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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The following movies, television programs and music are already on my radar for 2012.  These aren’t any guesses as to what may happily surprise us this year, or any bold predictions regarding bands we’ve never heard of.  These are lists of things that I know I will enjoy, and/or for which I am otherwise and already on the lookout.  (Note: TV and music to follow).

Films:

Uncharacteristically, I am excited about two movies, set to be released in theaters in 2012.  I genuinely hope these are the only two movies I see this year.

The Hobbit

I am new to the Lord of Rings universe and fan club, having just read The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring in 2011. (Footnote: I hope to have read the whole trilogy before I see The Hobbit movie).  Peter Jackson will be directing the film, as he did the trilogy, which begs a few questions.  First, why make The Hobbit after the trilogy, though it was written first and chronicles a journey before the time of the later books?  Second, in which order shall newcomers, such as me, see these films?  The answer to the first question is likely irrelevant, but the second is crucial.  Perhaps it’s intentional, and having seen the trilogy offers an enhanced watching of The Hobbit.  As with Star Wars, should it not matter?  Would anyone have made it to A New Hope had they first seen The Phantom Menace?  I’ll need until December to get my shit together.

Moonrise Kingdom

The combination of Bill Murray and Wes Anderson has become formulaic, though not in an overdone or cliché sense at all.  Moonrise Kingdom will be funny, and it should be no surprise to anyone who has seen their past workMurray is a regular in Anderson’s films, typically alongside a Wilson brother or two, but this flick only features other regular Jason Schwartzman.  Interestingly, the rest of the cast includes Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton.  Set in small town New England, Murray and McDormand play the parents of a youngster who, along with her boy-toy, run away from home.  Willis is set to again reprise his role as John McClane… wait, no, that can’t be right.

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Today I was surfing Youtube when I stumbled upon a bunch of original videos starring Ben Schwartz, also known as Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec. I knew Schwartz was a writer, but I didn’t know he had so many videos already accumulated. His website and Youtube channel are called Rejected Jokes, a title which references to his days doing freelance comedy writing. According to the about page, “One of his [Schwartz’s] first writing gigs was a freelance job for David Letterman’s monologue and SNL’s Weekend Update. Years ago, he uploaded the jokes that got rejected from those shows right here on Youtube.”

The first thing I noticed about Schwartz’s body of work is the unlikely cameos he brings in. Look for familiar faces like Michael C Hall, Zooey Deschanel, and Donald Glover. The second big thing I noticed was the view counts for these videos– most are below 50,000. Unbelievable. We live in a world where Justin Bieber’s video for “Baby” currently has 692 million views, yet none of Schwartz’s videos have broken the 1 million threshold. I call that injustice. Most of the Rejected Jokes videos are NSFW, so I’ve posted the less offensive ones. In the immortal words of Jean-Ralphio, “Take me there!”

The Adventures of Tintin boasts big talent. The film is produced by two of the greatest storytellers of the adventure genre– Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. Despite all of the hype, I left the theater feeling underwhelmed.

The story is based on a comic book series called The Adventures of Tintin written by the Belgian artist Herge. The comics are widely popular in Europe, so when the movie quickly picks up the pace, the American audience is still left wondering who Tintin even is. We learn that he is a young journalist (even though he looks like a teenager) who has a passion for solving crimes with the help of his lovable dog Snowy. Tintin stumbles upon the mystery of a sunken ship called The Unicorn and gets caught up in an Indiana Jones-esque adventure.

I’ve read numerous reviews which say Tintin is the movie that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should have been, but after seeing it, I’m not completely convinced. Tintin falls short in the same area where Crystal Skull falls short– plot. Both Spielberg adventure films revolve around mysteries which fail to capture our imaginations because the subject matter is too cliche. The mystery of hidden pirate treasure in Tintin is as equally overdone as the mystery of the alien artifacts in Crystal Skull. The trailer says Tintin is searching for a lost “power,” but actually it’s just a bunch of gold. Who really cares? There’s a reason why Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade are the best Indiana Jones films. In both movies, Indiana Jones is searching for biblical artifacts– objects which we can actually look up and reference. Because the story is more believable, we feel like there’s more at stake. Also, Nazis always make for great villains.

One of Tintin’s annoying traits is that most of his dialogue involves pointing out the obvious. Try to count how many times Tintin says , “Of course!” But, the movie did have some redeeming qualities. Snowy the dog was fun to watch in every scene. There were many times during the movie which made you feel like Snowy was the better detective. I was also pleasantly surprised by Daniel Craig’s performances as bad guy Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine. After this movie and Dragon Tattoo, Craig is proving to be much more than a handsome action hero.

After doing some research on the comics, I noticed a lot of references to the original source material.  (All of that crab imagery is a reference to the 1941 Tintin book The Crab with the Golden Claws.) If you grew up with the comics, then you’ll be satisfied with this movie. But I doubt many Americans will appreciate these details. Everyone loves a cute dog though.

After spending $14.50 to see this movie in 3D, I would advise to just save your money and just see it in normal 2D. The Adventures of Tintin is an entertaining adventure, but not worth paying extra for one more dimension.

This afternoon, Guster announced via their Facebook page that they will be embarking on their first ever acoustic tour this March and April. According to the band, “We’re playing stripped down acoustic sets with a small string section in intimate theaters on both coasts (and many places in-between). Expect deep set lists with b-sides, unique arrangements, and general unpredictability.”

To make this tour even more untraditional, the opening act for most of the shows will be stand-up comedian Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm. But Garlin might not be limited to comedy, as noted by the band: “[Garlin] is on the bill for many of the shows performing stand-up comedy before us, perhaps singing songs with us, who knows.”

Back in 2006, Guster and Garlin teamed up for a series of podcasts, which can be found here. The set of hilarious conversations is definitely worth a listen– topics range from obscure music, the set of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Neil Diamond.  According to the first podcast, Garlin met the band after they played their memorable show in Central Park.

Tour dates and locations can be found below. Check out Guster’s official website for more information.

03/08/12 – Denver, CO @ Boettcher Concert Hall (w/Colorado Symphony)

03/10/12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue

03/12/12 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune

03/13/12 – Portland, OR @ Alladin

03/14/12 – San Francisco, CA @ Palace of the Fine Arts

03/16/12 – Los Angeles, CA @ Largo*

03/28/12 – Albany, NY @ The Egg Center

03/29/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Keswick

04/03/12 – Kent, OH @ Kent Stage*

04/05/12 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theater*

04/06/12 – Minneapolis, MN @ Pantages*

04/07/12 – Milwaukee, WI @ Pabst Theater*

04/16/12 – State College, PA @ State Theater*

04/17/12 – Huntington, NY @ Paramount Theater*

04/18/12 – Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theater*

04/19/12 – Tarrytown, NY @ Music Hall*

04/20/12 – Boston, MA @ Paramount Theater*

04/21/12 – Boston, MA @ Paramount Theater*

* = Jeff Garlin performing before Guster

Besides the apocalypse, here are five things which you should be looking forward to in 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises

It’s crazy how much buzz this movie generates. Chris Nolan adapts a “less is more” approach when it comes to giving out information about his films, and it certainly works in his favor. Just look at how much speculation is generated over a blurry movie poster. By showing us the simple image of a broken Batman mask, it forces everyone to ask the question, “Is Batman going to die at the end of this movie?” By planting this itching question in our brains, we are all at Nolan’s mercy. I don’t want to see this movie, I need to see it.

The Avengers

Most comic book fans have been waiting for this movie ever since they sat through the credits of Iron Man back in 2008. In a bonus scene, a man named Nick Fury approaches Tony Stark and says, “I’m putting together a team.” From there, the people at Marvel undertook the very ambitious project of trying to unite four potential movie franchises into one giant cluster of awesomeness. This May, we’ll get to see whether it lives up to the hype, or whether the idea was a little too ambitious. My main hesitation is due to the noticeable drop off in quality from Iron Man to Iron Man 2. However, Thor and Captain America did a good job of restoring my faith last summer.

New Ben Folds Five Album

I first started listening to Ben Folds during my sophomore year of high school, which was 2005– five years after Ben Folds Five broke up. The idea of a reunion was always classified under “hopes and dreams,” but never seemed like a reality because each band member started a new band. However, last fall Ben put together a “best of” album called Best Imitation of Myself” A Retrospective.  For that album, Ben Folds Five got back together to record three new songs. Since then, rumors had been spreading that the band would officially get back together. Although there aren’t any specifics, Ben has been quoted by multiple sources hinting that a new album is on the horizon. And if that happens, keep your fingers crossed for a tour.

New John Frusciante Album

When I first heard the news that guitarist John Frusciante would be leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I wasn’t really worried. I knew that by leaving the band he would be able to completely devote himself to his solo music. Unfortunately, it’s been about three years since Frusciante released his 2009 album The Empyrean. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, word about the new Frusciante album is quickly spreading. It looks like it’s going to be a collaboration with R&B artist Truth Hurts (seen together above), so it’ll definitely be interesting. One thing Frusciante had never been is conventional, so expect the unexpected.

Season 2 of Game of Thrones

It’s not often that a television show inspires me to go out and buy a book. I originally ignored all of the hype surrounding this show when it came out last spring. I thought to myself, “I’m bored with Lord of the Rings, why bother watching a show just like it?” But after the first episode (especially the shocking ending of the first episode) I was hooked. Thanks to HboGo I watched all 12 episodes in about 3 days. It might look like Lord of the Rings at first glance, but this show is much more political. Based on the novels of George R. R. Martin, this story is much more R-rated. Tons of backstabbing and major characters being killed off. But don’t just take my word for it; Ben from Park and Rec describes it perfectly.

Last night I finally saw the highly anticipated English remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The film is based on a series of novels by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. I must confess that I haven’t read the books, however I did see the original Swedish version of this movie about a year ago, so I had an idea of what to expect.

The story follows the paths of two different investigators. One is a financial journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who has recently been publicly humiliated for being accused of defamation. The other is Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a mysterious hacker who is hired to dig up dirt on important people. Mikael is hired to investigate a cold case involving a missing girl. While searching, he stumbles upon the trail of a serial killer. This is where Mikael’s path crosses with Lisbeth and the story really picks up the pace.

This movie definitely felt like a David Fincher film. His previous works like Seven, Fight Club, and The Social Network all carry a distinctive feeling of darkness and grit. They all move at a similar pace and the dialogue all has a certain tone. Dragon Tattoo joins these other great films as examples of Fincher’s signature style.

That Fincher style has also grown to become synonymous with the music of Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails frontman did the soundtrack for The Social Network which eventually won Reznor a well-deserved Academy Award for Original Score last year.  Reznor is a master at creating ambient layers and effects that almost confuse the ear. The opening credit sequence is accompanied by a Reznor produced cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” sung by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In true Fincher style, the opening scene feels a lot like the eerie opening credits of Seven— weathered hands sewing book bindings to the sound of “Closer” by, of course, Nine Inch Nails.

Despite its length, (2 hours and 40 minutes) I was never bored with this film. The music really helped with the rhythm of the story. This isn’t your typical action-packed thriller. A good deal of the movie is told through montages of Mikael flipping through old photographs and documents. The ominous score adds depth and importance to scenes that could potentially be boring. However, my favorite part of the movie is when we finally discover who the killer is and “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” by Enya is playing in the background. I couldn’t help but laugh because it seemed like a scene right out of American Psycho or Dexter. For me, it added a perfect touch of dark humor to a rather serious scene.

I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, this movie is definitely not for everyone. It’s very stylized and I could picture some people potentially getting bored with it. It also contains some graphic scenes of intense sexual violence. As disturbing as these scenes are, they are crucial to the story. Violence against women is a strong theme in Larsson’s books, as demonstrated by Dragon Tattoo‘s original title Män som hatar kvinnor – “Men Who Hate Women.”