Yeah. I know. This is absurdly late. But it’s also absurdly great – so that’s gotta’ count for something, right?
DEEP RISING/THE PUPPET MASTERS
Years ago, I came face to face with character actor extraordinaire Kevin J. O’Connor. I said a single word to him.
He lit up. “…What?” He asked.
A bit more emphatically, and with the kind of grin that comes with something like a moment where you somehow stumble into having a moment with someone who was part of the moment you’re aping, I said again – “Peanut!”
“Stay right here.” O’Connor said, and dashed away.
Moments later, O’Connor returned with director Deep Rising/Mummy/G.I.Joe director Stephen Sommers in tow.
“Tell him what you told me.” O’Connor implored.
This time, I was a bit confused.
Sommers squinted, and a half-smile broke out.
I was starting to feel fucked with, but as I was (and am) a fan of Sommers – I indulged him.
Sommers seemed impressed. “Wait right here.”
“SERIOUSLY?!” shot through my head. How weird is this…
Sommers returns with editor/producer Bob Ducsay.
You get the idea. All three men were astonished. Ducsay says, “I can’t believe it…”
“You gotta’ know,” I told the men…”people love Deep Rising.”
Years later, I bumped into O’Connor in Chicago, and he remembered the time. Told me that he wanted me to say “peanut” to them because it was a bit of business he’d thought up on set, and they were never sure it would actually wind up in the film. He was basically employing me to tell Sommers and Ducsay that he was right.
The thing is, Deep Rising is a big, goofy monster romp that is filled with idiosyncratic moments like that one. I don’t know if losing one moment or another would have made the film play any less loopy. And since the loopy is why it works (along with Treat Williams’ better-than-Bruce Campbell Bruce Campbell impression, and Famke Janssen’s whole Famke Janssen Thing she does…and the hilarious meathead mercs and their not-remotely-real-but-totally-awesome guns…and the great Rob Bottin creature designs…and the stunningly gooey effects…and on an’ on ‘til the break o’ dawn) – I’d like to thank the people responsible for this film for staying true to the dementedness of the thing.
Unfortunately, this is one of those miserable fucking Echo Bridge stick-two-movies-on-one-disc debacles, and you’re saddled with the mediocre Puppet Masters – but whatever. Peanut.
DIAL M FOR MURDER 3D
The Hitchcock floodgates are opening wide, and springing forth (literally) into your living room comes Hitchcock’s fun foray into 3D. The tale – a knowingly cutesy, twisty romp not unlike Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth (the two have always been locked together in my head) – features all of Hitch’s hang-ups; an elegant and furtive femme, a bit of blackmail, and at least one corpse, with the potential for more. Critics are often unkind to the film because of the studio/stage bound nature of the narrative (which was based on a stage play, so the lack of locations is utterly shocking), but Hitchcock uses the environment to his advantage, as always.
The 2D image, though remastered, is not sterling (owing much to the 3D imaging tech of the day, apparently) – but the 3D quality is pretty great, despite the format’s early limitations (there is some ghosting/crosstalk every once in awhile, but it’s nothing to be scared of). Hitchcock uses depth of field in an alternatingly slick and snarky fashion – closing in on the characters as they close in on one another with compelling composition – then playfully jabbing you in the eye with something. It’s a great time.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Suddenly Seymour…is playing on Blu Ray
Suddenly Seymour…looks really great (really great)
Suddenly Seymour…has got a new ending
With a sweet new transfer (a sweet new transfer)
With a sweet new transfer (a sweet new transfer)
With a sweet new transfer (a sweet new transfer)
Seymour’s your man!
PAT METHENY – THE ORCHESTRION PROJECT
Our friend Jeb Delia says that Jazz guitarist Metheny is at his best in the role of bandleader, and here he leads an odd band indeed. And while the sonic stylings on display in this Blu Ray release might be a tad mellow for my taste, you’ve got to respect the guitar great’s precision playing. With his Orchestrion Project, Metheny appears to have found performers with the ability to match that technical virtuosity; he’s surrounded himself with machines under his command.
The performer himself says that the project – named for the olde timey mechanical cabinets meant to replicate the playing of an entire band or orchestra - might be the most peculiar collaboration he’s ever undertaken. He was inspired, he claims, by an old player piano he was fascinated with a child, and he collaborated with musicians and engineers in the creation of – not a cabinet – but an entire room full of shining, whirling bots that chime in on his cues to craft a wall of lush sound. Every sort of instrument is represented, and the machines themselves vary in size and shape and complexity in creative and interesting ways.
While you might initially think a man and his guitar aren’t all that impressive, the kooky ‘bots and the lavish 3D production make the entire thing a spectacle of sorts. Deceptively, we’re presented early on with Methany playing alone against a textured red background (that shows no bleeding or loss of detail), but as layer upon layer of oddly-crafted machines spring into action – slapping and strumming and humming – the 3D cameras come alive – capturing the performance from positions intimate and epic. At times, it seems as though you’re seated next to Metheny (and he might bump your dome with the neck of his guitar) – and then…as the structure of a piece builds, you’re whisked around the room to take in the mechanical members of Metheny’s menagerie (yeah, I did that).
The whole thing plays like a really chilled-out Survival Research Laboratories presentation – all of the coordinated sound and motion, with none of the flamethrowers. Neat stuff.
QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED.
Will they? I defy anyone to show me where any “questions” were “answered” with any degree of logic. Horribly miscast (Stop trying to make Noomi Rapeface happen – she’s not going to happen), often terribly acted (Idris, I seriously adore you, man – but what is up with that cartoony mumbo-gumbo accent you’re rocking), and written as though it hates movies, common sense, and YOU – Prometheus steals more from Planet of the Vampires than Alien did, and still manages to be more incomprehensible than the vast majority of Mario Bava’s works.
Sure the film is gorgeous – but that just means it’s a gorgeous fucking mess. Still, it has it’s fans, so here you go.
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
A tennis pro, a murder plot, and a tight spot? It’s not Dial M – it’s the other Hitch flick that hits this week.
CM PUNK: BEST IN THE WORLD
The best thing to happen to Professional Wrestling in more than a decade receives his own home video release. The usual talking-head style career retrospective gets a bit of an overhaul here in favor of a more polished documentary format and some actual not-canned WWE music. Sure, Preparation H shows up to be a lying, untalented, delusional dumbfuck – and Michael Hayes proves time and time again that you shouldn’t let violent brain-damaged redneck assholes maintain positions of power in your multi-million dollar company, but Best in the World is at turns funny, revealing (of both its subject, and the bizarre environment in which he makes his living), and maybe a little triumphant. Even if you’re not a fan of the grapplins’, there’s interesting stuff going on here.
OR ACTUALLY LAST WEEK – but here you go…
An American Christmas Carol
Big Top Scooby-Doo!
Bones: The Complete Seventh Season – good to see Boreanaz still rocks a steady paying gig.
A Cat in Paris
Deep Rising/The Puppet Masters
Dial M For Murder
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Find Me Guilty
The Great Mouse Detective
Heaven’s Memo Pad: The Complete Collection
Holliston: The Complete First Season – Horror heroes Joe Lynch and Adam Green goof around with the sitcom format.
Ice Station Zebra
Into The Blue
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 7
The League: The Complete Season Three
Lina Wertmuller Collection
Little Shop Of Horrors
Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project
The Poseidon Adventure
Rock of Ages
Shut Up and Play the Hits
Strangers On A Train
Werewolf: The Beast Among Us
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
WWE: CM Punk – Best in the World
TAME IMPALA – LONERISM
Psychedelic is as psychedelic does, and if Noel Gallgher wants points for calling “Tomorrow Never Knows” his favorite tune, Tame Impala gets at least plus-2 from me for actually learning something from it. Although if, on the basis of 2010′s Innerspeaker, I’d had to guess what Kevin Parker’s fave Beatles track was, I’d probably have ventured “I’m Only Sleeping” or “I’m So Tired,” with a few pot references from “Norwegian Wood” thrown in for good measure. How this will sit with committed Tame Impala fans I’m not sure, but Lonerism is far less of a pothead nod-off than Innerspeaker was; me, I appreciate the boost in energy, and try not to get too bored during the noodling. As I say, I appreciate the focus, and the way the music and lyrics reinforce each other: “Gotta Be Above It” limns its desperate paranoia with throttled vocals, scattershot percussion, and a darkly electronic atmosphere, while “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” echoes pale and lovely across its lonesome soundscape: “I just don’t know where I belong.” “Elephant” may be the sort of… well, elephantine, drivel that gives psychedelic rock a bad name; “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “She Just Won’t Believe Me” remind us of how expertly it can embody the fractured, anomic state of the modern mind.
WANDA JACKSON – UNFINISHED BUSINESS
The charitable perspective on Jack White’s production of Jackson’s 2011 album The Party Ain’t Over would be that the bizarre arrangements, off-the-wall song choices, and casual attention to matters of pitch and rhythm, made it enough of a curio to bring some long-overdue recognition to a pioneering rock and roller; the less charitable would be that it was another case of White masterminding a project that was at least as much about himself as anyone else involved. Be that as it may, the choice of Justin Townes Earle behind the board on Unfinished Business may drop some of the sensationalism and star quality, and in some ways points to the obvious, but the result hews more closely to Jackson’s strengths, ranging from the sweet grit of Jeff Tweedy’s adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s “California Skies” to her pop-flavored take on Etta James’ “Pushover.” The Queen of Rockabilly tears it up proper on Freddie King’s “I’m Tore Down” and gets low and blue for Earle’s own “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome.” The Party Ain’t Over was an album you had to hear, at least once; Unfinished Business is of more modest and predictable pleasures, perhaps, but I think it’ll wear better in the long run.
JOHN CALE – SHIFTY ADVENTURES IN NOOKIE WOOD
Remarkably, Jackson’s not the only 70-something with a worthwhile new album this week, as Cale pulls out his strongest performance since 1990′s Wrong Way Up (with last year’s Extra Playful EP having served as a nice warmup). It’s a bit jarring at first, considering that it’s been a couple of decades since the guy has simply wheeled out a collection of conventionally-structured songs, and while the bits of sampling and loops are deployed expertly, the occasional auto-tune is definitely a mixed pleasure. The Danger Mouse-produced opener, “I Wanna Talk 2 U” (Prince, call your office) features Cale in strong voice, and serves as a sort of light throat-clearer for what’s to come. “Scotland Yard”‘s chugging rhythm sets the tone. Most of the album works variations on a similar mid-tempo beat, with the experimentation on a less-grand scale than the Cale of old: little touches like the tricky rhythms of “Vampire Café,” the phase-distortion over Spanish guitar on “Living With You,” and the sampled doom-laden soundscape of “Mothra” (“Open the window / In comes a cloud / Reaching around my neck“). The sweeping valedictory of “Sandman (The Flying Dutchman),” building through a chorus of whispered vocals to its layered conclusion, harks back to his collaborations with folks like Eno, Kevin Ayers, and Phil Manzanera, and he could do worse than follow this nicely executed collection with another helping of that kind of ambition.
OTHER NOTABLE 10/9 RELEASES:
All Time Low – Don’t Panic
August Burns Red - Sleddin’ Hill
Bad Books – II
The Birthday Massacre – Hide and Seek
Callers – Reviver
Citizens! – Here We Are
Coheed and Cambria – Afterman: Ascension
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Enslaved – Riitiir
Ellie Goulding – Halcyon
Brandon Heath – Blue Mountain
Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
Jonathan & Charlotte – Together
Kiss – Monster
Jeff Lynne – Long Wave
Macklemore – The Heist
MGK – Lace Up
A.C. Newman – Shut Down The Streets
The Script – #3
Mindy Smith – The Essential Mindy Smith
Rick Springfield – Songs For The End Of The World
Barbra Streisand – Release Me
Suzanne Vega – Close Up Vol. 4, Songs of Family
The Wallflowers – Glad All Over
DISHONORED (PC, 360, PS3)
We can all agree people’s feverish adoration of “Steampunk” is stupid. But still, it works sometimes. And aside from the wonderful Bastion, it really hasn’t been exploited too much in mainstream gaming. Dishonored is Steampunk. It’s so Steampunk that its economy runs on whale oil, for Christ’s sake. But it also looks interesting and fully fleshed out. Not simply relying on the ‘neato’ mix of future and past technology and fashion like most lazy media that follows the trend.
And hey, it’s a cool game too. Harvey Smith – he of Deus Ex and sadly, Invisible War - has created a spiritual successor to the seminal FPR/RPG franchise. Although last year’s Human Evolution was fantastic (and also a little Steampunky), Dishonored aims to improve the genre’s strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Unlike Human Revolution, stealth and combat are both viable options in Dishonored – and not only are they both enjoyable mechanically, but they offer unique and interesting rewards. Dishonored looks to be a rare treat, a fun Steampunk stealthy swordfighting RPG. I hope everyone buys it so we can get more fun stealthy swordfighting RPGs.
DRAGON BALL Z: KINECT (360)
Imagine a grown man in his Flintstones underwear, alone and weeping, his sobs broken by his occasional scream of “kammie kamma hay” as he pretends to throw a ball of energy at his television – and you’ll understand why this could be the greatest game ever made.
You’d also have a pretty good picture of what I do on the weekends…
XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN (PC, 360, PS3)
Me and my friend Kris used to spend hours playing the original X-Com after school. Most of my memories revolve around the original’s creepy music and alien design. I don’t know if we ever fully grasped the complex game, but the atmosphere stuck with us. The new XCOM (good for them for dropping the stupid dash) is that atmosphere of pure dread put into a game that’s actually playable in 2012. By masochists like me.
Firaxes, creators of the greatest game ever (Civilization 4), have the reins this go-round. That alone should sell the game to anyone with any interest in strategy games. On a tactical level, Firaxis nails it. The combat is snappy, violent, and hard as nails. For the first hour, it feels like a turn based Gears of War as you bounce from cover to cover taking out Greys with ray guns. But that’s just a warm-up. While the game never shrugs the cover mechanic, its impressive roster of aliens are designed to fuck up every decision you make. Like the best strategy games, XCOM forces you to constantly change your plan. The first time you’re flanked by Floaters in the middle of your own turn, you’d better adapt with whatever you have or risk losing an entire squad. You’ll be cursing the game at every turn, but these battles are the heart of the game.
I didn’t even mention the intricate base building, which adds a very important out-of-battle strategic layer to the the tactical fights. This game is huge. True to Firaxes form, the randomized 15-20 hour campaign is meant to be replayed over and over again. Of course, it’s also meant to beat you to a pulp, kill your friends (if you’re like me and you rename your soldiers), and break a few controllers.
Sounds fantastic. Or painful.
There you have it. That’s a lotta’ money you just bled.