ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN
This goofy little flick is the film that crystallized for me the idea that the Universal Monsters are our friends. In a perfect world, this film would be present in the upcoming Classic Monsters boxed set, but since that is a relatively inexpensive collection of riches, I can’t exactly fault Uni for this move.
I can find fault with Uni for this move, though.
In theory, I like Peter Berg as a filmmaker. Anyone who genuflects at the altar of Michael Mann can’t be all wrong, and I think The Kingdom shows that there is a masterwork in Berg’s future. The problem is that he seems to constantly choose projects that seem doomed from the start. When you know that Sony bought a great script for an original superhero property and flattened out the kinks to build a Will Smith vehicle, you realize that Berg did what he could to bring a demolished, committee-cultivated project to something resembling life. The film made money, as most Will Smith films are wont to do – but is largely unremembered. Does anyone you’ve ever met say Hancock is their favorite film? Right.
It seems like Battleship was a similar situation. How do you emotionally invest in a board game? I mean – at least other toy properties have characters with…character. Naval maneuvers (in the dark?) seem like a perfect way in, but the alien invasion angle seems a really easy out insomuch as an antagonist is concerned. Berg has said that he found it hard to make a human connection with this material. I like to believe that no one in Hollywood could really blame him for that.
Where I find fault with Berg is that he had my beloved Ri-Ri in the tropics for months and didn’t think to shoot one minute of skinny-dipping footage. I’m on the side of a milk carton here, I’m so lost. That would have been first shooting day shit for me. Come, on Pete – let’s make samm MANNEHHH!
It’s Mods vs Sods (and Sting) in this odd urban fantasy tale based on the music of The Who. Criterion does the honors, so it’ll finally look great.
STARSHIP TROOPERS: INVASION
I’m a sucker for the work of Shinji Aramaki – and the film is co-produced by my boy Casper Van Dien, so I’m pretty mich in. Would have been nice to pepper the voice cast with people from the film, but Invasion’s look is rooted in the world of the Verhoeven classic, and that’s a plus. Definitely wanna’ give this a look.
Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein
Beach Boys: Doin’ It Again – are they? Grrrreat…
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season
Christoph Gluck: Orfeo Ed Euridice
Dreamworks Spooky Stories
Etta James: Live at Montreux 1978-1983
Freezing: The Complete Series
The Heineken Kidnapping – this sounds like a really interesting true-life tale starring The Rutger.
Homeland: The Complete First Season
Jersey Shore Shark Attack
K-On: Season 2 Collection 2
The Living Dead Girl
Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection
The Lucky One
The Moth Diaries
Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Poirot: Series 6
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four
Starship Troopers: Invasion
Think Like a Man – Gabrielle Union? Meagan Good? Regina Hall? Taraji Henson? I may have to see this movie. Alone.
Two Orphan Vampires
The Viral Factor
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season
SWANS – THE SEER
Jim Morrison may have been an asshole (may have been??), but he was more or less right about the shamanic potential of rock and roll. And there’s no question that, in a live setting, the long, droning buildup of many of the eleven tracks on this 2-disk album (most are well over five minutes; three of them run 20 minutes plus) could have the kind of compelling, hypnotic effect that ol’ Jimbo envisioned for his snake and sex ditties. There’s a key difference, though: Michael Gira’s not as invested in his own “poetry” as Morrison was, so that while Gira may not be the same level of blowhard as his legendary predecessor, he infuses the music with less personality, leaving listeners to either buy into the massive sound for its own sake (and bring with them the required stamina), or be left a bit cold. Make no mistake, Seer is a hugely impressive sonic achievement, all clanging guitars, hypnotic, repetitive chanting, doom-laden percussion and pulsing groove, with guest vocals from Low and Karen O; at times, you feel as though you could physically move inside it. It might have been even more impressive, though, if Gira had pared it down to its essentials; sprawl may be part of the point, but most artists understand that knowing what to leave out can be as important as what to include. For all its attempts at all-encompassing immersion of the listener, I doubt I’ll play it as often as I do last year’s lither, tighter, outright poppier My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky… but then, I also prefer “Break On Through” or “Love Me Two Times” to “When the Music’s Over” or “The End;” for Gira, I suspect it would be just the reverse.
SEAN ROWE – THE SALESMAN AND THE SHARK
In the “learn something new every day” department, this album was my introduction to the astonishing bass-baritone voice of Sean Rowe. And while the comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits seem reasonable, I wasn’t surprised to read that, during the process of recording this album, Rowe was listening to a lot of Scott Walker; it definitely comes through in his commanding vocal control: less affectedly offhand than Cohen, and able to bring power without histrionics, in a way that’s definitely more Walker than Waits. Which isn’t to deny their influences: both album opener “Bring Back The Night,” and “Flying” bring Rowe’s Walker-like command to the sort of deep, human intimacy that we associate with Cohen (“There was a time I could not cry / But that has left me now“). Similarly, any fan of Waits will feel right at home with the stomping “Joe’s Cult,” or the skewed pop of “Downwind.” Producer Woody Jackson lends subtle backing for the most part, with perfectly nuanced acoustic-and-piano arrangements, and effectively-deployed backing vocals on the quieter moments of “Signs” and “Old Shoes,” while knowing when to let things cut loose, notably on the chugging “Horses” and “Downwind.” And maybe it’s just the fact that we’re already inundated with election-season bile, but a line like “The whole world is speaking in tongues / But nobody is calling my name” feels like a proper riposte to the legions of fundamentalists with no grasp of fundamental humanity. A most welcome introduction to an artist worth following.
DIVINE FITS – A THING CALLED DIVINE FITS
If the combined commercial rep of Spoon, Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and New Bomb Turks doesn’t necessarily conjure up the idea of a “supergroup,” well, the combined smarts of Britt Daniel, Dan Boeckner and Sam Brown manage, at the very least, to conjure some sharp, convincing pop. Opener “My Love is Real” is a calling card for their wry take on the idea of romantic commitment (“My love is real / Until it stops“), churning along to an insistent synth hook (courtesy of Alex Fischel, who provides much of the album’s rhythmic propulsion), followed by the driving guitar whine of “Flaggin A Ride,” the queasy, uncertain strut of “Would That Not Be Nice,” and the darkly insistent thrum of “Baby Get Worse,” which sounds like a hostage video from Dwight Twilley. Daniel and Boeckner trade off lead vocals, their voices joined in a kind of conceptual detachment that raises an eyebrow over protestations of love, while giving a line like Nick Cave’s “I’ve been contemplating suicide / But it really doesn’t suit my style” the blithe archness of The Strokes. And I’m all in favor of such tributes to snack treats as the chunky-riffed “Like Ice Cream.” Yum.
OTHER NOTABLE 8/28 RELEASES:
Abandoned Pools - Sublime Currency
Robert Cray - Nothin But Love
Dean Deacon - America
Dwele - Greater Than One
Flatlanders - Odessa Tapes
Tony Iommi & Ian Gillan - Who Cares
Katatonia - Dead End Kings
The Last Vegas - Bad Decisions
Alvin Lee - Still on the Road to Freedom
Lionel Loueke - Heritage
Magic Slim & The Teardrops - Bad Boy
Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead
Alanis Morissette - Havoc and Bright Lights
Andrew Peterson - Light for the Lost Boy
The Rippingtons - Built To Last
Roxy Music - The Complete Studio Recordings 1972 – 1982
Saga - 20/20
Scum of the Earth - The Devil Made Me Do It
Slaughterhouse - Welcome To Our House
Luciana Souza - Book of Chet
Luciana Souza - Duos III
Tamia - Beautiful Surprise
Jerry Jeff Walker - Live From Dixie’s Bar & Bus Stop
GUILD WARS 2 (PC)
Make no mistake, Guild Wars 2 is an MMO. You grind to the level cap and then tackle end game content until you get bored and move on. Guild Wars 2 constantly rewards the player for doing whatever it is they want to do. The world is filled with dynamic events to be conquered, dungeons to explore, and a giant map to wander. The game has done all it can do to try to push the genre forward, but while falling strictly in line with conventions. It works, for the most part. Best of all, Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have a subscription, despite being a top-tier MMO and not some Korean free-to-play import. I’ve spent some serious time with it and already feel like it’s worth the sixty bucks; the fact that it includes so much for so little is an added bonus. I’m glad to have an MMO I don’t feel guilty for not playing.
MADDEN NFL 13 (360, PS3, 3DS, Vita)
Football. It exists – and this is a video game about it.
Also of note, Sony is dropping four new HD collections for the PS3, and they’re all insane deals. The God of War collection includes five games for forty bucks. The Journey, Ratchet and Clank, and Infamous collections all include three games for thirty bucks. In usual HD collection fashion, all the games include videos and random extras (ohh – new avatars!) that you’ll probably never use.
So there. Next month, shit jumps off. Until then…