Archive: October, 2009
Michael Jackson rehearsal documentary This Is It did not screen in time for print, but we sent our very own Cindy Fuchs anyway.
This Is It ' C+
"Everyone in a Michael Jackson show is an extension of Michael Jackson," says director/choreographer Kenny Ortega, exhorting the young dancers assembled for Jackson's last extravaganza. He makes his documentary's premise clear: It will revere the King of Pop, remind us that he was grand and singular, tragic and brilliant. He's also dead. And this, like everything else about Jackson, apparently bears repeating ' everything here is familiar, from Jackson's dance moves to his "hee-hees." A jumble of reflections and allusions, rehearsal clips cut together in split screens and sequences, the film helps you to remember what might have been. In theory, it's intriguing, a documentary on an event that didn't happen. But in practice, it's a compilation of unfinished preparations and imperfect performances. Most of the songs are, of course, sensational: Even pieces of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" or "The Way You Make Me Feel" can be rousing, bits of performances that reveal again Jackson's dedication and gifts. This Is It mostly refrains from close-ups of his disfigured face, using long shots instead to emphasize his enduring dance skills, his meticulous rhythms and familiar gestures. This reminds you of what's been lost, the pains he endured and the losses he embodied. As much as the documentary does right by Jackson, recalling his genius, it perpetuates the exploitations that shaped his life.
This Is It opens wide today. Check citypaper.net/showtimes for more info.
Every Tuesday, Critical Mass sifts through the art blog world so you don't have to.
-Urban Outfitters blog got wind of the MJ-Twilight tribute trailer that Making Time @ 2424 Studios produced for its Halloween gathering. The video is as odd and intriguing as the mold pattern forming on that old block of cheese in your fridge ' you just can't look away.
-Tie or Die was featured on Shmitten Kitten a week back, but it needs a shout out all its own. Philly mad men Ryan and Jon created a self-imposed competition ' both must wear a tie every workday in October. They do daily picture posts on TieorDie.com, where visitors can vote on the best dressed. The loser has to go to a tanning bed donning only his undies and a tie.
-Philly-based Free People gives a send-off to the Spectrum as its final day looms near on the horizon. The Dead win for the most prolific Spectrum players (of music), gracing its stage 53 times since it's opening in 1967.
-Birds of a feather flock together, even if one bird prefers dapper suits and the other rocks 'tattered French brogues.' Lord Whimsy reports on a magical evening spent watching Danish musician and artist Goodiepal scrawl notes over a rooftop and strew oddly-shaped vinyl records about. And you thought your Saturday night was crazy.
-One Review a Month rode the blue-line from Girard to 63rd and back just to get a glimpse of Love Letter, the clever and sometimes naughty Mural Arts Project piece that we at Critical Mass have also taken a liking to. Murals include such phrases as 'Prepay is on, let's talk till my minutes are gone,' and the simple yet provocative, 'Had a nice dream about you.' ORM likes it, giving the unusual exhibit 'high-fives all around.'
When we first saw it, we could hardly believe it either: Ted Leo heading up a Philly supergroup ' Atom Goren (Armalite, Atom and his Package), Brian Sokel (AM/FM, Franklin), Andy Nelson (Paint it Black) and Chris Wilson (the Philly-based drummer for Ted Leo's Pharmacists) ' to do a night of Halloween Misfits covers under the guise of TV Casualty at Kung Fu Necktie.
In a release that came out today, Sokel laid out more specifics of the evening, for instance, they'll do not one but two sets of Misfits covers ' one at 10:30 and the second at midnight ' and that the $8 cover will benefit West Philly-based community advocacy group The People's Emergency Center.
First: You'd better get your tickets quick.
Second: We asked Sokel how this bit of serendipity came together:
SOKEL: Well, Chris Wilson brought it up to me. He wanted to give back a little to the local community and thought a series of musical benefits would be the best way to do that. We chatted and thought doing shows where we select a specific legendary punk group and doing a show of their songs would be a fun way for folks to want to come out and have a good time. We're both super nerds when it comes to classic punk stuff and honestly, it's as much fun for us to do it as it is to make it for a good cause.
Once we told some more folks about it people seemed really into it. So, we decided to go to one of our most favorite bands, The Misfits for Halloween. Then we'll be doing a Black Flag show next...
So wait, will Ted Leo be doing the Black Flag show, too?
SOKEL: Nope, the cast of characters will change from show to show.
Right now, Dan Yemin is set to do vocals for the Black Flag show. The back up band will be the same tho.
A concert a day keeps the doctor away.
Monday: An Albatross is a trippy-ass math rock group with all the best toys. They use Korg and Moog synths and a theremin to 'to facilitate a nonstop musical orgasm until we pass through the jeweled gates of Rock and Roll Valhalla!' Sounds like: Test Icicles. With Dark Meat, Bobo, Prowler, 8 pm, Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave.
Tuesday: Imagine for a moment that the guy from Coldplay wasn't such an insufferable douche and you'll have imagined David Gray. Now if only that would instigate some sort of space-time paradox that would cause Chris Martin to be blasted from this dimension' With Lisa Hannigan, 8 pm, $55, Tower Theater, 19 S 69th St., Upper Darby, PA, 610-352-2887
Wednesday: Really, I'm only recommending Pearl Jam because they're playing with Social Distortion. Mike Ness does the punk-rock impossible and produces comprehensible vocals backed by a solid band. 7:30 pm, $77, Wachovia Spectrum, 3601 Broad St., 215-336-3600
Thursday: If grunge cleaned up and got it's act together it'd be Pinback. They play a bass-heavy breed of indie rock that sounds like Minus the Bear if their guitarist decided to chill the fuck out and relax for a minute. With indie/surf rock band Obits opening, this show should be sick from start to finish. 9 pm, $16, Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St., 215-922-1011
Friday: Maybe I'm just overwrought with DC pride, but Thievery Corporation is the ever-loving shit. A down-tempo duo of might, Thieve-Corp takes their sound from music all around the world, throws it in a blender and feeds you a delicious trip-hop milkshake. With Ocote Soul Sounds, Rob Paine, PEX, 9 pm, $42, Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St., 215-627-1332
Saturday: The Dead Milkmen slowed it down for after the death of their bassist. Now the old school punkers return, bringing the delightful combination of comedy and punk rock back to their hometown on Halloween. Word on the street is that their frontman is an excellent writer' With Live Not On Evil, The Tough Shits, 8 pm, $18.50, The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888
Sunday: Boys Noize is one dude from Germany. Alex Ridha has been spinning electro for over a decade, and while his original material might be a little weak, (one might even say mind-numbingly repetitive) his remixes make up for it and then some. With Dave P & Friends, 9 pm, $12, The Barbary, 951 N Frankford Ave.
'I threw flowers in your face on my sister's wedding day.'
We were still waiting in the will-call line when 'The Strangers,' St. Vincent's first track from 2009's Actor (4AD), came blaring through the Electric Factory's walls promptly at 8. Damn. (It didn't help that the bitchiest guy in Philadelphia was ahead of us in line, whining that he shouldn't have to wait in such a long line.)
Opening for Andrew Bird, St. Vincent ' aka Annie Clark, former member of the Polyphonic Spree ' stuck with Actor tracks for the most part of her nine-song set, wavering between the exquisite, ambient swell that's become her signature and a much more dissonant, spazzier sound that I don't think anyone was expecting. As my boyfriend said, 'It's like she goes from Regina Spektor to Sonic Youth in the span of a song.'
Not that there weren't lovely moments amid the madness. 'Save Me from What I Want' started as a slow crescendo of harmonic oohs between lead singer and violinist, slowly building to a wall of perfect sound. By the end, that which had been pleasing to the ear had devolved into a sort of dragged-out, heavy-guitar cacophony with St. Vincent at the center, shaking her head like she'd heard an off note, or she'd fallen into some kind of trance.
But then she was back with 'Actor Out of Work,' thanking Andrew Bird for the opportunity to perform, thanking Philly for listening.
As the set went on, things got a little bit weirder. 'Black Rainbow' featured a white-bandana-clad flutist (who also rocked out on vocals, oboe and sax variously throughout the evening) and major bass notes that shook the floor. And all of a sudden, St. Vincent was tweaking out, like Marty McFly playing 'Johnny B Good' a little too futuristic for the kids of 1955. A strobe light as her background, she jerked and seized, as if to tell us this is what music would be like in another 30 years.
Last and most bizarre, Marry Me's 'Your Lips Are Red' took its time getting started as St. Vincent marched in place as if on a people mover, revving herself up and singing with her eyes closed. In her self-contained groove she might not have even noticed the shirtless, mustachioed guy who came on stage behind her and started dancing ' or, more accurately, thrashing ' with the violinist. The animal in St. Vincent didn't come out till this, the ninth song, where she alternated between Tourette's-inspired jerks and fetal-position squats, and her backing band followed suit, swaying and pulsing till the song reached its limit. With the coo of its final lines, 'Your skin's so fair, it's not fair,' the band came down from its high, morphing into an entirely calmer, more mellow sound, making way for Andrew Bird instead of completely blowing him out of the water.
1. The Strangers (Actor)
2. Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood (Actor)
3. Save Me from What I Want (Actor)
4. Actor Out of Work (Actor)
5. Now, Now (Marry Me)
6. The Party (Actor)
7. Black Rainbow (Actor)
8. Marrow (Actor)
9. Your Lips Are Red (Marry Me)
|photo by Julia West|
What's wrong Philadelphia? Yes the weather sucks, but our team just made it to the Series again and Rain Machine is playing for you on a Friday night. You couldn't show just a little more love? Really, Philly, the excitement was lacking, as were hoots and hollers. Maybe your throats were sore from Wednesday night, and that's forgivable.
Rain Machine's self-titled album may drag a listener through some dreary places, but the live show was all rock. What was a sad song on the album is suddenly sexy when performed live. It did take a bit of coaxing from singer Kyp Malone to get the audience excited. By the second half of the set, though, coaxing wasn't necessary with great big performances of 'Smiling Black Faces,' 'Give Blood,' and an ending to 'Desperate Bitch' that could have been their finale, but it wasn't. Right when everything was going really well, someone had to yell for a TV on the Radio song. Malone responded by calling the request 'awkward' and then made it clear that Rain Machine is trying to do well as a new band, not TVOTR's little brother.
NeeKo's Philly-ified version of Jay-Z and Alycia Keys' "Empire State of Mind." Check out his MySpace for more. A possible anthem for when the Phil's beat the Yanks in a scant few weeks (if they even get to the series)? Not to mention, what would Hova think?
Admit it, you want more from this week's Movies section.
Darren is a normal teenage boy. He's popular, has a good family and gets good grades. But things start go awry for Darren (Chris Massoglia) when his best bud (and complete opposite), Steve (a much-more-interesting-than-Massoglia Josh Hutcherson), persuades him to cut out on his grounding (also Steve's fault) and check out the Cirque du Freak, a WTF vaudeville-style freak show, anchored by the mysterious Crepsley (John C. Reilly), who performs with a spider named Octa. Darren makes the terrible decision to steal Octa (because, as we're told, he's obsessed with spiders), which leads Crepsley to turn him into a half-vamp (he's not daylight-allergic). Too bad the creepy Mr. Tiny (Broadway great Michael Cerveris) has other plans for our hero and wants him for himself. Cirque du Freak is one of those movies that's clearly meant to set up a franchise. It's a lot of exposition for little payoff. But the visual effects are fantastic, and watching the cavalcade of freaks ' like The Daily Show's Kristin Schaal's toothy Gertha, Salma Hayek's sultry bearded lady and Patrick Fugit's rock 'n' roll-loving snake boy ' is fun enough to keep it going. Still while Reilly is characteristically awesome as the theatrical Crepsley, you have to wonder: Is he doing it for the part or because he knows he's got paychecks coming down the pipe when the other tent poles go up?
Amelia - C
Director Mira Nair knows how to set up a shot. She can work the light and create scenes of pure beauty, as she's shown in movies like Monsoon Wedding. But that doesn't help her when it comes to the story of Amelia Earhart, played in all of her buck-toothed glory by Hilary Swank. Beginning with Earhart's doomed flight around the world, Nair gives us a brief look at Earhart's childhood and hits the ground running with her meeting with eventual husband/publishing magnate George Putnam (Richard Gere), who ostensibly needs a woman flier to play passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight, but really wants a star who can sell books. Nair's version is full of positive women-can-do-it-too! platitudes but glances over the interesting parts ' like Earhart's unseen alcoholic dad who gets more than a few mentions or the necessary celebrity associated with keeping her up in the air. Even her affair with Gene Vidal (father of Gore ' yeah, that Gore), played by Ewan McGregor, feels like an afterthought. Swank, who has garnered praise for the gritty realism she brings to her performances (Boys Don't Cry), plays Earhart like a character, rather than embodying the aviatrix (although Gere is far guiltier of this than Swank). The film only gets interesting when we get a glimpse inside Earhart's final ride before she disappeared without a trace, but by that point, Amelia's already crashed.
Art & Copy - C+
Bronson - A-
An Education - B
Good Hair - C
Ong Bak 2 - B
You have to read Drew Lazor's review. It's hilarious.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Troc was not pop-punk band Broadway Calls on stage playing angsty anthems about some girl somewhere who broke someone's heart. It was the plaid. The place looked like a Scotch Christmas; legions of tartan-clad young folk, standing in one place and staring blankly at the stage. The Troc's decision to essentially segregate their crowd according to age by way of their 21-plus Balcony means a floor full of kids that are too scared or self-conscious to dance. With the exception of one push to the front when the Loved Ones came on stage, the crowd remained almost completely stationary.
The Loved Ones have gained a lot of confidence since I saw them in D.C. in 2005. They used to spend their time between songs thanking the crowd for giving them a chance. Now, with four years under his belt and playing on his home turf, front-man Dave Hause has dropped his earnest, apologetic vibe in favor of being a self-satisfied, American Apparel clad 'punk rocker.' His attempts to involve the crowd fell short; it's difficult to have a rousing sing-a-long chorus when no one knows the words to your songs. He almost won my affection when he started passing out whiskey to the crowd, but I think I liked them better when they knew they weren't very good.
Murder by Death played a great show to an unappreciative crowd. It's understandable, when people go to see the kind of kiddy-punk band that would be featured on the Tony Hawk ProSkater soundtrack, they don't want to see a cello-heavy group that sounds like Ennio Morricone made love to Johnny Cash. In the crowd, kids were rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and bitching about how it was probably this random band's fault that their beloved punk show was so expensive ($15 doesn't sound so bad to me). Watching cellist Sarah Balliet play is like watching a ballerina, albeit a very violent, ethereal one. Completely expressionless, she fervently saws at her instrument, destroying a cello bow per show.' They played a range of songs from all four of their albums, complete with amusing one liners from front-man Adam Turla, along the lines of 'This song is about drinking, which we have a commitment to.'
The Gaslight Anthem did the best they could with what they had to work with. As I'm certain is apparent in previous paragraphs, I have an inherent aversion to Gaslight's particular breed of punk rock. It wasn't always this way ' but then I turned 14. The soundman must have been asleep; from my utterly unqualified perspective, it sounded like the middle section was missing. The volume on everything was down so low that it created a gut-wrenchingly awkward acoustic environment. You know there's a problem when the fat guy behind you is yelling louder than the singer and the girl 15 feet in front of you chatting to her BFF sounds like she's talking in your ear. However, Gaslight played a solid set. Their stage presence was genuine, and it was good to see the crowd get excited for the band they came to see.
Based on his 2005 short of the same name, Joe Leonard's How I Got Lost is the re-coming of age story of a bored sports journalist Jake (Jacob Fishel) and his drunken friend (Aaron Stanford, Tadpole) embarking on a spontaneous road trip from Manhattan to podunk Ohio. Fallen on hard times, the guys encounter situations along the way that teach them to work through issues they've struggling to resolve at home. The storyline mainly stays with the ruggedly handsome, but oh-so sensitive, Jake, who is marred by an earlier, unexpected break-up. In Ohio, he lets go, courtesy of a little sexual healing provided by Leslie, a no-nonsense diner waitress played smartly by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married). Back in New York, however, there are more heartbreaking surprises in store, which further instill his motivation to keep moving on.
The quick, 87-minute run time makes for a seamless flow from start to finish. While some of the point does get lost in quick transitions from setting to setting, this is a charming, buzzworthy film that's worth all the noise.
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