Monday, May 31, 2010

One Word Review: The Rocker

31: Tone-deaf

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #24: The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink robots

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

I originally had every belief that this album would wind up in the top 10. But in replaying the record, I came to realize that the top tracks are certainly superb, but we're left with some filler. But still, the Top 25 is nothing to sneeze at.

We open with "Fight Test", a sing-songy lullaby of a tune that if played by another band would be the perfect third single on an album. But with Wayne Coyne's thin vocals and all manner of goofy sound effects thrown into the mix, it's definitely their own, avoiding directness. And it does a fine job of setting the table. It's the dreamiest of songs and the introduction to a chaotically dreamy record.

As I said, on long-term listens, there is definitely something lacking from many of the songs. Much of the record makes for interesting background music, as oxymoronic as that may sound. The initial pull of an amusing song like "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1" just doesn't have legs. But the album continues smoothly on its floaty way before arriving at the track that vaulted it so high on this list.

"Do You Realize?" has been featured in countless commercials and pretty much overplayed to death. But it hasn't tarnished this wonderful tune at all. It is so compellingly catchy that it both breaks the sleepy state of the album and builds on the foundation already created. Beginning with a banal but breathy "1...2...3...4...", it soars from there, while remaining somewhat distant. But at the 1:30 mark, the beat comes in, then the key changes, and you realize that somehow the song has snuck up on you as something anthemic. "You realize that life goes fast, it's hard to make the good things last." Well, that's just totally trite yet universal at the same time. And somehow this all fits together into the perfect pop song for the early 00s.

Obviously The Flaming Lips laid the groundwork for this on 1999's The Soft Bulletin, and on the high points of this record, they hit their pinnacle of meshing bizarre sounds with good-enough-for-romantic-comedy pop songs. For all my bad-mouthing the staying power of the songs on this record, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Background music it may be, but it meshes with your life any day of the week. And when "Do You Realize?" makes its entrance you're going to sing along whether you're paying attention or not.

Previous Entries:
#25 - Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
#26 - Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
#27 - Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows
#28 - Common - Be
#29 - The Futureheads - News and Tributes
#30 - The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
#31 - Wolfmother - Wolfmother
#32 - Juno - A Future Lived in Past Tense
#33 - Bad Religion - The New America
#34 - Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A to B Back and Forth Review: Iron Man 2, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of Iron Man 2, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. So yeah, read that first. Today we conclude with Part II.


OK, so you've given me a lot to chew on here. Let me take things point by point.

I really feel like they didn't give Rourke enough to work with here. Even his weapons are stupid. Why on earth would anyone use whips to fight an opponent who can fire missiles from a distance? And why on earth would Ironman ever let Rourke get close enough to him to cause any damage? Dammit, I'm digressing again into discussions of rationality in an entirely irrational movie. Regarding Rourke, they wasted an opportunity to have an all-time great villain and instead gave us someone who had only a single remotely memorable line: "I want my bird." That's really the only moment you can give The Ram? Weak.
How many of these hoodies you think they went through due to bird-related "accidents"?

Is Paltrow a hottie in this movie? Of course not! Paltrow has never been a hottie in any movie! She's in the long list of actresses that many women believe are beautiful, but no man has ever fantasized about. Others on the list include Linda Evans, Laura Dern, Lili Taylor, Barbara Streisand, and the leader of the gang, Drew Barrymore. She seems like a nice lady, though. But speaking of that irrationality thing (SPOILER ALERT), did you buy the movie-ending kiss? That's the most forced make-out session I've seen since Borat tried to kiss a stranger on the New York City subway. (END OF SPOILER) However, I must agree that Scarlett Johansson certainly impressed - this is perhaps the best she's looked on film. Obviously that's a pretty strong statement.
Not exactly Jessica Alba, is she?

But you didn't see her as big as you expected because these days IMAX theaters are generally not "real" IMAX. That is to say, the company is selling a false product. Check out Roger Ebert's comments on the matter, and you can easily see that you have been ripped off. The theaters from your youth were bigger than the one you just visited. And yes, the volume was simply too much. I'm growing half-deaf in my middle age, and Iron Man 2 and AC/DC didn't do me any favors.

So I must again pull myself out of my cavern of negativity and repeat that Downey is superb in this movie, and that there are enough gags to make it worthwhile. I don't know that I'll have an urge to watch it again. If I do, it will surely be under better volume control.

What you left out of your reply was your synopsis of the black guys. What did you think about the Terrence Howard replacement and what the hell was Samuel Jackson even doing in this picture?


Hey Reed,

Your Paltrow analysis is totally spot on. Love the Drew Barrymore and Borat comparisons!

So, you are wondering what I thought of Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard, aka the star of the hit swim team movie, "Pride"? According to the IMDb, Howard declined reprising his Rhodey role due to a falling out with Marvel Studios. I interpret "falling out" as a metaphor for, "pay me money!" According to Cheadle, he tried to make the role of Rhodey his own. But that proved too difficult so he “eventually stole as much as possible from Howard's performance in the first film to bring him (i.e. Rhodey) to life." Cheadle had such a hard time creating this one dimensional character that he had to openly steal his performance from Howard? Well, that's not saying much about Cheadle's creative mojo, that's for sure!

Lastly, the IMDb goes on to give us this little nugget - that two actors worked together previously on a film I know you loathed, Crash. I thought they saved this "previously worked together" crap for the annual Oscar’s show? Anyhow. Cheadle? Howard? Really, it didn’t make much of a difference to me. Rhodey doesn't do anything in Iron Man 2, except during the house destroying and closing fight scenes. And in those he is in full body armor. For all I know it was Dave Chappelle in that suit.

And Sam Jackson? Unlike Rhodey, the Nick Fury character Jackson portrays is white, in the comics. In fact, Fury is so white he was previously portrayed by Baywatch babe and German recording sensation David Hasselhoff in the TV flop Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So Jackson’s casting is solely due to the fact that he is a bad-ass actor. But Nick Fury’s casting? That is the better question? I know neither of us are hardcore comic fans, but I think Fury is a stretch even for casual fans. As best I can tell, Marvel Studios plans on using Jackson as a conduit, linking together their mega-hit films. So as they jettison into murkier territory (i.e. "in production" flicks Captain America, The Avengers) they have a bankable star to insert in coming attraction teasers. After the first Iron Man, Jackson signed a landmark nine picture deal to appear as Nick Fury. So while his appearance in Iron Man 2 made little sense from a plot perspective, it makes oodles of sense from a marketing slant.
Think the Hoff is miffed he was passed over for Jackson?

It has been a week now since I caught Iron Man 2 at the IMAX and I am already having trouble remembering much about it. Clearly we both enjoyed ourselves while watching this flick, which showcases a very funny Downey Jr., but longer-term, this isn’t a movie either of us will be catching again in the theatre.

Until next time.
Cheers, Kozy

Monday, May 24, 2010

A to B Back and Forth Review: Iron Man 2, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or offer advice before you head out to the video store. So let's get to our eleventh review - Iron Man 2.


My main man Brad!

It's been a while since we've "gotten together" to review modern cinema, so it's high time we jumped back in the saddle. We hadn't yet started these reviews when the first Iron Man hit theaters (even overseas), but we have reviewed recent output by the film's two headlining stars, with Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler getting far superior marks to Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes. So without further ado, let's dig in to Iron Man 2!

It's only fitting that in yet another of our reviews, the movie began in Russian with subtitles, challenging us yet again to practice our local languages. Though since it was just Rourke and his dad sadly muttering through vodka-enhanced grief, I suppose that it wasn't so hard to follow. But that's just the intro as the movie immediately transports us to the most exciting of settings - testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I couldn't help but think of The Godfather, Part II and how the only reason it doesn't surpass the first chapter is because of the fascinatingly boring Senate hearings. This is where director Jon Favreau wants to begin in order to take things up a notch? Sure, Downey made things a bit interesting by the end, but I felt like we were already off on the wrong foot.
This is the theme to Garry's hearing; the theme to Garry's hearing. Gary thought he'd start the movie off with something boring.

It doesn't help that during the same scene we realize (after a few minutes of screen time) that Terrance Howard has been replaced by Don Cheadle. This proves to be a curious decision and Cheadle brings nothing to the role, only standing out by being boring. The story proceeds in a linear manner, adding characters who are each either 100% good guys or 100% bad guys and meanders its way to a climactic fight scene. Along the way, we get a series of action sequences that are hard to follow and possess few remotely new ideas. Aside from some decent moments at the Monaco Grand Prix, I found myself just waiting for all the flying and bullets and missiles and explosions to end.

The movie simply lacks the thrill of the first one. The Tony Stark character is no longer new, and the efforts to make him seem more fragile only serve to make the character less interesting. Those criticisms aside, there remains a lot to like about Iron Man 2. The jokes really work, even better than in the first film. Rourke makes a frightening villain, even if his motives, methods, and abilities are wholly ridiculous. I know. This is a popcorn movie and I shouldn't take it seriously. Believe me - I'm not. I wasn't hoping for The Godfather, Part II. I was hoping for a suped up Iron Man. The only problem here is that Favreau brought the corn, but we never got the pop. Still, I do like me some corn.
Not mere sprinkles, Downey Jr. does brings the levity by the dozen.

So let me know, did Iron Man 2 keep the peace for you?


Hey, hey, hey Andrew!

Last night I saw Tony Stark, louder than live, catching Iron Man 2 at the Amsterdam IMAX theatre. I was excited to see my first IMAX movie since childhood. Really, I can’t believe how different IMAX is than I remember it. As a kid I remember the screen being enormous!!! Really, that’s about all I remember of it. A screen so huge I could not see all of it at the same time. This time around the screen seemed big certainly, but enormous? Certainly not. So right off the bat, I was greeted with a downer.

However, what the screen lacked in footage, the speakers made-up for in decibels. At times, it was so freaking loud I was longing for ear plugs. This also reminds me that at long last I finally caught She & Him last week at the Melkweg theatre. As an A2B favorite, and all around highly rated hottie, Zooey Deschanel delivered the goods -- those goods being looking hot and pouty simultaneously.

On the subject of hotties, Iron Man 2 has two offerings; one old and one new. Returning for the sequel is Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her role as Virginia “Pepper” Potts. New to the action is Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff. Paltrow has basically put her career on hold since marrying Coldstar crooner Chris Martin, appearing in only one small film since the last Iron Man film. At first glance she looked quite a bit older and more tired then I remembered. Perhaps she was just in character, as her Pepper Potts' main duty is to clean-up Tony Stark’s booze-fueled messes. Not helping Paltrow's cause was the new addition of Johansson, who frankly looks waaaay better in this movie then Paltrow. Fit and energetic, Woody Allen’s muse does a nice job advertising Marvel’s upcoming The Avengers flick (really her only purpose in the film as far as I could tell). What was your take on the ladies in this one Reed?

As is well established in comic adaptations these days, the bad guys have all the fun. This time around Mickey Rourke is great, playing the mad, drunken Russian physicist role. By the time we learn of Rourke’s motivation for wanting Stark dead it no longer matters, and we just accept that this is a movie with some good people and some bad people. As an aside, this topic of all good/bad characters reminds me of a fantastic film I saw last week, Green Zone. If you are interested in a flick with moral ambiguity, this is the one for you. It's the opposite of a comic book.

Anyways, wrapping up the Rourke talk, don’t you think that with his recent credits as Whiplash in this flick and The Ram in the Wrestler, he has really prepared himself for my proposed re-make of The Running Man? He would make the ultimate stalker!
But what would Ben Richards say upon killing Whiplash? Probably "When a problem comes along, you must whip it."

This is not a film of any consequence, and that’s OK. An hour into the movie I asked myself, “is there a plot yet?” I suppose in the end, the plot of Iron Man 2 is so simple that I just could not see it: Tony Stark must save himself from dying and the world from evil-doers.

As you state, this one is for the popcorn crowd and to that end it delivers the butter. Still, I want answers to my questions. What say you?

Come back tomorrow for Part II where we will take things up a notch as that's what you're supposed to do with sequels.

Previous A to Bs:
Sherlock Holmes
500 Days of Summer
Inglorious Basterds
Public Enemies
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
Star Trek
Terminator 4: Salvation

One Word Review: The Godfather

98: Irrefusable

Monday, May 3, 2010