Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Wendell Baker Story (Review)

..."They say you don't know what you have until it's gone...I knew what I had, I just didn't know that it was going to be gone", I think that quote nutshells the premise of The Wendell Baker Story (click header for the official site) which stars Luke Wilson who plays a good-hearted confidence man whose latest scheme gets him a one way ticket to the grey-bar hotel...while inside he distances himself from his girlfriend Doreen (Eva Mendes) and best friend Reyes (Jacob Vargas) and once he serves his time he gets a job working at the Shady Grove Retirement Hotel where he meets a couple of oldsters, Boyd and Skip (Seymoure Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton) who help him find out who he really is and come to terms with the fact that there's nothing wrong with having big dreams but it's not cool to alienate the people who love you unconditionally...

...this is an embellishment from the notes I took while sitting in the dark on the Paramount Lot last night: Written by Luke Wilson, Wendell Baker is the directorial debut for Andrew Wilson (although his baby brother Luke shares directorial creds in the press release )and also features his other sibling Owen as the goateed, ass-hole-on-wheels Neil King as well as comedian/ actor Eddie Griffin as the easily influenced orderly McTeague. I'd say that the better turns go to the older, supporting cast as Seymour Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton cut loose in their respective roles and give the film its heart-- Kris Kristofferson (who plays the hotel resident L.R. Nash does a rockin' reprisal of the role he played in Fast Food Nation) -- Mendes' role in the film is purely aesthetic (but she's looking finer than ever anyway). Will Farrell has a small part too but his character's addition to the whole story is neither here nor there (he does have a couple of nanoseconds of funny though)..."I'm not satisfied and that's EXACTLY why I feel optomistic"...Considering the fact that there are films like Bottle Rocket and the Royal Tannenbaums out there, I'm not going to say that this film is the best-of material from the Wilson brothers' collective body of work but it's not that bad either and the country soundtrack which features obscure cuts from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings rocks!

The Wendell Baker Story will release nationally on Friday, May 18th...


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vinnie Jones: Bullet Tooth Tony Speaks-- The Condemned (Q&A)

As mentioned earlier, Last Friday I covered press for the forthcoming action flick The Condemned which stars the WWE pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (the Longest Yard) and Vinnie Jones(Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) here's the copy from my session with Vinnie Jones, who totally eschews the "hard as a coffin nail" persona that he'd perfected in Guy Richie films, my recorder ate the first five minutes of copy but I still had the last half hour of what went on and find out Bullet Tooth Tony's thoughts on David Beckham, charity and grabbing nut sacks on the soccer pitch...

Vinnie Jones:... on the sixth I go on to a Quentin Tarantino project called Hell manager said,'we're dong a back-to-back movie' so this is his equation of a back-to-back movie: I walk off the set of Hell Ride, off the set, to the airport, get on the plane, fly to London, get off the plane and go straight to the set to do my first scene-- so that's a real back-to-back, not two days in between.

Q: What're you playing in Hell Ride, one of the Satan's Bikers or something like that?

VJ: Billy Wings, the main man.

Q: You going to do anything else with Guy Richie?

VJ: I was going to do this one thing with Guy but (he's) connected with so many things and you never know in this game. You never know, I mean I wanted to do Revolver with him but...there's nothing for sure.

Q: Well, since you're good friends with him and everything how did he deal with that whole publicity thing about him and Madonna's adoption?

VJ: I can't answer that, that's personal...

Q: Well what can you say about that film Bog Body?

VJ: I you can, it's like a comedy-horror ,if you like. It's set on an island and on an island they bury people in the bogs (when they die) and this woman comes to build a house and disturbs one of the grave sites. Its with my mate, Adam Fogerty (Gorgeous George) , the one who has the fight with Brad Pitt in Snatch-- he's the Bog Body.

Q: What part do you play in that?

VJ; I play this deer hunter but I'm probably the straightest character in the movie.

Q: Would you ever do a broad or romantic comedy?

VJ: I hope so, I mean I do hope so. We just did a movie with Vanessa Redgrave which went really well, that's being screened, I mean, you know, just trying to get it out there-- it's an independent movie. But there's a love interest in that, I play a reporter and I'm trying to get to the bottom of stuff and it's sort of like, is there a relationship or isn't it but yeah, I would adventure in every part of this business, really. You know, to get better.

Q: Well here, people get scrutinized when they come in from another field be it soccer or wrestling or music or whatever. Do you think there's enough of a closeness, in performance-related pursuits to merit switching over?

VJ: Well, you know, what happened with me is, I think I was natural enough-- in my 15 years as a soccer player, I've had many a camera shoved in my face. And I've done every major chat show in England so that was my apprenticeship, if you like. You know, some people, if you put a camera in front of them, they just shake and it could happen to could ask all sorts of questions but if you sat in this seat, you might go to pieces and that's what happens, people do. My apprenticeship was being in this (interview) situation for so many years as a soccer player.

Q: Has David Beckham called you up for any acting advice?

VJ; No, and he hasn't asked to borrow any dollars off me yet, either. (laughs)

Q: You think he moved here to L.A. just so that he could break into acting?

VJ: You know, that's the rumor but I'm not interested, I don't get involved with all of that-- whatever people want to do, you know? If he thinks he's going to just walk off the plane and...well, somebody's probably going to give him a good job and then wish they hadn't. But you can't-- this town's too tough for that, you know that, we all know that.

Q: Maybe he'll get into Scientology and get an acting coach or something...

VJ: Well you know he's going to do that, all that bullshit-- of course he is. (starts laughing) That's exactly what's going to happen, so you don't have to ask me any more questions about him.

Q: Over here is tougher than England?

VJ: There's no jobs over there, that's why I'm here. There's no jobs over there, dude-- not for actors. Its very hard, you know and even the movie I'm doing in London is from here.

Q: Do you receive any compensation for that classic picture of you "marking" Newcastle United's Paul Gascoigne at all?

VJ: No, I didn't own it, the newspaper owned it. Even the guy that took it Monty Fresco didn't own it, the newspaper, the Mirror Group owned that. And every now and then, they'll send me ten copies that I can sign for charities. That was my thing as well, my fee for Lock, Stock, I gave it all to charity. And people say, well you know, 'why did you do that' and I say 'for luck, really, I don't know, whatever.' Easy come, easy go, I don't know.

Q: So what do you like doing in your spare time?

VJ: I like fly fishing. I like golf.

Q: You any good?

VJ: Not so good at golf but I'm a good fly fisherman. I've just done a documentary in Patagonia, for ESPN on fly fishing. In an ideal world, I would love my own nature program-- that's what I'm getting at to try and do. But the movies, thankfully, are coming thick and fast so I haven't got that gap (spare time) to produce my own wildlife show but I'm quite fascinated with wildlife.

Q: What do you do it for, serenity?

VJ: Dude, when I'm out fly fishing-- on X-men, (after a shoot) they'd be like 'what are you doing, now?' And I'd be like 'I'm fly fishing-- what did you expect I'd do while filming the X-men?' (laughs) Literally, I'd just get into the car and go out toward any logging road, and stop the car, get the rod out and have a go at it. I'd slide down to the banks and I'd be there all day.

Q: With all of that in mind, what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

VJ: (whispers) "My dick size" (starts laughing)...A lot of people say, like when they meet me, that I'm a nice guy-- I'm a generous fella. I love giving things, you know.

Q: You travel all around the world to shoot these films you're in, is there any particular place that you really want to see?

VJ: Well, I want to go to Costa Rica and fish for Marlin and I want to go and bone fish and the third thing is to go and catch some Silver Salmon up in Alaska, so, I'm going to do that in August.

Q: You do any fishing while shooting in Australia?

VJ: Yeah, on the Gold Coast. I'd get a boat and a guide and we'd go out at first light and we used to go, it was great fun.

Q: You work out every day or what, Steve Austin says that he's not doing it so much these days.

VJ: If I'm not working, if you 're working, you just can't do that-- you're up at 6 in the morning, you go to bed at 12 midnight and it's non-stop. You know, you get a half an hour on the side and that's for traveling. I'll take the boys tomorrow and I'll train them all for soccer, we have 25 guys like Anthony LaPaglia and Steve Jones and so we have a soccer team and they love it as well, so we're all getting a workout there. But its basically, I hit the gym when I'm not working.

The Condemned opens nationally on Friday, April 27th

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The Condemned: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin Q&A

Last Friday I covered press for the forthcoming action flick The Condemned which stars the WWE pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (the Longest Yard) and Vinnie Jones(Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) and both were cool as hell...the film's set for release on the April 27th and isn't half as wasn't Fassbinder but it did what it was meant to do: entertain. Here's some of what went down during Steve's interview...

Q: The Spider-Man junket just finished downstairs, you have any smack to talk about the web-slinger at all?

Steve Austin: Do I have any smack to talk, you know, trying to talk smack on Spider-Man? No, I want to keep my mouth shut.

Q: You were born in Texas and now you live here, what're you doing out-doorsy now, surfing?

SA: Still doing the fishing and hunting stuff-- I ended up buying a house out in Malibu, I thought it was a good thing to do. To, get away from everything, you know, to have a little bit of privacy and quiet. And you'd think that would set me up to hang out on the beach and do the surfing-- not the case. I've been to the beach one time since I moved out there, so, I'm selling out (the house) and I'm coming back to Venice -- I lived in Venice Beach for two years, I'm coming back-- I've always taken a positive approach to everything I do but I figured if I were ever to surf, I would be the cat out there that would get hit by a shark, for some reason. But, because I'm an optimist, I'd survive-- so no surfing for me.

Q: How do you think Vince McMahon is looking with your hair do?

SA: I was there (when he got it shaved off on the WWE), up close and personal, and I'd been around Vince a long time, I love working with the guy, because he's such a unique (person) and I've loved so much from him but he's got the ugliest (bald) head-- he's got creases and divits and all that. Because he actually had a thick head of hair, so he didn't get any sun down there, like I have a pretty tanned head but his head was (pale white)...I'm begging him to grow his hair back.

Q: How does the WWE family dynamic translate to film, just from the production aspect?

SA: From the production to the film I don't know...

Q: Well, from behind the scenes, like there's that tight-knit family going on in the WWE and what you saw going on in the film business. It must be two different worlds.

SA: Well, it's two different worlds but the thing, in doing this movie, you know I had a small part in The Longest Yard and that really doesn't count but in this film, rolling to Australia-- although I was in front of the cast (and crew) who were people I hadn't met, it was a bit wild. I believed that I was at home because it was a WWE project and financed by WW Films, so it felt at home on that end of it. But one thing that was just a big difference was, in doing anything for live TV as far as back stage on Monday Night Raw, you're going live-live, so you're trying to be time efficient with everything you do. You know, rolling to Australia, on a movie set -- you probably know more about this than I do, I just did one (film)-- things take a long time. And coming from a very time-efficient machine, to 'hurry up and wait' was interesting. I read it up waiting in my trailer, I learned two different languages while we were shooting-- Spanish and German....once a gets completed and we're on the countdown, the 27th in (The Condemned's) case, I'm very excited, not nervous at all-- I know the movie, I'm proud of the movie, so, I'm just anxious for it to come out now.

Q: Making this movie must've been a breeze compared to wrestling.

SA: You know what, when you've lived 15 years on the road-- I always tell people, you kind of turn into a zombie, in a way, because you just become impervious to a lot of the things that you just go through, you see some things and some things you don't because you're so busy doing what you do-- it's a tough way to make a living but it's the most fun you'll ever have. And being on a movie set, long hours and I have a whole new respect for actors and actresses just as far as the long days on the set or if you go on in the night and shoot into the early mornings, you know, and just the preparation that you take into a role, whatever the part is. Just the long hours and in this case, dealing with some really, really tough locations (to shoot on) and the weather. And, you know what, we had some real long, tough days on the set but I always look at it as: if you're luck enough to be on a movie set, that's a dream. I mean, I've worked on a freight dock, loading and unloading trucks for a living-- that's what I did before I got into wresting. I know what hard work is, I'm a manual labor specialist-- there are people out there that are working construction, saving lives and stuff like that [and] when all you're doing is working on a project to entertain people, it's a good day at the office.

Q: How was it fighting for the camera in segments as opposed to being in front of a live audience for a 20 minute brawl?

SA: Man, I'll tell you what, people have said that 'it must be easy for you to learn how to fight for film because of your background'-- well, not really. Because, in a wrestling ring, contrary to what anybody believes, you're working ad-lib, improv and you're doing things to illicit a response to (that particular) crowd, so in response, you go accordingly. You keep that going for, say, that 20-minute match that you were talking about, that's how you work that match. And that's why it's ring psychology, it's not just two guys randomly taking turns beating each other up-- it's much, much more than that. So when you take that loose, brawling style that I use in the wrestling ring and then all of a sudden, I'm Jack Conrad with a military background (in the movie), so I'll need a precise fighting style (for the role)...And then you take that and you're forced to learn (new) choreographed fighting moves, you're not familiar with the moves because they're much different from your old ones, much different from whatever you've been doing and you've got to remember every duck, every punch, every kick and then you have so many fight (scenes) on top of that-- it was very frustrating...Vinne (Jones) would tell you that there's the one scene down by the riverbed, when he got a bunch of lumps and bumps from me pounding on him...there's another scene in the movie with that character Paco where he's supposed to hit me low and he hits me high (during the shoot) and he gives me a black eye-- if you look closely in the movie, you'll see that I have the black eye, but they just covered it up with makeup because we needed to keep going. I always tell people, in professional wrestling, you really do hit each other but you really don't try to hurt each other, take care of each other but there's contact made. And so, when someone hits you too hard, you send back a receipt...I never got my chance to send Vinnie (and Paco) my receipt-- I'm going to put him in the next movie and I'm taking him out! (laughs)

Q: You've wrestled for 15 years and you have something like 17 belts, never mind acting, what made you get into wrestling in the first place? When did you get into it, like in the Wahoo McDaniels, Nature Boy Rick Flare days or when?

SA: You know, I grew up in South Texas, I grew up a hundred miles south of Houston and I can't remember how long ago it was but I was changing the channels on the TV and I saw two guys fighting for a Championship Belt and I was hooked. I mean, certainly, I was a Wahoo McDaniels fan and Jake "the Snake" Roberts was coming through, Dusty Rhodes, guys like that were coming around through the Houston area at that time-- I've been a fan from since way back. And I always figured that down the road, I'd always wanted to be a professional wrestler but I didn't know how I was going to do or when it was going to happen but it was always my dream and after I stopped playing college football, I got in the ring-- like the guys before me-- and I starved for two years and then I got a few breaks.

Q: Yeah, back then televised pro wrestling was looked like it was shot on closed-circuit TV and now it's become what its become.

SA: You know, it's changed and I am a big fan of the earlier days because the story lines were a little bit simpler, you know, a little bit more realistic. (laughs) me, it's about competition. I've always thought that you could have humor in professional wrestling, not comedy-- there's a big difference.

Q: Have you had to keep up the same workout regime, no matter what you're doing?

SA: You know, I do because my favorite food is Mexican. so I've got to watch my weight and on film it's brutal. But I also like to live life, I like to have a beer or two and stuff like that but I like to work out-- it's also a good way to get rid of some stress.

Q:How'd you get any Mexican food in Australia during the shoot?

SA: I didn't eat any. I couldn't find any and they didn't have any in catering but before I did the movie, I really tightened up. I was on a really strict eating program to maintain my appearance and now, being on this promo tour for the movie, you know, I haven't touched a weight in a month-- you're sitting on airplanes and you're eating all kinds of crazy food and you sit and drink beer on an airplane because you're not driving. (laughs) So, when the movie comes out on the 27th, I got to get my tail back to work.

Q: Is it just a matter of maintenance now or do you still work on building mass?

SA: Oh, no man. My weight workout might take about 30 minutes and if it's 45 minutes, that's a long workout for me. I started working out when I was in the 5th grade, I'm 42 now, so I've been doing it for a long time, and you have to for professional wrestling, but in that (wrestling) job, I'm not a big guy but I'm not a small guy-- just in the middle. But out here (in Los Angeles), I'm a pretty big guy so, I'm just trying to stay in shape and do what works for me. I'm a guy (who's like) what you see is what you get, pretty much and in talking with me, if you look at me, (you'd know that) I'm never going to be a slim guy. I never am and this is pretty much what I'm bringing to the table. If you don't like what I look like, if you're somebody trying to offer me work, then I'm not your guy because I don't think I can get too much smaller than this, so this is what I'm bringing to the table-- for better or for worse.

Q: You don't think the 5th grade is too early to start lifting?

SA: You know what, I never really noticed any side effects and-- (starts whooping like he's going crazy and laughs). No, it really didn't effect me too much.

Q: So what did you do in preparation for your role in this one as you're the central figure and it's more acting involved.

SA: When I signed on to do this movie, the producer from WWE Films, Joe Simon, said to me 'Steve, we're going to hook you up with an acting coach' and I said 'that sounds good to me!' And we tried this one guy and he was a little bit more comedy-based and this movie wasn't about the comedy so I was talking to Scott Wiper, our director, who I think did just a killer job-- who I've come to be good friends with and highly respect-- and he put me in touch with a good friend of his named Allen Mcrae and that guy worked with me for many hours and helped me with breaking down a script and realizing that there's a lot more than words on that page, going over dialogue and delivery. We rolled camera in the studio to see what we had and when we first started, it was brutal-- you know when you see yourself with no lighting, no makeup on and you're just in that studio doing dialogue, it was hard to watch, you know. But I'm very proud of my performance and the movie-- I have a lot to learn-- and I'll be the first one to tell you that but I'm proud of what I see...

The Condemned opens nationally on Friday, April 27th

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Review: Emilie Simon’s March of the Empress

...I have a stack of CDs for review that I’m just getting around to checking and one of them is March of the Empress (which streeted on the 3rd) by France’s Emilie Simon who made her debut in the states last year with the album The Flower Book. This newer outing features tunes from the French version of Luc Jacquet’s 2005 documentary La Marche De l’Empereur (March of the Penguins) and has never been released in the US in its full configuration…Let me dive right on in and get most of my name-dropping out of the way early by saying that at points I’m reminded of Bjork (without the jugular-threatening shrieks) mixed with Dido (only better) with a sprinkling of Europe’s Asura group and Galia Durant from Psapp all garnished with some Kate Bush… I type this, I’m really vibing on tunes like “The Egg” and “To the Dancers on the Ice” both of which encapsulate the gist of everything said above…”Song of the Sea” evokes images of Sedna, the Inuit water goddess for some reason and the vox on “Attack of the Killer Birds” are as foreboding as the title implies but the gears shift a bit once the drumming begins on “Song of the Storm”...Conversely, there are a couple of interlude-ish non vocal tracks evocative of the Kronos Quartet (last one) like “Aurora Australis”and “Mother’s Pain” but this is a soundtrack and they stay true to the thrust of the icy theme that Simon was shooting for when approached to work on the film…taken as a whole, it’s safe to say that there’s a grip of saturnine sounds on The Empress, so you’ll have to be in a certain state to consume it all properly…

All of the above stated, as far as soundtracks go this is one of the better ones to come out in a genre dominated by orchestral composers, acoustic guitarists and scores that read like K-Tel best-of-whatever compilations, here’s something that takes a somewhat different approach…and I haven’t seen the film yet, either…check out “To the Dancers on the Ice” on which you can hear Simon hook up with the skills she learned at the Sorbonne and the the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique Musique at the Centre Pompidou (this chanteuse also plays bass, guitar, keys and she still covered Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” on her first album, no less)— I like ‘em brainy ‘n broody, yo…

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

“Spacelab”: A Kraftwerkout..

...most of my friends already know that I'm all over Kraftfwerk's body of electronica...I like to check them when I’m writing pieces or kicking it around the house, like right now…I don’t know how those guys found all of that e-funkiness inside their oscillators but maybe I don’t really need to…right now I’m kicking back with a little The Man Machine (Mensch Machine, in their native Germany) and everything’s in the right place (!!!)...I’m specifically vibing on the cut “Spacelab” but there’s other hot tracks on here to like “The Model”, for instance…if you’ve ever seen the film The Big Lebowski, you’ll see that the fictional German Electronica band (Nagelbett) used their look from this LP’s cover…’s hard to believe that they dropped this back in 1978, which feels like eons before I’d heard of Devo’s “Whip It” or Stereolab (who copped the beginning of this tune for a cut on , I wanna say, Instant O in the Universe but it could be on Cobra and Phases Group…this joint is a sweet reminder that the electronica that the rock bands we trip out over now utilize (and early hip hop) came from a good place…if you start the mp3 player and then, 20 seconds later, click on this MBSS light display from YouTube (which is silent) you”ll get a spectacular little show…

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Review: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

The animated film Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters has nothing to do with water, adolescents or the ways of the Jedi but it does zoom in on the animated antics of Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad who unite to find the origin of a mysterious piece of exercise equipment that threatens to "change the world as they know it...a world you can't imagine starring Chow Yun Fat". Done up in the same spirit of the PR stunt that ignited that Homeland Security hubbub in Boston a few weeks ago, this film, the brainchild of Dave Wilis and Matt Maiellaro, the creators of the original Adult Swim TV series, start fucking with the audience straightaway which warrants a few words of advice.

If you walk into the theater unprepared for the storyline cul de sacs and dead end alleyways that are surely inside jokes, you won't get it but if you do the inverse of thinking on your feet (laughing while sitting on your ass) you'll be okay....there are a few "did-they-have-to-go-there moments but you quickly learn to forgive and forget because something as equally funny as it is offensive pops up and you're sucked back into the directors' fray...they don't care about any of that shit, they're aiming for coverage as they pepper the viewer with a gatling-gun barrage of off-color jokes, gag-reflex humor and blood-splatters, still, a few of the mysteries that those who don't watch the TV show my not know the answers to get covered.

Learn: the ridiculous reason that the three were brought together in the first place...what Frylock's original dream was "as you feel the embrace of Satan's hoof against your face". See Aqua Teen Hunger Force regulars like Carl, the next-door neighbor, the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past, Dr. Weird, the spaced out home invaders Ignignokt and Err, the Plutonian foils from outer space that are the Oglethorpe (who is orange and with an Austrian accent for whatever reason) and his green partner in crime, Emory-- and the musical connection? Neil Peart of Rush has a small vocal part in the film....

South Park fans will love this film, so go see it if you are "because I'm your doctor, do what I say". (click the header for the link to trailers, etc.) Rated R and clocking in at 79 minutes running time, Willis and Maiellaro just barely manage to slip out with an end which occurs just as the silliness implodes-- a nice trick if you can manage to pull it off. Rated R, for profanity and a grip of sexual ennui, this film is certainly not for the kiddies.

At points ATHFCFFT borders on Mystery Science Theater 3,000 with all the inside jokiness that newcomers might find a trifle overbearing and comes off as TMI, initially (there's a nod to Space Ghost , Power Puff Girls and other popular Adult Swim Toons) but if you're able to let yourself go, eschew any thoughts of finding a hidden plotline and roll with it, you'll enjoy this smorgasboard of shamelessness...but maybe you won't. I give it a B-.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Film for Theaters opens nationally on Friday the 13th...

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Friday, April 06, 2007

I Find Myself Drifting Back to Radiohead

...there’s no denying the cyclical nature in how I check my tunage…I hear of a grip of new bands that I really want to check but there aren’t enough hours in the day to go there and, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of a new album either…is that a bad thing?...Come to think of it, the last time I’ve heard a new album of new material that I could listen to coast to coast was Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief which, in my opinion was a masterpiece…

...admittedly, the Rainman-with-a-box-of-crayons album cover was off-putting when I first saw it but I soon found there’s not a half-assed cut on the set (the one cut on Kid A that I still loathe is “Idioteque” for some reason)...I love my rock ‘n roll guits (which Thom Yorke et al cranked up on this set) and I got a soft spot for electronic textures (which they trimmed back on, in relation to their previous outings, for this album so when it dropped in the summer of ‘03, I didn’t know what to expect…I wasn’t dissapointed…I haven’t listened to this whole LP in quite a while, I think I’ll remedy that right now

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Review: Mean Girls and an Interview with Tina Fey

I'd written about Tina Fey's latest TV show 30 Rock on here a few weeks ago and it turns out that she was working on the idea for that show two years ago when I first met her back when she was still a regular on Saturday Night Live, that was when she had written and starred in the flick Mean Girls...

Mean Girls is based on Rosalind Wiseman's book of the same name and it trails Cady (Lindsay Lohan), a transfer student who's taught the ropes on cultivating popularity by Regina (Rachel McAdams) and her two micro-skirted flunkies Gretchen and Karen (Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried). An outsider to the status quo, Cady also befriends a goth freak named Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) acting like Sean Hayes' bigger little brother. The screenplay is written by Tina Fey (Ms. Norbury) and the film's older co-stars Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler and Ana Gasteyer - aren't forced to dumb things down too much. Unlike most films with SNL people involved, this one actually has a couple of really funny spots - go figure. M-Girls is one part Daria with a splash of Heathers garnished with TV's Square Pegs- shake and serve. Bite the bullet and check it with your little sister and just remember what Enid in Ghost World said during the barrage of "shut-ups" and screeching:we don't serve beer but after seeing this one you'll need ten beers." That said, if you've ever been to high school then you're already familiar with this army of teenage skanks and you might want to pass and give little sis Wiseman's book (which is quite entertaining) instead...

Here's a bit from the interview I had with Tina...she really is funny in person and check her new show if you ever get the chance...

Q: So how do you go about adapting a sociological study/ parental self-help text into and ironic comedy?

Tina: Very carefully. I sort of realized - after everybody went "great, it's a deal, we're going to adapt Queen Bees & Wannabes" - that there's no story in the book, it's a textbook. (laughing) So then I just tried to think of a story that would best illustrate the ideas and the character types in Rosalind Wiseman's book.

Q: So what were your as a teenager? Were you a Mean Girl yourself?

Tina: I was a little bit. I was like a very jealous girl in a lot of ways (laughing) I sort of had no luck with boys and so if I liked one, but he liked another girl, I'd be very jealous. Then I'd do Mean Girl things like talk about her behind her back, that sort of thing. Oddly enough, being mean to guys does not make them want to go out with you - it took me like 9 years to learn that.

Q: How does shooting a film compare to the weekly grind of coming up with skits on Saturday Night Live? How different was the movie-making process in comparison to developing material for television?

Tina: Its interesting, because of that SNL process that I'm used to. Sometimes I'd look at the same joke in a script for months and think: "is this joke any good any more?" Then I'd have to remind myself that it’s just that I've been seeing that same joke for 6 months- but no one else has seen it yet.

Q: One of the main characters in the film is a young gay man. What was your experience with gays and lesbians in your high school? How were they treated and do you think that carried over into the movie?

Tina: I was a big theater geek in school. During high school and college, my parents' house was basically like an ongoing Pride Parade - young gays and lesbians coming over for movie night. (laughs) It seemed like everyone I knew, at a certain time, were gay. So, in writing the character Damian, I really wanted him to be realistic to the work in the way that I remembered my friends at that age. I think Daniel Franzese did a great job because he's not, in my opinion, stereotypical in his speech, etc. He's just the way I'd remembered friends at that time.

Q: What's that “almost too gay" line in the film?

Tina: "Almost too gay to function." You know, his character can't get anything done or completed because he's just too busy being fabulous.

Q: One of the things that separate Mean Girls from other "teen films" is that it deals with a small group of girls but in the closing segment, it almost becomes another movie in terms of the message that you manage to get across. Were there ever thoughts of not including that sequence in the film? That type of resolution is unusual for a comedy film about teenagers.

Tina: If you wrap anything in jokes you can get away with it. Tim's really funny and the girls are funny in it too. That scene is based on what Rosalind actually does in her workshops (mentioned in the book) and I'm just literally doing the thing that she does. When I first talked to her, she explained to me that she has these girls write apologies to each other on pieces of paper. They were always the most non-apologetic letters like: "I'm sorry that you're not as pretty as me- that must be hard for you." That was always meant to be a part of the movie, part of my little promise to Rosalind to honor her book...the older set walk in prepared to get a teeny-bopper movie but there are so many jokes that cross the age gap that even adults get reeled in.

Q: Is it hard to write jokes for people who are not used to doing comedy regularly on a weekly basis?

Tina: I was really impressed by them actually because I was like "I'm used to Tim, Amy, Ana and Neil. I knew they could deliver, I knew they had the timing and everything they did would be great." But then there was the younger cast. I think Mark Waters (the film's director) did a great job in casting the girls because he found girls who were all really (naturally) funny. He also got the performance and timing out of them. Lacey Chabert is good and really experienced with a great sense of timing. I think Rachel and Amanda just fell into their roles beautifully. Lindsey was good as well - I was happy and relieved, just from experiences at SNL. Sometimes you get a host and you don't know if they're going to have a sense of comedy timing or not.

Q: Who's the most recent Saturday Night Live guest whose performance you were most impressed wit?

Tina: We had Cristina Aguilera - she did a very good job. Ben Affleck always does a great job. I was especially impressed with Donald Trump. He really sort of lit up on air during the live show. In rehearsal he was very serious all week, really nice to us yet very deferential to the way he delivered "How does your business run?" (laughs) But then he really sparked up on air.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

He’s Gettin’ Furious: Rakim’s Phattest Rhyme

..some people like their rappers for their beats, others for their flow and still others are drawn to their favorite recording artists’ fashion sense (at least lately, it seems)...I’ve been a fan of Rakim’s flow and phonetics every since I first heard him on “Eric B is President” as a teenager and while that is a great tune, I think the R really stepped up to the plate when he cut “Lyrics of Fury”, it’s got it all: Boomin’ beats, sweet samples, the coldest cutting and…well just check the master’s lyrics here ...and don’t forget to crank your speakers up to 11…

**click on More about this song on the player to read the whole piece.

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The British Are Coming...for the Third Time, Already...

...I just heard this interesting bit on the BeeB about the state of the American record business and what's going to become of it in the wake of viral videos, digital file sharing and how the masses here are side-stepping the A&R guys, who once held all the keys to the kingdom of discovering new music....though there's no file sharing going on, here, on my site, I've often wondered how long before the other shoe falls and the big boys put the kibosh on sites like Multiply, lastfm and MOG (all favorites of mine at the moment)...they really do provide an excellent means of cutting out those assholes who either only think of music consumption on a fiduciary basis or are obsequious foot soldiers of the status quo (well an overwhelming percentage of them, anyway) and I should know....I used to have to swim with those sharks but those days are over for me on the artistic tip, at least...

...on a semi-tangental note, I went to the BBC's website and found an interesting story on the "new British Invasion" which touches on why Yanks are copping UK sounds like it's going out of style and it starts something like this:

"It seems reminiscent of the so-called "British invasions", which saw a wave UK acts conquer America in the 1960s and 80s - but just five years ago, these achievements would have seemed impossible.

In April 2002, there were no British acts in the US top 100 singles rundown for the first time in 38 years...

So why have British artists suddenly found favour with the American public? What makes Lily Allen a more attractive prospect than Robbie Williams? How can Bloc Party be making strides where Oasis have stumbled? continued here

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Slipping Into Darkness: War's Influence on the Wailers

...ever go through a book so fast when you first read it that later, you find yourself re-reading it and finding shite you'd gleaned over or outright forgot you'd read? I'm re-reading Vivien Goldman's The Book of Exodus…the Making and Meaning of Bob Marley's Album of the Century and am reminded of a thought I'd had years ago, back in my tiny apartment in New York City when I tangentially made the connection between the music of the funk/rock band War and the original Wailers (Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston and Marley) microphany occurred as I went about one of my weekend rituals of reading magazines and books with the record player on, while listening to a stack of vinyl LPs from the 70s...

...After All Day Music was done which was originally released in early 1971, I slapped on my copy of the Wailers' Burning album that dropped about two years later in 1973 and noted how funky, though firmly rooted in the (then) new reggae sound it can hear it on sticky cuts like "Duppy Conqueror", "Pass it On", "Burnin and Lootin'" and check the chorus on "Get Up, Stand Up" and compare/ contrast it with the tune below-- that match is pretty much note for note...I didn't jump to any conclusions back in my NYC bed sit and assumed that one had an influence on the other as I kept reading on that cold winter day on the Upper West Side but recently I came across this other guy who touched on said subject matter about the which made me think of my rumination years ago and hence this post...if you're into the music (and it's lore/ history) as much as I, you might want to check out that post as I think the argument holds some water... oh yeah, read Vivien Goldman's book too, it's rockin, esepecially if you enjoy reading true accounts of the rock 'n roll scene from a fly on the wall-- I found a grip of rock-related insights in there...and now, the funk...

**click on More about this song on the player to read the whole piece.

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