Archive: October, 2009
Saturday night was the second night of a 24-city, coast-to-coast spring for Ghostface Killah in support of Ghostdini Wizard of Poetry in the Emerald City, which dropped last week. His eighth full length solo album is touted as an R&B shift, which Ghost himself vaguely confirms. While indicating it sets him on a more mature path, Ghost is also promoting a collaboration with Wu originals Raekwon (fresh off the release of Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt. II) and Method Man, slated for a January release.
If you're feeling iffy about the wifey-sounding language, like "R&B" and "mature," don't let it stop you from coming out to see the Hip Hop Lazarus. He plowed through a survey of the last 15 years of Wu hits and dope b-sides, killing the fans with verses from classic albums like 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords and of course his entire catalog from Iron Man to the Pretty Toney LPs . Only one time ' halfway through a smooth unfamiliar track ' was it apparent he was pushing in some of his new work. The rest of the show was pretty much non-stop classics ' some in snippets, some in their entirety ' all on-point with minimal lag.
The limited interruptions for Ghost to address the crowd were surprisingly candid and sincere (something unfamiliar to a hip-hop show). Here is video of his closing yap were he raises support for Michael Vick, acknowledges that the Phils are a powerhouse and most importantly lavishes love on the Philly audience, which he acknowledged as being on-board since the beginning. He even evokes some obligatory E-A-G-L-E-S chants without looking like front-row-Joe going to the old standby.
The best part of this clip is when he asks if McNabb will start in this week's Eagles game; when he is informed that the Eagles are on a by week, he gives a hint of embarrassment before admitting he is at ease with the Philly crowd. It could've been his standard script with local inserts, but it seemed to be a sincere exchange at the end of a night of blitzkrieg Hip Hop.
The Ironman of the Wu is still on top of his game, so get out and see him in his teflon pajama set while he's still pumping for all the hero-head mutherfuckers. Or something like that.
We know, we know. We've been a little Philly Improv Festival-crazy today. Humor us once more:
Comedy troupe Baby Wants Candy's new musical, which premieres tonight at Society Hill Playhouse (507 S. Eighth St., 215-923-0210) at 8 p.m.,'for $15, is so raw that it still doesn't have a director, a script, or even a title. That's because you, yes, you, have to spontaneously suggest the title and Baby Wants Candy, the headlining group for this year's Philly Improv Festival, will make up and perform the entire show on the spot. I spoke with the troupe's executive producer, Emily Dorezas, before the show.
Critical Mass: You rely on the crowd to select a spontaneous title and topic of your improv musical. How much do you trust audiences?
Emily Dorezas: They will take whatever they hear and it doesn't really matter if it makes no sense at all. It can be a completely inside joke between two audience members and it could be in a foreign language, and the cast will make whatever they're given their own. We had "Barack Obama Baby Mama Drama,"Harry Potter in the Hood." I will say that most of the cast has read the Harry Potter books, but half the cast hasn't. So if they get a title like that, half the cast is just making up their own Harry Potter nonsense and the rest of the cast is really into it. One of my favorite titles is "I Slept With My Friend's Girlfriend Last Night," because that was like so real and you could tell that probably happened.
CM: How do you prepare for a show?
ED: Our prep is sound check and an opening number and vocal, and that's it. We don't talk about what we're going to do that night.
CM: You have a long list of performers. What's the transition like for newbies to the group ' any hazing?
ED: (Laughs.) There's really no process. We kind of throw them into the fire. We keep an eye on people and listen to recommendations and occasionally we'll do auditions, and then we really don't know about someone until we see them in front of an audience in a Baby Wants Candy show.
CM: My grandmother has a brand-new colostomy bag and she's ready for some good old diaphragmatic laughter, but I need to know that the crew is able to keep the show family-friendly.
EG: It's not necessarily family-friendly. It'll probably be PG-13. It's language and content. You're not gonna see anything like ' errrr, although you might.
CM: I know it's all improv, but are there any themes that surface often within the group?
EG: At its core it's a musical, so the one thing you can always guarantee is that the first song is going to be a group number that's like a big opening number of a musical. After that, it tries to follow the conventions of a musical and have some kind of connection by the end with an ending number, but sometimes it doesn't happen.
CM: If the players are this funny under pressure on stage, what's it like when you're all together in real, casual life?
EG: Lots of crossword puzzles. Quiet time and reflection.
Several hours of sheer randomness ' with scenes involving albino lobsters, imaginary friends and 'bakery purgatory' ' kicked off the Philly Improv Festival last night. I showed up for the first two blocks, at 6:30 and 8 p.m., witnessing performances by Activity Book, Everything Must Go, Fletcher, Rondo, Mrs. Estherhouse and Tongue & Groove. Though attendance was modest for this first night, the performances throbbed with energy and creativity. The first five groups used the "Harold" format, working off audience word suggestions ranging from 'horsey' for Activity Book (resulting in a haphazard series of scenes that didn't quite connect) to 'Liberty Bell' for Mrs. Estherhouse (sparking lesbian makeouts in front of the bell, observed from the heavens by the ghosts of our Founding Fathers). Everything Must Go developed some of the most creative scenes from the 'lobster' suggestion: mourning the death of an albino lobster, building a man into the foundation of his house.
But Fletcher carried the night in terms of sheer wittiness, continuously reworking past jokes and ending each of its scenes with a snap. My favorites involved a flirty teen couple sprawled in the boyfriend's Saturn, making vehicle-inspired, charmingly corny sexual innuendos ('If you wanna ride me, you gotta show me your ride, know what I'm sayin'?' and 'The gravitational pull of your sexuality is entrancin'!'). Tongue & Groove broke the Harold tradition by collecting secrets from the audience and developing complex dramatic scenes based on them.
Final verdict? Modest audience aside, the enthusiasm of the first-day troupes bodes well for the rest of the festival.
The second night of the fest will take place tonight at 6:30, 8, 9:30 and 11 p.m., for $10-$25 at the Society Hill Playhouse (507 S. Eighth St., 215-923-0210). Click here for a review of the opening night's 9:30 and 11 p.m. shows.
All the hype is about Kurt Vile's Kung Fu Necktie show/record release party tomorrow. But don't forget about the in-store appearance he'll be rocking at A.K.A. Music tonight at 7 p.m.
If you're all confused about why this dude is getting so much face time ' a feature by A.D. Amorosi, the title line on the formidable Clog Weekend Omnibus ' never fear. Fellow Crit Mass-ette Holly Otterbein gave the hook-up to stream Vile's new album Childish Prodigy. Listen up.
Fri., Oct. 2, A.K.A. Music, 27 N. Second St.
In this week's Agenda section, I wrote about Brian DePalma's Blow Out, which screens this Sunday at the Art Museum and stars a young and studly John Travolta:
Hometown boy Brian DePalma's Blow Out is more an homage to movie-making itself than the thriller it bills itself to be. Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a Philly-based sound technician who inadvertently witnesses the possible assassination of a governor while searching for sound for his current B-movie project. Sure, the film geekery is great, especially while dissecting the confluence of sound and image. But the best part is seeing early '80s Philadelphia in all its gritty glory.
Watch the trailer below:
It's oft considered the best of the Philly-set movies, and while I love it and few scenes top the Bicentennial parade sequence (you can catch a few shots in the trailer), I don't think it would top my list. Sure it would have an entry, but wouldn't have the number one spot. So what else would be on there?
- Frederick Wiseman's High School, a direct doc shot at Northeast High School in 1968 is a fascinating time capsule of the period and a landmark in verite-style filmmaking.
- Mannequin for totally sentimental reasons. Kim Catrall starts out as an Egyptian princess, turns into a mannequin because she's too forward thinking for her time and ends up in the arms of Andrew McCarthy. Please, pretend like you don't smile every time you see the Wanamaker building. For the record, I also like Mannequin II.
- The Philadelphia Story, a controversial decision because it definitely wasn't shot here and technically takes place somewhere like Devon. But Carey Grant is one of the few actors who can pull off hitting a woman and still come out the good guy and Katherine Hepburn is one of the few actresses who can take it.
- I guess I have to add Rocky. Look, even though its the most played out symbol of the city, save the Liberty Bell, every time I was homesick during college, I would go to work at the video store and subject my co-workers to marathons (sans Rocky II. I think Rocky II is stupid).
- Number Two on my list, no matter what, is definitely Witness, which mostly takes place in Amish Country but starts out at 30th Street Station. Harrison Ford is a cop set to protect and tiny Amish Lukas Haas after he witnesses a murder by a corrupt cop. Harrison's got no where to run, so he hides out with Haas and hot Amish mom Kelly McGillis. No matter what I'm doing, if Witness is on TV, I will drop everything and watch it. Holy hell, I love Witness. Behold my favorite part:
- But my number one all-time-favorite Philly-set movie has got to be ' drum roll please ' Trading Places. Why? It's hilarious, with both Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd at their peak, not to mention Jamie Lee Curtis and the always excellent Denholm Elliot as butler Coleman. It's also one of those movies that could ostensibly be set anywhere. But Philadelphia has a reputation for both its blues: both bloods and collars. And there are very few cities that can pull off the necessary dichotomy. It's a Philadelphia movie through and through. Plus, how often do you get a comedy with gorilla sodomy scenes? Not often enough.
So what are you favorites? I know I left off some big ones (i.e. Philadelphia, Invincible) You can use this Wikipedia entry as a cheat sheet. Furthermore, Jay Schwartz of Secret Cinema and local film writer Irv Slifkin are teaming up to add another possible entry to the list. On Thursday, October 15, they'll screen Trick Baby, a semi-Blaxploitation film shot all around the city. Watch the trailer below:
Here's what Slifkin has on the Secret Cinema site:
Even though it's often been placed in the "blaxplaitation" category, this surprisingly sturdy con artist tale is anything but. Yes, it features a predominately all-black cast and indeed, it takes place throughout the seedier African-American sections of Philly. But it's more an urban take on The Sting than anything else. Based on the novel by former pimp Iceberg Slim (originally under the pseudonym "Robert Beck"), the story centers on the exploits of Johnny "White Folks" O'Brien (Kiel Martin), a con from Philly who is the son of a black prostitute mother and white john, and who hates his derisive nickname "Trick Baby." O'Brien's partner is "Blue" Howard (Met Stuart), a veteran schemer from the old school. The two pull off a series of dupes, but really set their sights on a big haul. That comes in a real estate scam in which O'Brien tries to pull in some racist white businessmen on an investment fraud.
Much like Blow Out, the screening ties in with the Print Center's Streets of Philadelphia: Photography 1970-1985, which John Vettese wrote about a couple weeks back
Blow Out, Sun., Oct. 4, 2 p.m., $5-$8 after museum admission, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway, 215-763-8100, philamuseum.org. Trick Baby, Thu., Oct. 15, 8 p.m., $8, The Print Center, 1614 Latimer Street, 215-735-6090, thesecretcinema.com.
|Courtesy of Boys Club for Men|
The laughter bugs were certainly biting at Philly Improv Festival's opening night, though that didn't keep the crickets from occasionally chirping, too. The 9:30 p.m. slot was stacked well: Rookie Card greased up an already-warm crowd (most had been at the festival since 6:30) for the two most tickling performances of the night, New York's Junior Varsity and Boys Club for Men. They both took one-word crowd suggestions like 'library' and 'trapeze,' and turned them into fluid scenes about pesky wives invading man-forts, taking a cab to prom, and ejaculating genies in clouds of smoke. (Wha?! indeed.) The 11 p.m. slot, which featured Strippers Picnic, Lead McEnroe, Marjean and Philly's own Illegal Refill, had some shining stars in each group. On the whole, however, the performers' energy levels were proportional to their entertainment levels, which experienced prolonged lulls from time to time. Maybe it was the Thursday-night, bedtime-story-hour slot, but most 11 p.m. troupes got stuck in long, dialogue-y scenes about absolutely nothing, and it felt squirmy to watch them struggle. But every now and then, a helicopter would crash into a cow and a squirt of tinkle still managed to escape me.
The second night of the festival will take place tonight at 6:30, 8, 9:30 and 11 p.m., for $10-$25 at the Society Hill Playhouse (507 S. Eighth St., 215-923-0210).
Admit it, you want more from this week's Movie section.
The new one from Ricky Gervais didn't screen in time for print, but here's my review:
In a world not unlike our own, no one can tell a lie. It's not just that they can't say untruths, it's that people say whatever happens to pop into their head, which doesn't bode well for Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais), a loser with few prospects. On the day he's fired and unable to pay his rent, Mark suddenly gains the ability to say what isn't. Like any movie, especially a comedy, with a shtick, The Invention of Lying gets old after the initial idea wears off. Yes, we get it, people can't lie. Mark can. Gervais, who co-wrote and directed with Matthew Robinson, is smart enough to understand that this device can't sustain a feature-length movie (something the creators of Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man never got). But at that turning point, The Invention of Lying shifts dramatically from innocuous comedy to atheist manifesto, when Mark essentially creates religion by "revealing" the presence of "the man in the sky." Whether you disagree or not with the validity of god isn't the point; it's simply an unnerving tonal shift. Whether he produced a screed or not, Gervais has funny friends in high places and the various cameos that pop up throughout are at least fun to look forward to.
Bird's Eye View
I was so confused by Bird's Eye View that I couldn't even give it a grade. It's one of those experience-it-for-yourself type of deals. While you can only see the trailer on their site, you've gotta read S. Buck Yorko's interview with Bird's Eye View's writer/director/star Cybela Clare:
Cybela on how to protect yourself from aliens:
I think basically, if they really want to abduct somebody, it's very, very hard to avoid it.
Cybela on why extraterrestrials are invading our planet:
If you were going to go to the best resort in the universe, it would probably be planet Earth.
Cybela on not being crazy:
I've interviewed people in Brazil, all over Brazil, and there are judges and lawyers and doctors in Brazil who claim they've been aboard spacecraft and they've been put in some kind of nitrogen liquid and they've been on other planets and, and ' you think I'm crazy, right? I mean, I'm not, I'm just telling you the truth.
More movies after the jump '
Whip It - C
Related: Trailer!: Whip It
Zombieland - B+
The Horse Boy - B-
Paris - C
American Casino - B-
|Courtesy of Philadelphia Theatre Co.|
Every Thursday, we give you this week's LGBTQ to-do list.
-Who's going to the Pink concert on Sat., Oct. 3? I won't be at the Wachovia Center, but I will be celebrating her dyke-ish presence at Blend, a post-show dance party at Stir Lounge (1705 Chancellor St., 215-732-2700). DJs JD and Jivey will be there spinning funky disco-house music, so I'll be shakin' my booty all night long. Wanna join me? The party is going from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., with drink specials and no cover charge.
-I love a good street festival, especially when the weather is nice and cool, so I can't wait to hit up the fourth annual Midtown Village Festival (13th and Sansom streets) on Sun., Oct. 4 from noon to 8 p.m. The Village shares borders with the Gayborhood, so this is definitely a neighborhood affair not to miss. Participating shops will bring their goods out onto the street for easier access, food vendors will be dishing out the grub, and there'll be plenty of dizzying beverages to sip. I'm guessing the eye candy won't be so terrible either. Wink.
-If you're dying for a new scene, you'll find it at Le Virt' (1927 E Passyunk Ave., 215-271-5626) on Tue., Oct. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. Each month the group Queers on the Avenue gets together to throw a spirited fest in one of the many East Passyunk Avenue eateries. This party's gonna be packed with South Philly's finest. If you don't believe all the hype about Passyunk Square becoming the next Gayborhood, you'll find your proof here. And many Passyunkers are not only super gay, but they're generous, too: a portion of the evening's proceeds will benefit the Mazonni Center.
-On Thu., Oct. 8 from 6:45 to 8 p.m., the Philadelphia Theatre Co. (480 S. Broad St., 215-985-1400) is holding a LGBTQ cocktail an hour prior to its current show, Humor Abuse. In addition to light fare, such as cheese, vegetables and dip, wine will also be freely served to anyone who has a ticket to the evening's performance. 'It's just a way for folks to get together before the show, have a drink and chill,' says event planner Janette Amadio. Humor Abuse is a one-man show starring hunky physical comedian Lorenzo Pisoni (pictured). You may recognize him for his stint on Broadway in Equus, alongside Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe. Ticket prices range from $10 to $52. Be sure to RSVP at email@example.com.
Itching for more gay events? Check out our LGBTQ listings.
Last week, I sat with a bunch of friends for an impromptu Denzel Washington festival. No one meant to gather for Denzel, but on three separate channels, there were three separate Denzel movies: Crimson Tide, Remember the Titans and Training Day. Unknowingly, we were presented with the body of work of a well-rounded (and critically acclaimed) star: Denzel the Hero, Denzel the Inspiration and Denzel the Villain.
Now, we have Denzel the Badass.
It's a departure for Denzel who, in movies like Man on Fire and Deja Vu, played the saves-the-day kind of guy has never taken on this kind of big budget, fantasy heroism (sure Deja Vu had those whack, outta-this-world plots but I thought it was stupid so I'm not going to count it). What does this mean for a guy like Denzel? He's getting older so, like Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard/the in-theaters Surrogates, need to prove his still bountiful virility in the face of graying hair? Or is he just trying on some superhero shoes to see if they fit? (Sigh, in his younger days, that smile would have looked fantastic under a Captain America mask.)
It also marks the return of the Hughes brothers: The twin wunderkinds who premiered at Cannes as mere 20-year-olds with Menace II Society but stumbled with Dead Presidents, got up again with American Pimp and face-planted with Alan Moore adaptation From Hell. Their first feature since the latter's 2001 release, The Book of Eli is a road picture in the post-apocalypse. The trailer certainly picks up the religious undertones, most likely stemming from the titular book that the sun-bespectacled Denzel protects.
I'm pumped to see Denzel as a Mad Max-type gunslinger and I already like the washed out color palette. But what's better than all of those things is the return of batshit Gary Oldman. I love it when he gets down, dirty and crazy. I was worried that Commissioner Gordon had softened Oldman but he still likes to play it nuts.
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