December 20, 2009

Avatar

An exciting, broad-stroke epic, perfectly realized by James Cameron. The aliens and their future world are perfectly presented without artifice. All the dreams of alien worlds from the entire history of science fiction were finally realized. Who knew that James Cameron cared about our innate connection and dependence on sustaining Mother Gaia? Every tree is sacred? As my friend Brian pointed out, Cameron's misanthropy was securely in place, in the part of the imperialist strip-mining corporation.

I give this movie an A-minus. What was wrong with it? The villain was completely one-dimensional, with no motivation except simple war-mongering. All the characters could have used more detail and emotion. Also, the plot is completely cribbed from Disney's screenplay for Pocahontas, so I never for one moment wondered what would happen next.

It is not necessary to see Avatar in 3D. It was only occasionally distracting. If you have not yet seen a movie with this new 3D technology, picture and entire movie presented like a ViewMaster, and that's the sensation you get. (In REALD 3D at Cinema Du Lux, Dedham)

December 1, 2009

124: The Hank Scorpio Dictionary of Soul

  1. "These Days" R.E.M. Live at the Olympia. Have you ever continued to follow your favorite band long after their creative peak, then looked back in regret, wishing you hadn't bought their last four albums? I used to be a big fan of R.E.M. I have all their CDs up through Reveal (2001). Not long after that, I looked back at the previous decade, and wished I had given up the R.E.M. habit after Automatic for the People in 1992. If anyone is interested in buying used copies of Monster (1994), New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), Up (1998), and Reveal, let me know...
  2. Soap on a Rope" Chickenfoot. A unabashedly retro hard rock supergroup: Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith. I got this single for free on Amazon.
  3. "I Hate My Generation" Cracker
  4. "Camera One" Josh Joplin Group sounds remarkably like R.E.M.
  5. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" Weezer. I have never been a particular fan of Weezer, but this song is a lot of fun.
  6. "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell has very similar guitar rhythm to the Weezer song, above.
  7. "Carol Brown" by Flight of the Conchords turns "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" back on the guy. I love Jemaine talking back to his ex-girlfriend backing chorus.
  8. "Already Gone" might be my favorite Eagles song.
  9. "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" (Extended Club Mix) Hall & Oates. I am a collector of 12-inch dance remixes, specifically remixes of 1980s rock and pop songs (non-disco.) I have never heard of a group re-releasing their remixes as part of catalog reissues, but I found some Hall & Oates remixes re-released on Amazon.
  10. "Mississippi" Sheryl Crow. Thanks to RDM for including this song on a mix CD he gave me. Bob Dylan's original version is one of the first songs my son heard on our iPod the day after he was born.
  11. "I'm Looking Through You" The Beatles. I have liked singing to my son since Day One (literally.) I sang this song to him on Day One. I don't know how I chose this song, but there you go.
  12. "Rock Me On The Water" Jackson Browne
  13. "In Your Room" The Bangles. In November 2009, I saw one of my favorite musicians, Matthew Sweet, live onstage in Arlington MA (!!) as part of his "Under The Covers" side project with ex-Bangle Susannah Hoffs. One of the final performances of the night was an acoustic version of "In Your Room". NOTE: Susannah and I share a birthday!
  14. "Planet Claire" The B-52's. I saw a cheer group dance to this song in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2009.
  15. "Poker Face" Lady Gaga
  16. "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" Tina Turner. I also used to sing the chorus of this song to my newborn son. Who knows why.
  17. "Free Will" Rush
  18. "Maggie May" Susannah Hoffs & Matthew Sweet
  19. "Singalong Junk" Paul McCartney. Another singalong to my son.
LEFT: Me and my son, 2009.
RIGHT: Paul and Mary McCartney, 1970.

October 26, 2009

The Invention of Lying

A surreal parable for atheism disguised as a Liar Liar style comedy, The Invention of Lying was co-written and -directed by Ricky Gervais. We are huge Ricky Gervais fans, so we we eager to see this "in a world without lying" movie before it disappeared from theaters.

In this world, everyone always tells the truth, so everyone always trusts everything you say. Gervais's character's life is circliing the drain when he invents lying out of pure desparation: since Gervais considers using his new skill to exploit his fellow man for money, sex, and social status. The movie hits the heart (and made me weepy) when Gervais consoles his mother on her deathbed. There is no God and no Heaven in this world, so Gervais "makes up" a higher power to save her from eternal oblivion. Quickly word spreads of his "man in the sky who watches everything you do" and he becomes a prophet for the God he just invented.

There's also a romantic triangle between Gervais, Jennifer Garner, and Rob Lowe. Garner refuses to date Gervais because he is unsuitable genetically: apparently love is not blind in this world? It's a thin excuse to keep their characters apart. Only because Garner is so sweet and wholesome can we stand to listen to her complain about how fat their kids would be if they mated.

I tried to treat this as a parable and not an alternate universe. The concept of this entire world without lying was taken too literally in some places. For example, Gervais is happy to mine comedy from his short, fat, and ugliness, so there's too many scenes of people making insulting observations about each other. Also, in this world, fiction does not exist so all entertainment is in the form of historical documentaries, which does not yield too many laughs. One of many plot holes: they never address the idea that people could say things that are untrue because they are misinformed, drunk, crazy, etc.

To sum up: some interesting ideas about atheism, religion, and God, but the script needed a fresh perspective. (Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond)

September 1, 2009

123 No Man Can Say

This mix is not particularly inspired- it's overloaded with random songs pulled from CDs and LPs I had recently bought at yard sales.
  1. "Mais Que Nada" Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 • One of those instrumentals I have heard a thousand times and never knew the name. I heard it in the movie Joe Versus The Volcano, so I was able to find the title in the end credits and VOILA here we are. Also known as Music From A Baseball Pitching Change.
  2. "Too Many Dicks [On the Dancefloor]" Flight of the Conchords • I am glad to hear that FOTC is not going to continue for a third season on HBO. I loved season 1, but season 2 was nowhere near as good. This song was a highlight!
  3. "White Lines [Don't Do It]" Duran Duran featuring Grandmaster Flash • Craig Ferguson once lip-synched this song (with a puppet chorus) as the cold open of The Late Late Show, I shit you not.
  4. "We'll Be Together" • Sting
  5. "I DoWanna Know" REO Speedwagon • I had not heard this song in 20 years when I found the LP at Antiques USA in Arundel, ME, for $2. Not exactly a rock 'n' roll classic, I had seen the video for it as a teenager, on Boston's UHF video channel V-66. For some strange reason, this completely ordinary rock song's catchy chorus stuck with me into the 21st century. Listening to it again for the first time in two decades was like watching a video of a long lost dream. Very trippy.
  6. "Sonny Feeling" • Wilco
  7. "Bittersweet" • Hoodoo Gurus
  8. "Baby You're A Rich Man" [mono mix, 2009 remaster] • The Beatles
  9. "Sugar Magnolia" Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs • A Grateful Dead cover from their second disc of classic rock cover songs, Under The Covers Volume 2. I went to see the dynamic duo play an acoustic set, with my friends George and Mandy, in November.
  10. "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)" Hall & Oates • Back in 1973, John Oates sang nearly as much as Daryl Hall.
  11. "It Hasn't Happened Yet" John Hiatt • From John Hiatt's pre-fame era.
  12. "Slowly [oh so slowly]" • Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band
  13. "Rock'n Me '76 Slow" Steve Miller Band • An outtake from the Fly Like An Eagle sessions, it's a slow acoustic version of the rock classic.
  14. "Across The River" • Bruce Hornsby & The Range
  15. I had a big crush on Belinda Carlisle
  16. "Don't Change" • INXS
  17. "Girl Of 100 Lists" The Go-Gos • I was inspired to include this song after reading a 1983 Rolling Stone cover story about the Go-Gos.
  18. "Time Stand Still" The Hooters • Only after I bought this song on iTunes did I realize why it sounded so good- it's a unintentional remake of their own song "Satellite". Oh well.
  19. "Rollin' And Tumblin'" Canned Heat • I first heard this blues standard covered on Eric Clapton Unplugged.
  20. "Hey Ya" Booker T. • The organist/leader of Booker T. & The MG's covers the Outkast song on the organ!

August 4, 2009

Fifty Bands

This post was inspired by a Facebook meme that's going around.
    "Test your memory and your love of live music by listing 50 artists or bands (or as many as you can remember) you've seen in concert. List the first 50 acts that come into your head. An act you saw at a festival and opening acts count, but only if you can't think of 50 other artists. Oh, and list the first concert you ever saw (you can remember that, can’t you)?"
I tried to leave out:
  • bands you've never heard of;
  • bands I saw at Lollapalooza;
  • bands I saw for free;
  • and bands whose concerts I have no memory of!
Here's what remains, in pure stream-of-consciousness order:
  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother's Milk tour, Orpheum May 1990? Still the loudest concert ever.
  2. Peter Gabriel is the first concert I saw, at Great Woods in 1987, with Youssou N'Dour opening. My mom went with me. I saw PG again on the US tour, and again on the UP tour.
  3. ZZ Top, the Worcester Centrum...
  4. ...and The Black Crowes opened for ZZ Top on the Recycler tour in 1990!
  5. Paul McCartney 1989 (Centrum) and 2001 (Brendan Byrne Arena)
  6. The Dead Milkmen, opening for the Chili Peppers, May 1990
  7. Violent Femmes, Orpheum, 1994? I thought the balcony was going to collapse during "Blister in the Sun".
  8. Billy Joel at the old Boston Garden, on the Storm Front tour; even in 1990 he could not sing the high parts in "An Innocent Man" anymore.
  9. AC/DC, I think it was the Blow Up Your Video tour, with Cinderella opening.
  10. Aerosmith: December 31, 1989, at the old Boston Garden, with Skid Row opening.
  11. Wilco 2002, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2013
  12. Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band 2009
  13. Ben Folds, 2002- the cover photo of Ben Folds Live was taken at the show I went to.
  14. Letters to Cleo, Avalon, early 90s
  15. Bob Dylan and Natalie Merchant, February 25, 1999, Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland Maine.
  16. Bob Dylan at Avalon with Em, George, and Mandy, circa 2004?
  17. Natalie Merchant in the mid-90s, I forget where.
  18. Liz Phair 1998 (opening for Alanis Morrissette at the CCCC), 2003 at Avalon
  19. The Breeders, Avalon, Title TK tour
  20. Bob Mould
  21. John Hiatt, The Tiki Bar is Open Tour, South Shore Music Circus, Cohasset MA 2002.
  22. Nick Lowe, Somerville Theater, At My Age tour
  23. Sting 1987 (Garden), 1988 (Great Woods)
  24. Sinead O'Connor, Great Woods, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got tour
  25. Bruce Springsteen 1992 Human Touch/Lucky Town tour, Centrum; December 1995 (Ghost of Tom Joad, Orpheum; Tracks tour, Garden 2001
  26. Fountains of Wayne, the Paradise
  27. The Thorns, the Paradise, early 00s opening for...
  28. The Jayhawks the Paradise
  29. Chicago and
  30. The Beach Boys at Great Woods summer 1991 or 92?
  31. Little Feat and 
  32. Steve Miller Band at Great Woods summer 1991 or 92?
  33. George Thorogood  at Great Woods summer 1991 or 92?
  34. Spin Doctors
  35. The Lemonheads
  36. R.E.M. Monster tour at Great Woods
  37. Barenaked Ladies at the CCCC, mid 90s, and at Great Woods in 2001?
  38. Buffalo Tom
  39. New Pornographers
    At this point, I could not think of any more off the top of my head, so I read some old blog posts to jar my memory...
  40. Lucinda Williams at the State Theater Portland ME
  41. Squeeze at Avalon
  42. John Wesley Harding
  43. Pearl Jam at the Orpheum, on the Versus tour, maybe the best show I have ever seen.
  44. Ellis Paul at least twice, most recently at Club Passim in 2014
  45. Robert Plant at SXSW is the closest I have been to a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer- me, my wife, and our friends were all up against the barricades for this show.
  46. Prince 2004 at the Garden, Musicology tour
  47. Hall & Oates at the Orpheum, early 90s
  48. The Cranberries at the Orpheum, mid 90s
  49. Alison Krauss & Union Station
  50. Indigo Girls at the Orpheum, when Swamp Ophelia came out
  51. Guster

  52. and many more...

July 29, 2009

1984: The greatest year for movies...ever?

Chris Nashawaty at Entertainment Weekly just posted a story with that title on their Web site. I am inclined to agree with him. I have culled from his list my favorites:
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
  • Amadeus
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • C.H.U.D.
  • Ghostbusters
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Repo Man
  • Revenge of the Nerds
  • Romancing The Stone
  • Sixteen Candles
  • Splash
  • Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
  • The Karate Kid
  • The Natural
  • The Terminator
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Top Secret!
Plus two movies with great soundtracks: Stop Making Sense and Purple Rain.
Can you name another calendar year where you can name 17 movies you loved?

July 17, 2009

Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

A brilliant adaptation of a overlong, boring, and clunky book, HBP the Movie one of the best Potter movies, and loads better than HBP the Book. Our young actors performances are getting better with each passing year: Tom Felton is a special revelation as Draco Malfoy, finally given something worthwhile to do in the movies besides sneering. Jim Broadbent is ideally suited, perhaps a little twitchy, to play the professor with a secret.
Over the course of the school year, Dumbledore instructs Harry on Voldemort 101, Harry suspects Draco Malfoy is a newly-branded Death Eater who's hatching a murderous plot, and, on a lighter note, romance is in full bloom as the hormone-soaked teenagers of Hogwarts suck face all year long.
In the book, the History Of Voldemort classes are supremely satisfying, but Harry's yearlong Malfoy conspiracy theory is not dramatically satisfying. Screenwriter Steve Kloves fixes this problem so by the end of the movie, we understand what Malfoy's been up to all year, and we actually care what happens to him when he meets his final confrontation with Dumbledore at the end of the movie.
The romantic storylines are very entertaining and silly, especially scene-stealer Jessie Cave as the love-struck Lavender Brown.
There was a lot of heavy lifting to do in the second half of this movie, in order to set up Harry's mission to destroy Voldemort in the last year of J.K. Rowling's saga. I don't know if Voldemort's Horcrux plot device is going to make sense to the uninitiated, but Kloves made a valiant effort to explain the concept to us.
NOTE: This movie is rated PG, even though it's full of bloody curses, the murder of a principal character, and undead zombies dragging Harry to a watery grave in a terrifying underground cave. This movie will give small children nightmares. (At the AMC Framingham Premium Cinema)



July 10, 2009

Public Enemies

A technically proficient but soulfully deficient gangster movie, from the kingpin of gun battles, Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice). Talk about great gun battles- Mann truly knows how to stage a shootout, this time with tommy guns, single-action rifles, and shotguns. The live effects and sound design are both superior.publicenemies
The casting is almost all fantastic- lots of doughy white 1930s faces with bad skin and sweaty necks: David Wenham, Stephen Dorff, and Giovanni Ribisi are fellow gangsters; Academy-Award winner Marion Cotillard succeeds in an underwritten, thankless role as Dillinger's moll; Christian Bale is fine as Melvin Purvis, the only G-Man with a soul; Billy Crudup looks nothing like J. Edgar Hoover, and he puts on a ridiculous Jimmy Cagney voice, as if all men in the 1930s talk like that? I really enjoyed a brief appearance by veteran character actor (and three-time Michael Mann alumnus) Stephen Lang.
It wouldn't be too hard to turn John Dillinger's last year of bankrobbing and police-fleeing into a metaphor: escaping the miseries of the Great Depression, making a better life away from a brutal childhood, innocent girlfriend = redemption from sin? Take your pick. Unfortunately, we aren't given much of a reason why we should care whether Dillinger makes that Last Big Score or not. Johnny Depp, who just turned 46 (!!), looks about ten years younger, as the charming, level-headed, and well-dressed Dillinger. We understand that Dillinger has spent over ten years in prison, and his childhood was brutal, but that makes him no more than a cliche ex-con. We need more from Depp, and the script, to care about him like he was a real person.
Mann goes out of his way to illustrate the changing times in organized crime and law enforcement, illustrating the proto-FBI's incompetence with vigor. J. Edgar Hoover's civil liberty-bending tactics feel very post-Patriot Act.
Mann's digital video camerawork is mostly superior, with no compromise compared to 35mm film, except in a few low-light scenes, where the graininess is distracting and unacceptable.(At the Somerville Theater with Emily, Sarah, Amy, and Adam)

June 24, 2009

The Oscars: Now Less Than Ever!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced The Oscars will include ten Best Picture nominees this year instead of the usual five.

The end result will be more promotional ammunition for arty Oscar bait that no one wants to see twice, and a dilution of the Oscar brand: a symbol of "quality" for the industry which brings us Transformers 2 and Norbit. Let's be blunt for a moment: the Oscars are the prestige cherry atop a shit sundae.

I find it amazing that they have made this change three months after the weakest Best Picture pool in memory. The contrast is doubly delicious when, in the third paragraph, they invite us to compare today's forgettable fare with the truly epic competition of 1939:

  • "Gone With the Wind"
  • "Dark Victory,"
  • "Goodbye, Mr. Chips,"
  • "Love Affair,"
  • "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,"
  • "Ninotchka,"
  • "Of Mice and Men,"
  • "Stagecoach,"
  • "The Wizard of Oz," and
  • "Wuthering Heights."

June 23, 2009

Marquee Comedy

The marquee of the Lexington Flick last night:

STAR TREK  SEE IT AGAIN!
ANGELS & DEMONS
GOODBYE SOLO HOT DOGS

June 19, 2009

They said you was going to put me on the shelf...

Have you ever been totally overexposed to your favorite band, TV show, or movie, that you never want to see them again? I saw the movie Pulp Fiction six times in the theater in 1994 and 1995, and in the 14 years since, I don't think I have seen it once. The same thing has happened to me with classic rock. There was a time about ten years ago when I was tired of classic rock. I had been listening to classic rock as a fan and as a DJ since I was a teenager. Ten years later, I was oversaturated. In 1999, creaky old bands from the 1970s were at the low ebb of coolness. Around that time, I sold a bunch of my CDs at a yard sale. Normally I never get rid of any CDs, but I was at a place in my life where I never thought I would want to listen to these bands again:
  • JOURNEY: Greatest Hits
  • CHICAGO's Greatest Hits
  • The EAGLES Their Greatest Hits 1971-75
  • The EAGLES Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
  • RUSH: Chronicles
Fast-forward to the 21st century. I have spent most of the 2000s NOT listening to classic rock, both on the radio and around the house. I have started to miss these bands. I want to invite "25 or 6 to 4", "Already Gone", and "Limelight" back into my life. Thankfully, I can reclaim these hits collections without giving Don Henley any more of my money. My mother-in-law gave me access to her old records, where I found Chicago's Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 AND 2; I have picked up copies of Journey's Evolution (1979) and Escape (1981); and I found The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 at a yard sale last weekend. That particular collection has sold 42,000,000 copies worldwide, so I was glad to find a used copy lying around!

I have been reunited with my classic rock roots. Perhaps in a few years I will be ready for Pulp Fiction again too?

The Hangover

I had a great time at this good but not great morning-after comedy, from the director of Old School. The Hangover is much improved by a great audience. Way to go, Somerville Theater crowd! I missed at least half the dialog thanks to the excited and actively engaged audience. When I saw Wedding Crashers at Boston Common in 2005, the sold-out theater was a big bonus to the entertainment value of the movie. I am also reminded of the great crowd at the Somerville Theater for The Simpsons Movie in 2007.

As the credits rolled, I had an epiphany: my Oscar Night costume will be as Best Newcomer nominee Zach Galifianakis's character Allan, complete with beard, dark sunglasses, and baby Carlos!
Big shoutout to our friends, who showed up in force, considering the extremely short notice: my wife sent the initial email to the group at 8:52 a.m. Ten hours and 53 minutes later, we had seven people join us! A wonderful time was had by all. (Somerville Theater [main theater], with Emily, Sarah, Kim, Amy, Mandy, Kathy, Penny, Tom, and two beers)

May 26, 2009

122: All The Music That Fits

My first, best rock & roll collage from high school
While packing and preparing to move to a new apartment, I did a Thoreau-ian "simplify, simplify" purge of my possessions. Part of that project is recycling Rolling Stone back issues from the 1980s. Since I bought the complete Rolling Stone 1967-2007 on DVD-ROM, technically I don't need ANY of those back issues clogging up my bookcases anymore. Rather than unilaterally toss 'em all out, I only discarded the issues which were too tattered to keep, and/or the issues I had scissored to ribbons during my teenage collage-making days.
After placing those issues aside, but before dropping them in the recycling bin, I leafed through the stack: about a dozen issues, all from 1985-1989. This quick skim inspired some MP3 purchases from that era (see below).
Another side-effect of packing? A slew of new music discoveries. Since I hardly ever hear new music on the radio, I tend to find new music on the RCN Music Choice channel: Adult Alternative. And when do I listen to this channel? When packing boxes!
  1. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" by Vampire Weekend is my wife's new ringtone.
  2. "All Around the World Or The Myth of Fingerprints" [demo], Paul Simon
  3. "On A Night Like This" Los Lobos (from the movie soundtrack Masked and Anonymous)
  4. "Take The Joker & Run" Steve Miller Band: I found a special re-release of Miller's Fly Like An Eagle, which includes several outtakes, including this one. It's a early version of "Take The Money & Run", but the arrangement is exactly like "The Joker". It's really funny and odd to hear it like that!
  5. "Waiting for a Miracle" Bruce Cockburn
  6. "Real Love" Lucinda Williams
  7. "Smoking Gun" Robert Cray Band
  8. "Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters" Elton John (I just bought his album Honky Chateau, and re-discovered this great song.)
  9. "People Got A Lotta Nerve" Neko Case
  10. "Satellite" The Hooters
  11. "Trashcan" Delta Spirit
  12. "Lips Like Sugar" Echo & The Bunnymen
  13. "The Big Bang Theory (Theme)" Live in Concert, Barenaked Ladies
  14. "Mykonos" Fleet Foxes
  15. "Hurt Feelings" Flight of the Conchords
  16. "Folsom Prison Blues" Merle Haggard & The Strangers: I like putting together the faux badasses of FotC next to the faux badass of this song.
  17. "I Know" [live] Pat McGee
  18. "I Want to Make The World Turn Around" I had completely forgotten this Steve Miller Band song until I read a review of the LP in my old Rolling Stone magazine...
  19. "Used To Be Bad" A completely ordinary blues duet between two old fogies: Paul McCartney & Steve Miller.
  20. "Absolutely Still" Better Than Ezra
  21. I liked "OK It's Alright With Me" the first few times I heard it, but Eric Hutchinson is starting to sound like a second rate Jamie Cullum or Maroon 5?
  22. "Phantom Limb" The Shins

May 15, 2009

Moving


Moving out in 2009:
Note the CD shelves are empty, and the LPs are in crates!
A lovely mix CD from my wife!

1.       "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" She & Him Volume One
2.       "I Got You (At the End of the Century)" Wilco Being There
3.       "Deep Red Bells" Neko Case Live from Austin
4.       "Los Angeles, I'm Yours" The Decemberists Her Majesty The Decembrists
5.       "Right Moves" Josh Ritter The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
6.       "Classic Cars" Bright Eyes Cassadaga
7.       "Cab" Train For Me, It's You
8.       "As Long As You Follow" Fleetwood Mac
9.       "One Sweet Duet" John Craigie A Picnic On the 405
10.   "Put Your Records On" Corinne Bailey Rae
11.   "The Way I Am" Ingrid Michaelson Girls and Boys
12.   "David" Nellie McKay  Get Away from Me
13.   "Viva la Vida" Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
14.   "Campus" Vampire Weekend
15.   "The Underdog" Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
16.   "Keep the Car Running" Arcade Fire Neon Bible
17.   "Chocolate" Snow Patrol Final Straw
18.   "Come On Get Higher" (live)  Sugarland Love On the Inside
19.   "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight" Amos Lee
20.   "Passing Afternoon" Iron & Wine Our Endless Numbered Days

May 13, 2009

Summer Movie Preview

These are the movies I want to see.
  • I just read Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons. It was so poorly written, I started quoting the worst passages to my wife. However, the plot is gripping and will make an exciting movie. It must turn out better than the inscrutable Da Vinci Code, whose plot I could not follow. UPDATE: Poor reviews have demoted this movie to "Must Rent" status.
  • I am a huge fan of the first two Terminator movies. When I finally saw the third movie on HBO, I was not impressed. I had zero interest in a fourth Terminator movie, until I saw the intriguing trailers for Terminator: Salvation- the plot tease seems to be adding a new exciting variation into the Skynet world, let's see how the reviews look before I pony up $10. UPDATE: One year later (May 2010) I finally saw this on DVD. Boy, what a grim movie. Any film which starts after 6,000,000,000 people have been wiped out is tough to get excited about. Even if the Resistance does destroy Skynet, the remains of the human race are still living on a post-nuclear cinder. Yay! Break out the party hats! As I saw in the trailer, there were some novel ideas introduced, but so many missed opportunities. Coolest moment by far is when John Connor (Christian Bale) fights the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator. Yes, they used CGI to create a photorealistic Arnold, just like he looked in 1984. Pretty neat, and almost believable.
  • The new Pixar movie is called Up. I have really enjoyed all the Pixar movies (except Cars). I finally saw UP in November 2009, and I liked it. I was a little distracted by my newborn son, but that's a tradeoff I can live with!
  • The Hangover, from the director of Old School!
  • Public Enemies is a gangster movie directed by Michael Mann. Need I say more?
  • Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, finally.
  • The new Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds [sic]. I finally saw Basterds on DVD in January 2010, and I was totally underwhelmed. Yes, the opening farmhouse scene is amazing, and Christoph Waltz is spellbinding as The Jew Hunter. However, the trailers include every second of action from the whole movie, and some which didn't make it into the movie, and as a result, paint a totally inaccurate picture of the film. As my wife put it, "as usual, QT has too many good ideas stuffed into one movie" and "sometimes I think Brad Pitt cannot act at all."

May 11, 2009

To Boldly Go To The Theater To See Star Trek

I may have seen all the Star Trek movies in the theater:
  1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979): I was 7 going on 8 when this movie came out. I am sure my parents would take me to see it, but I have no idea if they did.
  2. The Wrath Of Khan (1982): I think I saw this in the theater when I was 10. I finally saw it again on the big screen, in 2007, at the Brattle Theater.
  3. The Search For Spock (1984): I must have seen this in the theater!
  4. The Voyage Home (1986) I definitely saw this in the theater- my parents love this movie!
  5. The "Final" Frontier (1989)
  6. The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  7. Generations (1994)
  8. First Contact (1996)
  9. Insurrection (1999)
  10. Nemesis? I saw it in the theater in 2002, but I can't find the blog post?
  11. Star Trek (2009)
  12. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
  13. Star Trek Beyond (2016)

May 10, 2009

Star Trek

An excellent general-interest reboot of the dormant Star Trek franchise. A thrilling, emotional, funny, and fast-paced ride, this Star Trek "origin" story remains faithful to the characters we love, while acknowledging the pre-TV show history which had already been told, in dribs and drabs, over the last 40-plus years.
NERD ALERT: Director/Producer JJ Abrams, with screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, have deliberately altered the history of the Star Trek "universe" within the first five minutes, which frees them from the shackles of 40 years of tangled and patchwork "history" of the Federation. Who honestly cares if 2009 Kirk contradicts something 1966 Kirk said in passing once? Blind fidelity like that only satisfies the most obsessive-compulsive of fans.
I'm conflicted over the general tone of the movie. The 1960s TV show was about a UN-style exploration vessel, which occasionally got into scrapes with strange alien worlds. The plot of this 2009 movie is similar to 1982's Wrath of Khan: a ruthless alien warrior takes vengeance on the Federation, and lots of spaceships go BOOM in the process. It's fair to acknowledge that the writers and director needed to make an effort to draw in a general audience to the theater, and the space battles are exciting. Besides, I am certain that the 1966 TV show would have had scenes like this if it were possible in their day.
The pacing was airtight and relentless- no third-act lag here! My only major complaint was a completely unnecessary interlude where Kirk escapes from some snow monsters. Besides the biological unlikelihood of giant monsters in an arctic wilderness, the creatures seemed out of character for Star Trek. I am not saying that they would never would have had giant monsters on Star Trek in 1966 if the technology allowed it, but it seems unlikely.
The casting of the original crew is uniformly excellent, and their performances are all spot-on. The only character which is slightly off-center is Simon Pegg's Scotty, who behaves exactly as Scotty should, but he's used exclusively as comic relief, including goofing around with a tiny alien sidekick.
Origin movies carry a heavy burden- introducing a dozen new characters and a whole fictional universe is hard work (see the first Harry Potter movie if you don't believe me) but Star Trek 2009 does it with grace, personality, faithfulness, and in an efficient and non-bloated 126 minutes. I give this movie an "A", and now that we've been reintroduced, the next adventure should be even better.
(AMC Boston Common, screen 2, with Emily, Jon & Bobbi, Amy & Adam, Ilan, Brian, Jess G, Marc, Jeff S, and friend; AND again on May 23 at the Somerville Theater with Emily)
Also on Stub Hubby
To Boldly Go To The Theater To See Star Trek ...Twelve Movies and Counting (1979-Present)
Two Star Trek movies, two gratuitous bra-and-panty scenes?





May 2, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

So much of the Wolverine origin story has been told, perhaps obliquely, in three X-Men feature films, that I hoped that a 107-minute all-Wolverine movie would contribute something new, something interesting, and something faithful to the comic books. I was mostly disappointed. Excellent performances by Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are the highlights of this workmanlike reheating of X-Men 2.
As a whole, the film was capable, but the three previous X-Men features (even The Last Stand, directed by Brett Ratner) all had some thoughtfulness, some sophistication, and some personal flair. Wolverine felt like it was directed by autopilot. "Workmanlike" is not much of a compliment to director Gavin Hood on his second Hollywood feature.

Stub Hubby Sees The X-Men Movies

...or click the label Marvel below

April 5, 2009

Adventureland

If you were expecting a wacky, Apatow-ian R-rated comedy (and based on the TV spots who could blame you), adjust your expectations sideways and buy a ticket anyways. Adventureland is a pleasant autobiographical coming-of-age movie from director Greg Mottola (Superbad, The Daytrippers).adventureland

More like Almost Famous than Superbad, Adventureland's plot is so transparent as to be nonexistent. Its success relies on capturing the atmosphere of its era, and the performances of the leads. Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as the over-smart, articulate, but slightly awkward brainiac, spending his summer of 1987 working as a carny at Adventureland. It's an archetype made famous by Michael Cera, just five years older in this case. Kristen Stewart better learn to act soon, because I have seen her in two movies this month, and her It Girl status won't carry her much further. Ryan Reynolds is surprisingly not bad. The music is pretty good, although I have NO interest in Lou Reed, so every Velvet Underground moment in the movie (of which there are many) made me groan. Bring on more Crowded House and Whitesnake!

(AMC Burlington, with the lovely wife. Paid for with an AMC GC my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. Thanks Deb!)

March 30, 2009

Netflix: Our Longest Rentals 2001-2008

The New York Times published one of their cultural anecdotal news stories today about couples whose Netflix queue causes strife. The article highlights a common Netflix problem: you add a movie to your list, but once you receive it, you never watch it. Weeks and months go by, but you and/or your spouse just let it sit there. In my experience, this happens most often with serious dramas. In fact, this morning, I logged onto Netflix.com, clicked My Account, and viewed my complete rental history from the day I joined in 2001 through 2008. The report lists the ship and return dates for all the DVDs. For your edification, here's the titles we kept out the longest:
  1. Children Of Men: 208 days - The irony is rich: I received Children Of Men in April 2007, but I didn't watch it until November. It turns out it was one of the best movies I saw that year. Regardless of its quality, Children Of Men is Netflix Kryptonite: a movie which is notoriously depressing, it took me over six months to work up the courage to watch it. The good news is, I loved it.
  2. The TV Set: 105 days-- I like "Inside Hollywood" movies, and this feature film about the making of a sitcom pilot has some good parts, but this 88 minute dud was missing a third act and was wayyy underbaked. I think it took 105 days to watch it because my wife and I both wanted to see it, but never at the same time?
  3. Freaks & Geeks Disc 2: 91 days -- I watched the episodes on disc 1, but I wasn't overwhelmed by them. As a result, when Disc 2 arrived, I had zero motivation to watch more.
  4. Charlie Wilson's War: 90 days -- This movie felt like it was going to taste like medicine, and it did. That's why I sat on this animated history lesson for 3 months. The most memorable part is Julia Roberts in a bikini for the first time ever.
  5. American Splendor: 77 days -- I don't know what took so long? I guess I didn't know what to expect from this movie, but it had been recommended to me. I ended up liking it very much.
  6. After that there's eleven DVDs we kept out between 40 and 70 days, including downers like Munich (56 days) and American Gangster (55 days); plus subtitled films Nine Queens (53 days) and With A Friend Like Harry (42 days).
What have I learned from these experiences which I may pass along to you, my fellow Netflix users?
  • Load up your Queue with comedies
  • Don't put more than one disc of a TV show in your Queue unless you know you like it already
  • Subtitled films are hard to watch at home, because you can't read the Sunday paper while watching. They demand your attention!
  • If your subscription sends you more than 1 movie at a time, alternate comedies with those Important dramas, so at least you can continue to receive DVDs while Gandhi or The English Patient gathers dust next to the TV.
  • Don't wait for your wife- watch those movies without them!

March 27, 2009

I Love You, Man

A funny and heartfelt movie which explores uncharted territory with subtlety and grace: how do adult men make new friends?

Paul Rudd is Peter, an L.A. metrosexual with zero serious male friendships. He has tons of friendships with women, but his only best friends have been his mother, and his fiancee. He's friendly, smart, and charming, but he becomes an awkward mess when he attempts to be chummy and casual with men.iloveyouman

Peter meets Sidney, a man-child free spirit who lives in a "man cave" on Venice Beach (next door to Mark Harmon's character in Summer School, both geographically and metaphorically).

The rest of the story is your classic romantic comedy, except it's the hetero love between two straight men, including the "falling in love" montage, the breakup in the third act, then the reconciliation and declaration of "I love you, man" at the end, during a wedding, no less.

The movie is a graceful balance of classic chuck flick humor (vomit jokes, poop jokes, gay jokes) and an honest character portrait.

Other highlights: a great supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons, Andy Samberg, Jamie Pressly, and Thomas Lennon. Two great "prick" roles: Jon Favreau as Jaime Pressly's husband, the classic "husband who hates being dragged out to social events", and a breakout performance by Rob Huebel as Peter's work rival.

I only have a few complaints: Peter's fiancee's friends include an underwritten "desparate and single" friend, who adds nothing to the movie. Also, Sidney is unique, entertaining, and memorable, but most of his backstory must have been cut out, because his history, job, etc, is a cipher.

My grade would have been a B+, but it gets bumped to an A-minus for fantastic costume design, and Rush makes a concert appearance, playing "Limelight"!

(AMC Boston Common, Screen 18, with Phil and Adam)

March 23, 2009

The Worst Movies 1998-2016

I have seen a lot of bad movies over the years, but making a list- a short list- was a challenge. While reviewing every post in this blog, these were my criteria:
  • We're not looking for BAD movies, we're looking for movies I hated. I have enjoyed plenty of bad movies but I have hated many good movies.
  • I had to see the movie in the theater. Therefore, movies I hated on TV (Napoleon Dynamite, The Break Up) don't make the list.
  • They have to be memorable- movies I saw and have since forgotten completely (Hexed, Eve Of Destruction) don't make the list.
I decided to limit myself to more recent history. This eliminates my free-spending, reckless youth. My discretion in moviegoing has improved...slightly. The good news is, I'm not a snob or a boor- this list includes big dumb action movies and artsy independent movies:

  • Meet Joe Black "Long, unnecessary, interminable, boring nothingness..."
  • The Big Lebowski "the meandering self-indulgence is maddening."
  • Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back "How did these two become so interesting?"
  • View From The Top "It was if no human hand was involved in the creation of this abomination."
  • Beyond The Sea "It simply doesn't hold together."
  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou "The quirks of Wes Anderson have worn me down to the nub."
  • The Island "...directed without flair, intelligence, or accomplishment."
  • Wanted "I endured a sadistic, ridiculous, and joyless grind-fest."
  • You Don't Mess With The Zohan "A novel and promising comedic premise, totally squandered."
  • The Invention of Lying "The movie needed a fresh perspective."
  • Killing Them Softly "A self-indulgent, smug, talky gangster movie."
  • Friends With Kids "The plot decomposes into a rote When Harry Got Sally Pregnant rewrite."
  • Nature Calls "The end result is a unfocused mishmash of maudlin "last camping trip with Dad" sentimentality, pre-adolescent camping humor, and the kind of boorish shouting you'd expect from Rob Riggle and Johnny Knoxville at their least restrained."

March 19, 2009

Easy Rockers of the 1970s

In a prior life, I was a radio DJ at a series of radio stations in Maine and New Hampshire. The gig I'm talking about today was Portland's 93.1 WMGX. I was the overnight DJ at WMGX starting in 1996. When I joined WMGX, the music format was what we now jokingly call "Yacht Rock" or "Easy Rock". It was heavy on the early- to mid-seventies pop-rock. We played some contemporary music too, but the most memorable music we played was the Yacht Rock.

Back when I was a DJ, radio studios had special cassette decks which were wired to record only when the announcer's microphone was on. I could record all my "breaks" over a six-hour shift onto one side of a 60 minute tape. I have literally dozens of "aircheck" tapes of my nights on WMGX. I have listened to a few of these tapes recently, which has brought back a lot of memories of that line of work, and my life in the mid 1990s.

I had fun talking on the radio, and I actually liked the music we played. Deejaying can be a lot of fun, during the daytime, anyway, when the building is full of people. Overnights, however, is a lonely and boring shift. I basically played the music, read magazines, and killed time, between the spots where I actually talked. This was before there was free and easy Internet, so I couldn't sit and browse the Web, update my Facebook, and blog about how bored I was. If I have ever shared with you a mind-bendingly obscure bit of music trivia (did you know Melissa Etheridge is from Leavenworth, Kansas? Did you know Linda Rondstadt sings backup on "Heart of Gold"?), I know this stuff because I literally read every liner note, every music trivia book, and The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits cover to fucking cover.

I actually spent a lot of time making mix tapes in the studio down the hall- I would use my own CDs from home + CDs I borrowed from the enormous collection in the studio. I would start a song in the main studio, leave the studio doors ajar, and crank up the speakers. While working on a mix tape down the hall, I would half-listen to the music from the main studio. When a song I was playing over the air wound down, I would hustle back and press START on the next track, then back to the tape!

I also pilfered a ton of LPs from the station's old vinyl collection, which was literally packed away in a storage closet. I had zero guilt about taking home stacks of LPs that would never be used again, or, in a lot of cases, had never been used in the first place.

So working overnights paralyzed my social life, and crippled my weekends too- I never had a problem sleeping during the day, but on the weekends, I would attempt to switch back to a regular schedule, so I could spend time with my girlfriend, but I ended up staggering about in a zombie-like haze, trying to stay conscious during daylight hours.

Last but not least, all DJs are paid peanuts. If you don't like the pay, there's a dozen people happy to take less to do your job.

Here's a representative sampling of the "easy rockers" I played every night on WMGX, in no particular order.

NOTE: When in the following list I say we played "lots of" or "plenty of" an artist, that means we played the same few songs every day, NOT that we played a wide variety of their songs. I would guess we played no more than 6 or 7 songs by each of these artists, but we played all of these acts at least 4 or 6 times a day.

  • Lots of Van Morrison, including "Moondance" and "Brown-Eyed Girl" (of course), but also "Wavelength", a song I have never heard anywhere else.
  • I think the Program Director had a crush on Rod Stewart, because we played him constantly, including "Reason To Believe", "The First Cut is the Deepest", "Tonight's The Night", and "You're In My Heart".
  • Lots of Jackson Browne, including "The Pretender", "In The Shape Of A Heart", "You Love The Thunder" and "Running On Empty"
  • Lots of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, including "Southern Cross", "Carry On", and the ultimate bathroom break song, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes".
  • Billy Joel: Lots of the Piano Man, including "It's Still Rock n Roll To Me", "You May Be Right", and "Movin Out"
  • Lots and lots of Elton John, mostly "Levon", "Tiny Dancer", "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"
  • Plenty of James Taylor, but the least timeless of these songs has to be "Your Smiling Face".
  • All of The Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 1.
  • "Baker Street" and "Right Down The Line", by Gerry Rafferty
  • Classic one-hit wonder "Romeo's Tune", by Steve Forbert
  • "Crazy Love" by Poco
  • After voluntarily listening to Jimmy Buffett for the first time in a decade, I was struck how he is a mediocre singer, and his songs are all midtempo and dull. How is the Margaritaville myth so strong that "parrotheads" pay big bucks to see him every summer? We played lots of "Margaritaville", "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes", "Cheeseburger In Paradise", and so on.
  • Pure Prairie League, "Amie"
  • "Dreamweaver" by Gary Wright
  • "Nights In White Satin" by The Moody Blues
  • The Doobie Brothers, "Black Water"
  • I think "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold" were the only two Neil Young songs we played. Trust me, I wanted to play "Cinnamon Girl", "Needle & The Damage Done", or "Rockin In The Free World" instead.
  • Plenty of Steely Dan, including "Do It Again" and "Reelin In The Years"
Coming soon: a sampler of the contemporary pop-rock I played back then.

March 7, 2009

121: More Records Than The KGB

I still think she looks incredibly sexy
(if a bit intense!) in this photo.
Mix 121 is named for a lyric from the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., which I also just bought as my new default mobile ringtone!
  1. "A Venture", from The Yes Album, their debut LP. I bought this entire album on MP3 from the Amazon.com MP3 store for a dollar!
  2. Paul McCartney wrote "Wings of a Nightingale" for The Everly Brothers' "comeback" album EB'84. I had heard OF this song for 25 years before I finally acquired a used copy of the LP and heard it for the first time. It's quite nice, but unexciting.
  3. "The Frown Song" Ben Folds
  4. "Looking Over My Shoulder" is from 'til tuesday's debut album Voices Carry. When I was a teenager, I borrowed the LP from the Topsfield Public Library, and I have had a crush on Aimee Mann ever since. 
  5. I am a big fan of Squeeze. The only album of theirs which I hadn't listened to was 1985's Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti. A few months ago at a used record fair in Providence, R.I., I bought two 12-inch singles from that album: "King George Street" and "Last Time Forever". The 12-inch remixes were nothing special, but they inspired me to include the LP version of "King George Street" on this mix.
  6. I first heard "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. in the awesome trailer for Pineapple Express. Since I don't listen to music on the radio, I didn't hear it again until I saw the railroad montage in Slumdog Millionaire.
  7. "Crackin' Up" Bo Diddley
  8. "Slippery Hips" is from the debut album by actresses Shawnee Smith & Missi Pyle. Smith is best known for the TV show Becker, and the five Saw movies. Pyle was in Galaxy Quest, Bringing Down The House, and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. I bought the album because I met Missi Pyle at the stage door of the Broadway show Boeing Boeing, and now I must do anything she tells me to!
  9. "Creature From The Black Lagoon" Dave Edmunds
  10. "Radiation Vibe" We just saw Fountains of Wayne at the Paradise Rock Club, on a all-acoustic, 'we're still working on the new album' tour. They played ALL the songs we wanted to hear, including this one. We left that night 100% satisfied.
  11. "Flaming Pie" This silly two and a half minute Paul McCartney piano boogie is infectious. I listened to it in the car three times in a row the other day.
  12. "Function At The Junction" Shorty Long
  13. "The Makings Of You" Curtis Mayfield
  14. "Queen of the Supermarket" This might be the prettiest Bruce Springsteen song ever, and maybe the most romantic. Also, I can't recall another Springsteen song where he drops the F-bomb?
  15. "It's All My Fault" John Wesley Harding
  16. "Strange Overtones" David Byrne & Brian Eno
  17. "15 Step" Radiohead
  18. "Love Comes Tumbling" This is a b-side from U2's "Pride" 12-inch single. I put it on the mix because it reminds me of an old high school friend of mine who helped turn me into a diehard U2 fan. I already liked the song "Pride", and I had already seen the "Sunday Bloody Sunday" video, but she showed me why they were awesome! Meredith, this one's for YOU!

Watchmen

The unfilmable graphic novel WATCHMEN has been filmed, and all my questions have been answered. If my main question is "how do you make a feature film out of such a big, dense, multilayered story", the answer is: you make it by stripping out everything which makes it worth watching.
A novel which would have made a brilliant 4 or 6 hour miniseries has been stripped down to a breakneck 2 hours and 45 minutes. Screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse have accomplished the thankless task of crafting a feature film whose plot makes sense. It's New York City 1985, and costumed heroes are real, in a loose confederacy called The Watchmen. When The Comedian is murdered, his fellow crime fighter Rorschach suspects a conspiracy: is someone targeting superheroes? Is there a plot to trigger World War III? Making a movie script out of this brilliant novel is thankless because they've managed to retain the plot and characterizations, while losing the heart and soul. The ending has been changed, it's true, but I didn't have a huge problem with this. Some compromises had to be made to make a comprehensible movie, and the essence of the finale remains the same.
I am more disappointed how the movie totally misses the point of the story. The major theme of the novel is to explore what masked heroes would really be like as people. What kind of person dresses up and fights crime? What would they look like in tights? The answer is- sociopaths, psychopaths put on masks and fight crime. Bruce Wayne was probably impotent when he wasn't dressing up and saving lives. Wonder Woman and her ridiculous clothes would be the laughingstock of every criminal fraternity. Even the most talented acrobat or martial artist can't fly through the air or throw a man across the room. Watchmen set out to illustrate this reality. The Watchmen movie amps up the action and fight sequences from the novel and obliterates this distinction. Every fistfight in the novel is now twice as long and twice as impossible. The masked adventurers, who have no special powers, can now crash through rooftops without a scratch, kick and punch people across a room, and by the way, look totally cool in their costumes, with no tights in sight. We're supposed to be watching ordinary people and their aberrant behavior, not actual superheroes.
Director Zack Snyder must have seemed like a perfect choice to direct this project. He certainly was in the right place at the right time- Snyder successfully made a hit action movie out of the graphic novel 300. In the wake of that success, the suits who controlled the fate of Watchmen must have figured this red-hot director has the right sensibility to make a successful movie out of another graphic novel. As for Snyder's motivation, you can't blame him for leveraging his momentum at the right moment. After 300, Snyder could write his own ticket. If he wanted to make an all-CGI feature of James Joyce's Ulysses starring meerkats, we'd be knee-deep in a meerkat burrow right now.
When Snyder was announced as the director ("the visionary behind 300"), fans of the graphic novel were concerned and excited at the same time. Clearly Snyder is a fanboy like the rest of us (I have read Watchmen maybe 5 or 10 times since 1988), but some were worried his slo-mo action sequences were less of a style choice and more of a crutch. We asked, did Snyder have the finesse this project required?
Unfortunately, what we should have been worried about was his pornographic obsession with ultraviolence. Watchmen is a violent novel, no doubt, but every scene of violence has been amplified to unnecessary extremes. I'm not talking about the action sequences (although those are disappointing for other reasons)- I am talking about the guns, knives, and rotary saws.
In one scene in the novel, a convict has his throat slit, but we don't even see it on the page. In the movie, the convict's arms are sawed off, in explicit detail.
In another scene in the novel, one person gets shot in the gut during an assassination attempt. In the movie, six people get shot, including one directly in the face.
And finally, in the novel, Rorschach kills a kidnapper/murderer by cuffing him to a stove and setting his house on fire. In the movie, Rorschach hacks his head in two with a meat cleaver.
The point I am trying to make is, Snyder has deliberately amped up the gore for its own sake. I am not normally squeamish when it comes to violence in movies- I love the chopping, hacking, and decapitating in Lord of the Rings and Braveheart, but the violence in Watchmen was unwatchable even for me. Who did Snyder think would enjoy this? Was he making this movie for the Hostel/Saw V crowd? Does he have a "tin ear" for style?
The Characters
  • The Comedian looks, sounds, and acts just the way I had hoped. Nice work!
  • Dr. Manhattan looks perfect, but is a little too whispering Buddha- he needs more of the lecturing pedant. Also, the totally-naked Dr. Manhattan prompted giggles every time his glowing blue penis appeared onscreen- our friend Scott counted "12 or 15 times" we saw it onscreen. Including the blue penis is faithful to the book, but I think the distraction was too much. I would have kept him in his thong throughout the movie.
  • Rorschach is perfect. Jackie Earl Haley is the perfect mug, the voice is spot on. The mask isn't quite right, but I didn't mind it too much.
  • Nite Owl: Patrick Wilson is just the right balance of pudgy, over-the-hill, with enough of the old muscle to make his fights plausible.
  • Silk Spectre II: Poor Malin Ackerman can't act at all. She looks the part, but she's supposed to be about 35, and she looks 25.
  • Ozymandias: I was imagining a blonde Spock- logical, unemotional, self-involved genius. Instead I get a sinister egomaniac who's also ten years too young for the part.
  • Silk Spectre I: Carla Gugino is perfect as the young Silk Spectre in the 1940s and 1950s. She has that real old-fashioned beauty and the balls to play this role. Her old age makeup doesn't work too well.
(Regal Stadium Cinema 13, screen 11, with Emily, Jon, Bobbi, Adam, George, Mandy, Scott, Jess)
My brother and I at the screening March 7