Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Movie Preview, Part 4

[Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

Movie: Your Highness (David Gordon Green)
High-Concept Synopsis: Some kind of pot-fueled medieval fantasy wherein Danny McBride and James Franco play knights who join with warrior princess Natalie Portman to rescue Zooey Deschanel from evil wizard Justin Theroux. From the director of All the Real Girls and George Washington, of course.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who enjoyed Franco and McBride's stoner antics in Pineapple Express, the true DGG predecessor to this movie. People who feel like stoner comedy is totally applicable to any historical era or film genre. People lured closer by the luxuriousness of James Franco's hair in the footage we've seen so far.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who really, really, really don't care for Danny McBride. People who, after the Oscars, have soured on James Franco and Natalie Portman. People who can probably enjoy some skillfully deployed weed humor but jump off the bus when it gets to the purple hookah-smoking muppet guy.
Why I'd See It: Look, the Franco- and Portman-haters can suck it, but neither one of them is going to get me to see this movie. I liked Pineapple Express just fine, but I sit well outside the Danny McBride sphere of influence, and this all just looks mind-blowingly indulgent in all the worst ways. April 8

Movie: Hanna (Joe Wright)
High-Concept Synopsis: Erica Bana raises Saoirse Ronan among wolves in the hinterlands, training her to be an assassin. When he sends her on a collision course with badass, mom-haired CIA agent Cate Blanchett, shit gets real.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People riding the "deadly little girl" trend in cinema. People who thought Wright and Ronan did great stuff together in Atonement. People drawn in by the awesome-sounding Chemical Brothers score, featured in the trailer.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences who are dubious that Wright's costumey, English style can't adapt to something so adventurous and violent. People made nervous by what the trailer suggests is a healthy chunk of the movie where Hanna isn't killing anyone. People intimidated by that helmet of hair Blanchett is sporting, because: seriously.
Why I'd See It: I know a lot of people look down on Atonement, but I loved it, and since I didn't see The Soloist, I can say that I have full confidence in Joe Wright. Also, the trailer looks INSANE. Intense, exciting drama with a splash of over-the-top ridiculousness? I am in. April 8

Movie: Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichart)
High-Concept Synopsis: 1800s pioneers on the road to Oregon (including Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Shirley Henderson) get hopelessly, dangerously lost, leading to a struggle for control with their dubiously trustworthy guide (Bruce Greenwood). Much, much, much walking ensues.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences eager to see if all that insanely positive festival buzz holds up. People who aren't afraid of some seriously quiet filmmaking. People who loved the last Reichart/Williams pairing, 2008's Wendy and Lucy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who look for a little more action in their Westerns. People who aren't down for another round of low-intensity Reichart drama. People who enjoy Michelle Williams best when she's coping with terribly ill-advised marriages.
Why I'd See It: Actually, I already have, at last October's New York Film Festival. And I'm dying to talk about it, so see it when it opens! Especially if you enjoyed Wendy & Lucy and already know what Reichart and Williams can do together. April 8

Movie: Arthur (Jason Winer)
High-Concept Synopsis: Remake of the classic "rich drunk asks us to feel sorry for him and hope he finds love" film from the '80s. Dudley Moore is now Russell Brand. John Gielgud is Helen Mirren. Liza Minelli is Greta Gerwig. Jennifer Garner is demeaned in ways I don't want to talk about.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who fall on the non-allergic side of the Russell Brand spectrum. People who enjoy Helen Mirren being better than her surroundings. People who are caught between the moon and New York City and thus don't have much better to do.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who would rather stare at Dudley Moore's booze-preserved corpse for two hours than experience this much of Russell Brand doing his Russell Brand thing for this much time. People who might normally see a movie with Greta Gerwig as the main love interest but wouldn't know she's even in the movie from the marketing. Liza Minelli fans, who are somewhat mistrustful of new things anyway.
Why I'd See It: It would take a whole lot. Like getting paid to review it or something I love Gerwig and Garner and Mirren, but that would actually make me even more depressed. April 8

Movie: Ceremony (Max Winkler)
High-Concept Synopsis: I just watched the trailer again to make sure this is what it's about so just go with me: Michael Angarano (the kid from Almost Famous and Will & Grace and Snow Angels) is in love with Uma Thurman and is trying to break up her wedding to an adorably over-the-top Lee Pace. This is apparently treated like a legitimate love triangle.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anybody who sees said trailer and either a) kind of needs to see how this all plays out or b) cannot resist the siren call of how awesome Lee Pace looks. People hoping that Uma Thurman can find a hit again. Anybody who wants to see the wonderful Jake Johnson in another featured supporting performance (he was so great in No Strings Attached -- yes there were things that were great about No Strings Attached!).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who decidedly can't get past the idea of Thurman and Angarano as a credible couple. People who are tired of the hyper-literate, wise-beyond-his-years boy protagonist character. People who aren't buying that a fun, winning comedy is going to come from Fonzie's son.
Why I'd See It: Yes, I'm weirded out too. But I like all three principals, and as romantic comedies go, this looks like it could be singular enough to hold my interest. And seriously, Lee Pace looks hilarious. April 8

Movie: Scream 4 (Wes Craven)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ten years later (in on-screen time, at least), Ghostface is back killing hyper-self-aware teens and the adults who used to be them: Sydney, Gale, and Dewey are back, and if none of them are either killed or revealed to be the killer, I'ma be pissed. Holding up the cast for a new generation of ticket-buyers: Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Aimee Teegarden, and Rory Culkin. Onboard for my own appreciation: Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Kristen Bell, and Mary McDonnell.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the original trilogy, which spawned some awful copycats but were honestly remarkable in their own right. Fans of the something-for-everyone cast full of photogenic victims. People hoping to catch some Cox/Arquette divorce awkwardness on screen.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who's seen a Wes Craven movie lately. Folks who were justifiably put off by the lame, lame, LAME Scream 3. Party of Five fans pissed that this is the beloved '90s project Neve Campbell has chosen to revive.
Why I'd See It: I'm right there with everybody who hated Scream 3, but the self-awareness and general horror formula of the franchise means there's no way that taking another crack at the Scream universe won't yield better dividends. I really hope Wes Craven is taking this seriously, though. April 15

Movie: The Conspirator (Robert Redford)
High-Concept Synopsis: Robin Wright plays the only woman charged with conspiracy in the Lincoln assassination. James McAvoy is her lawyer.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of alternative takes -- or at least road-less-traveled takes -- on famous moments in history. People who respond to the unexpectedly positive buzz the film got in Toronto last fall. Folks who like a movie with a great supporting cast (Tom Wilkinson! Kevin Kline! Jonathan Groff! Stephen Root!).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Lincoln enthusiasts sickened that an accessory to their hero's murder is being glamorized. American history buffs irate that so many filthy Scots and Brits are reenacting our stories. Folks who are turned off by any of the more polarizing members of the supporting cast (Evan Rachel Wood! Alexis Bledel! Danny Huston! Justin Long!).
Why I'd See It: This is basically history-as-courtroom-drama, which isn't a dealbreaker but which does give me Amistad fears. That said, the cast is really great (even if it's going to take some doing to make Alexis Bledel, Justin Long, and Jonathan Groff read 1860s), and I hear it's a solid movie. April 15

Movie: Water for Elephants (Francis Lawrence)
High-Concept Synopsis: Robert Pattinson plays a Depression-era circus hand who gets swept up in the show both under the tent and outside it -- i.e. he gets involved with the wife (Reese Witherspoon) of the head honcho (Christoph Waltz). Hal Holbrook, Paul Schnieder, and James Frain co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Twi-hards desperate as ever for their Edward fix. People who have been looking for an excuse to enjoy Robert Pattinson's charms without having to lower themselves to actually watching a Twilight movie. People who made the source novel a best-seller (I'm thinking the same people who made Memoirs of a Geisha a best-seller?).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who wish Reese Witherspoon would quit setting herself up for failure like this and who only want the best for her at all times! People who aren't quite into whimsical situations being thrust upon the Great Depression. People who can't seem to trust this delicate romance to the director of I Am Legend.
Why I'd See It: I'll admit, the instant I saw that first trailer, I thought that not only did this look excruciating, but that it would be absolutely roasted by critics and audiences alike. Which is too bad, because you know I love Reese, I like the rest of the cast, and I even have a soft sport for Francis Lawrence because of Constantine. But that trailer ... yeesh. Since then, I've heard some genuine enthusiasm for the movie, so maybe I'm just being too pessimistic? April 22

Movie: Prom (Joe Nussbaum)
High-Concept Synopsis: It's prom.
Who Will Be Seeing It: If the phrase "Let's go see a movie called 'Prom'" appeals to you, then: you. Fans of Friday Night Lights' own Aimee Teegarden. Fans of the wonderful Shameless star Cameron Monaghan.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Anybody who broke out in hives at the mere thought of a movie about prom that doesn't also involve bloody ax murders. People who were never asked to prom (let's be honest). People who were somehow unimpressed by Nussbaum's directorial work on American Pie: The Naked Mile.
Why I'd See It: You know, I thought it looked supremely stupid when I saw the trailer. But you know, who am I kidding? The second this thing crosses my path on HBO, I will be watching this shit. April 29

Movie: Fast Five (Justin Lin)
High-Concept Synopsis: Vin Deisel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and everybody else who was in a Fast & the Furious movie over this last decade of dumb movies get together for One! Last! Job! The Rock is on hand to play the heavy.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Who's been seeing the rest of 'em? Gearheads and their cowed girlfriends? Paul Walker's desperate publicists? A bitterly jealous Dominic Sena?
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Everybody you know. A bitter Michelle Rodriguez for being killed off in the last one. Concerned citizens for driving at safe speeds.
Why I'd See It: I mean, look: I want Paul Walker to have a career comeback as much as anyone. But I think I want him to hit rock-bottom first so he is then forced to take a series of ever more sexually experimental roles in order to get back in the game. So this one needs to bomb. April 29

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fringe Season 3, Episode 18: "Bloodline"

So here's where I apologize. Despite Fringe's move to Fridays ultimately being a good thing for the show -- it's been a ratings success and got a (fairly early) renewal for a fourth season just like I predicted it would -- it's been a terrible thing for my commitment to blog about the show on a week-to-week basis. I may overwork myself during the week, but I do enjoy my weekends (plus I feel as if we're not all here to discuss whenever I put anything up on Saturdays; better to wait til school's back in session).

But after finally catching up on Friday's episode (the last until the final four episodes of the season blaze through May sweeps), I had to get up on here, because people: THAT WAS SOME STUFF!

I'm not even sure about where I should begin, except maybe to say that between last week's Leonard Nimoy impersonation (brilliantly tiptoeing the line between hilarious send-up and blatant parody) and this wee's Easy-Bake Pregnancy, Anna Torv best be getting some hazard pay. She's been at the absolute top of her game all season, but none more so than in these last two insane weeks.

Point #2 (sorry, guys, but I feel like bullet points are all I have in me): This episode made me feel like the penultimate season of Lost, where in the span of merely one episode, I completely fell head-over-heels onto the Sawyer-and-Juliet bandwagon. Because that's pretty much where I am right now about Lincoln and Olivia. You guys! That birthing scene was so emotionally intense. Seth Gabel has been doing a great job all season (again, loved him last week as his Our World double), but he really put it into another gear this week.

Point #3: I know I say this every time there's an Alt World episode, but how can I not talk about it this week too? The way this reality has imprinted itself onto the fandom (I...can't be the only one, right?) with less than half the episodes to do so is just remarkable. Even this week, with pretty much all the cool shit happening in Our World, Team Red was able to pull the interest back to their side of the divide with a combination of massively sympathetic leads (Lincoln and Charlie), ace side characters (Liv's mom, Henry the cabbie), and a freakout of a central plot (that wonderful sped-up pregnancy). And so now we're left with the same dilemma as our heroes: how do we solve the inter-dimensional rift without destroying one of these two worlds we love so much??

Point #4: Mentat Astrid is fantastic.

Point #5: Is it just because Amy Madigan should have more to do in general that I kept waiting for her to be revealed as behind the entire kidnapping plot. I mean, I'm glad she wasn't (this situation doesn't call for a SpyMommy), but I was expecting it.

What am I missing, y'all? Talk to me about this one. What a goodamn corker.

More Fringe on Low Res:
Fringe 3.1 "Olivia"
Fringe 3.2 "The Box"
Fringe 3.3 "The Plateau".
Fringe 3.4 "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"
Fringe 3.5, "Amber 31422"
Fringe 3.6, "6995 kHz"
Fringe 3.7, "The Abducted"
Fringe 3.8, "Entrada"
Fringe 3.9, "Marionette"
Fringe 3.10, "The Firefly"

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Week in TV

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Bob's Burgers
This show has really hit a stride, with every member of the central family bringing so much to the table. Witness Louise's unexpectedly touching moment of admitting she was jealous of her dad not spending time with her. And yet almost immediately after there was Gene undercutting the sentiment. With farts. And, yes, Tina is fantastic as well -- and a character you don't get nearly enough of on TV: the straight-up weird teenager. Kudos. Also, it's gotten less and less jarring to hear Archer's voice coming out of Bob's mouth.

I have the most terrible feeling that next week's redemption challenge will see Matt (who I have been rooting for, and whose benign-but-persistent Christianity is a lot easier to take when he's reclining shirtless on the beach, his tanned torso glistening in the sun, framed by his golden locks of hair...savvy marketing, God. Very savvy marketing) lose out to Stephanie (who I LOATHE beyond the telling of it), who will immediately be inserted back into the game. Those fears aside, I guess I'm trying to figure out who I'm rooting FOR (um...Andrea? Suddenly-offputting Dave? Emerging stud Grant?). I already know who I'm rooting against (a re-smuggified Rob; stupid-yet-self-righteous Ralph; no-necked Stephanie). This blurb has been brought to you by parentheses.

Top Chef
As I said on Twitter over the weekend: Top Chef did an amazing job of taking the best-assembled reality show all-star cast of all time and steadily whittling them down to a final pairing that has ensured that I will not even be watching the finale. Richard Blais versus Mike Isabella? Are you KIDDING me? So my choices are to either watch Richard's fait-accompli coronation, where his high fucking opinion of himself can finally be validated; or watch him once again fail at the end (yay!) ... meaning awful, gross Mike Isabella would have HIS high fucking opinion of himself validated. Not that the latter has a prayer of happening anyway. Not a chance, Bravo.

I've really gotten into Season 2 -- particularly the more standalone episodes, which have, among other things, really brought the Rachel and Art characters into focus. But this week's episode was a smidge problematic for me. I appreciated that the missing money from last week snowballed into a problem so farcical it at one point involved a pants-less Stephen Root (Emmy-worthy guest work in a relatively non-showy role). I just wish the characters -- Raylan a little, Winona a LOT -- didn't have to be so severely dumbed down to get us there. That said, it might've been worth it to see the return of Timothy Olyphant's Seth-Bullock-clench. (Also, finally getting Boyd tied into the Mags storyline was a long time coming.)

Amazing Race
Poor Luke, you guys. I know the general TAR fandom turned on him a ways back, and a huge part of me wanted to grab him by the shoulders, put on my best Meryl-Streep-as-Hannah-Pitt, and tell him that he should make a better show of himself. Then again, that's what a good boyfriend does, and I am nothing if not a good boyfriend. Anyway, click on over to Yahoo to read my recap of this week's episode.

Monday, March 21, 2011

O Bib Fortuna

I didn't know Bib Fortuna's name during this week's Extra Hot Great, which gave Tara a bit of a chance to show off. But now that I've heard it, it's been rolling in my head ever since. And really, I should've known his name -- he's one of the more memorable characters from my favorite part of any of the six Star Wars movies (i.e. the Tattooine section of Jedi).

Anyway, I had occasion to bring up ol' Bib in the context of a discussion of our favorite pop culture aliens. He wasn't one of them, but you should listen to see which aliens DID make my list.

Actually, you should just listen anyway: we talk about the new movie Paul, our favorite aliens, the Community hashtag game I created, my unexpected but very real appreciation for Sherri Shepherd, and we put the Matt Damon episode of Will & Grace up for Canon consideration. It's a good one! Go listen!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jagged Little Retrospective

Here's some truth to make you feel old: Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill is a skosh over 15 years old. Yes. Fifteen years ago today, singles from that very album were crashing the Billboard charts. Canadian former teen stars were the toast of the town, Full House stars were afraid to leave their homes, and all sorts of unexpected shit was suddenly ironic.

In all seriousness, though: that album fucking ruled. Roommate Mark thought so too, so we decided to pool our resources as we occasionally do and deliver a retrospective worthy of this album that stood so tall in our teenage lives. Mark already got a head start with tracks 1-7 over at The Critical Condition, so go there NOW to read him if you haven't already.

Below, I've got the back end of the album. Beware: "Irony" Ahead...

TRACK NAME: "Head Over Feet"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "You treat me like I'm a princess. I'm not used to liking that yet."
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "You're my best friend, best friend with benefits"

Mark: In an early draft of this post, I wrote that JLP doesn't have any love songs, which speaks to the stealth sentiment in "Head Over Feet." The crunchy guitars, harmonica solo, and patented AlanisWail make it sound like '90s jam session, as opposed to a soaring declaration. But the lyrics, of course, are all about a woman allowing herself to accept that she's loved. That slant also sets the song apart from your typical cute-boy ballad -- even when she's happy, Alanis looks at her own insecurities. She's not used to be treated well; she's falling for the guy in spite of herself; she's certain this shit is all his fault. (Pink would successfully cop this formula a few years later on songs like "Glitter in the Air" and "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)".)

The splash of vinegar blends nicely with the sweet mid-tempo groove and the hella-catchy chorus. No wonder this was the album's fifth major hit, despite the fact that radio had been working single from it for over a year. Rating: 8 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: I should note that I chose my lyric not so much because it touched me, but to observe that this was 1996 ... did Alanis invent the phrase "friends with benefits"? Can somebody get a research grant and look into this? Anyway, I have a fraught relationship with "Head Over Feet," and much like Alanis in the song, I feel like it won me over despite my reservations. The only part I still unambiguously don't care for is the harmonica solo, but otherwise, this is actually one of the more universally relatable songs on the album (especially if you've never been a lapsed Catholic or dated a sleazy record-company executive). It's just pure gratitude for having encountered a genuinely great guy. She's played this sentiment a lot on subsequent albums (think "Everything" from So-Called Chaos), but it takes on special meaning on this album that is so often about being burned by assholes. Rating: 6 Jagged Little Pills

Average Rating: 7 Jagged Little Pills

TRACK NAME: "Mary Jane"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "I hear you're losing weight again, Mary Jane. Do you ever wonder who you're losing it for?"
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "Well, it's full speed, baby / on this roller-coaster"

Mark: Color me surprised: Fifteen years later, this has become one of my favorite songs on the album. I liked it back in the day, sure, but now I'm mildly obsessed. Alanis's vocal, for one thing, shows the full power of her range, from the trembling and quiet verses to the loud and emotional choruses. The track also veers in unexpected directions, like the multi-tracked crescendo near the end, when she sings "keep dry." It's the first time the song has used that kind of vocal layering, and it adds a touch of ethereal elegance. For me, this is the album's most successful ballad, easy and beautiful where "Perfect" and "Forgiven" are strained and aggressive. Rating: 10 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: This is going to sound both bizarre and shallow, but while I had always found this song to be a sad little gem on the album's back half, my opinion of this song really changed when I saw Nikki McKibbin perform it on the first season of American Idol. Not that she was so great (it was actually one of her better performances, but that's seriously not saying much), but it made me realize that of all the hits on JLP, this little album cut stood out six years later. And you can see why -- it's sad and serious without being overly maudlin, and there are moments (like the lyric I picked out) where it really soars. Also, I always this of this song as a kind of psychic twin to Tori Amos's "Marianne" (between JLP and Boys for Pele, 1996 was all angst and estrogen for me). Rating: 7 Jagged Little Pills

Average rating: 8.5 Jagged Little Pills

TRACK NAME: "Ironic"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "It's meeting the man of my dreams... and then meeting his beautiful wife."
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife"

Mark: Color me surprised, yet again! Of all the big hits on Jagged Little Pill, this one is now my least favorite. I used to love it, though. That memory and the undeniable assault of the chorus are keeping me from completely writing it off. But otherwise... damn. A thousand monkeys have written at a thousand typewriters about how little irony is actually present in the lyrics -- rain on your wedding day is really just inconvenient, a black fly in your Chardonnay is really just gross, etc. -- but that doesn't make the glaring misuse of the concept any less frustrating. Plus, underneath its poor grasp of grammar, the song seems to think it's Macy Gray, teaching me something on how life is. However, I don't think I needed anyone's help figuring out that things don't always turn out as I expected them to.

On top of all that, the music in this song doesn't hold up for me at all. Do we need that many vocal ad-libs at the end, with the "funny-funny-waaaays?" And do we need so much echo on the acoustic guitar? How weird, I guess, that the album's biggest chart hit (it peaked at #4) is also the one I'd cut first. Rating: 3 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: I always wondered why Alanis didn't just steer into the skid and say that her failure to deliver proper irony in a song called "Ironic" made the entire song, in fact, ironic. That said, while I agree with Mark that this particular observation has been done to death, Alanis doesn't really leave us much room since there's no other purpose to the song, really, but to point out these non-ironic "ironies." I still do like the actual song, though; that perfectly layered chorus practically demand you chime in. Rating: 5 Jagged Little Pills

Average rating: 4 Jagged Little Pills

TRACK NAME: "Not the Doctor"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "I don't wanna be responsible for your fractured heart and its wounded beat"
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "I don't wanna be a substitute for the smoke you been inhalin'"

Mark: I don't know what the hell kind of bottle has holes along the bottom, but when I'm bobbing my head this much, what do I care? Sporting some of the album's best lines -- see my choice above -- "Not the Doctor" almost feels like a back-porch jam. There's a relaxed drum shuffle and occasional pauses for random high notes, and in some places, it sounds like Alanis is even amusing herself with how many words she can shove into a line. It's yet another song about a fucked-up relationship, yes, but if Alanis can smile about it, then so can I. Rating: 6 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: Mark, I love your "back-porch jam" descriptor; this song definitely has a tossed-off quality that I find appealing. It feels like the neglected deep album cut that Glen Ballard never paid much attention to, but I think the song benefits from it. And in the wake of the ultra-poppy "Ironic," it's refreshing to get a song with so many jagged little edges (no pun intended). Love the way that chorus comes outta nowhere too. Rating: 6 Jagged Little Pills

Average Rating: 6 Jagged Little Pills


MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "There's no fundamental excuse for the granted I'm taken for."
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "Get up. Get up. Get up off of it."

Mark: I don't actually like my key lyric for "Wake Up," but it represents the tortured awkwardness of the entire song. It tries so hard to be clever that it sacrifices efficacy, which is also what happens with the singing. Just because you can drop to your lowest register for no reason doesn't mean you should. Meanwhile, the instrumental track in the verses is just boring.

The song isn't a total disaster -- the bridge is pretty, for instance -- but passable blandness just won't do on an album this good. Rating: 2 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: I feel like this song gets about halfway where it wants to go and then kind of gives up. That kind of low slithering-around is intriguing to me, and lyrically the song exhibits a kind of purposeful weariness -- like "I have to explain this all to you again?" -- but the chorus spins its wheels and nothing ever arrives at everything. I wonder if the beefed up "You Oughta Know" (plus the secret song) were tacked on to the end so as to not have the album fizzle out this way. Rating: 3 Jagged Little Pills

Average Raing: 2.5 Jagged Little Pills

TRACK NAME: "You Oughta Know (Radio Remix)"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?"
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "An older version of me / is she perverted like me?"

Mark: Added as a hidden track to the end of the album, this beefed-up mix of "You Oughta Know" is the SHIT. It's almost exactly the same as the album version, except the backing track has more substance (more drums, louder guitars, etc.) and Alanis' vocal sounds louder. That adds an extra dash of intensity to a song that could already power a nuclear power station. Rating: 10 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: On the list of my favorite songs of the 1990s, I would have a very hard time placing anything higher than this exact version of this exact song. The reticence the verses in the album version is gone, replaced by blaring guitars and a raging bottom end that matches Alanis's fury. It's not like the song needs to drown in instrumentation -- any cursory listen to the acoustic version Alanis broke out at the Grammys that year could tell you that. But if you're gonna get loud with it, get fuckin' LOUD with it. Rating: 10 Jagged Little Pills

Average Raing: 10 Jagged Little Pills

[EDIT: That girl up there? With the ill sign language skills and could-give-a-shit pose? She needs to be my friend. -- Joe]

[EDIT: It was really hard to find this version of the song on YouTube, but when i found the sign language version, I knew the search was worth it. Call us, cool girl! -- Mark]

TRACK NAME: "Your House"

MARK'S KEY LYRIC: "Can you forgive me, love, for the salt in your bed?"
JOE'S KEY LYRIC: "Went down to the den / found your CDs / and I played your Joni"

Mark: The first time I heard this hidden track, which follows almost a minute of silence after the "You Oughta Know" remix, I felt so excited! It was like the CD was telling me a secret! That thrill remains to this day, as does the memory of Alanis unexpectedly performing this track at the MTV Video Music Awards, which somehow made it seem real, you know?

I also love the song for being a cappella, not only because it highlights a lovely vocal, but also because it adds even more camp value to a ludicrously overwrought experience. Can't you just imagine a drag queen, make-up smeared, lip-synching along to the anguish when Alanis sneaks into her lover's house and puts on his Joni Mitchell albums. Not the Joni!!! And when she finds a love note from another woman? Girl, she cries so hard that she leaves salt in his bed. Which means she is probably collapsed in the hall because she is so fucking dehydrated. Rating: 4 Jagged Little Pills

Joe: I both love and hate "Your House." In isolation, it's a beautiful, sad song, and the a cappella thing really suits it. The imagery is evocative -- you can smell this guy's shirts, feel the softness of his bed, hear how Joni echoes throughout his almost-empty house. Alanis knows how creepy she's being, but she wants him/us to hear it anyway. All good things. But ... "the salt in your bed" is the grossest description of tears I have ever heard. Also, I always felt like this song fucked up the vibe I had after the "You Oughta Know" reprise at the end of the album. JLP had already gone out on such a killer note; there was no need for another one. It wasn't like when Sarah McLachlan added the acoustic "Possession" onto the end of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. That felt like an extension. This felt like whiplash. Soft, crying whiplash. Rating: 5 Jagged Little Pills

Average Raing: 4.5 Jagged Little Pills


Mark: Revisiting this album has made me happy for many reasons. It provokes so many memories that it basically transports be back to my sophomore and junior years. I remember so many of the words that I get the instant pleasure of singing along. And perhaps most importantly, most of the songs still sound great. More than just an album of its moment, Jagged Little Pill has proven itself to be a timeless batch of songs, united by themes, passions, and killer hooks. Now pardon me while I go listen to "Mary Jane" for the eighth time today.

Joe: I too was transported to my high school year, where I basically had a relationship with this album. I remember, somehow the CD got a deep scratch on it (I still blame my sister for this, though I could never prove it), so halfway through "Ironic," the track would leap to the middle of "Not the Doctor." This was, without hyperbole, the WORST thing to have EVER happened. That's how much I loved this album. Listening today, I'm glad I was a teenager when this came out. I've developed far too many layers of cynicism and experience to be able to latch onto the post-teen frankness Alanis was serving (Angry White Girl Realness?) were this released today. So on top of everything else this album did right, it had great cosmic timing.

Monday, March 07, 2011

One Last Shovel of Dirt on Our Esteemed Oscar Hosts

The last Film Experience podcast of the Oscar season went up today, and Nathaniel, Nick, and I picked over the already brutalized corpse of the 2010 Oscars. Don't worry, we actually found more than a few bright spots -- we're coming from a place of love, Oscar, don't worry. Anyway, listen to the podcast!

Also, for what it's worth, I thought the writing and production were far more to blame for the Oscars than Franco and Hathaway were as hosts. BUT! Just for argument's sake, here's an example of how you make awards hosting work when one host is on drugs and the other is unseasoned but game:

I'm kind of only half-kidding -- say what you will about Jack Black or Sarah Michelle Gellar, but they delivered. Also: R.I.P. Brittany Murphy. You shoulda never gone before Andy Dick.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Spring Movie Preview, Part 3

[Previously: Part 1, Part 2]

Movie: The Lincoln Lawyer (Brad Furman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Matthew McConaughey plays a slick defense attorney who operates out of Lincoln Town Car, if that's not goddamn ridiculous enough for you. Somehow, rich-boy Ryan Phillippe's case takes him through the looking glass.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the lesser John Grisham movies (yes it's based on a Michael Connelly book, but my point remains). Fans of the serious work of Matthew McConaughey (you know, Amistad, We Are Marshall, classics like that). Fans of the actually un-shabby supporting cast (Marisa Tomei, Josh Lucas, William H. Macy, Bryan Cranston, Michael Peña
Who Won't Be Seeing It: John Grisham fans who are quite offended that I conflated his worth with Michael Connelly's up there. People who barely want to watch McConaughey in comedies anymore, much less dramas. Folks who hold a grudge against screenwriter John Romano for his story credit on the worst Coen Brothers movie ever, Intolerable Cruelty.
Why I'd See It: I have to admit, I can't see too many circumstances where I would. This feels like a movie that should have been made 15 years ago, and it probably wouldn't have been very inspired then either. March 18

Movie: Limitless (Neil Burger)
High-Concept Synopsis: Grubby, lazy writer Bradley Cooper comes across an experimental drug that makes him otherworldly smart and cunning. It makes his life awesome, but it also sets shadowy businessman Robert DeNiro on his tail.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People eager to see Bradley Cooper get the chance to carry his own movie for a change. People who were impressed by director Burger on The Lucky Ones. Shabby writers looking to live vicariously through Cooper's hyper-productive fantasia.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who find Cooper's screen persona hopelessly smug and unrelatable. People who were less impressed by Neil Burger's direction on the barely-seen The Lucky Ones. People who have honestly forgotten why Robert DeNiro was ever considered a national acting treasure.
Why I'd See It: I hope for the best for Bradley Cooper, even when he's being bearded by Renee Zellweger. I think the shlubby-to-suave character here fits in his wheelhouse while also not just being a movie where he's allowed to smirk his way through the whole thing like The Hangover or The A-Team. And I still say Neil Burger has promise as a director. Let's see how he does with this. March 18

Movie: Paul (Greg Mottola)
High-Concept Synopsis: The guys from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz come across a cartoony alien guy in the American desert. He's voiced by Seth Rogen, which tells you everything you need to know about this movie.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's shlubby British charm. Fans of Greg Mottola's last two pretty excellent movies, Superbad and Adventureland. Fans of the long, proud history of aliens-among-us comedy, from ALF to I Love Lucy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Edgar Wright partisans (if they're not too busy watching their Scott Pilgrim DVDs for the 800th time), who refuse to believe Pegg and Frost can be funny without his guiding hand. People who are maybe weary of Seth Rogen bringing his dumb stoner persona to yet another genre. People who are pissed that Sigourney Weaver got aced out of the trailer.
Why I'd See It: I guess technically Pegg and Frost play different characters in all their movies, but really it's just always Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Which is fine with me. I think the bigger draw for me is Mottola, to be honest. I'm really interested to see how he follows up Adventureland. March 18

Movie: Win Win (Thomas McCarthy)
High-Concept Synopsis:Paul Giamatti is a sad-sack everyman (stay with me here...) who moonlights as a high-school wrestling coach and comes across a pale-faced prodigy who somehow gives his life meaning. Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Melanie Lynskey co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It:People who look past the general trite-ness of the plot and see that McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) as well as this cast are capable of something great. Anyone who followed the generally great buzz this got at Sundance last month. High-school wrestlers looking for THEIR Hoosiers, THEIR Karate Kid. Melanie Lynskey fans excited that she's got a seemingly substantial role.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who don't look one inch past the general trite-ness of the plot. Audiences turned away by the sheer pastiness of the two male leads. People who have maybe had their fill of McCarthy's cinematic loneliness.
Why I'd See It:The general concept wasn't lighting my world on fire, but the great Sundance reviews, as well as promising trailer, have put this solidly on my radar. March 18

Movie: Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder)
High-Concept Synopsis: The Zack Snyder-fication of the age-old tale of young girl (Emily Browning) terrorized by her awful family, institutionalized and escapes via the power of her ultraviolent imagination. Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, and Carla Gugino co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Snyder's signature style (i.e. slo-mo action, ridiculous and revealing costumes, CGI everything), especially as this looks increasingly like 300 (Teenage Girls). People who have been waiting for Emily Browning to get another shot at something interesting since Lemony Snicket. Fans of Carla Gugino's RIDICULOUS Jolie-ish accent work, as heard in the trailer.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Non-fans of girlie violence. People who have given up on Snyder delivering on the promise he showed in Dawn of the Dead. Audiences who detect more than a bit of prurient grossness in this story of sexy schoolgirl dream warriors.
Why I'd See It: I'm torn. It certainly looks different enough that it's worth a look, but this feels like Zack Snyder traveling directly up his own butthole, and increasingly, his butthole looks more and more like the butthole of the nerd who drew cartoons of topless women on his notebooks in school. March 25

Movie: Source Code (Duncan Jones)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier sent back in time to try and stop a train bombing ... as many times as necessary to get it right. Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of director Jones, who brought such a singular vision to 2009's Moon. Fans of thinky sci-fi adventure. Fans of the excellent cast, including Jake, who hasn't been in a good movie in a while and could use one.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who don't so much see Gyllenhaal as struggling against bad material as contributing to bad material. People bummed to see Duncan Jones going so mainstream so fast. People disappointed that, after Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga gets stuck behind not only a desk but buttoned up under a military uniform.
Why I'd See It: Jake. Vera. Jeffrey Wright. The guy who made Moon. I can't think of a single reason why I wouldn't meet this movie at a sprint. April 1

Movie: Super (James Gunn)
High-Concept Synopsis: The latest in the post-modern "regular guy tries to be a superhero, to darkly comic results" subgenre. Rainn Wilson stars as the wannabe, with Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, and Kevin Bacon lending support.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who have enjoyed the "regular guy tries to be a superhero, to darkly comic results" subgenre. People who have been waiting for Rainn Wilson to indulge in Dwight Shrute's more vigilante tendencies. People who dig Gunn's ultra-dark take on indie genre comedy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who got enough of oh-so-dark comedy in the guise of superheroes with Kick-Ass. Linda Cardellini fans irate at the career she should have gotten who can't bear to watch her billed so far below Ellen Page, who basically has the career she should have. Jenna Fischer fans who refuse to watch any movie directed by her ex-husband and starring her onscreen tormentor.
Why I'd See It: Eh. The reviews out of Sundance were actually really strong, but I find Wilson off-putting and I've never warmed to Gunn either. Oh, and I seriously hated Kick-Ass. April 1

Movie: Insidious (James Wan)
High-Concept Synopsis: The director of all those Saw movies puts the torture porn away for a while in favor of a good, old-fashioned haunted-house story. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play the parents of one seriously disturbed child, and the scares appear to lurk behind every corner.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Suckers for the Poltergeist/Amityville school of horror. People following the good critical buzz out of Toronto. People who like to see happy suburban families terrorized.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who were burned by too many of the Saw movies and now hold an understandable grudge. Or, the other side of the coin, people who really love the Saw movies and are now disappointed to see Wan step out of his wheelhouse.
Why I'd See It: I've heard good things. Very good things. April 1