Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Michelangelo Antonioni 1912 - 2007



First there was the untimely passing of Ingmar Bergman on Monday, and now it is being reported that the very same day Michelangelo Antonioni - the visionary director behind such masterworks as L'Avventura, L'Eclisse and the seminal art film Blow-Up - has also passed on. On a personal level this is sadder news for me, as I count Antonioni as one of my very favorite filmmakers. Blow-Up in particular has never left my consciousness for very long since the first time I saw it - it continues to have an influence on me to this day. Strains of Antonioni's work can be found in directors as disparate as David Lynch, Wes Anderson and of course Brian DePalma who pretty much remade Blow-Up as Blow-Out in 1981. Antonioni stands right up their with Fellini as the greatest Italian director of all time. He will be missed.

Scorsese on Antonioni (thanks to Awards Daily for alerting me to this)



Clip from the stunningly trippy Blow-Up



Blow Up trailer



L'Avventura clip


DVD Review - The Monster Squad (****)



The 1987 cult classic The Monster Squad finally bowed on DVD last week after years of petitioning from the film's legions of fans. And let me tell you something, it was worth the wait. The DVD arrives in a packed 2 disc edition with hours of special features, including a 5 part making-of doc and two commentary tracks featuring director Fred Dekker and a majority of the cast and crew. There is also tons of promotional material and deleted scenes.

There really aren't too many movies quite like The Monster Squad, even in the realm of the cult. The closest comparison I can make is The Lost Boys, although that still isn't quite right. As opposed to a lot of camp classics though, The Monster Squad is actually well made, with fantastic makeup effects and classic monster design by Stan Winston. And seeing it now in 2007 makes it all the more clear how little that modern movies can get away with. This is clearly a kids movie, but there is a surprising about of bad language (my favorite being when Dracula tells the 5 year old heroine to "give me the amulet you bitch!"....or wait, when the guy from the Wonder Years calls Fat Kid Horace a "faggot", I can't decide) and twisted content, which is why I guess it still appeals to the older generation who grew up on it. Either way, this is a classic and another item to check off your "movies that must be released on DVD or I will kill myself" list.

Watch the DVD trailer

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman 1918 - 2007



The legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman has sadly passed away today, July 30th 2007 at the age of 89. Bergman is considered one of the world's most influential directors, having helmed such classics as Cries and Whirspers, Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly and the incomparable The Seventh Seal, the most vital examination of God, religion, life and death ever put on film. Bergman won three Oscars, all for Best Foreign Language film for Fanny and Alexander, Through a Glass Darkly and The Virgin Spring. His last film was 2003s Saraband, a sequel of sorts to 1982s Fanny and Alexander, which not surprisingly was probably Bergman's most popular film and the one that really cemented his name in pantheon of great filmmakers.

Here I present a quick sampling of what I feel is Bergman's best work, the art-house classic The Seventh Seal. This is, as far as I'm concerned, one the most spectacular sequences in the history of the movies.



Thursday, July 26, 2007

Boredoms - Super Roots 9



Good god!!! That's all I have to say about Boredoms/V∞redoms latest entry in the Super Roots series. If you have 40 minutes to sit down and float away to a single song, then "LIVWE!!" would be the one to do it to. Pure, unadulterated bliss. Along with their recent 77Boadrum performance, Boredoms are having quite the year, especially considering they aren't technically even a working band anymore.

The Super Roots 9 CD is unavailable in the US as of this writing, so enjoy this stream while you can.



Blade Runner/Kubrick DVD Annoucements

DVD Active has broken the news on some of the most sought after new editions of a number of classic films in the last couple days. First, we have the long awaited Blade Runner: The Final Cut, which comes in 2 Disc Special Edition, a 4 Disc Collector's Edition and a 5 (!) Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition. The 2 Disc Special Edition contains the "Final Cut" of the film hand assembled by Ridley Scott himself (who provides an audio commentary track), along with a number of special features on disc 2. The 4 Disc Edition contains all that in addition to the 3 other versions of the film that are floating around (the theatrical version, the 1983 International Version and the 1992 Director's Cut), and a 4th disc of even more special features. Then there is the 5 disc edition, which comes packaged in a Rick Dekkard replica briefcase, and includes all the aforementioned features as well as the rare work print version of the film, augmented by a commentary track by Paul Sammon. Pheewww! Looks like my "Best DVDs of '07" list just got longer. Check out all the specs here.

And it seems that Stanley Kubrick is finally getting the reissue/remastered treatment for all of his Warner Brothers pictures. The best of the best (2001, Clockwork, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket) will be packaged together in a box set, rounded out by the classic documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. Special features have yet to be announced. All the info is here.

There also seems to be some info on new editions of Close Encounters and Chinatown.
Awesome cover art on all these. Check a few of the Kubrick ones here. Here are the BR covers courtesy of The Digital Bits:







Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

I think this pretty much speaks for itself. Wes Anderson's ever rotating cast of co-screenwriters continues, this time with Roman Coppola & Jason Schwartzman lending a hand. Fan boys rejoice!



Is Is





Finally something to cleanse the palette after the Yeah Yeah Yeahs horribly disappointing soft rock (for them at least) disaster Show Your Bones. THIS is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs that I know and love; the band that dropped the still insane Fever to Tell LP a few years back, and the band that got grouped in with such neo no-wave bands as Liars, Black Dice and ARE Weapons in 2004s no wave documentary Kill Yr Idols. Show Your Bones sounded like Karen O had a muzzle on half the time, and Nick Zinner seemed to have his hands tied behind his back. They are both back on the Is Is EP though - Karen O squealing all freakishly over the top of Zinner's electric maelstrom. Unfortunately though, these are just older songs that have been newly recorded, so it doesn't necessarily give any hints about where the band may be heading. Hopefully they will pay attention to the notices this EP receives. But either way, I am no longer salivating for a follow up to Fever to Tell. You be the judge though; here is the entire EP presented in greenish blue music videos.

Rockers to Swallow



Down Boy



Kiss Kiss



Isis



10x10



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Live - Slint performing Spiderland @ the Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles, CA 7/23/07




"Don stepped outside..."

And from those three words emerged the loudest pre-song cheer I've heard in quite some time. Of course an equal eruption occurred six times throughout the evening as Louisville post-rock titans Slint worked their way through the entirety of the seminal 1991 LP Spiderland. At this point, I shouldn't really have to sell you on the merits of Spiderland; by now you know the drill: groundbreaking, landmark, visionary, epochal, legendary and any and every adjective in between. Along with Talk Talk's Laughing Stock and Bark Psychosis' Hex, Spiderland pretty much invented what we now like to refer to as post-rock, seeing as at the time there was no official name for what these bands were doing. It was so far outside the box, so forward thinking, so patient, so atmospheric and so awe-inspiring that without them there would be no Mogwai, no Tortoise, no Godspeed You Black Emperor, no Sea and Cake, no Explosions on the Sky, no Gastr Del Sol; and those are just a few of the North American bands that followed suit. Outside of Nevermind, there probably isn't a more influential American rock record in existence.

So now, over 15 years after it's release and the band's break up, ATP's Don't Look Back Series corals the band to perform their 6 song masterwork straight though, and that they did. It was amazing how close to the sound of the record they got on this particular night. Brian McMahan's vocals were a little low, but it was the atmosphere that counted. I've seen pictures of the band performing the record at recent outdoor festivals during the day, and I can't see how the experience could quite translate the same. Spiderland demands darkness; it's a creeping, crawling, shadow filled realm unlike any other. It doesn't seem possible for it to exist outside of the blackest nights. So thankfully, The Henry Fonda Theater's lights were appropriately low, lending even more darkness to these pieces of intense dread.

"Breadcrumb Trail" exploded out of the speakers, incinerating the audiences anxiety. "Nosferatu Man" shredded ear drums with its roller coaster rhythms and twin guitar attack. "Don, Aman" was a darkly beautiful hymn to the unknown world which Spiderland rarely acknowledges. "Washer" jerked the audience out of "Don, Aman's" hypnosis, diving between intense calm and extreme eruptions. "For Dinner" was a further proof of the tightness and unspoken interplay between the band members, each intricate part layered perfectly to achieve total submersion. And then "Good Morning, Captain", the most foreboding 8 minutes in post-rock, built it's swirling atmospherics like a temple to the heavens, with Brian McMahan reaching the record's emotional apex by proclaiming "I MISS YOOOOUUUUU!!!!". Whatever minds weren't blown by then, were treated to a number of closing instrumental pieces that dipped into the band's back catalog. Of major importance though was the set closing "King's Approach", which as far as anyone knows is a brand new Slint song (!!!).

What stands out most to me listening to record played live is how it has lost none of power or initial impact in the translation. This is a record that will absolutely floor you, and the band (rotating between 4 and 5 members) was locked in tight, delivering the closest approximation you could hope for when seeing an album of this magnitude brought before the masses.

















Sunday, July 22, 2007

Live - Sonic Youth and Dntel @ Urban Outfitters, Santa Monica, CA 7/21/07

In the past year, I've had the unique opportunity to see Sonic Youth on three separate occasions, all at surprisingly intimate venues. The first (and best) was at the Orange County Museum of Art; the second at this years Coachella; and the third was last night at the 3rd Street Promenade Urban Outfitters. Now, I'm not sure what is more odd, the fact that SY played an Urban Outfitters (for a good cause mind you - Free Yr Radio) or the fact that Dntel (aka Jimmy Tamborello aka James Figurine aka one half of the Postal Service) opened the night with a DJ set. Unfortunately, Tamborello was obscured by a giant speaker the whole time, which explains the absence of any pics.

SY took the stage after an almost unbearable wait, but came through with a solid (albeit short) set that mainly focused on cuts from their last album Rather Ripped. Those songs were the usual suspects: "Incinerate", "Reena" "James Runs Free", "Do You Believe in Rapture" and encore rendition of Rather Ripped standout "Pink Steam". They appeased with a nice selection of older material as well, including Kim's "Bull in the Heather" and Lee's "Skip-Tracer". The noticeable absence of any Daydream Nation material was understandable, as the band is in the midst of ATP's Don't Look Back Tour, which sees the group performing their greatest album in its entirety every night. It was a spirited, dissonant and altogether strong show from one of the greatest live bands of all time.

FYI: They only allowed 300 people into the show, and me and my four friends were numbers 295 - 300 (no joke), which explains why these pics aren't very close up. But you get the idea.











Update - The pickings are slim, but I found this one minute clip of "Incinerate" from the show. Good sound though.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lucky Soul - One Kiss Don't Make a Summer



Lucky Soul, a UK indie pop band steeped in the sound & tradition of those classic 1950s girl groups, released one of the year's most surprising pop records a few months back (The Great Unwanted), but as the months grow hotter, their songs become more & more appropriate. Take "One Kiss Don't Make a Summer" - besides the title (which we could all learn a thing or two from huh?), it is a wonderfully jaunty piece of slick summer time jangle. I can't think of a better soundtrack for these god awful hot summer days.

Listen
(courtesy of The Rawking Refuses to Stop)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Baumbach and Howard Spawn "Children"



Can it be? According to Variety, the all of a sudden quite prolific Noah Baumbach is readying his adaptation of "The Emperor's Children", which is all set to be directed by Ron Howard. Now, I'm not the biggest Howard fan, but anything Baumbach touches has the chance to be great. He's already got the highly (and I mean HIGHLY) anticipated "Margot at the Wedding" dropping this fall, and now his 2008 slate looks nice & full. In the words of Variety, Baumbach has (understatement of the year) previously "shown an affinity for writing about the East Coast elite". In other words, he is the guy who has written & directed two of the best films I've ever seen. If anyone could bring Howard to the hipsters, it is certainly Baumbach.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Interpol - Pioneer to the Falls



Interpol's new album Our Love to Admire is pretty bad - almost verging on terrible in fact - but I can't get over how great it's lead-off track "Pioneer to the Falls" is. It's the only song that even comes close to matching the morose beauty of their 2001 landmark LP Turn On the Bright Lights. That's all I even want to say about this record, but listen in awe.

Monday, July 16, 2007

DVD Review - The Stranger



***This was the final review I wrote for BOOMj. It was never published, so here it is in full***


The Stranger (***1/2)

Directed by Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young

After Citizen Kane’s release in 1941, Orson Welles had pretty much free reign to experiment in any fashion he pleased, which turned out to be just as bad a thing as it was good. Nearly every film he would direct for the next couple decades would be over budget, over schedule and in many cases hopelessly mangled by the film studios that oversaw these productions. The Magnificent Ambersons, The Lady From Shanghai and most infamously Mr. Arkadin (which received a lavish reissue last year from Criterion) were all cut and rearranged by their studios in an attempt at more commercial aspirations. Of course, these chopped up versions didn’t fare any better, but Welles continued to fight the system and follow his creative impulses wherever they took him. So it comes as a surprise that The Stranger - Welles’ little seen 1946 thriller - was something of a concession to more typical Hollywood fare, albeit one that still retained Welles’ patented noir shadows and dead serious subject matter. With this MGM release being the first substantial and relatively clean-up version of The Stranger on DVD, reassessment of this overlooked gem is all but essential for not only Welles fans, but fans of classic film in general.

Starring Welles himself as Charles Rankin, an escaped Nazi living in exile in a small Connecticut suburb with his soon to be wife Mary (Loretta Young), The Stranger’s plot is somewhat outlandish from the get go, with the FBI releasing Rankin’s former officer Konrad Meinike from prison in hopes that he will lead them to Rankin. Using Meinike as bait, a determined detective played by Edward G. Robinson is led to Harper, Connecticut where he begins to sift through some clues that could implicate Ranke as a notorious Nazi leader. It’s a typical cat-and-mouse game to be sure, but Welles builds on the tight script (which happened to be nominated for an Oscar) with his low angle camera shots, deep focus lenses and eerie atmospherics. It’s a film squarely in the tradition of classic film noir, but as a whole it tends to stand up pretty well as a straight thriller. In fact, The Stranger is most reminiscent of the 1940s work of Alfred Hitchcock, whose films Saboteur and especially Shadow of a Doubt look to be direct influences on what Welles was attempting to accomplish here.

The acting is strong throughout, with Welles turning in a nice strung-out, paranoid performance as the suspected villain, while Edward G. Robinson is the stern, authoritative force that he built his name on. Loretta Young may have the strongest role though – as Rankin’s disillusioned wife, she handles her characters arc with confidence, diving head first into her emotionally conflicted character while making Mary an identifiable and sympathetic woman. It’s true that The Stranger broke absolutely no ground for its day – which is doubly true when taking into account that the film fell within what is considered Welles’ most fertile period as a director – but the film more than makes up for its lack of ingenuity with its spectacular camera work, solid acting and inventive utilization of tension and release tactics. That’s not to mention the entertainment factor, which places The Stranger as one of Welles’ most instantly compelling and watchable films. It doesn’t have the back story of Welles’ more famous endeavors to be sure – in fact, the film came in on time and under budget and turned a profit, a rarity for Welles at any point in his career – but as a forgotten gem in the cannon of one of the all time greats, it is a more than worthy piece of history.

DVD:
Before this release, there was a cheap but rare version of The Stranger on DVD that left more than a little to be desired. Although this new MGM version features better picture quality, it is still semi-grainy and occasionally choppy, but overall the presentation is nice. It is still disappointing that there are no special features on the disc though.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm Not There Clip

Ahhh the age of youtube, where we can spy leaked footage of Todd Haynes' (Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Far from Heaven, Sonic Youth's "Dissapearer" music video) new Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, in which multiple actors - including Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, and Christian Bale - interpret the iconic singer-songwriter. Here's a two minute clip of I'm Not There's most surprising inclusion, Cate Blanchett.

Eastern Promises



And the anticipation continues to build. Not just for David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, but for a whole slew of films helmed by a bevy of the world's best directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Todd Haynes, PT Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Noah Baumbach, Mike Nichols, Tim Burton, Marc Forster, Robert Redford, Ridley Scott, George Clooney etc etc etc. But here we have the trailer for Cronenberg's newest deconstruction of violence, Eastern Promises. The sci-fi label that was attached to Cronenberg's name throughout the 80s - a period that produced such masterpieces as Dead Ringers, Videodrome, and The Fly among others - has been all but excised by the streak of films he has made in the 00s, including his stunning 2005 feature A History of Violence, which thematically felt like it could possibly be his final take on the subject of violence. But alas, this is Cronenberg and he seems to be at it again here. Again starring Viggo Mortenson opposite a blonde beauty (this time Naomi Watts), Eastern Promises looks like it could be one of the years most visceral movie going experiences.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

77Boadrum

Only in New York and only Boredoms could do something as insane as host a 2 hour, 77 member drum circle on 7/7/07. Conducted by the visionary eYe, the performance is at once ethereal and intense, but never once seems out-of-control. In fact, the piece sounds a lot like late 90s Boredoms, particularly Vision Creation Newsun. I have been sifting through the Youtube footage and this is the best stuff I could find. It'll have to do, at least until that proposed DVD sees like the light of day. Actually, I am jonesing for a CD version of the performance. It would probably be amongst the best records of the year. Free your mind....

Kid Millions (Oneida)




After a minute wait, some very good footage




Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt) going nuts!




Cacophony




There is some weird editing in this one, but there is good footage of eYe conducting and banging those rigged up guitar necks




This looks a lot like the piece sounds



A nice view from the audience. Extended footage/good audio with eYe chanting & conducting




More Kid Millions




Hisham Barrocha (Soft Circle, ex-Black Dice) seemingly by himself, although there is certainly other music accompanying him




Cymbal Wash



A chick on stilts

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Enon Return!!!



Man! I go out of town for a few days and Enon (yes, Enooooon!!) announce the release of the highly anticipated return to the world of recorded music, Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds. Led by ex-Brainiac guitarist Jim Schersmal and co-vocalist Toko Yasuda, Enon were quite simply one of the best bands of the early aughts, releasing a good deal of fantastic music, including their masterpiece High Society, still one of the best albums of the decade. They went silent following 2003s Hocus Pocus though, leaving a big void in the electro-spazz rock world. They never actually broke up, but this is still better news than that Verve reunion.

"Sonic Youth Came to China"

This is a tour video of SY's first tour of China from last April. Pretty self-explanatory, but there is some great live footage and quick interviews.