Monthly Archives: September 2010
In case the title of this post is not clear, or if it put you in some sort of pop culture shock, I’ll reiterate: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is going to appear in the American Idiot musical adaptation of the album of the same name. To comment on this, I feel that I should explain my feelings on Green Day, musicals, and the Green Day musical.
Let’s travel way back to the early nineties: the song was “Basket Case,” and I heard it on MTV, because kids, believe it or not, they used to actually play music on MTV. I know that’s a crazy revelation and your head is already spinning, but stay with me now, because here’s another one: Green Day used to be punk. Now I want to be clear that I’m not referring to “Dookie,” the Green Day album that blasted them into the consciousness of American teens everywhere, because by definition, one cannot be punk with an album on a major record label – it fact, it goes against everything the counter-culture punk movement stands for, and Green Day’s original fan base largely abandoned them for leaving Lookout Records – not that it mattered, because teens like myself and millions more were there to pick up “Dookie” (damn Green Day for making me write ‘pick up dookie’), because it’s a fantastic album. I don’t think folks will study it until the end of time, but it’s a great little pop album filled with tons of power-cord fueled three minute energize-you-before-the-big-game songs that I would still listen to today if I was not totally burned out on every single one of them. But yes, before this, Green Day was a fairly legitimate punk band, although Armstrong was often criticized for singing with a fake British accent. (Does he? Growing up a Beatles fan and having a very specific standard for a British accent, I’ve never been able to detect this, but whatever.) Their first two albums, “1039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours” and “Kerplunk” are solid punk albums – I particularly like “Christie Road” and the gritty guitar sounds found throughout “Kerplunk.”
This, however, does not make me a punk by any extent, not then, not now. I grew up in the Jersey suburbs of Manhattan, went to the movies or the mall with friends and was nearly always driven to these places by a parent. I skateboarded, but I also played hockey on roller blades – during which, I removed my chain-wallet. (My dad used to insist someone was going to use the chain as means to steal my wallet; I should have reminded him I was 13 – what was someone going to steal, my student ID?) I bring all this up because I want to illustrate that I know what punk is, even if I never was one – this is how I know I wasn’t punk in the first place. Besides, I’ve always been a Pearl Jam kind of guy.
So I heard “Dookie,” loved it, got their first two albums, loved those, and eagerly waited for their fourth installment… and what we got was “Insomniac,” which I think event he most hardcore Green Day fan hast to admit is a pretty lame album. There was just nowhere left to go – punk, like the blues, has only so many rooms, and you really have to know what you’re doing to keep redecorating year after year, and frankly, Green Day didn’t know how to do that, and never really figured it out.
Finally, I learned of the abomination that’s currently polluting Broadway. Now I know it’s not fair of me to criticize a show I’ve never seen, but let’s be real: do I really need to see 30 people on stage, head banging and singing in unison (OK, they don’t always sing in unison, but they do always scare me!) to know it’s a pile of flaming crap? I think not. Besides, I’ve listened to the the albums the show is based on; what else do I need to know? And speaking of not fair, I’d say it’s unfair to refer to “American Idiot” as “the Tony Award winning show that everyone is talking about” when the show only won awards for sets and lighting – of which I saw pictures, and yes, they are awesome – especially the lighting. I know that’s what I’m looking for when I go to the theater – excellent sets and lighting, and I go home happy, all be $150 lighter.
From the New York TImes:
With “American Idiot” selling unevenly at the box office after six months of performances, and still a ways off from possibly turning a profit, Mr. Armstrong is making his Broadway debut on Tuesday night in the supporting role of St. Jimmy, a punk rocker with an evil streak that Green Day first created in lyrics from its 2004 album, “American Idiot.” Mr. Armstrong will appear for eight performances ending Sunday evening, suddenly turning the show into a hot ticket.
Jamie: as in billie joe armstrong
(then the ramifications of this clarification hit her.)
nothing more punk than appearing in your own broadway musical …
From the NY Times:
Rock musicians have crossed over to Broadway for years to create or promote shows featuring their music, like Pete Townshend with “The Who’s Tommy” and U2’s Bono and the Edge with the upcoming “Spider-Man” musical. Kevin Cronin, the front man of REO Speedwagon, planned to perform the band’s hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling” on Monday night at the Broadway production of “Rock of Ages.”
PATRICK HEALY thought it was OK to mention “Tommy” in the company of “Spider-Man” and “Rock of Ages.” I haven’t seen “Rock of Ages” and no one has seen “Spider-Man” yet, but what the hell… But you know what? Unless Bono or The Edge (ugh, I still can’t believe that guy calls himself The Edge – what is it with people from Europe? “From now on, everyone should call me Sting.” Right on, Gordon.) plays Spider-Man themselves, I don’t want to hear another thing about it – unless The Green Goblin kills Gwen Stacey in the second act (oh wait, it’s a musical – so the end of the first act before intermission) and Spider-Man sings about how sad he is and how he’s going to kill the Green Goblin; then I’m going.
So Mr. Armstrong isn’t doing anything unprecedented by appearing in his own show, but again, wow. He’s already done everything else he could to get attention for the show: members of the cast performed with Green Day at the Grammy Awards in January and on Monday Night Football’s opening night (when the Jets lost to the Ravens) and the band played with the cast at the Tony Awards in June. What else is left besides Mr. Armstrong joining the cast?
In 1981, Nintendo brought us Donkey Kong, the story of an Italian-American Brooklynite name Mario in his quest to save an unknown woman from a gorilla. He returned in 1982’s Donkey Kong Jr, this time as the antagonist. In 1983, Mario brought his brother Luigi along for the ride in Mario Bros, firmly establishing that they were both plumbers. This was the first video game I ever received that was mine, which I was allowed to play on my sister’s Atari 2600. It wasn’t that great, but it set things up. In 1985, things got super.
I received a NES for my birthday, and frankly, the damn thing blew my mind – frankly, it still does. Atari and ColecoVision were all well and good – I spent hours playing games on these systems, but they just couldn’t hold a candle to my NES, which came with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt right out of the box. (I had the combo cartridge – I believe this was called the action set.)
Super Mario Bros changed everything. Video games went from something I did for fun when I couldn’t go outside to play to what I waited to play all day long while I was at school. Everyone was obsessed with Mario and if you had a Sega Master System and thought that made you different, cool, a loner, or above the crowd, I’m sorry to tell you, you’re wrong. You were wrong then, and you’re still wrong now. (That Rambo game it came with was OK, but it was repetitive and the two player mode was glitchy as hell.) I’d tell you to ask your childhood friends, but you didn’t have any, did you? That’s because no one wanted to play with you, because you had a Sega Master System – or you were the smelly kid.
Every game to bear ‘Super Mario’ in its name has been great; bare none. Some are better than others, but every single title captured our imagination in a way no other franchise ever has or will. Mario is so relatable because he’s not your typical hero, he’s a plumber with a beer belly. Mario might be the perfect American hero: he’s an immigrant (I guess; when he started talking, the stereotypical accent came out), he owns his own business, and he always saves the Princess – accept when she’s in another castle. Women, huh? She can’t ever seem to stay saved, either – despite the ability to levitate!
Happy 25th Birthday, Super Mario Bros! I hope you get more than a cake this time! (fast forward to 4 minutes – check the look Mario gives the camera.)
Finally: know your Super Mario history! (see the video)
I’ve never been one to follow the doings of celebrities, and I shouldn’t start – when I see things like Snoop Dogg’s hot dog endorsement or Steven Tyler judging American Idol, I just get aggravated. In an effort to reiterate this point to myself, I bring you this post.
Yep, Bristol Palin, celibacy advocate and daughter of former Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin (not to mention the First Dude) will be on ABC’s latest attempt to push me into an early grave, Dancing With the Stars. She’ll be partnered with Mark Ballas (who the hell is that? doesn’t at least one of the dance partners have to be a star? Bristol – a guest spot on The Secret Life of the American Teenager does not make you a star – just FYI), and they’ll be dancing to ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ – seriously.
First off, I just want to remind the universe that I said Sarah Palin should get a TV show, not Bristol.
Being a teen mom and being a celibacy advocate is kind of like… well, there isn’t really a good simile or analogy for that, it’s just being an asshole, as far as I’m concerned. I have no idea what she tells the teens on those speaking engagements (if you’ve got $14,000 lying around to listen to a teenage mom with a high school education lecture about celibacy, you can find out first hand), so here’s a few guesses:
- Get pregnant, and you’ll get to be on popular (but crappy) TV shows
- Get pregnant and you’ll get to go to a music school in New York City, unchaperoned
- Getting pregnant will not enhance you’re acting ability
You’ll be on TV? What teenage girl wants all that attention? And it won’t make you a better actor? Well, there had to be a negative in there somewhere.
If being confused by one of the earth’s least interesting people isn’t enough, I can now add consternation. Is she now spreading her message of celibacy through dance? And she picked “Mama told me not to come” by Three Dog Night? It’s a bad joke and an awful pun. That ain’t the way to have fun, Bristol. That ain’t the way to have fun.
I have to speculate that when Sarah heard about this, she sent Bristol an email:
TO: Palin, Bristol
SUBJECT: Dancing with the Stars
Sorry, I didn’t realize there was already glorious video. Bristol looks as uncomfortable performing it as I am watching it.
I’m a vegan, meaning I abstain from eating animal products, wearing leather, stuff like that. Turns out, I’m a big fan of animals, and as a personal choice, I’ve decided to hang out with them rather than eat them. That’s my call; again, it’s a personal choice, and I’m not interested in preaching, protesting or PETA. (PETA – I’m sure you folks do good work, but frankly, I’m not paying attention.) I respect the folks that do work to make the world safer for animals, but I’m not handling any of the in-your-face portion of the vegan world load.
But when one of your non-vegan friends sends you a link about a knucklehead like Walter Bond (Walter – I’m sure you’re just misguided. Please don’t blow me up.), it just ruins your whole day and you have to say something. I’ve been a vegetarian for long enough to know that people who aren’t look at people who are differently, and I’ve been vegan long enough to know that people who are vegetarian look at people who are vegan and say, “Whoa. That’s pretty extreme.” I’m not saying anybody who thinks that way is wrong, but I’m not in a cult, I don’t throw red paint on people wearing fur (unless they ask me to, and then I purchase only the finest fire-engine-red with a satin finish), and I certainly don’t blow shit up. Read the rest of this entry
I know I predicted that issue #3 would be terrible… well, I was wrong. While I do maintain that many miniseries of late have started strongly and faltered (cough Black Widow: Deadly Origin cough), Steve Rogers: Super Soldier is turning out not to be one of them.
I predicted gloom and doom for this issue because of my distaste for the Mark Gruenwald era of Captain America and of all the times he had Steve Rogers lose his super soldier physique. In my post on issues #1 and 2, I had only cited the first time Gruenwald did it during his 10 year reign of terror (I know it’s impolite to speak ill of the dead, but Gruenwald put me off comics for nearly a decade.), but he actually did it twice more, during the Streets of Poison story arc (and for a few issues after that) and then again during the Fighting Chance story arc. Both were pretty lame.
Much to my shock, Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #3, got it right.
Issue 2 ended on a cliff hanger: it was a very, “Oh no! What’s Steve going to do now? He’s in the worst possible situation he could ever be in!” Issue 3 didn’t handle it that way at all. In fact, we were treated to a fantastic set of flashbacks to Steve’s childhood during the depression, during which he was sickly and thin and routinely got his ass kicked by the neighborhood kids, and how that ultimately made him the man he was rather than the legend he forged during World War II. And once Steve got his chance to beat ass, even in his 90 pound weakling form, it wasn’t as though his training had been deleted from his brain – even without his physique, Steve is the best trained unarmed combatant/gymnast in the world, and he handled the situation as such, and kicked muscle bound butt in a manner that would make any Judo master proud. Very, “Judge me by my size, do you?”
This story still has a bit to go, and I’m optimistic that I won’t end up regretting getting into it in the first place, as I have ultimately come to regret reading most limited series and one-shots.
Ridley Scott‘s version of Robin Hood (starring Russell Crowe in the title role) was released yesterday (September 20, 2010) on Blu Ray Disc and DVD. Why is Ray Blue, you ask? Ray probably didn’t like Robin Hood, like over half of the people who saw it. (that’s an awful pun, I’m ashamed of myself.)
I won’t bother you with a summary of Robin Hood. Suffice to say that this Robin Hood movie’s approach is to tell you a story that seems to link the traditional Robin Hood characters together through coincidence. This movie functions primarily as an origin movie in a much more concise way than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which moved through the origin and established the character as the outlaw of Sherwood Forest within the first act, while this version of Robin Hood doesn’t state this until the very end of the film – oh, and it was a HUGE MISTAKE to put that moment in the trailer; in the movie itself, it’s actually a well realized scene that works, but in the trailer, it just seems pretentious.
Characters you may be expecting to play a central roll, such as Mark Addy as Friar Tuck, Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Kevin Durand as Little John or Scott Grimes as Will Scarlet – sorry, these characters are in the movie, but barely. I think the most disappointing notion this version of Robin Hood asks you to swallow is that the Sheriff of Nottingham is a peripheral foul. Cate Blanchett as Lady Marian, however, is up front and center, and she turns in a great performance like always.
The takeaway is that Robin Hood is a decent enough movie, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a Robin Hood movie. The movie flows well, the acting, sets and locations are amazing and the story is believable enough. It’s grittier than most Robin Hood movies (unless you consider the rape humor in Prince of Thieves gritty like i do – see various gags here), and I’ve even seen it labeled as depressing in reviews. The thing is, it’s a war movie; Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood has almost as much in common with Saving Private Ryan as it does with Prince of Thieves.
It’s the movie’s biggest drawback – and it’s biggest strength.
Given that Iron Man 2 is coming to DVD and Blu Ray on September 28, I thought it was as good a time as any to take a critical look at Robert Downey Jr. as the Armored Avenger. Be warned: the following review contains spoilers (yeah, spoilers for a movie that made $128,122,480 in its opening weekend at 4,380 theaters) and is a giant ‘whatever’ fest. But read on…
You can’t talk about Iron Man without gushing over its star, so let me get that out-of-the-way. Robert Downey Jr. is the man, and he’s great in the Iron Man movies; whatever you think about the Iron Man films, you can’t deny that. The man has talent, and I can’t think of another instance where an actor had the opportunity to play a character he had so much in common with. Maybe the movie version is a bit sillier than the comic book version, but it works. Read the rest of this entry
If you’re new to the Attention Must Be Paid feature, here’s the deal: when I run across something that I think is great and isn’t getting the props it deserves, I write it up in this space.
Sometimes, we must look beyond our own borders for entertainment, and I understand that to Americans, this might sound crazy – after all, isn’t the USA the capital of TV and Film? We’ve got Hollywood! But in a landscape of network programming still largely dominated by reality shows and unappealing dramas, it’s necessary to call in the Britsh and have Channel 4 hook it up – enter The IT Crowd.
Available here in the good ol’ USA via Netflix streaming, iTunes and broadcast on the IFC network, The IT Crowd is a situation comedy unlike any I’ve seen before. Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson), Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd) make up the IT department of Reynholm Industries, which operates out of the building’s basement, out of site and out of mind – accept when they’re needed, of course. The first season has a running gag which entails Roy answering support calls saying, “Hello, IT; have you tried turning it off and on again?” before the person on the other end can say anything. In the second season, Roy answers the phone, “Hello, IT; have you tried – forget it, I’m sick of saying that.”
It’s that kind of show; brilliant in it’s simplicity and yet extravagant in its situations while the dialogue flows with an elegance not yet realized in American comedies. I enjoyed an episode in the third season during which Roy had to tell a woman he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with her; he wanted to do this over the phone, but Jen insisted he do it in person. Roy complained she wore so much eye makeup that when she cried, she looked like The Joker, which was hilariously true. After their boss, Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry) had taken a beating, he too looked a bit like The Joker with his black and blue eyes and bleeding lips. He approached the sobbing woman and asked, “Why so serious?” Again, brilliant – as they say on that side of the pond.
Jen and Roy are both fine characters; Roy’s slacker attitude and t-shirt collection would be easily understood by American audiences, but I have to wonder what middle America would make of Jen. She might be a bit too independent for some of the more conservative folks, but how can you not be on the side of a woman who rejects a man for looking too much like a magician? Very Seinfeldian, but I wonder whether or not Americans are ready for Jen – a sad bit of musing, but I feel a true one.
Moss, on the other hand, is the lovable runt of the litter. How anyone could dislike Moss’ boyish charm (he drinks milk at bars), difficulty with social skills and fantastic fro – no, I reject the idea outright. Moss is the greatest, no one could dislike him. Whether he’s getting harassed by teenagers at the park (he showed them: “I’ve got a flipping gun!”), increasing the vibrating capacity of a cell phone by one hundred times or inventing the most comfortable bra ever, Moss is a lovable force to be reckoned with.
The only bad thing I can say about the IT Crowd is the seasons are too short, with only six episodes to their credit. Happily, the show doesn’t appear to be anywhere near being canceled, and I assume the fourth season will be available here in the US soon.
Check out the IT Crowd – you’ll be glad you did, and maybe it will help you come to appreciate the folks at your office who fix the technology… just a little bit.
I guess NBC really did try to do an American version of the IT Crowd, which included Richard Ayoade. Shockingly enough, this didn’t work out and suffered the same fate as Coupling and Absolutely Fabulous. Maybe Comedy Central will pick up the Channel 4 version at some point. When are American TV Executives going to just give up and import the original show directly? The Office is the exception, not the rule!
In an effort to give you a quick, clear view of Green Zone before I go too deep and bring out the spoilers, here are the tools you need to decide if you want to watch this movie: it’s a fast paced action movie based on reality, but its not a documentary; they weren’t trying to win any awards when they made this movie. But the point i valid, never the less. The editing is flawless, the action is well done and frequent, and the cast does a great job.
Entering the spoiler zone…
Matt Damon portrays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, who commands a squad of a dozen or so guys who are assigned to secure weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, circa 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. As we recall, they find nothing, which leads Damon’s character to question the intelligence he’s receiving as he combines hostile environments while risking the lives of his men. When the officers higher up the chain don’t want to hear what Miller has to say, he finds himself stuck between Poundstone, a non military government official and the official prick of the movie (play by Greg Kinnear) and Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a CIA agent who knows the truth: the intelligence is garbage and Poundstone knows it. Miller and Brown forge an alliance, but when Poundstone finds out, he has Miller reassigned. Miller also meets Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), a journalist who published an article based off information from a source known as Magellan she received from Poundstone, which we ultimately learn was modified by Poundstone or whoever he answers to. There’s also this Baathist general named Al Rawi (Igal Naor – his character is on those famous playing cards our armed forces were issued to help them learn who their targets were) who Poundstone wants to eliminate and Brown wants to enlist. In the middle of all this is Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), an Iraqi who serves Miller as both an informant (he approaches them on the street while they’re digging for WMDs) and a translator. Freddy just wants his country back (or to haunt your childrens’ dreams, where you can’t protect them! Wait, sorry, wrong Freddy), and as a veteran himself, wants to see an end to the violence, although his allegiance lies neither to Rawi, Brown or Poundstone, never mind Miller.
I know the plot seems complicated, but its not. The movie’s pace and editing are awesome, especially the hard cutting action sequences. Like “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”, director Paul Greengrass doesn’t skimp on the coverage, editing or action. Again, can’t say enough about the editing. One of the things I had a hard time getting a handle on was Miller’s ability to execute his orders and modify his missions as he saw fit; Miller is a Chief; my understanding is that is a non-commissioned officer’s rank, so I would think it’s unusual for him to, without contacting any higher ranking office, take a tip from a guy he met on the street and load up his boys into a civilian’s car along with their vehicles and raid a private home. But then, that’s how Miller’s character operates throughout the entire movie – I assume that were the story to continue, he’d get Court Marshalled at some point. Anyway, he refers to himself as a chief warrant office; maybe this is a job, not a rank. Too lazy to look it up.
Why is the movie called “Green Zone”? Uhm, a substantial portion of the movie takes place in this area of Iraq… people making big decisions were in this area, too… Eh. I’m not sure. Maybe other folks weren’t to sure, either; Green Zone made $35 million in the US and another $59 million on the international market, for a total of $94 million on a $100 million dollar budget, making the movie a bit of a box office bust for Damon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Americans will go to the movies for a history lesson, but not for the news; I think audiences felt that movies like Green Zone, World Trade Center and United 93 were dramatized too soon. As for me, the movie’s message is that we always need to question why we’re going to war, and you can’t say that often enough or loud enough.
If you’re in the mood for an action movie with a current events twist and the power of Matt Damon, give Green Zone a look. We rented the Blu Ray version from Blockbuster, and it looked pretty nice. The filmed at night (a lot) and the digital transfer is pretty good, but not perfect.
When I was a kid, I always looked forward to birthdays. After all, I got toys and as I got a bit older, cash. How awesome was that? As a kid, I have to say I remember it being pretty awesome.
Now that I’ve gotten older, balder and am starring age thirty down, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a birthday celebration exactly means. I haven’t come up with an answer yet, but here some possibilities, each more horrifying than the next.
#1: You’re awesome, glad to have you around!
Maybe a birthday is supposed to be a celebration of you, and how you kick ass with your bad self. People like you, and you should like you too! Let’s acknowledge that fact with the giving of gifts that you want, don’t want, and in either case, probably don’t need. Again, awesome.
#2: We’ll sing “Happy Birthday,” but…
We’ll sing it the way it went down in Office Space. Oo, that’s a tough one. People forced to celebrate your birthday who only showed up to mark time until someone passed them a slim sliver of cake.
#3: Still not dead, huh?
Depending on your age, medical history and how much people like you, you might get a response like this. Less awesome. Does your birthday cake contain one or more ingredients you’re allergic to or that you don’t like? Also less awesome. People trying to poison or offend you on your birthday is definitely not awesome.
That’s all I’ve got so far, but after that last one, why go on?
Total word count for ‘awesome’ in this post is 8. Bet you thought it was higher, huh?
Now ain’t that a bitch? That is not cool. Kermit always seemed so chill – what’s the deal with the road rage?
I’m guilty of it; I especially hate this one spot in New Jersey on 208 (by the Nabisco factory) where people ride the exit lane and then cut back on to the high way. It creates a ton of traffic and if people could control themselves and a bit less self absorbed, the situation would never occur in the first place. That makes me lose my temper; I don’t let people back in, I beep my horn to the beat of Super Mario Bros or Mars: Bringer of War. Two different ideas, I agree, but I think the beeping makes the point. In fact, I once continued to beep at someone for the next 10 minutes. Yeah, I don’t like to be cut off, and if you cut me off and 10 other people all at once, well – I don’t play that. Or rather, I play Koji Kondo or Gustav Holst.
Road rage doesn’t do anyone any good, but if we could work as a society to not do the dumb stuff that causing it in the first place, I think that would make a bigger difference in our lives than we’d ever guess.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so while I do appreciate a good cupcake, I prefer salty, savory side of vegan snacks. Sweet Avenue Bakeshop handles my sweet needs when they arise (despite their inability to accommodate the simplest of requests), but for me, it’s all about the Doritos, despite the fact that their website is trying to kill us all.
Now I know what you’re thinking: if you’re vegan, you can’t have Doritos. Well you thought wrong, hombre; the fact is, there has been a vegan Doritos flavor for some time, and the kids call it Spicy Sweet Chili.
Ah, Spicy Sweet Chili, how I love thee. If these chips were women, my girlfriend would have to fight a Scott Pilgrim like battle against their nefarious deliciousness. They’re that good.
Did Frito Lay do this intentionally to capitalize on the vegan-hipster market? I have no idea; and yes, somebody said I was a hipster last year, so I’m going with it. Then again, within nearly a week, somebody said I was a hippy – they’re both wrong, I’m an old skool gangsta, but I digress… Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos are awesome and they’re vegan. VEGAN! It’s a rare snack victory in my life. Now if I could just find those damn Cheetos….