Multiple films in the Sean Bean SHARPE’S CYCLE hit Blu this day. Thrill to a Sean Bean that ACTUALLY LIVES THROUGH A NUMBER OF FILMS! It’s like a dream we all had once.
A dream that can never be. Sean Bean…I hope you find peace, my friend.
I could probably write for a day about how hilarious the LOGO for Asphyx distributor REDEMPTION is. They try so hard to be to film what Cleopatra Records is to music – but often what winds up on the release slate doesn’t really belong to the cheesy Goth/Vampire Freaks crowd. The Asphyx is no different. I can’t imagine anyone with a Black #1 dyejob, a Two Witches T-shirt, and a milky white contact lens would want to bother with a deliberately-paced Hammer-style creeper about a photographer obsessed with snapping a picture of a person at the moment of death in order to record the spectral entity sent to kill them them. Not when Master Daniel Davey’s cooking up some boil-in-a-bag blasphemy.
This is a foggy, moody little tingler that plays it pretty smart. Definitely worth a look.
Uni’s 100th yields Abbott & Costello’s 1st. I’d like to think that’s enough said.
HIGH ROAD TO CHINA
From the director of the immortal Kelly’s Heroes comes this sorta’ too dry Indiana Jones also-ran. It’s not a horrible movie by any stretch. It’s a handsome film with a lovely John Barry score, and Selleck displays his stalwart charm. He’s like a two-fisted Jimmy Stewart that way. Earnest, honest – and he might pistol whip you if the need arises. There are misguided things going on – like Brian Blessed as warlord Sulemon KHAN…but hey – any Brian Blessed is good Brian Blessed, right?
The film has engendered a cult following over the years, but screw this – I want LASSITER.
‘Cause Jane Seymour > Bess Armstrong.
LATE SPRING (CRITERION)
Ozu’s quiet meditation on the bonds of family, the pressures of society, and the fear of loss – and perhaps the American occupation of postwar Japan – is, like a great many of his films – a gentle, moving thing. A father prepares to let go of his daughter in the hopes that she may find her own life – but her unwillingness to leave his side speaks to fear of loss and the future. Late Spring is filled with profound sadness and tiny joys – and perhaps they balance at the end?
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL
As if I need to say a word about this flick? You already know it. You already love it. I might mention that Best Buy has an exclusive disc that has extra features, so even though we benefit from Amazon purchases, I’m your buddy, and I’m looking out for you. That’s how I do.
Also – there are odd Easter eggs to (Ethan) hunt for, so get on it.
Available for the longest time only on VHS and laserdisc (which I finally get to retire), the film just now hits Blu Ray and DVD. I’ll have a review up shortly. The short version is – It’s great.
Sweet Sassy Fassy reteams with his Hunger director Steve McQueen for a look into the life of an urbane sex addict and his apple-headed sister. When you’re a sex addict and you look like my Fassy, do you really have a problem? I DIDN’T THINK SO.
Arctic Mission: The Great Adventure
Baseball’s Greatest Games: 2011 World Series Game 6
Born to Be Wild (IMAX 3D)
The Civil War: 150th Anniversary
High Road to China
In Too Deep
Late Spring (Criterion)
The Legend of Legendary Heroes: Part 1
The Legend of Legendary Heroes: Part 2
Mayday! Seasons 3 & 4
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Murdoch Mysteries: Season 1
Route 66: Marathon Tour Chicago to LA
The Secret Life of Birds
Sharpe’s Battle & Swords
Sharpe’s Company & Enemy
Sharpe’s Honor & Gold
Sharpe’s Justice & Waterloo
Sharpe’s Mission & Revenge
Sharpe’s Regiment & Siege
Sharpe’s Rifles & Eagle
Treme: The Complete Second Season
Up From Slavery
The World’s Greatest Railroads
WWII: The Atlantic Campaign
WWII: The Pacific Campaign
SPIRITUALIZED – SWEET HEART SWEET LIGHT
While the artistic impulse doesn’t necessarily read the headlines, I somehow doubt it’s coincidence that in a time of global uncertainty (to say the least), several of this week’s releases are linked by questions of “survival,” whether versus the ravages of time, excess, war, or all three.
Jason Pierce’s quest to make a life that is enhanced, not circumscribed, by sex n drugs n rock n roll… nor slowed by such inconveniences as double pneumonia… has resulted in a checkered album catalog (including 2006’s Guitar Loops, collaborations with everyone from BRMC to Yoko Ono, his days as Spacemen 3, and the possibly classic Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space), but he’s rarely been as nakedly on-the-nose as on the latest from Spiritualized: his catalog of saviors includes Lou Reed and Edgar Froese, right up there alongside Christ, who gets name-checked more than once: “Help me Lord / Help me Jesus / Cause I’m lonely and tired” isn’t particularly remarkable, but asking JC to “Be my bullet and gun / To shoot all the sinners down” seems a bit harsh, though a man who’s lived a fair amount of his adult life literally at the edge of death can, I suppose, be forgiven for getting impatient with the rest of us.
And while that sort of thinking would seem at odds with the usual languor of a Spiritualized album (up to this point, Songs in A&E‘s “I Gotta Fire” is almost the only really “fast” Spiritualized song I can recall), Sweet Heart Sweet Light follows the “Intro” of “Huh?” with an unusual sense of urgency in “Hey Jane,” a churning Velvets nod (“Ain’t got time to change your ways / Ain’t got time to make no mistakes“). Dr. John and a female chorus liven up the drone of “I Am What I Am,” while “Heading For the Top” is all Madchester fuzz against a pounding piano backbeat. It may or may not signify a form of renewal that Spritutalized seems to have settled into a more or less regular roster, including Tony Foster, Kevin Bales, and John Coxon, to go along with Pierce’s recovering health, and its musical highlights reward relistening.
Unfortunately, save the eight-minute closing track, “So Long You Pretty Thing”–which is notable mostly for Pierce’s vocal duet with his 11-year-old daughter and its dead-on Oasis impersonation– little else of what Sweet Heart, Sweet Light has to offer musically transcends the obvious, leaving Pierce’s ruminations feeling as bland as they are sincere: a line like “And I won’t get to Heaven / I won’t be coming home / I will not see my mother again / Cause I’m lost and I’m gone” should be more of a gutpunch than the sing-songy melody and sludgy backing track permits. I give Pierce credit for good programming, though: the strongest tracks are sufficiently well spaced out that a few more listens may start to bring the weaker ones into focus.
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – OLDER THAN MY OLD MAN NOW
I suspect that most artists, getting to the 65-year-old Wainwright’s stage in life, would trade heavily on the irony of finally getting something approaching his due (Grammy, critically-lauded box set retrospective, even a modest commercial hit with the soundtrack to Knocked Up) just as he reaches the point where… well, as he says, he’s lived past the age when his own father died, and he’s looking back at his screwed-up heritage, and towards the equally messy one he bequeathed to his family. But Wainwright’s one of the few singer-songwriters of his generation that manages to blend scabrous honesty and humor without needing the distance of irony as refuge. And if he’s been painfully honest in the past about his fuckups as husband and father, he’s more matter-of-fact this time out, with a form of rapprochement signaled by the participation of several people who have previously written songs about hating his guts, including son Rufus, daughter Martha, and Anna McGarrigle, whose late sister Kate (Rufus and Martha’s mother) co-wrote this album’s “Over The Hill,” and was one of the ex-wives that Loudon notoriously made miserable.
“I took a wife / Had some kids / Screwed that up / And went on the skids.” That statement of purpose in the opener, “The Here And Now,” highlights a wry bit of autobiography, taking Wainwright from troubled youth to bemused senior citizen, against a light funk backing, nicely accented by jazz guitarist John Scofield, with backing vocals from Clan Wainwright. The push and pull between resignation and desperation about reaching the end of all things is the touchstone of much of the album, including “Somebody Else” (“Somebody else I knew just died / I can’t say I cried / When I heard the sad news about him / I thought ‘Well, he’s off the hook‘”), “Double Lifetime” (a Dylan-like “talking blues” where Wainwright and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot wish for a life long enough to redeem past mistakes (“If I eat enough yogurt / Maybe I might / and the second time around / I might get it right“), and the funny litany of tongue-twisting miracle drugs in “My Meds,” set to a breezy honky-tonk piano accompaniment.
But as dryly witty as Wainwright can be, he’s too honest not to feel as deeply as any loving father looking back on a lifetime of mistakes and misunderstandings, on tracks like “All In A Family” and “In C.” There are even places where Wainwright finds his gifts as a songwriter inadequate to what he wants to express, as on the spoken introduction to “The Days That We Die”: ”My children are all grown now, deep into the complications of their adult lives … I’ve gotten used to the fact that they have their own versions of how things were.” That this is followed up by the bleakly honest resignation of Loudon and Rufus’ voices joined in acceptance of the inevitability of missed opportunities, is a slice of quiet heartbreak. The album’s final song, “Something’s Out to Get Me” is a cold salutation to the “hellhound baying for my soul.” Lest the bleak strings and mournful sax leave you feeling too sentimental, though, Wainwright gets in one final dig at us all: “But if there’s one small comfort / One thing I know is true / That Something out to get me / Is out to get you, too” followed by Wainwright scatting merrily over a jaunty, jazzy coda.
Unfortunately, there is one real misstep: the disappointing “I Remember Sex”–actually a fairly amusing bit of silliness (”I remember sex / I started on my own / When you and I stopped having it / I tried it on the phone”) that Wainwright sets as a call-and-response with Barry (“Dame Edna”) Humphries (an in-joke for Ally McBeal fans), which has the effect of turning it into a lame imitation of a Python sketch, not least because Dame Edna barely works as a visual joke, and Humphries’ falsetto voice, on its own, bears almost no resemblance to a woman’s (not that there’s anything wrong with spurious gay subtext, but it is a distraction in the context of the rest of the album). It’s certainly not a deal-breaker on an album that gets so much exactly right, but I’ve already deleted that particular .mp3 from my player, while I expect the rest of the album to stay there for quite some time.
SIDI TOURE – KOIMA
For the past few decades, the merger of African tradition with decadent Western pop music has produced some exhilarating listening, even as it continues to raise troubling questions about its links to Western imperialism and its lingering effects on what used to be known as the “dark continent.” The fact that much of it comes from Mali (including last week’s Folila from Amadou and Mariam) at a time when that country is entering what appears to be the death throes of its tenuous attempt at ethnic co-existence (if not the country itself) lends an inescapable poignancy to the album’s quiet musical eloquence.
Sidi Touré, in fact, hails from the heart of the country’s current troubles, the ancient city of Gao, recently claimed by Tuareg rebels as the capital of their newly-created independent state; and Koïma can be heard as a last look at the beauty of his centuries-old homeland, and the simple values of life, love, and family, that are fast disappearing.
This isn’t the raucous Strat-fueled “desert blues”; mostly, it’s just Touré, his solo guitar, occasional female backing vocal, and such traditional instruments as the violin-like soukou and the small drum known as the calabash. The sounds range from the fluid interlocking of voices on “Woy tiladio (Beautiful Woman, Godess of Water)” to the percussive string attack on “A Chacun Sa Chance (To Each His Own Luck)”, to the bluesy note-bending and plaintive cries of “Tondi Karaa (The White Stone)”. “Euzo” is an elegant solo valedictory that closes the album on a note of hope to defy the reality of current events. And while I won’t pretend to really understand the language of Touré’s actual singing, knowing that his topics include such sentiments as “They No Longer Hope” (“Ishi Tanmaha”) and “I Must Go” (“Kalaa Ay Makoïy”) underscores the music’s heartbreak.
OTHER NOTABLE 4/17 RELEASES:
Dave Alvin, Eleven Eleven (Expanded Edition)
Chris Botti – Impressions
Billy Bragg and Wilco – Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions
Cowboy Junkies – Nomad Series Box Set
DragonForce – The Power Within
Eric Hutchinson – Moving Up Living Down
Grinderman – Grinderman 2 RMX
Horse Feathers, Cynic’s New Year
Jack Johnson & Friends – Best of Kokua Festival
Janis Joplin – The Pearl Sessions (2 CD)
Peter Karp & Sue Foley – Beyond the Crossroads
Jason Mraz – Love Is a Four Letter Word
JD McPherson – Signs & Signifiers
Neon Trees – Picture Show
Our Lady Peace – Curve
Phantom Blues Band – Inside Out
Thousand Foot Krutch – The End Is Where We Begin
Train – California 37
Dar Williams – In the Time of Gods
THE WITCHER 2: ASSASSIN OF KINGS – ENHANCED EDITION (360)
All of us with PCs that can barely play Torchlight can finally try out The Witcher 2. I suspect this is a good thing. I’ve heard nothing but raves on the game, and it’s been a while since a good CRPG (somehow I still feel the game should be classified as a Computer RPG even with its console version. Just makes sense) was available to the masses. I’ve seen the game running on a high end rig and I doubt the 360 can replicate that, but the reflex-heavy combat and magic systems seem like they were made to be played with a controller. CD Projekt could jank the hell out of the game to fit the disc, but with the constant delays and tweaks the team has made I’m confident they’ve found a way to make it work. Plus, you are indirectly putting money into Good Old Games, which deserves all our money. So, why not play what was (apparently) last year’s best PC game from the comfort of your couch? With Xenoblade out and Risen 2 on the horizon, now is a great time to waste your free time.
Another slow release week, but quality makes up for quantity this week. It doesn’t hurt that all these week’s releases are serious time sinks.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention hits the Vita today. The SRPG series has always been better on the portable systems, and the Vita seems like a perfect fit. This is the game that actually made me cave in to buy a Vita, even though I have and enjoyed the PS3 version immensely – because leveling dudes to 1000 whilst watching Supernatural is why video games exist. Plus, NIS is throwing in all their DLC – which seems to have been priced for the PS3 by people who have never made a real financial transaction in their lives. Finally, Trials Evolution hits XBLA. I haven’t played it, but fuck this game. I don’t think I’ve been more frustrated in my life than with the later levels in the first Trials.
Honestly, it’s a fantastic game that I just don’t have the patience for. But if you have 1200 space bucks lying around – and 120 real bucks for the controllers that you WILL break – it’s not a bad deal. Like all of this week’s releases, it’s a good money-to-time investment. You can spend hours trying to land on one pixel in one race.
That’s it. You win!