August 2009

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Singer/songwriter Diane Birch
Call me a child of the 80s, but when I hear the name Diane, the first thing that pops into my mind is Shelly Long’s character on Cheers. She was prim, proper, and prissy, and I never really understood why the super-cool Sam Malone was interested in her. So it’s understandable that my natural bias is against people named Diane. But it only took about 30 second of the first song on Diane Birch’s album Bible Belt to erase those bad memories. With that song Birch became the new Diane of record, and set a new bar for Dianes everywhere.
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You’ve gotta love a musician that does it all. Justin Armstrong not only writes and performs his own music, but he even makes his own videos. And by “makes his own videos” I mean he ran the camera, setup the props, and even edited it all together. But don’t be fooled into thinking that wearing many hats leads to a lack of focus, to producing many mediocre things instead of a few great ones. In the case of “Somehow, Someone” it’s all good. Check it out:

Stevie Ray Vaughan's grave
On this day, 19 years ago, two things happened. First, I turned 14. Not a big deal, really. The second thing is more important. Just after midnight on August 27th, 1990, the helicopter carrying Stevie Ray Vaughan crashed into a hill, ending the legendary blues man’s reign as greatest living guitarist. Fortunately for us he left his music behind. So let’s take a few minutes and pay tribute to the king of Texas blues, and my favorite guitar player of all time.

“Rude Mood”, unplugged, on an effing 12-string

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Frankly it’s been far too long since there have been Muppets on Pop Culture Will Eat Itself. It’s not the first time we’ve had a cover of a Paul Simon song though, but since I tend to prefer Paul Simon covers to the originals, we’ll let that slide. This cover is The Muppet Show‘s in-house band, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem taking on Simon’s classic “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, featuring bass player Sgt. Floyd Pepper on lead vocals.

Am I the only one that misses The Muppet Show? There hasn’t been anything like it on TV since it went off the air, and that’s a shame. Can we get VH1 to cancel Random D-List Celebrity of Love in an RV 12 and bring it back? Please?

Who’s ready for another Hollywood remake? I hope you are, because it’s coming, like it or not. This time it’s the classic horror movie The Wolfman, now featuring Benicio Del Toro as the titular monster. He comes back home for his brother’s funeral, and attempts to find the beast that killed him. It would seem that he finds the creature, and gets more than he bargained for. Check out the trailer:

Maybe I’m just getting old, but to me it seems like a guy in a wolf costume is scarier than a CG wolf. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a farmers market to drive through…

The Wolfman slashes its way into theaters February 12, 2010.

via SlashFilm

Jeremy Piven in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
From the first time I saw a trailer for The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard I figured it would either be funny as shit or a complete train wreck. I was right. It’s funny as shit. It’s not complicated or sophisticated, and it’s pretty predictable and formulaic. But it’s fuckin’ funny. If you like movies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights, you’ll like this.
Rating: ★★★½☆

Portland singer/songwriter Ezra CareyYou could argue that to make truly great music a musician has to go through pain. Without experiencing the pain songs can ring false, sound like a love poem written by someone who has never been in love. Pain, it would seem, gives them a depth of experience, and a new perspective, which allows them to make songs that are relatable, poignant, and authentic. If pain is truly a prerequisite for great songwriting, Ezra Carey should be the Shakespeare of song. The journey to his first album, Though the Fire Keeps Us Warm, sounds like the second half of an episode of Behind the Music. Fortunately for Carey his troubles seem to be behind him, and with the album’s pending release his future seems to be bright.
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A stormtrooper in a poorly designed uniform, firing and implausible blaster
In the real world, everything man-made, from iPods to chairs to kitchen utensils, has been designed. Someone conceived it, tried different approaches, tested it, then finally produced it. When something is poorly designed we notice it, either because it’s not attractive or because it doesn’t work well. We don’t seem to have the same standards for things in movies however, because most people haven’t caught on to the ludicrous design choices made in the Star Wars universe. John Scalzi has noticed though, and he’s put together a list of the most egregious errors. For example, here’s his take on R2-D2:

Sure, he’s cute, but the flaws in his design are obvious the first time he approaches anything but the shallowest of stairs. Also: He has jets, a periscope, a taser and oil canisters to make enforcer droids fall about in slapsticky fashion — and no voice synthesizer. Imagine that design conversation: “Yes, we can afford slapstick oil and tasers, but we’ll never get a 30-cent voice chip past accounting. That’s just madness.”

The list is hilarious and spot-on. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before people take this concept and start applying a critical design eye to other sci-fi movies.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo "The Apache" Raines in Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s movies tend to be polarizing. His fans love his trademark snappy dialogue, while his critics regard it as artificial and overwrought. His unflinching, stylized violence is loved by his fans, loathed by his critics. His fans love his homages to other films and genres, while his critics point to them as signs of weakness, of an artist reduced to copy his influences rather than building from them. In short, the very things that bring him legions of loyal fans also cause scores of people to dislike him. With his latest film, Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino brings all of his signature elements to a WWII story. Will he be able to finally convince his critics that his ultra-violence, foul language, and film cliches are actually art? Or will it simply be more fodder for the fanboys?
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This has actually been out for a couple of weeks, and somehow it slipped by me. But that won’t keep me from sharing it with you. It’s the second trailer for Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, and this one gives us a better feel for what the movie’s all about:

I was really excited for this as soon as I heard Spike Jonze was at the helm, and everything I’ve seen since has only heightened that excitement. I don’t have any special childhood memories of the book or anything. I just trust Spike, and I thought he’d be able to bring a cool vision to the story. Now I’m pretty sure I was right, because the Wild Things look great. And with Dave Eggars writing the screenplay you can probably count on the story keeping up with the visuals.

The wild rumpus starts October 19th.

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