Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Jersey Boys

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

tn_jerseyboys“Frankie’s okay. He’s no Neil Sedaka.”

Here it is again, the ol’ New Movie Directed By Clint Eastwood But Without Him Acting In It rigmarole. It goes like this: New Clint movie comes out. It doesn’t seem like my kind of thing. It gets bad reviews (at least if it came out in recent years). I genuinely intend to see it in theaters, but I keep putting it off. There’s always something I’m more excited for that’s playing. Like, uh, I believe I might’ve seen some robot/dinosaur related picture around the time JERSEY BOYS came out. So I end up missing the movie in theaters. Months later it comes out on video. I’m not excited. I feel like I’m doing my homework. I watch it.

And then the Hey, this is pretty good!

I wouldn’t say this surprised me as much as J. EDGAR (which I still believe is totally underrated, and got 10% worse reviews even than JERSEY BOYS, according to Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. It’s a solid, entertaining biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons based on a Broadway show of some kind. Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire plays guitarist Tommy DeVito and then the guys from the stage version play the other three: John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen as songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as bassist Nick Massi.

I thought it was gonna be a musical, but thankfully it’s not. It’s just a story about musical performers doing musical performances, recorded by the actors. I don’t know about the show, but the movie version only has one actual musical number and it’s during the end credits. In my opinion it is more of a blooper reel than an official part of the movie, because why would they be dancing around on a soundstage street singing songs, I mean it just doesn’t make sense.

The rest of the time it’s them singing “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and stuff, and these are good songs. So it’s not a problem. (read the rest of this shit…)

Whiplash

Monday, November 17th, 2014

tn_whiplashWHIPLASH is one of those movies that you hear about playing at Sundance and what not and going over like gangbusters. But you have to take that praise with a grain of salt. You know those festival-goers, they can get excited about seeing something first, something brand new without a bunch of pre-release expectations, with a big audience, usually with the directors and actors there. Sometimes it’s a great movie and they get to call it first, other times nobody really cares as much when the movie comes to the civilian world. Sometimes it’s good but you feel a little let down from all the build up. Sometimes you don’t really know what anybody saw in it at all.

I had none of those problems with WHIPLASH. It would actually be hard to exaggerate how strong its effect was on me. You know how a hyperbolic critic would say they had to catch their breath after a movie? That was literally true for me. When the credits rolled I felt my skin tingling and then I realized I was breathing fast. Honest to God exhilaration from this movie.

The set up and the execution are very simple. Nerdy loner Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller, who I have liked since the remake of FOOTLOOSE) is a student drummer at an elite music conservatory in New York. He idolizes old timey jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and wants to get into the top band at the school, the one conducted by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, THE JACKAL). Fletcher is maybe some kind of genius teacher, but for sure a total fucking asshole. I’m not talking a strict teacher, a grouchy curmudgeon, a Joe Clark type guy that’s gonna turn out to have a heart of gold. I’m talking just… you want to punch this fucking guy in the face in the opening scene and I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna love him by the end. One of the most abusive, hateful non-murderers ever put on screen, and not in an endearing Billy Bob Thornton type of way. He doesn’t even give you the usual cinematic satisfaction of going too far and becoming a psycho in the criminal sense. It doesn’t turn into THE STEPFATHER or something. He’s just… a Total Fucking Asshole (TFA). (read the rest of this shit…)

For the Love of Dolly (and my trip to Dollywood)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

tn_dollyNOTE: It’s October now, and you know what that means: Slasher Search and horror review avalanche. I have saved some action reviews to include for variety and will do some new releases but otherwise I’ll be on a strict slashers and monsters diet for the next 31 days. But before we kick that off I really need to polish off an unfinished project from months ago. Way back in May I visited the state of Tennessee, I had a great time, wanted to write a little about it, and found an excuse, starting with this documentary about Dolly Parton fans.

* * *

I used to think I hated country music. I mean, I watched the Mandrell Sisters Show and some Kenny Rogers movies in the ’80s, that’s about it. To me, Dolly Parton was just the lady from BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and 9 TO 5 and stuff. It wasn’t until way after the fact that I noticed what a saint that lady was. Remember she did a song for TRANS AMERICA? She just seems so relentlessly positive and non-judgmental. Also, some of that stuff she sang when she was real young – “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” – I realize now that I like some of that stuff.

(although come on Dolly, you gotta put the responsiblity for this one on your man, not on Jolene.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Batdance – celebrating 25 years of bustin

Monday, June 9th, 2014

tn_batdanceToday is June 9th, 2014 and I’m sure you know what that means: it’s the 25th anniversary of Prince’s “Batdance.” I don’t want to take away from your time celebrating with your families, and I’m sure the president will be making a speech and I don’t want to overlap too much with whatever he says, but I’d like to add a few thoughts real quick.

It’s the single that was released on this day in 1989, but I’m a movie reviewer, not an architecture dancer, so we’re gonna talk about the crazy ass music video. Do you remember it? A fuzzy TV signal flashes on a bat-symbol shaped screen. Now, you gotta understand, this was a time of feverish Batmania. America was enraptured by the upcoming Batman movie, which was advertised mainly with that symbol and no text other than “June 23.” Batman products of both official and illicit varieties were huge sellers. They would put a bat symbol on anything (and sometimes eyes on a bat symbol, if it was a bootleg t-shirt.) I remember they not only had Converse with bat symbols on them, they also had a phone that was shaped like Converse with bat symbols on them. So it is no surprise that Prince would own a TV screen shaped like a bat symbol. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a library of movies specifically composed for that aspect ratio. (read the rest of this shit…)

Reincarnated

Friday, April 26th, 2013

tn_reincarnated“Snoop gets Lionized”  –headline I predict Rolling Stone or somebody will use for their review

Like anybody, when I heard that one of my all time favorite but past his album recording prime rappers Snoop Dogg was changing his name to Snoop Lion and doing a reggae record, I shook my head and laughed. Ah, what will he think of next? But I saw the trailer for this Vice-produced documentary about Snoop going to Jamaica to record the album and suddenly I had to take the whole idea more seriously. The movie looked good enough that I would’ve gone to see it in a theater if it had played here. Instead here it is on DVD in time to promote the album of the same name, which came out Tuesday.

BTISLAnd holy shit you guys, this is a great documentary. I watched it last weekend and it overshadowed all the other things I’ve been watching lately, most of which I liked. I loved it so much I decided to invent this new medal just to make sure you guys will know I’m not fuckin around. This is an acclaimed documentary now, otherwise it wouldn’t have won a prestigious medal like this. If you love Snoop Dogg, or are even open to the idea of Snoop Dogg, you gotta see this. Regardless of how anybody feels about the album this is a great document of a man trying to find himself, of a historic bridging of musical cultures and generations, of the process of songwriting, of an awesome trip to Jamaica.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Murder Was the Case: The Movie

Friday, September 28th, 2012

When I did my NATURAL BORN KILLERS retrospective a little while back there was one last piece I meant to write, which was about this short film directed by Dr. Dre. I could swear I read a long time ago that Oliver Stone wanted to play the short before NBK but the studio wouldn’t let him. I don’t know, I might’ve imagined it, because it’s not mentioned in the Killer Instinct book and all I can find on Google is references to Stone giving the short “props.”

MURDER WAS THE CASE comes form a song on Snoop’s first album Doggystyle, but it also spawned a hit soundtrack, and it’s on a DVD padded with other videos and various interview and performance clips, all poorly non-anamorphically transferred, but that seems to fit the material.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

“The Art of Rap is the first Ice-T film.” –first line in Ice-T’s first film The Art of Rap

Some of you may know Ice-T as a kangaroo man from TANK GIRL, or a Lo-Tek in JOHNNY MNEMONIC. Some may know him for his appearances in whichever Law & Order crime drama it is. For others he’s the guy for some reason you always confuse with Ice Cube even though they look and sound totally different from each other. But you may have also heard that before all that he was a pioneering west coast rapper. I still bust out his albums Power and O.G. – Original Gangster every once in a while, and they hold up well.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Tougher Than Leather

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

TOUGHER THAN LEATHER is a unique specimen – a time capsule movie vehicle for a musical act at their height, but a legit act with street credibility that they did not lose by being in a movie. This is not the Fat Boys or Meth and Red making a comedy. It’s Run DMC in a gritty action movie made independently by the same people they made their records with. Maybe a good comparison would be Isaac Hayes in TRUCK TURNER or Jimmy Cliff in THE HARDER THEY COME, except they weren’t playing themselves.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Soul

Monday, March 19th, 2012

tn_thundersoulTHUNDER SOUL is kind of like that movie WHEEDLE’S GROOVE, another documentary about a now-mostly-forgotten regional funk phenomenon of the ’70s, recounting the glory days through photo montage and vintage clips, with interviews of the musicians now that they’re all grown up and square with regular jobs and families but can use their rediscovery by young white record geeks as an excuse to reunite and prove to themselves that they’re still kinda cool. In my opinion that was a long sentence. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wheedle’s Groove

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

tn_wheedlesVisitors to Seattle, and people who talk about us on TV and stuff, have a certain stereotype of Seattle as white, latte drinking liberals, fish throwers and Space Needle polishers, Bill Gates personal assistants and sasquatch poachers standing in the rain talking about Nirvana doing a cover of Jimi Hendrix doing a song about Bruce Lee’s posse being on Broadway. All of it is true, but do they also know about our past as a hotbed of soul and funk music?

Alot of people didn’t until 2004 when the great local label Light in the Attic Records released Wheedle’s Groove, a compilation of songs by forgotten Seattle groups from 1965-1975, many of them with corny names like Black On White Affair, Robbie Hill’s Family Affair or Cold, Bold & Together. A cratedigging DJ named Mr. Supreme had discovered a few funk 45s with Seattle addresses on them, did some research and learned that a whole scene of talented musicians had thrived in Seattle’s Central District in the ’60s and ’70s, only to be forgotten because they never quite hit outside of our isolated encampment here. This documentary extends their story into a visual medium. (read the rest of this shit…)