” a previously-unreleased Evans composition, all lush arpeggios and misty percussion. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite track, but the segue from the haunting “Laurie” to Corea’s own compostion, “Bill Evans,” is the kind of moment that has you hitting “repeat” a few times before moving on.
OTHER NOTABLE 1/17 RELEASES
Ani DiFranco – Which Side Are You On? Her hardcore fans had conniptions when she had the nerve marry a male (twice now, actually), but they should have reserved at least some of their ire for her decision to make a grab at the Starbucks crowd with coffeehouse production and a clatch of guest stars (including some Nevilles, Pete Seeger, and a children’s choir known as The Rivertown Kids) diffusing and smoothing out (not to say smothering) her idiosyncratic guitar and typically urgent vocals. Some good songwriting, but I’m on the side of her not trying this again.
Frank Sinatra – The Concert Sinatra Reissue of the album with the title that vies with James Brown At The Garden for most misleading of all time. In fact, it’s a remastered studio recording (with two bonus tracks) of a set of songs (mostly by Rodgers and Hammerstein) that were being featured in Sinatra’s live set, back before it ossified into the same dozen or so standards that he coasted on through much of the 50’s and 60’s. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” you certainly don’t need to hear again, but “Ol’ Man River” is a lot more tolerable in the studio setting, stripped of the “humor” that the song could bring out in a live setting. Gorgeous Nelson Riddle arrangements, and the definitive performance of Carousel‘s “Soliloquy.”
Bombay Bicycle Club – Different Kind of Fix More lush pop perfection; Steadman & MacColl demonstrate an amazing assurance, only three (official) albums in. Wish I’d had more time with it before deadline, but I won’t be surprised if this stays on my player for many months.
Anthony Green – Beautiful Things I don’t know much about Circa Survive, but I don’t recall songwriting as sharp as “Can’t Have It All At Once” or melodies as sticky as “Love You No Matter What” or “Just To Feel Alive.” The ragged freedom of “Do It Right” or “Big Mistake,” though, rings a bell.
The Big Pink – Future This Toto has certainly inspired worse music than this, I’ll give you that.
The Life & Times – No One Loves You Like I Do Yeah, the cutesiness is a bit overwhelming (imagine: each song is named “Day One,” “Day Twelve,” etc… but they’re actually NOT in order, and there’s twelve days, but only ten tracks!), but the playing is strong, solid prog with the occasional implementation of actual backbeats, which, in this context, counts as innovation.
Steve Aoki – Wonderland Another one I’ve only had time for a single spin through, but it’s bouncy, cheerful, and cheeky, with a crazy quilt of guest stars, including Kid Cudi, Rivers Cuomo, and what is described as “…former members of The Exploited and Die Kreuzen.”
Buck Satan & the 666 Shooters – Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free Sorry, Ministry fans, but I actually find Jourgensen more interesting (and certainly more entertaining) as a tongue-in-cheek good ol’ boy. Yes, he has no clue what to do with “Friend of the Devil” or “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man,” but for every missed opportunity, he nails it (so to speak) with a “Cheap Wine, Cheap Ramen” or “I Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except Mine.”
GRAN TURISMO XL EDITION (PS3)
GT5 was a beautiful game with some serious issues, some of which were fixed in a couple of large patches a year after its release. Now it’s a beautiful game with less serious issues. GT5 XL Edition is a budget release featuring all of the updates on disc, along with a few DLC vouchers. The updates include interior views for all cars, and the option to save during endurance races. GT5 had 24+ hour endurance races with NO OPTION TO SAVE. Polyphony is apeshit, folks. Honestly, it’s a surprise they gave us this patch. They didn’t fix the most glaring problem (using screen shots from a Japanese Geocities site instead of an actual UI), but this is a huge step for them. And it’s still a great driving experience, even if it’s somewhat lacking as a racing game. The game has gotten vastly better over the year and if you haven’t checked it out, now is definitely the time.
Nothing. But fear not, we’ve got another week of this and then a large onslaught of releases that continue almost straight until summer. It’s going to be brutal and expensive. But mostly awesome. Within weeks we get Final Fantasy, Twisted Metal, The Darkness II, Devil Survivor, and a whole fuck-ton of XBLA and PSN goodies. Enjoy the free time while you can. Tackle a backlog title or two. Personally, I’m going to finally beat Xenosaga 3. Because I found it under my dresser and I hate free time.
So now it ends. See you next week for Special Ed 2: The New Batch.