Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"It Might Get Loud" Pays Homage to the Guitar

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 1
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What kind of music would we be listening to if the guitar had never been invented? Would we all be jamming to Mozart while sitting in rush hour traffic? I pondered this thought while waiting to discover when It Might Get Loud, the new documentary by Davis Guggenheim, will be premiering in my city.

In his film, Guggenheim explores the instrument that links three talented musicians, each from a different generation. First, there is guitar legend Jimmy Page from the Yardbirds and, of course, Led Zeppelin. Next we have the Edge from U2 and Jack White of The White Stripes. The film recounts how each man discovered the guitar and attained fame, but Guggenheim said there is also a universal message.

"It's less about the gadgets and the toys and the guitars and more about these guys' creative path," Guggenheim told USA Today. "It's the story of what it's like to be a kid in a remote city wanting to say something and finding your voice."

Getting the three to participate was the first challenge.

"I'm not the sort of person who wants to be bothered about being profiled all the time," Page said. "But it is important to pop out now and then to show you're not 6 feet under."

The Edge said he does not usually like to discuss music because it is difficult to avoid cliches, but that the film was able to capture honest moments.

"I sort of forgot the cameras were there after a while because I was absorbed in the memories."

It Might Get Loud opened in N.Y. and L.A. Aug. 14 and will be premiering across the country over the next few months. Release dates can be found at the official Web site.

Check out a clip from the film featured on the Spin Web site.

Who is your favorite guitarist of all time?

This topic often produces much spirited debate between musicians and fans. Below are some of my favorites. Post your choice in the comments!

Jimi Hendrix
Often cited as the greatest guitarist of all time, Hendrix began his career at the age of 16. Known for his flamboyant playing, which included using his teeth, Hendrix pioneered an innovative style by combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion, which other guitarists tried to emulate, but never quite mastered.

Jimmy Page - Led Zeppelin
It is no surprise Guggenheim invited Page to participate in It Might Get Loud. After working as a first-call studio musician at Decca Records in London for several years, Page eventually joined the Yardbirds which evolved into the powerhouse known as Led Zeppelin. Page's powerful riffs and solos, as well as his innovative use of a bow, helped make him one of the most influential guitarists of all time.

Eric Clapton
Nicknamed Slowhand because of his laid back style, Clapton started playing guitar at the age of 13. Influenced early on by the blues roots of American music, he made it his own. Clapton's solos burst with blues, soul and creativity, making his oeuvre required study for young guitarists everywhere.

Robbie Krieger - The Doors
Perhaps the most underrated guitarist in music history, the riffs Krieger created with The Doors proved not only his creative talent, but also his versatile artistic style. Trained first in flamenco, Krieger went on to study folk, jazz and the blues, all of which are present in The Doors' body of work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Has the Curtain Fallen Forever on Decent Teen Movies?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 5
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When the news broke last week that writer/director John Hughes, 59, had died of a heart attack, I will admit that I got more than a little teary-eyed. Like most of my generation, I grew up with his films, and his marvelous dialogue still peppers my everyday speech. In fact, the day he passed away I had already quoted The Breakfast Club twice before I even heard the news.

Although he had given up on Hollywood years ago and had made countless entertaining films outside the adolescent-angst genre (Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Home Alone, just to name a few), while Hughes was alive there was still hope. Hope that one day he would return and do what he did best — write and direct a movie about what it is really like to be a teenager.

The pain, the heartbreak, the struggles, and the laughter, these integral elements were all present in Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles and, of course, the mighty Breakfast Club.

Nobody did it like Hughes. He did not write teenage characters as one-dimensional, sex-crazed idiots because, as actor Judd Nelson confirmed, that is not how he saw them.

“John’s desire for the truth of the spoken word aligned perfectly with his gift for treating young people not as children but as developing adults,” Nelson said in a statement to Buzzine.

Hughes also had not forgotten those awkward years which, for many people, are the toughest of their lives. In an article she wrote for The New York Times, actress Molly Ringwald said that Hughes relived his teens through the characters he created in writing and nurtured through directing.

“In retrospect, I feel that we were sort of avatars for him, acting out the different parts of his life — improving upon it, perhaps,” Ringwald wrote. “In those movies, he always got the last word. He always got the girl.”

The teen movie has suffered so completely since Hughes retreated, it is no longer even worthy of a genre. There is no ache of first love, merely sex shenanigans with dessert foods. There is no dialogue, just profanity lazily used as adjectives. There is no trace of the sarcastic, clever comedy Hughes brilliantly wove into his screenplays, merely stereotypes who can barely tie their shoelaces.

No thanks — I’ll stick with Duckie’s side-splitting interpretation of “Try a Little Tenderness.”

Those who should be most offended by the pieces of drivel being marketed to young people is the target audience themselves. Is this how they want to be perceived as a generation? More importantly, is this how they see themselves? I hope not. In fact, I hope one of them will step up to the plate and do it right.

John Bender and Ferris Bueller would no doubt have endless fun tormenting the neo maxi zoom dweebies of today’s teen flicks, while Duckie cheered them on from the sidelines and Samantha Baker subjected them all to a severe sarcasm beat-down.

Below are some of my personal favorite John Hughes quotes. Please share yours in the comments.

The Breakfast Club

John Bender: What do you guys do in your club?

Brian Johnson: Well, in physics we...we talk about physics, properties of physics…

John Bender: So it's sorta social. Demented and sad, but social. Right?

John Bender: Hey, how come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up, it'll be anarchy!

Pretty in Pink

Andie: You know you're talking like that just because I'm going out with Blane.
Duckie: Blane? His name is Blane? That's not a name, it’s a major appliance.

Andie: Were you here long?
Duckie: No, no! Three, four... hours.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Laura Nelson: Check it out. This girl is popular, she's beautiful and, obviously, in the middle of some emotional shootout to consent to date the human tater tot. What did you do to her, Keith? Threaten her life?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Greatest Movies Never Made

Sunday, August 9, 2009 1
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For many people film has always been a welcome diversion from the often harsh reality of daily life. However, of late, Hollywood seems bent on rehashing, remaking, or endlessly sequel-ling (exactly how many “visions” of “Halloween” do we need, Mr. Zombie?) films based on ideas that were not even that good in the first place.

It has become painfully obvious that no one can come up with an original idea. My solution? Steal a great one from someone else, of course! Below are four that I would like to see.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

It is annoying that such a prolific novel has never found its way to the big screen, especially when countless rip-offs of the protagonist have. It has been reported that Salinger is not keen on the idea and, given the hatchet-job Hollywood has done on a number of wonderful novels over the years, I can’t say that I blame him.

The book recounts the story of a discontented youth, but it is much more than a run-of-the-mill rebel’s tale. It reveals society’s complexities, flaws and injustices. Hollywood loves this story and has made many films based on the same premise, so why not the grand-daddy of them all?

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman.

This comic book series could, in the right hands, become such a major franchise it might even rival the wizards and vampires of Tweendom. Dark, moody and sprinkled with love, lust, and death, this series is a Tim Burton wet dream.

The story centers on a group of mysterious immortals called The Endless who each rule over an aspect of the human condition. Chief Immortal, Morpheus (aka Dream), is assisted by his six brothers and sisters: Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium and Destruction.

The last decade has proven there is a huge market for fantasy films and this haunting, remarkable series should be allowed to take its rightful place among them.

Wonder Woman

Could we get a female super-hero movie, please? We have seen Iron Man, Batman (two different franchises for this one now, and counting), Spiderman, Superman (again TWO versions), The Green Lantern, etc. and the Amazon chick who can stop bullets with her jewelry continues to be ignored. As a woman, I am angered by this slight, and as a super-hero fan, I am, well, PISSED!

Sure, the series featuring the lovely Lynda Carter was cheesy, but I still watched it every week. However, if this is the reason we still do not have a film version, could we talk about the super-cheesy on a mountain of cheese the old Batman series was? Who doesn’t want to see a hot lady with super-powers kicking some villainous ass? It is a theme that crosses all lines of ethnicity and gender. That’s right —Wonder Woman could unite us all! Well, probably not, but I have an objective here, people.

Star Wars: Episodes VII, VIII and IX.

Had they been done well, I might have been more receptive to the prequels of this beloved franchise. As it turned out, I would have preferred that Vader’s origins remain a mystery. Watching golden-boy Hayden Christiansen attempt to “become evil” was more painful than the time I sprained my ankle on Gran’s stairs — and don’t even get me started on Jar Jar Binks.

I wanted to see what happened to Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca and those lovable droids. After the deaths of Vader and the Emperor, did another corrupt leader gain power? Did Leia ever learn the ways of the Force? What happened to Han and Leia’s kids? Did Leia’s daughter make fun of her mom’s sound-reducing-headphones hairstyle in the high school yearbook? Any combination of answers to these questions could have been the basis for a decent sequel. Alright, maybe not the hairstyle bit, but you get the idea.

There are countless others I could list, but I do not want to run the risk of overwhelming in the hopes that one of these will actually be produced. There, Hollywood! That pesky creative part of actually coming up with an idea is already done for you, pick any one you like. Just try not to ruin it, mkay?

Radiohead Leave Us Waiting

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In a recent interview in the latest issue of The Believer magazine, Thom Yorke broke the news that Radiohead won't be releasing a new album for quite some time. However, if we're lucky, we'll be seeing a lot more singles, like "Harry Patch [In Memory Of]" and Thom Yorke's cover of Miracle Legion's "All for the Best",
released online to tide us over. And if that's not enough to prevent the withdrawal symptoms until their next album, I find I never tire of revisiting Radiohead's past melodic masterpieces: The Bends, OK Computer, and their latest In Rainbows. So, hang in there radioheads, whatever the boys have planned it's bound to be worth the wait.

Listen to the latest from Radiohead:
"All for the Best"
"Harry Patch [In Memory Of]"

(source: Pitchfork)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Persnickety Movie Guide: Aliens in August

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 2
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We're avid movie fans here at Persnickety Press and there's rarely a month that goes by when there isn't something playing that we're willing to spend our hard earned cash on in order to see it on the big screen. Sure, there are more disappointments than there are praiseworthy films of late, but that doesn't mean we can't still hope for the best. Below are just a few highlights of movies that might be worth checking out this month.

August 14th
District 9 [official website]
About: Aliens are being held at a refugee camp in South Africa called District 9 while the government search for the secrets behind their weapons technology. The catch: activation of this weaponry requires alien DNA. Tensions between the aliens and humans rise as a field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his own DNA. He quickly becomes a hunted man as he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. There is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.
Persnickety thoughts: Its got aliens and was produced by Peter Jackson, what more do you need to know?

Watch the trailer:

The Time Traveler's Wife [official website]
About: Based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger about Henry DeTamble, a man who travels involuntarily through time and meets the love of his life, Clare Abshire, at various stages throughout her natural lifetime. The inconvenience of Henry's constant traveling makes theirs a complicated and, at times, heartbreaking love story.
Persnickety thoughts: The trailer is a huge disappointment to women and men alike who've read the book. These characters deserve so much more than a cheesy chick flick trailer set to a bubblegum-pop soundtrack; Henry and Clare would be appalled. That said, I'm hoping the trailer is misleading and that there will be at least some form of Niffenegger's beautifully constructed story present in the film. Either way, go read the book!

Watch the trailer:

August 21st
Inglourious Basterds [official website]
About: Quentin Tarantino's comedic World War II film about a group of Jewish-American soldiers whose mission is to kill as many Nazis as they can get their hands on and leave one alive in each group to spread the word.
Persnickety thoughts: Has Quentin Tarantino ever actually made a movie that didn't entertain you in some way? If the answer to that question is yes, then go see it just to hear Brad Pitt say "Nazi" in that accent over and over again. What? It makes me laugh.

Watch the trailer:

More August releases:
A Perfect Getaway [watch the trailer]
I Sell the Dead [watch the trailer]
Julie & Julia [watch the trailer]
Halloween II [watch the trailer]
Taking Woodstock [watch the trailer]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why "Jaws" Still has Bite

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 2
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This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Not because I love summer, or back-to-school shopping, but because…IT’S SHARK WEEK! Each summer, the Discovery Channel serves up seven days of thrilling, chilling programming featuring the most fascinating predators of the sea.

I wanted to do something to pay homage and what better way than writing about the greatest shark flick of all time?

For those who have spent the last 34 years studying glacier movement in the Arctic tundra, “Jaws” premiered in 1975 and is based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel of the same name. Directed by then-newcomer Steven Spielberg, the film takes place in a summer resort town called Amity. This is our first sign that things are not going to be, well, amiable (see “The Amityville Horror”).

After a swimmer is killed and a little boy is devoured right in front of a beach full of sunbathers, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) calls on marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), who, after examining what is left of one of the victims, informs Brody they are looking for a great white shark. After enlisting the help of Quint (Robert Shaw), a saucy local fisherman, the three set out to catch the man-eater, who has more than a few terrifying surprises in store.

In our modern CGI age, there has been much whining about and critiquing of the special effects in films from
yesteryear, and the animatronic shark in this one is no exception. However, the true genius of “Jaws” is that it is driven by good old-fashioned suspense. Spielberg took some excellent cues from Hitchcock and they are evident within the first five minutes of the film. We do not get a good look at the shark until half-way through the movie, but there are a whole lot of scares, blood and gore beforehand.

Spielberg utilizes shots from the shark’s perspective rather than showing it, and the tactic is effective, particularly when we see the doomed swimmer’s legs kicking above us as the predator closes in during the opening sequence, and again when it swims right past Brody’s son, Michael.

Throughout “Jaws,” John Williams’ famous two-note score alerts the audience to impending carnage and successfully raises the fear factor. It is no wonder it went on to become one of the most famous pieces of music in film history.

Another highlight of the film is its well-written and witty script. Shaw’s experienced Quint and Dreyfuss’ college-boy Hooper do not see eye-to-eye, and their rivalry offers up some of the funniest scenes in the movie. Early on in their shark-catching expedition, Quint downs a beer in one gulp, crushing the can in one hand and Hooper hilariously mimics him with a miniscule plastic cup.

While it is misleading regarding the nature of sharks, “Jaws” is still a hell of an entertaining ride. Shark Week will fill in all the scientific blanks. Even if they do not really have a taste for human flesh, seeing the sheer size and power of these fish still brings to mind Scheider’s line after he, and the audience, finally see the shark for the first time: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

We concur, Chief.

Check out the original trailer for Jaws.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

Author Takes the Bard to New Levels of Depravity

Monday, August 3, 2009 0
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Tackling Shakespeare can be an ill-advised venture. Especially if you are rewriting one of his tragedies as a black comedy, portraying his female characters as degenerate tarts, and rechristening British cities with names like “Lint-Upon-Tweed” and “Bongwater Crash.”

All of these hijinks are present in “Fool,” American author Christopher Moore’s absurdist version of “King Lear.”

The fact that Will’s oeuvre is not sacred to Moore is hardly surprising considering his includes titles such as, “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal” and “You Suck: A Love Story.”

Narrated by Pocket, the king’s jester, the novel opens with Lear dividing his kingdom among his three daughters, the adulterous and malicious Goneril and Regan, and the virtuous, but often hilariously blunt Cordelia.

To decide which woman gets the most bountiful share, Lear, who is a few bricks shy of a load thanks to old age, commands that his daughters prove who loves him the most. An appalled Cordelia refuses and is promptly banished to France where she is married off to King Jeff (yes, you read that right) without a dowry.

The ensuing fight for control between Goneril and Regan receives much encouragement and manipulation from Pocket. Eventually, their duplicity is revealed to Lear who, by this point, is mad as a hatter. Contrite, the king laments his punishment of honest Cordelia and the only soul who can set all to rights is our lovable knave of a narrator.

Moore’s admiration for British comedy shines in “Fool.” Nearly all of the dialogue reads as if it were torn from the pages of Monty Python. The characters quip and pun their way through debauchery with great vigor. However, despite his best efforts, some of Moore’s punch lines occasionally seem forced.

Dialogue in which one character continuously misunderstands another has been done ad nauseum, and done best by the Bard himself. Moore’s attempts at teasing out guffaws with this tired tactic fail.

Overall, though, the author’s sharp prose and black humor are more than capable of inducing soda-through-the-nose bouts of laughter. One of his clever footnotes states that a fictional saint is the patron of “combination skin, cold beverages, and necrophilia.”

Most of the high points in the story stem from Moore’s grudgingly acknowledged admiration for Shakespeare.

“No matter what you have to say,” Moore says in the epilogue, “it turns out that Will said it more elegantly, more succinctly, and more lyrically — and he probably did it in iambic pentameter — 400 years ago.”

References to Shakespeare’s other plays abound. The witches from “Macbeth” play an integral role in the plot and Pocket encounters a band of traveling actors who regularly perform “Green Eggs and Hamlet.”

The novel is a concise 307 pages and those who would rather endure root canal than read Shakespeare need not fear. It is not necessary to read “King Lear” to follow the plot, although familiarity with the play and Shakespeare’s other works will contribute to the entertainment value.

The author does sprinkle his modern writing style with Elizabethan words and phrases, but for all of these Moore provides witty definitions.

For those who enjoy British comedy, Shakespeare, bawdy romps, or all of the above, “Fool” will not disappoint.

For more information on Christopher Moore, visit his Web site at:
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