March 21, 2011

131 Spring Forward

  1. "Got To Give It Up, Part 1" Marvin Gaye: From the campfire scene in Paul.
  2. "Fun, Fun, Fun" Pharrell; From the movie Despicable Me.
  3. "Old Days" Chicago
  4. "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" Paul McCartney & Wings: Special version from the film One Hand Clapping, the first half showcases Paul's soulful solo vocal and piano, which then is spliced into the full final arrangement.
  5. "Lasso" Phoenix
  6. "Velcro Fly" ZZ Top has the same drum part as the "Lasso".
  7. "F.M." Steely Dan
  8. "Seven Chinese Brothers" R.E.M.
  9. "I'm A Loser" The Beatles
  10. "Victoria" I just saw The Old 97's play "Victoria" at a free show at SXSW. "Victoria" and The Beatles "You Like Me Too Much" aren't twins, but they grew up in the same house.
  11. "It's Bad You Know" R.L. Burnside
  12. "Freeway" Aimee Mann
  13. "Morning Moon" I am not saying I am going to become a superfan, but when I heard this song on the radio, I thought to myself "this is terrific! where has The Tragically Hip been all my life?"
  14. "Dreams" Fleetwood Mac
  15. "All Over The World" Electric Light Orchestra: the closing credits song from Paul, previously in the movie Xanadu.
  16. "Loving You Is Easy" Sarah McLachlan: a pleasingly ordinary 4/4 chugging piano riff from Ms McLachlan.
  17. "All My Nights I've Been Waiting [Liz Lemon's Theme] Tina Fey & Christopher Cross: what started as a gentle Christopher Cross joke on 30 Rock crossed over to reality when Mr Cross recorded an actual song based on the joke. When Worlds Collide!
  18. "See The Lights" Simple Minds
  19. "Breathe (2AM)" I learned Anna Nalick's name after holding my Android phone up to the radio and activating the SoundHound app.
  20. "Good Is Good" Cool George Harrison-y guitar riff. From Sheryl Crow's Lance Armstrong period. Isn't it retroactively embarrassing to dedicate an LP to him?

March 19, 2011

Paul

Paul's a terrible name for this movie. Perhaps the idea is to emphasize the central irony of the character: this crash-landed alien has gone native as an average American? How about E.T. Part 2: Fugitive Stoner From Mars? Nick Frost and Simon Pegg's latest combines Richard Dreyfuss' mad Midwest road trip from Close Encounters (remember that sad station wagon he rented?) with Midnight Run-style fugitive antics. There's a good balance of action and comedy, great locations, a house blows up in an exciting and genuine fashion, plus there's a terrific-looking CGI alien named Paul.

Frost and Pegg are comic book fanboys/BFFs who treat themselves to a RV road trip among the UFO hotspots of the American Southwest. When a four foot green alien nicknamed Paul emerges from the wreckage of a black Ford Crown Vic, their long-imagined first contact doesn't go the way they dreamed their whole lives. One of the jokes is that Paul's a better adjusted Earthling than the Earthlings are. What if E.T. were captured by the Men In Black, and grew up into a no bullshit, easy-going kinda buddy in cargo shorts and Birks?... except he has healing powers (like E.T. or the empath on Star Trek) and he can go invisible (like Predator.)
The Men In Black aren't going to let Paul get away: Jason Bateman is terrific as the only competent fed. He takes his usual wound-too-tight routine, then replaces the sardonic wit with a deadly seriousness. Michael Bluth never held his gun to GOB's head, but this guy does.

Kristen Wiig is solid as a sheltered trailer parker, brainwashed by her father's nutty fundamentalist beliefs, who has a secular revelation, then drinks deep from the cup of regularness: her attempts at swearing are earnest and hilarious, and the (thankfully brief) marijuana scene is funny, and short.
There are a couple of jaw-dropping cameos, and plenty of direct references to E.T., Close Encounters, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. At 104 minutes, it felt a little choppy, as if there's 10 minutes of character development left on the cutting room floor. I enjoyed it while knowing Frost and Pegg from all their other collaborations, but would a newbie be able to appreciate their characters without that foundation? What about Paul? I could feel more background stories about him lingering around the edges of the movie. I eagerly await the deleted scenes on the DVD. My wife puts this spottiness directly at the feet of director Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad) whose career has underwhelmed us so far. If this had been directed by Frost/Pegg collaborator Edgar Wright, all the valuable character development would have been presented in a few efficient little scenes. No such luck here.
Sorry to end on a down note- it was actually a fun ride. B-plus!

P.S.: According to Google Maps, the drive from Area 51 to Moorcroft Wyoming is over 950 miles.

At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Austin (South Lamar Blvd) -- read my review of the Alamo Drafthouse.

Theater Review: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema


Combining dinner and a movie is tough to do well. How do you offer table service without disturbing the movie experience? How do you eat without getting ketchup on your shirt? How do you enjoy a meal which you literally never see 'cause it's so dark? I have been to three or four different eat-in movie theaters over the last fifteen years. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has perfected it. The Alamo Drafthouse combines an ideal chew 'n view experience, with specialty events, and blockbuster movies. Texans don't know how lucky they are. In Boston, you have to choose from these three, never all at once.
The Theater Itself
The actual design of the theater is a huge factor. The Alamo has stadium seating, with a continuous "bar" in front of all the seats. Between rows, there's a mini aisle for the servers to deliver food. They can come and go during the film and not obscure anyone's view. This is the only chew 'n view theater I've seen which has figured this out. The Keystone in Portland had a flat floor, with repurposed Lincoln Town Car seats on casters. The screen was mounted pretty high on the wall, which helps, but this is clearly the cheaper choice when building the facility.
Eating in the Dark
Humans were not meant to eat a juicy bacon cheeseburger in complete darkness, while reclining- at least not without a bib.The Alamo's seating is upright enough, and the bar is close enough, to minimize the drip factor. Also, there's very dim lighting on the bar only- not enough to distract from the movie. The Cinema Du Lux in Dedham's ceiling-mounted lighting is glowing at 20% all the way through the movie, effectively illuminating all your fellow moviegoers, basically distracting everyone the whole time.
Waitstaff
At the Alamo, you fill out a paper form with your food and beer order. During the pre-show, the wait staff will actually interact with you. During the movie, all you have to do is clip the order slip upright, and this flags your waiter. This worked perfectly for us. At the Keystone, the waiters used electric ordering minicomputers- I think they were supposed to make the service more effecient, but our service was slow. At the Cinema Du Lux, you have to speak to the waiter, so anyone who orders during the movie annoys everyone else. At the Framingham Premium Cinema, there's no "table" service during the movie.
The Charm Factor
The Alamo goes to the trouble to screen pre-show entertainment. Our feature film, Paul, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The pre-show included a selection of their pre-Hollywood sketch comedy from British TV, plus scenes from their previous films. Some care and effort went into this, care and effort which I think pays off.
Special Events
Singalongs, Snark-Alongs, Special food events- check out their website for all the movie loving details.
UPDATE: The story of a texting customer who was ejected- and the idiotic rant she left on the Alamo's answering machine. Thank you Drafthouse, for defending the quiet customers from the D-bags!

March 12, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

A thoughtful, rental-worthy thriller, slightly elevated by the palpable chemistry of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It's an existential look at chance vs. fate, destiny vs. free will, kind of like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, minus the whimsy, then add a Twilight Zone vibe. Maybe it's all the trilby hats which give it that classic 1950s New York/Mad Men feel.
Adam and I were left with a mild case of paranoia. As we walked and talked afterwards, every fleeting coincidence felt like a hidden scheme. Who was that man wearing the same coat as me? Why did the bartender choose the alias "Bridget"? Why were we both thinking the name "Brian" at the same moment? Which way do we turn the doorknob? How many pints fit into that glass boot anyway? We may never know. My Grade: B-plus. (Somerville Theatre)